I'd originally posted this one exactly 2 years ago. Today is my day to post, but given that my dad unexpectedly had to have surgery yesterday, I'm still not thinking straight enough to write a new post. Since the topic of this month is weddings, I thought I'd dust this one out and let ye all have a go at it.
And yes, in case you're wondering - my dad's doing fine. He's even coming home today. *grin*
When Joanna told us that May and June were gonna be wedding-themed months, she and I exchanged a few emails, where I asked her if the perspective of attending an Indo-Mauritian wedding - through a blog post! - sounded good.
I got her blessing, and here we are today. So what's an Indian wedding in Mauritius like? First, I need to give you a little background. Weddings in India are really grand affairs. Now take Indians out of India and drop them the world over, and what do they do? Make everything even grander than 'back home', because the diaspora has ties and traditions it maintains with the homeland.
That all applies to Mauritius too - which, in case you don't know (even after all my yakking!), is a small island of world-wide immigrants in the southern Indian Ocean. Indians - Hindus, Muslims, Tamil folks - came to the island back in the 19th century, mostly to work as indentured labour in cane fields, under British rule, post abolition of slavery. Many Indians also came as tradesmen, craftsmen, or sailors who settled on the island. Our culture has in a way evolved to an islander one, but most of our traditions and manners and behaviour bear a striking resemblance to the world of India.
Okay, so what happens at an Indian wedding in Mauritius? I will give you my take on it, from the Muslim world. Yes, we do 'do' big weddings, and the fun and crush of relatives - not so different from our other Indian counterparts.
Check out this vid - it'll give you a pretty good idea of 'getting into a wedding' here.
So lol, yes, we do 'trip over' family the minute we step into a house where there is a wedding! Suddenly you're there and starring down a barrage of old aunties who all :
a) if you're under 15, will pinch your cheeks and go 'Look how you've grown! Soon we'll need to start looking for a proper boy for you!' (by which time we're going, how the heck do I get out of here without showing any disrespect to the old biddies and starting WWIII in the family because 'I' behaved like a 'shameful brat'?)
b) if you're over 16, will pat your cheek and hair and go 'When do we start looking for a good boy for you to marry?' all while crush-kneading the flesh of your upper arm and urge you to 'Eat because no man wants to marry an ironing board'. (and here too, you're wondering how the heck you get out without starting WWIII)
c) if unfortunately, you happen to be in your 20s and unmarried, will go 'When are you getting married, girl? You're getting on in age, aren't you?' (and here you're tempted to tell them all about your boyfriend whom no one knows about, but you rein your tongue in and keep mum, while smiling like a brainless idiot)
d) if you're past 27 and unmarried, will pat your cheek while making 'tsk-tsk' noise and some even will say 'Such a shame you're unmarried'. (and you, by now, are itching to tell them to go to He-- well, you know where, but again, you don't want to start WWIII and by now you're an expert at defusing their bombs and at being such a diplomat the Foreign Office could learn a few tricks of Diplomacy from you!)
e) if you're past 30 and still unmarried, will out and out ask you 'where's your mother/father?' because of course, you're not married so obviously you have no life except for looking after your old people.
f) if you're married, no matter what age, will ask you the minute they see you 'where's your husband?' because you know the old crones are all dying to ogle him out, like they ogle all the young men and think we don't know. You, of course, having been married, do not count anymore.
g) if you've got kids, will ask you (right after asking about your husband, meeting him and literally drooling over him!) where your kids are. If you have no kids yet (always by ill-luck, never by choice *gotta remember that!*), you know the question coming, right? 'When will you make grandmothers out of us?'
And if you already have kids - 'when's the next one coming?'
By now, you might still be holding on to your sanity, if you're strong, and if you've learned all about Auntie 101, 201, 301 (and so forth) Diplomatic Psychology. We all graduate with that, we descendants of Indians.
So onwards you move into the house - did I forget to mention we were all still out in the patio/garden/before the front door?
This encounter with the aunties certainly gives the tone of what the rest of the festivities will be like. Typically, an Indo-Mauritian Muslim wedding takes place over 4 days. And this is what the wedding house looks like (forgot to mention that the housefront will be bedecked with twinkling lights that rival Harrods' at Christmas time!):
The clothes worn are very much like those in the clip, though we're supposed to cover our midriffs for fear of giving any aunty a heart attack. And for God's sake, girl *gasp*, is that a piece of leg showing???
Let's see if I can find a few pics of what we'd wear here:
That's a lehenga-choli on the left - and yes, it does tend to weigh a ton in sequins and embroidery! -, and a silk sari on the right.
Muslim women who wear the headscarf might opt for something like this:
Now the wedding itself is not a huge deal. It's a ceremony where vows are exchanged, lasts about 30 minutes or so. But while the consent is being exchanged and "you are husband and wife before God" is then pronounced, all the guests gather in a big hall, where the groom will come claim the bride after the religious ceremony, and then they'll cut the cake, take the wedding pics, and then every family member is gonna go up on the raised dais to congratulate the new couple. That's the day where we'd be decked in our brightest finery (and some of those sequin-works can be blinding!).
Sometimes on this day itself, after the reception, there will be the wedding dinner. Usually that's set for another day, bringing the festivities close on Day 4.
Day 1 is the first religious ceremony to bless the whole wedding, and also when preps are under the way and the closest relatives are invited (and when you fall on the aunties like up above!).
And by the time the wedding celebrations are over, you are totally wiped out. And if you're lucky, your wallet too is still in good stead, because *gasp* you should never wear the same clothes twice - never at the same wedding, and if possible, not even at another wedding in the same family. We work around this by wearing what we wore for one wedding, say in our family, at another wedding at the husband's family, where no one has seen the clothes!
Amid this all, add a very loud, mind-numbing or even brain-bashing dose of Indian Pop or Bollywood music. Lots of soft drinks (most of the time Pepsi!) drunk throughout the days. And lots of cake and other Indian sweets eaten over at every gathering. In short, a diabetic's nightmare...
But you shared in the family's happiness, didn't you? that's what it is all about, in the end - family, relationships, ties, and sharing.
From Mauritius with love,