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Welcome to… India?

Most people forget that there is a significant population of Indian people who are Muslims, or followers of Islam. My family happens to be some of those people, and this is the story of my cousin’s Big Fat Indian Wedding— or at least my take on it.

After a long drive of 14 hours in a single car with my parents and siblings, we finally arrived at my uncle’s house late Friday night. My parents were allowed to sleep while my sisters and I were expected to go to the third ceremony of the week: the Pithi. The Pithi, a milestone for not only the bride and groom was also a messy one. The bride and groom are smeared with turmeric paste to make sure they have that perfect glow for the next day. The bride and the groom’s ceremonies are done separately by each side’s families.

The groom however, has to endure an even more horrendous fate. After the turmeric paste is smeared on him, his friends throw eggs at him, and even in some cases condiments and hygiene products.  It’s super gross, but also hilarious. We were blessed with being on the groom’s side of the family and got to indulge in watching our dear cousin get smeared with eggs, ketchup, mouth wash, amongst other things. The women and children of our family stood on the sidelines and watched since we were all dolled up (it was a wedding after all, and nobody wanted their outfit to get tarnished), then all hell broke loose. The boys started throwing eggs at us… or what looked like eggs. They ended up just being marshmallows to freak us out. They totally got us good… a little too good, if you ask me. After such a long day, we finally headed back to my uncle’s house to go to sleep.

I slept soundly dreaming about Ryan Gosling until my dream was suddenly shattered by the sound of my sister waking me up saying that it was eleven in the morning. HOW HAD WE SLEPT IN SO LATE? We had to wake everyone in the house up. With the next ceremony – the Nikah, also known as the signing of the marriage contract in Islam – starting at two, and having to have four girls shower, do their makeup and hair, eat breakfast, and get to prayer hall where the ceremony was taking place. We rushed through the morning, just barely making it to the signing. Ceremony four? Check.

After we congratulated the bride and groom on their official marriage, we were invited to watch the courtship games— ceremony five. This ceremony is when the bride and groom battle it out to show which will be the more “dominate” in the relationship (kind of like metaphoric way of determining who’s going to wear the “pants”).

First, upon entering the house, the bride and groom must step on small pots. The one to break it first wins round one. Of course, the groom won the first round. This ritual not only signifies dominance, but also symbolizes good luck as the bride takes the first steps into her new household. Next, the bride and groom are sat face to face as a mutual family member places a trinket into a plate of uncooked rice. The first one find the trinket among the rice wins, and it is done best two out of three. The groom again won this, but being the awesome guy he is, he gave it to his bride – I know, how ADORABLE!

The next game solely for the bride helps introduce her to the groom’s side of the family (keep in mind that Indian families are huge, literally everyone is related somehow). First, a female member of the groom’s immediate family takes as much of the rice from the plate they were using earlier into her hands and begins to dump it in the bride’s hands. This continues going on until they run out of rice. The number of passes symbolizes how many children the bride will have in the future. Next the closest eldest female members of the family repeat the same trend with the same number of passes and get acquainted with the bride. Finally, the groom’s siblings get a turn, and next the family friends and other relatives. The people who are a part of these rituals are usually among the family’s closest friends and considered the most respected. If the bride needs advice or encouragement she is to turn to them in her time of need.

With only a few hours left until the next ceremony, my sisters and I had to quickly return home so we could change and get ready all over again. The reception began with dances from the immediate family members as well as speeches from the family. People watched the center of the room as they indulged in the food humbly provided by the bride and groom’s families. Everything was elegant, from the table decorations, to everything people were wearing. After the cake is cut, everyone lines up to take photos with the bride and groom to create a picture perfect moment. Soon after the bride and groom took their first dance, and everyone is invited onto the dance floor.

Men and women of all ages indulge in this, and the real party begins. It’s the first time the family has been together in ages. My parents. who haven’t been to San Antonio for more than a day in almost fifteen years, are treated like celebrities. My sisters have to continuously whisper into my ear which relatives are which, since our family is so big. Some of these people congratulate my parents for having a third child (me) because they didn’t even know I existed, or tell them that all three of their daughters have grown up beautifully. I’m sure that at some point, some potential arranged marriages were even joked about. With everyone dancing the night seemed endless. The next morning, with the wedding fully behind us, I waved my goodbye to San Antonio, and took home with me a weekend full of unforgettable memories. I had been welcomed home by my family. I had truly been welcomed back to my family’s traditions and culture all the way from across the globe from India.

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