Last night was Deepu's engagement party. It started at 8 PM, so we brought the kids back to the hotel at 5 and tried to nap them first. When that didn't work, we ordered them Pepsi with their room service chicken nuggets. We all got dressed in Indian clothes. Juliana looked adorable in a pink and blue lengha (long skirt, short-sleeved top, and scarf). David agreed to wear a long fancy black shirt with silver decorations called a shirvani, I wore my lengha which varied in color from dark red, purple, and orange with tiny black beads everywhere and even Ritu wore a shirvani that was rust and gold colored. Juliana and I both wore armfuls of bangles that were color-coordinated with our lenghas and I wore a beautiful, ornate gold necklace that the family in Kanpur had given me. Needless to say there are 90 million pictures of us all dressed up and I fully expect a life size blow up of me in Indian clothes on my in-laws living room wall next time we visit.
The party was held at a hotel called the Agra Ashok hotel. The groom's family gathered outside the hotel and entered in one large bunch. We were all carrying boxes of Indian sweets other gift wrapped boxes of snacks and little things. The bride's family made a sort of reception line to greet us as we came in. There were 2 or 3 videographers and a cluster of photographers, so it was like being met by paparazzi. The party was outside, by the pool. The trees had been decorated with multi-color lights and a long buffet table was set up along one edge. There were tables and chairs clustered by the buffet and a dance floor and sound system set up in the center of things. Before that, next to the pool, were rows of chairs set up facing a dais with two fancy fan backed chairs covered in red velvet. A tall framework covered in garlands of flowers formed a backdrop for the chairs. The bride was not present at this point. The groom's family arrived at the seats and there was much picture taking and milling about. Servers with trays of juice, soft drinks, and water worked the crowd. Then came hot appetizers. There was also a guy walking around with glasses with an inch or so whiskey and little pitchers of soda water so you could mix your own. It would have ben unseemly for me to take one, but I shared Ritu's. Latera guy walked around offering bowls of soup. That struck me as a strange finger food. All the kids who were there ran around and played on the dance floor. David was doing a terrific job keeping track of his little cousin Sia who is 18 months old.
After a little while, Deepu and his grandfather (Deepu's father died when he was fairly young) went and sat on the dais and a brief prayer service began. At the end of that, the bride's family gave Deepu gifts: money, jewelry, and boxes of sweets. Deepu smiled gamely throughout. At around 9:30, the bride arrived and walked in slowly accompanied by her sisters and female cousins. She looked lovely in an outfit of tangerine and silver that was by far the most detailed and ornate fabric there. She made her way slowly onto the platform and she and Deepu sat in the red chairs. Deepu had met her twice before tonight. Once when he was checking out potential brides and once after they had made the arrangement to marry. He told us that he liked her because he felt she would fit in well with his mother and his grandfather, with whom he lives. He said she seemed to have the proper respect for them and didn't show any strong opinions about anything.
Once they were seated on the chairs, there was a brief ceremony where a candle was lit and they exchanged rings. Truthfully, with the cluster of photographers and Juliana getting tired and needy, I didn't get to see that part. After that, it was the groom's family's turn to come and pay respects. People crammed up onto the dais, presented them with gfts or waved money in circles over their head, then handed it to Deepu. There was a box of open sweets on the table in front of them and you could feed them each a little bite. Or you could take a big one and shove it in Deepu's mouth. I was pushed around on the platform and told to sit on the arm of the bride's chair for pictures. I saw then that she (her name is Shika or perhaps Shikha) had the henna painted on her hands and forearms. I also saw then that she looked so nervous and overwhelemd that she might pass out or throw up. I saw Deepu trying to explain who everyone was, but that was the extent of their interaction at this point. Shikha kept her gaze mostly averted and nodded in response to his introductions. It was shortly after this that Juliana got too tired and cold and needed to go back to our hotel. Dinner had not yet been served, but people were out on the dance floor and occasionally handfuls of rupee bills were being tossed into the air for the children to scramble around and pick up. I don't know how thing progressed from there or how long the party lasted, but the mood was certainly festive when we left.