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Confessions From A Wedding Reception In India

Recently I went to a wedding reception in Mysore. An Indian friend of mine had just married his lovely Iranian bride and they invited hundreds of friends and family to celebrate. There were massive outdoor tents and romantic twinkle lights, men and women dressed in stunning gowns and suits and sarees. The food and alcohol were flowing, traditions like the cake cutting and speeches and hours of photo taking took place and then the party started ripping into high gear.

That was the most fun wedding reception … such a romantic setting, and perfect weather must have been a gift from the Gods to bless their new life together.

At the beginning of the evening everyone was mingling and entering into general “catch up” or “get to know ya” conversations. I could see that many friends were reuniting after years of not seeing one another – some since they graduated high school. Personally, I knew 10-15 people there between my friends in Bangalore and Mysore, but my outgoing socializing nature set in when I first arrived and it was super to mix in and make some new acquaintances – that hopefully turn out to be new friends in Mysore. The group was mostly Indian, there were two of us westerners if I’m not mistaken and a nice handful of Iranians.

After an initial couple of hours of cocktail party style activity, the heat of the party started to ignite and everyone moved inside where the DJ cranked up the tunes — an upbeat mix of Iranian, Indian and Western music that kept us all glued to the dance floor. I made a conscious effort to not drink too much alcohol. So instead of getting tipsy with my friends and throwing back shots and pounding cocktails, I was equally sweaty from all the dancing but I stayed truly clear-headed. And THAT is probably why I walked away with a few strange realizations about myself and different observations from this party than I normally would.

It’s funny how I view certain things now after just fifteen short months in India. It’s like my internal hard drive is being reformatted or reprogrammed, something I’m surprised about. For example, it was shocking to me to see women in clothes that were way too tight and way too revealing for India. My eyes got bigger and I sort of shook my head in disbelief when I saw a man and woman dancing as a pair instead of in a group, touching and moving erotically together as they danced. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a man put his arm flirtatiously around a woman he had just met a couple of hours back as he spoke to her.

And funny enough, it was even a bit shocking for me to see my friend and his lovely bride kissing in front of everyone. They setup this amazingly romantic shot with the photographer in front of a long draping curtain where she was leaning back just a bit as he held her up with one arm and “photo simulated” a soft kiss. It was something akin to that famous shot in Times Square New York of the sailor and the nurse kissing at the end of World War II. They looked romantic, awe-inspiring and it was a wonderful moment. But I remember that I turned to a friend and joked, “Wow, that’s like porn in India!” And in some ways it is. Films and television and print advertising never show a man and a woman in a passionate or even tender embrace like that … it’s taboo. But there is was.

And here I am now, thinking about how much I’ve changed. I’m chilling out on a chaise lounge at the Windflower Resort in Mysore, sitting on my deck watching geese give themselves a bath, listening to the sounds of the wind blowing through the tress…stupefied by the fact that any of the things I mentioned above are shocking to me. What the hell has happened to me? I was born and raised in southern California, have lived in Barcelona off and on for 18 years and I am anything but conservative. Yet I’ve really started to change here in India. And trust me, I didn’t come to find myself, I came for the booming economy. I haven’t taken a single yoga or meditation class (something I think I should do) nor do I have a passion for exploring new religions. Yet despite all that I have indeed changed organically over time. For the better? I’m not sure. But what I do know for sure is that I definitely have a strange new sense of what is and isn’t appropriate because I have zero desire to be looked upon as having no class — which is exactly how some of my Indian friends describe those who are too far outside the conservative norm. As an expat I’m happy to adapt and blend in instead of look or act as if I don’t know the difference between Ibiza or L.A. and where I now live. And today it’s crackin’ me up to realise that I am going over to the dark side – eh hem, I mean the conservative side!

Prior to moving to India I would never have thought twice about a woman squeezed into a skin-tight dress trying to look sexy, or a man touching a woman as they spoke, or a drunk couple dirty dancing on the dance floor.

And I would have found it shocking if a bride and groom didn’t kiss. In western cultures, that is the final seal of a marriage. After the rings are exchanged the priest tells the husband, “You may now kiss the bride.” In fact, at wedding receptions, guests will clink a spoon against their glass in unison to encourage the new couple to kiss, and then everyone cheers.

