I’ve just come back from can only be described as the single most surreal event in my entire life. I’m still trying to mentally process what happened, because I’m not altogether too sure what has happened. If that makes sense.
Allow me to place the scene…
One of my work mates, Farooq, had his marriage arranged. Farooq is 28, which is about the age the guys get married here in South India.
Anyway, this was a traditional Muslim wedding…and from an outsiders perspective, particularly a Westerner who’s only concept of a wedding is a bride walking down the aisle in a white dress, it was completely and utterly, well, surreal, as in, “is this actually happening?”.
The ceremony started at 11am, but that is to say, around 200 people were sitting in a big hall chatting to one another. This is the first thing that strikes you as odd as there are 2 ‘stages’ on opposite ends of the room. The men are all facing one stage and the women are all facing the other stage.
After about 3/4 hour in to the ‘ceremony’, the Groom comes in completely covered from head to toe in Jasmine flowers. He can’t see anything so he’s guided up the stairs and on to the stage facing all the men by a couple of guys. While this is happening, there’s no lull in noise from the guests, they are all sat in groups chatting away to each other or on the phone (a subject I feel should be looked at later).
When the groom is settled down, the bride enters, again, completely covered in Jasmine flowers and unable to see. She is guided to the stage on the opposite side of the room and sits down.
The Iman (Muslim Priest) then recites a few verses (no one is paying a blind bit of notice to all this) from the Koran and the Groom signs the bond papers. The marriage is now official and over – in less than 5 minutes.
The Groom is then taken over to meet his new in-laws, but not, it should be stressed, his new wife.
The Groom then returns to his stage and is blessed and greeted by all his friends and family. The bride is completely ignored – and still unable to see anything.
Eventually the bride is led out of the room and the guests go and have a meal which is semi-orchestrated by the Groom – who still hasn’t spoken to – or seen – his new wife.
After the meal, there is more meeting and greeting by the Groom, the bride has gone without even seeing her new husband!
Does that sound bizarre and surreal to you?
Obviously in Europe and America the Bride is the number one attraction and all eyes are on her. In a Muslim marriage in South India the bride is completely ignored – she doesn’t even get to sign the marriage papers!
Still, quite an experience, I’ll have to save the story of to and from the wedding for another day.