Thursday, February 16, 2012
A Wild Anniversary Party - Only in Incredible India
Celebrating our wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day always requires advance planning, but this year I was organizing the big event a year in advance with the help of our friends in far away India. I kept it a secret from Anne and all the members of our group until the day before when I took everyone to a textile shop in Jaipur where all the men were fitted with white linen Indian pajama outfits, and all the women were given a sari. I picked out a dressy black kurta for myself and one of the hotel staff topped it off with a local turban. For Anne, I had measured her in bed months before and sent her dimensions to a tailor here who had an orange wedding dress made for her. The day before I bought Anne a beautiful anniversary ring at a jewelry store in Jaipur. To top off her outfit I presented her with a box of classic Indian jewelry full of sparkling orange glass bracelets and classic Indian earrings and necklace. Her fancy dress was so layered and festooned with sequins and embroidery that it weighed heavily—like the maharanis of past days whose outfits were lined with gold and they could only be carried everywhere in palanquins on such occasions.
As the sun set behind our Samode Palace hotel two women arrived to painted henna on the women in our group. Then another woman showed up and help them all put on their saris. The men emerged in their white and as we gathered at the palace gates to depart fireworks fired up coloring the night sky above the lit palace walls. It turns out there was a real wedding in the palace that night and we had to stop aside as the groom arrived by horseback to stroll up the palace steps lined all the way on both sides with yellow and orange marigold flowers.
Our jeeps awaited us at the bottom of the stairway and we drove off into the dark countryside arriving 10 minutes later to an 8-piece band complete with bass drum surrounded by a caravan of awaiting camel carts. We piled into the carts and the band led the way into the desert night lit up by guides carrying torches. Over a low ridge we rode to find a whole festival of tents lit up in the night with torches and colorful tents, chairs around the campfire, and a bar under a tree draped with long strands of marigold blossoms. A Rajasthani music group provided background while dining and traditional songs for a dancing troupe. In the tradition of Indian newlyweds the dancers presented Anne and I with beautiful flower garlands that we each put on each other symbolic of our union.
Wealthy or poor, Indians plan much of their lives and put great resources into wedding ceremonies. We've seen wedding parties everywhere we've been traveling. This night was, for sure, the most spectacular Valentine's Day celebration that any of us could have ever imagined. Only in incredible India!