So I ask this: is India changing me only while I’m here in India or is my hard drive going to be altered forever? Is this an upgrade or am I completely reinstalling my operating system? Given my monumentally liberal upbringing and life before India, I suspect that a little conservative coding isn’t a bad thing. In the end, only time will tell. Hell, maybe I’m just getting old! 🙂

P.S. I wish my newlywed friends a lifetime of love and happiness…

XOXO Angela

© 2012 Angela Carson, Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore

Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Sharell

    Soon, you’ll be like me and never showing your legs! 😉

    1. angela_carson

      OMG I’m not too far off, actually. I bought a 2nd salwar kameez and brought it with me to Mysore just in case 🙂 haha I just don’t know how you do it in summer, Sharell. Especially in Mumbai, it is SO DAMN HOT there. Kudos to you, girl xo

  2. anamikaa

    I don’t think it is in your hard drive. In this context you are just adapting to your surroundings. I live in the west, but am Indian in these matters. I don’t really notice if a westerner is wearing tight clothes or being intimate in public, it’s not a big deal. If an Indian is trying the same, I reckon the tight clothes are all right if they are confident enough to pull it off, but being intimate is something else. I look away if anyone is being intimate, no matter their background – don’t need to see that! If an Indian did it, I would imagine they were drunk, because it just isn’t done. There is some greater sense of modesty that would stop couples from showing off their unity in front of others. I don’t think I am a prude, but it feels like an invasion of privacy to see someone going the whole hog in public.

    1. angela_carson

      See, it’s funny. For me, seeing a couple being intimate like holding hands, giving a sweet (not full on “whole hog” kiss) and even holding each other is okay for me – I really don’t mind it or see it as wrong still. BUT seeing people dirty dancing and trying to be sexual or squeezing into clothes that are a couple sizes too small just shock the hell out of me now. Also, I know how men are supposed to behave so if I see a man touching a woman’s body who he just met I view as tacky now. A year ago I wouldn’t have thought twice! Let’s see how well I adapt outside of India on my next trip home or on holiday 🙂 Thanks for chiming in and adding to the conversation 🙂 -ange

  3. randomguy

    Hello there…i saw u in party photos..
    yes i read/see 😉 maxim, i m only 23,
    n yes i recognized u in da magazine which i hope u dont find stalkish…
    U lukd gud btw… 😀

    1. angela_carson

      Ahhhh cool, I forgot to buy Maxim this month actually and wondered if I made it in. Can you check and tell me which issues please? I wonder if I can still buy it? Anyway, thanks for recognizing me and taking the time to boost my ego a bit this morning 🙂 Have a great day! Angela

  4. Ernet

    I wonder if your suprise at the kiss ..was it like jarring? I used to think India was suffocating and uptight when I returned here to India (used to watch B&B since my pre-teens lol) but now I become judgemental and disapproving when I see revealing clothes !

    1. angela_carson

      hahaha, I guess it’s all subjective based on our surroundings. ((please tell me, I’ve tried to sort out what B&B could be because I haven’t been to the US in 11 years … Is it Bold & the Beautiful?)) Thanks for adding your experience here 🙂 –angela

  5. Ram

    Lol! you attended a Christian wedding..!

    1. angela_carson

      …yes, back in Europe and the US. Here I haven’t. My friends had a traditional Hindu ceremony the day before the reception.

  6. Well, you can expect lots of contraditions in Indian Culture… Though it’s taboo to do some things, you will find it being done on lots of occasions.

    Christian wedding will be a bit more subtle here. But the wedding parties are always freakish. Also it depends on the culture of the people that are getting married. If it’s a Tamilian or Keralite, it will be a bit subtle. But if it’s from North India part, it will be more “fun” with lots of dance, booze and stuffs.

    Punjabi weddings go for about a week and all 6 days it will be full of dance & stuffs. You can’t say all Indian dresses are modest though. These days people wear the suppose to be modest dresses a bit revealing during wedding parties.

    But I can see you are getting India-aware. You will have to detox all you obsorbed in India when you go back home 🙂

  7. Ram

    I agree with Roland, in India there is a mixture of people, cultures, lifestyles and everything.. Anything in India can never be generalized in any format! When you get to know more about India, you will realize it more and more.. One can find diversity in each and every thing!

  8. I don’t blame you Ange..You are getting…Kidding… It’s a year’s influence which is showing off on you.. What is taboo in public places need not be at private parties(as long as it isn’t illegal)..But since you have been trying to understand the etiquettes of common people, this would have come as a shock to you. I hope a few years stay in India doesn’t override your liberal approach to people and customs you have lived throughout your life… 🙂

    P.S. You look great in a saree… Someone could have mistake you for the bride.. 😉

    1. angela_carson

      Thanks for the ego boost with the saree comment to balance out the “old lady” joke, Jason 🙂 🙂 -ange

  9. Cecilia

    Hi angela ..Namaste!! this is my first visit to your site..have you ever visited this forest in India where they have medicinal benefits? thks..

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