The 1000KM Wedding – Part 2

This is Part 2 of the 1000KM wedding, if you haven’t read Part One of this scintillating story then I suggest you head over here and read it before continuing here.

We arrived in Tiruppur about 6:30am, my body was running on auto-pilot from lack of sleep and I was thankful when I collapsed in to the hotel bed – and even more thankful that the hotel was really nice, none of the 5 star nonsense you get in Chennai but clean, neat and modern.

The hotel was really nice!

There was a bit of a who-hah to check in, I didn’t have my passport on me and the hotel insisted that they needed to have a xerox copy of my passport and visa in order for me to be able to stay. But rules in India are made to be flexible and when we said we’ll find another hotel suddenly passports were forgotten. It wasn’t as if I was going to be staying over night anyway, it was just a place to crash and get refreshed on the Sunday.

In India the wedding reception tends to be held before the actual wedding ceremony, I’m not entirely sure of the reason for this but it probably has something to do with the astrology and auspicious days which many people rely on for the timing and date of the actual ceremony. The astrology charts of the bride and groom will have been consulted way before they’d met each other to check that the two people are compatible and it would also reveal the best day and time to get married. Invariably the ceremony would take place at some ungodly hour like 5 o clock in the morning so instead of asking guests to attend at this time, a reception is held the evening before at a much more sociable time.

We now had 6 hours to kill in Tiruppur, I wanted to be a tourist and go around snapping photos but it turned out one of the guys I was with had an old university friend living in the town so he asked me to join them for the afternoon.

It soon became apparent that the old university friend came from quite a wealthy family; my first introduction to him came when he asked if he could come in to my room to check the decor and furniture because he wanted some ideas for the hotel he was constructing within the town. Next we went to the modern cinema complex that his family owned and then on to his family house on the outskirts, although not before passing several Vodafone stores which his family operated.

The guy was 28, married with a young son, drove a Volkswagon Passat and was realizing his life’s dream of building a hotel while simultaneously managing a chain of Vodafone stores. It’s very difficult not to compare yourself!

The family home was built on a colossal scale, I think they gave the architects a picture of the Empire State Building or something and said: Think big. And big it was, the lounge alone was 3 stories high. The whole house was spotlessly clean and was completely devoid of any kind of ornaments or clutter, come to think of it I didn’t even see any family photos or any other kind of pictures hanging on the wall, I’ll have to ask about that and find out why.

The living room was just massive

You can’t beat a bit of Indian hospitality and even though the guy came back home with two random people (one of whom was this bloody foreigner) his wife and mother set to work in the kitchen immediately and within 30 minutes lunch was ready to be served. In keeping with tradition, despite the opulence and obvious wealth, it was served on a banana leaf. Banana leaves are often used as plates in homes and restaurants because they are clean, waterproof and are obviously bio-degradeable so can be quickly disposed of – they don’t need any kind of processing or packaging like paper plates so all in all 100% environmentally friendly!

After lunch (I had seconds!) we went to see the guy’s new hotel that he was building. Most of it is a building site still but he’s currently got the headache of trying to work out the best light switches to use in the hotel rooms and what kind of laminate finish to use on the furniture. By comparison, my biggest headache seems to be am I going to have enough time to clean the house, do my laundry and get the grocery shopping done on a Sunday afternoon. Different worlds!

One of the many differences that I’ve noticed between the East and the West is the attitudes towards ownership. We would always call the home where our parents lived our parents home, in India, the parents home is often referred to as ‘our’ home. Similarly when this person was talking about the various businesses his family members ran it was always ‘our’ business, even when it was completely operated, run and managed by another family member. The cinema is completely run by his Dad, which in a western sense would make it his Dad’s business, but it was still referred to as ‘our’ business. The hotel was his idea from conception to execution and he alone would be responsible for the running of the place when it was done, but it was still ‘our’ hotel.

Back at our hotel (no, not the Claridge family hotel, the hotel where me and the guys were staying) we ran in to a spot of bother. It was coming up to 6pm and we realized we had no transport to get from the hotel to the reception which was about a 30 minute drive away – everyone thought everyone else was going to organize it. This being Tiruppur, a small tier 3 kind of city, there were no call taxis available and no auto driver wanted to go all the way out of the city.

The bus back to Chennai left at 9pm so we had to get to the reception quickly to allow enough time to get back to catch the bus. After half an hour of frantic phone calls to friends and acquaintances (after eating, India’s second favourite pastime is networking and building contacts) we found someone who would give us a lift to the wedding but he couldn’t make it until 7pm. This should give us enough time to get to the reception, get photos taken with the anxious bride and groom to be, eat dinner then race back to the bus station.

