Indian wedding

It was early evening and there was a storm coming. Leaves fell from the trees and lightning flashed in the sky and the drummers were suddenly there. They started up, so loud it stung the ears, and we danced to welcome the groom to his wedding. It was a Saturday night in Delhi, and Tanya and I had the extremely good fortune to be there to see our good friends get married.

Leaving the Alps.
This “map context” adds no context.

We had been in Delhi for less than twenty hours, after arriving at 2 AM that same day. We made it through the airport and its fingerprint scanners that only worked every fifth try, and caught a few hours sleep at our hotel. Later on, dazed by the crazy traffic in the smog and the crush of people on the metro, we made it to central Delhi and met up with some other friends from Switzerland. They showed us where to buy some formalwear. As a result, we went to the wedding in wonderful clothes – Tanya in a sea-green and starry sari, me in a blue silken kurta that came to my knees. The kurta came with some white cotton pants that were a wonder to behold. At the ankles they were business-like and hipster-tight, but moving upwards they quickly let themselves go, ballooning wider and wider until at the waist they were at least four times bigger than necessary. They were held on by a drawcord and were supremely comfortable.

Keeping drying henna safe on the Delhi metro.

At the wedding, the storm swept in and it poured on the flowers. Spirits were high, though, and soon enough the rain stopped and the party continued. It was a feast. There was amazing food, incredible decorations, colours everywhere. The bride and groom were dressed in gold and red and sat on a stage, welcoming well-wishers and having photos taken for many hours while the party went on. Late in the evening, the official ceremony took place. This was a religious ceremony around a fire, held inside this time because of the wet weather. There was singing, promises were made, petals and rice were put in the flames, and the couple were blessed by the elders in each of their families. The guests, watching, were kept warm with cups of hot, sweet coffee. The wedding was special — like all good weddings, it was a treat to see two people who love each other celebrate that fact. But I had not before experienced a wedding like this one, with all the colour and splendour it entailed, and it was a remarkable thrill to be invited in to be part of it.

Flowers from the wedding.
Tanya’s henna.

After the wedding, Tanya and I had a few days to take in Delhi. We went to Old Delhi to see the bazars. There was so much going on: people selling papaya, shaking laundry, swatting flies from raw seafood. Caged chickens next to chopping blocks. Children running and laughing. Bargaining and joking and yelling. Barbers shaving beards, butchers working meat. Chewing and spitting. The call to prayer floating through the laneways. Through it all the constancy of the beeping horns from the street. We were carried along in the throng of pedestrians and vehicles of all types; cars, scooters, motorbikes, bicycles, and beasts of burden in the messy and constantly flowing river of everyday life.

Old Delhi.

Our hotel was a bed and breakfast in a quieter part of South Delhi. It was in “sector A, pocket A”, a fenced community that had a boom-gate with someone always sitting next to it to look you up and down and let you in. Some stray dogs sat next to the gate too. During the heat of the day they lay on their sides with their legs straight. At night they curled into tight pretzels with their noses under their tails. One of them lay on top of a parked car and had a lofty position to inspect passers by like us. To get in to Delhi centre we would leave the pocket and go to the main road and hail down a tuk tuk (an “auto”) for the five minute ride to the metro stop. Roads in India are something else; you drive where you can, including off the road, between lanes, and, when required, against oncoming traffic. The more you beep the horn the better. One auto driver we had saved time by holding the horn on for almost the entire trip to the metro stop and swerving dangerously between cars and pedestrians.

The road outside where we were staying.
Auto rides in crazy traffic.

Tanya and I went to Humayan’s Tomb. In the grounds it was peaceful, and there were little striped squirrels and green parrots in the trees. While we were there, there was wonderful music coming from nearby, but we never found the source. We went to visit the Lotus Temple, but finding it closed we instead explored a park nearby.

Sabz Burj, Delhi.
Humayun’s Tomb.
Humayun’s Tomb.
Lotus Temple.

On the last day of our short trip to India, we went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Our driver was very friendly but didn’t speak a lot of English. He was constantly knocking back packets of Paan, which he would chew and then spit energetically out, either through the window, or most excitingly by casually opening the door while at highway speed. The drive from Delhi to Agra and the Taj Mahal was a bit over three hours in all, and was primarily on a new toll road that was relatively empty. We cruised along listening to Indian pop music. High-rise apartment blocks loomed out of the heavy smog, then gave way to farm country dotted with brick ovens. In Agra the roads once again became frenetic, although this time there was the addition of cows dotted amongst the heavy traffic, unhurriedly chewing their cud while sitting in the centre of the busy road.

Leaving Delhi.
At a service station.
This is a milk van.
A monkey and cow on the street in Agra.
Cow striding out.

The Taj Mahal is beautiful beyond expectations and lived up to every superlative that it has collected. I found it unexpectedly sad; this extravagant building an emperor had built as a tomb for his wife, sitting tall and pale on the side of a river, surrounded by poverty and mess: it is a contradiction. There is a tourist circus around the Taj, with gift shops, carts drawn by skinny horses and incessant offers from guides and photographers. But despite all this it was wonderful to see and it left a lasting impression.

And so it was that after a few days in India it was quickly time for us to leave again and head back to Switzerland. India was beautiful and difficult at the same time; a bewildering mix that I will not soon forget. The trip will be memorable for many reasons – the sights, the food, the surprises – but most of all for the evening we spent with our friends, at their wedding in Delhi.

March 18, 2016


  1. […] early March, Tanya and I went to India for the wedding of two friends. It was an amazing experience. This is a set of photos from New Delhi and […]

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