Saturday, 9 September 2017

India: Swetha's Wedding

I first met Swetha at a conference in Trinity when we were both freshers. I would probably say she was the best thing to come out of that conference. We clicked instantly and she ended up moving in with me for the last two years of our degree.

For those two years, I heard so much about the wedding - discussions on the phone from family and her fiancee, Abishek.

When she set the date and the location, I bought flight tickets soon after and knew I was definitely gonna be there.

Lorcan and I flew over to Chennai from Malaysia which didn't cost too much, less than 80 euros including our luggage and all that. 

When we arrived at the accommodation, we soon realised we had to perform a dance along with the whole entourage from Ireland at her Sangeet (pre-wedding party) which was the very next day.
So there we were, putting together some Irish and Bollywood dancing at 2 in the morning, which resulted in the above.

1. Swetha's Sangeet

Introducing the crew from "Ireland" - although there were only three Irish people. 

Two ladies were hired full-time to do henna/mehndi for the women. So we gladfully got them on both our hands and attempted to not smudge them for the next hour.

After hearing about Abishek for the past two years as well as being present during all their phone calls, it was great to finally meet the man who was going to be her husband!

The five who used to live together in Dublin.

Global Room 'delegation' to India

It was such a lovely celebration and it was a rather private event at a hotel which involved relatives and close friends.

There were loads of performances throughout the night involving song and dance.

Mark and Saana

Lukas and Thalita


2. Pondicherry 

The following day, we headed down to Pondicherry as there were no wedding events for the next 36 hours.

They organised for a driver, Stephen, to take us all the way there (3 hour drive) as well as bring us around when we got there.

When we got to Pondicherry, we headed out to see the famous, Auroville - a place of meditation. As bookings for the meditation was only allowed to be made in person, we just visited the area from the outside.

In the evening, we took a stroll along the beach nearby, it was much rockier than expected and really warm so we didn't actually get to fully enjoy it.

I also got to wander a little bit around the Ashram the following day before returning to Chennai.

3. Abishek's Procession

We returned to Chennai the next day to attend Abishek's procession.

We put together a mixture of both Indian and modern clothing 

The musicians were on standby as one of the ceremonies was being done in the hall.

Swetha looked absolutely stunning in yet, another one of her outfits.

Suddenly, one of the aunties ushered us outside and told us to get into this car. 
We had no idea who the driver was and where we were going, but all ten of us climbed into a car and somehow managed to fit.

We reached the procession where Abishek was - everyone was dancing around the car to the music, parading through the streets.

It was absolutely mad - we pretty much blocked up the entire street announcing that this man was going to be wed soon. Supposedly this tradition was to ensure that the community could warn the bride and her family if they knew that he already had a wife.

Of course that wasn't the case for Abishek, so we continued to dance through the streets till we got back to the wedding hall.

4. The Sacred Knots - they're married!

On the last day of the wedding, all the girls were supposed to wear sarees for the day. So, we headed out to the shops to get our blouses a few days before. We entered this seven story building which sold all sorts of clothing and thankfully all of us found something that we liked - matching gold blouses.

Then, we all received our sarees from Swetha, who chose the different colours for us. We had our sarees professionally tied by two of the women they hired for the wedding as well. 

They fed us on traditional banana leaves in the food hall downstairs throughout the wedding events. Hot delicious food was served to us immediately as we sat down on the chairs. One by one, each worker placed the different ingredients on our leaf before we feasted with our hands. 

Don't mind that spoon. 

Some wedding games took place as both Abishek and Swetha tried to get the jasmine flowers around each other's necks while being lifted by relatives.

Then, they sat on a giant swing while married aunties served them cups of milk and honey.
This was to symbolise that although there would be ups and downs in their marriage, they would stay strong together and that their marriage would be filled with sweetness.

The aunties also started throwing sweets at people which symbolised that you were getting married next if you got hit (kind of like the catching of a flower bouquet but in mass production).

We also then got to meet Abishek's best friends who flew over from the States as well.

Then, they finally officially got married with the fire ceremony which was done on stage involving the Hindu monks and family members. We then went up one by one to give our blessings to the newlyweds.

5. The Wedding Reception

That very night was the celebratory reception for the bride and groom! 
Severine (left) was an absolute star and did my hair so beautifully - she created a crown of braids with golden pins throughout it all! I continuously got compliments for that throughout the night.

The gorgeous couple.

Abishek also sang to Swetha that night.

And that was the end of the entire week - I'm sure they were exhausted by then but it's wonderful that after all these years, they're finally united!

The day after the wedding, Lorcan and I celebrated our first anniversary at the lavish Park Hyatt Hotel in Chennai. It was a rather impromptu moment where we only booked it six days in advance, but it was the best decision we made!

The hotel grounds was absolutely stunning and there were hardly any guests there. So, it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

A wonderful breakfast spread was also included in the package so we were able to choose from an assortment of Indian and international food. There were even things we could demand to order like pancakes, french toast, and smoked salmon on egg whites and soda bread.

There was a rooftop infinity pool which was absolutely divine.
There were even comfy beds to lie on in the pool!
We spent several hours staring at the sky and the odd hawk flying by.

We had our dinner at the Flying Elephant restaurant which features five different cuisines in one - Italian, Indian, Turkish, Southeast Asian, and charcoal grill.

Lollipop pate with pomegranate

A refreshing kiwi based spritzer 

Grilled tiger prawns with burrata cheese, tomatoes, and toasted hazelnuts

An amazing way to wrap up the Indian trip before heading back to the Emerald Isle.