Of course, if it actually went as smoothly as that then this wouldn’t be India and there would be no point writing this story.

The timezone for India is referred to as IST, officially known as Indian Standard Time, but colloquially it’s referred to India Stretchy Time because it’s very rare for people or events to ever be, or start, on time.

Of course, 4 years in India and I haven’t lost my British sense of time so at 7 o clock sharp I was suited and booted in the hotel reception area waiting to be picked up. The rest of the gang was upstairs watching the cricket and generally laughing at me for getting ready so early. By 7:30pm a couple of them came down to the reception and started making phone calls to find out where this guy was who was supposed to be picking us up.

“5 minutes” he said.

5 minutes is a word you hear a lot when you ask how long something is going to take or when the person will be done by. It basically means I don’t know, so we settled back down in the chairs in the reception while my work colleagues decided to do all kinds of poses infront of a camera which was frankly embarrassing.

7:50pm we get a phone call from the person picking us up. He can’t find the hotel. No one I was with knew their way around Tiruppur so we handed the phone to the receptionist who explained where the hotel was. “OK, 5 minutes” he said.

7:55pm he phones again, he still can’t find the hotel with the new directions. More explaining from the receptions. “OK, got it, 5 minutes”.

8:05pm and this guy finally turns up in a rude boy Suzuki Swift with blacked out windows, over the top spoiler attached to the roof, 20 inch sub woofers in the boot and of course the neon yellow go faster stripes.

Boring engineering fact for you here: A spoiler (or more accurately a rear wing) put on the back of a road car is more about show than anything else. It has the effect of increasing the weight of the car and the drag while producing none of the downforce since a road car doesn’t go fast enough so basically you end up spending more money on fuel, drastically reduce the re-sale value of your car and has the side effect of making a car owner look little bit, well, silly

No one seemed the least bit bothered that it was now impossible for us to get to the wedding and come back in time to catch the bus. India has chilled me out a lot (no, really it has!) and I know that if a show starts at 7pm then it will be gone 7:30pm before it actually starts (thanks to India Stretchy Time) so why rush, but the fact that I was 500KM from home and knowing that we would be hard pushed to catch the bus in time started getting me pretty anxious.

The useless spoiler on the top of the car apparently wasn’t just for show because the guy really did drive like he thought he was on the race track. Squeezing through the narrowest of gaps, overtaking on blind bends, forcing the on coming traffic to veer violently out of the way, it’s either a miracle we didn’t hit anything or I’ve discovered India’s new Formula 1 driver.

At last we reached the reception, I glanced at my watch, it was 8:30pm, just about enough time to say hi to the bride and groom and hop foot it back to the bus station.

The wedding receptions are held in big halls with a stage

The way the wedding receptions work in India is that there is a big hall with a raised stage at one end. The married couple to be sit on a big sofa and a never ending queue of guests pour in from far and wide to get their photos taken and give gifts and wishes. Fortunately when we entered most people had wandered off to take advantage of the free food (see above, India’s favourite pastime) so we scrambled up on the stage, said our congratulations and then raced back to get the bus.

Can you spot the Johnny Foreigner in this photo?

Or at least that’s how I saw it going in my mind. We spent about 2 minutes on stage with the bride and groom but with so much free food on offer the temptation was too much, everyone had to dig in, go back for seconds and thirds, try out the four different types of desserts and then discuss what had been eaten at length.

Myself, on the other hand, worried about the 9 hour bumpy bus journey back to Chennai with limited toilet stops, opted to play it safe and had just plain idlys.

By this stage it was almost 9pm and the bus was due to depart the bus station 30 minutes away so with my anxiety getting the better of me I went over to the person I was travelling with and asked him what we were going to do about catching the bus. He looked at his watch for probably the first time that night and made a sort of “oh” sound. He dug out his phone and the conversation went a little something like this (paraphrased of course):

Friend: Hi, we were supposed to catch the 9pm bus but we can’t make it to the station on time, can we get a later bus?
Company: No, sorry sir, all services are full you must come to the bus station
Friend: Aiyyo, but we are too far away to catch the bus
Company: Sir, you must come to the bus station
Friend: Can’t the bus sort of pick us up as it goes past? We are near the Perumanallur cross roads
Company: No sir, it’s the rules, you must come to the bus station
Friend: Err, ok, how about if I pay a small fine to the bus driver?
Company: Wait let me call you back

And so it turned out, for a small ‘fine’ we were able to catch the bus at a major cross roads as it went past us. It was silly of me to worry about getting to the bus station on time because in India everything works out in the end.

This is the beauty of India and I’m constantly amazed by how everything just seems to work out. No matter how bad you think you are in the dodo, some how it will work out. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but I love it 🙂

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