Indian weddings are one of the most fabulous celebrations that I have ever attended. I bet my friends Sonal and Shiva kindly invited us to one of the most beautiful three day ceremonies that will take place in a long time.
Even though they were the reason why this curious Estonian ended up in one of the most populous countries in the world, in this post I would like to focus less on the wedding and more on its surroundings. In fact, the structure of this current post is pretty simple – in writing I will bring out simple points that baffled my mind at the point when they happened, while with photographs I will share the outcome of the few days when I felt appropriate to take the camera out.
Here goes nothing.
Mind blown #1: There are monkeys on the street. I was anticipating to see cows and goats everywhere, but my heart leapt with joy when I got to see real live monkeys jumping from building to building, especially since I had not seen one outside of a cage before.
Mind blown #2: The air is so polluted that after two days your boogers turn from green to black. New Delhi is considered to be the most polluted city by particulate matter concentration. You can certainly feel it and even see it. When the sun sets, the amount of dust in the air makes it so thick that you could easily look straight into the red ball without feeling that your eyes would want to melt. Also, it tends to scatter the light rays so much that dusks tend to be really mild in colour rather than harsh.
Mind blown #3: Indian weddings also serve tacos and pastas. I'm not sure whether the bride and the groom were very considerate about their guests and their appetite for Indian food or because there are a lot of people who are used to having local dishes anyway and giving them a chance to taste the world's cuisine might be considered as exotic and interesting.
Mind blown #4: No price is ever fixed. The only place where I paid a fixed price was Uber. Everything else you need to haggle for. Initially it's a little weird, over time however you get used to it – clothes, taxi, food, sightseeing tickets – everything has some room to move. One theory I heard why people love to do this is because then the seller gives the buyer an opportunity to get a good deal which makes it more likely that they'll end up talking about their purchase.
Mind blown #5: No is a no, until it's a yes a.k.a. some people love praise. I was sitting in the queue to get a drink for my wife. They had recently run out of white wine, so I tried my luck to get a cocktail. Most of the stuff floating around the place was simple: whisky and coke, gin and tonic. And rightfully so, as there were hundreds of people to attend to. So when I asked whether I could get a nice cocktail for the lady, the initial answer was no. However, when you pointed out how the barman probably had some secret hidden potential to make the best beverage of the day, it took the guy a shake in the head, a few in the hand, and a minute later a magical drink was born. Thanks sir!
Mind blown #6: Local labour is so cheap that you just throw people at a problem. This is the unfortunate consequence, beauty and curse of India's large population. I'm sure that for every simple task there were three people hired to do it, especially at public locations such as train stations or airports. There were numerous occasions where a single task was done by multiple people, albeit normally one did the job and the other ones just seemed to watch the doer.
Mind blown #7: Being light skinned means a lot of people want to say hi to you and take photographs. We took a 30 minute break while visiting the Taj Mahal. While doing so, people were literally queueing up to grab a quick snap with us: from small school girls to big adult men to families. Now we know what it feels like to be a celebrity!
Mind blown #8: Almost all cars have the name, address and phone number written on them. Not sure why though.
Mind blown #9: 3pm means 4pm. 3pm sharp means 4pm. The locals call it the Indian Standard Time. Be prepared to have everyone be late for every meeting or instance where time is of importance.
Mind blown #10: A toilet in the train = a hole in the ground. They have two types of lavatories: Indian and Western. While the Western one contains a pot like the one you and I are likely used to, the Indian ones merely have a hole. Better be careful when playing Candy Crush.
Mind blown #11: Every Uber driver has exactly the same car. When the second car looked almost the same as the first one did, I did not really pay attention to it. But after the sixth car was a small white sedan built either by Suzuki or Hyundai, you start asking questions. I suspect that there are a handful of models that are mass produced specifically for Indian middle class consumers to keep the retail price at its lowest. And white is the colour that all cars apparently bear initially.
Mind blown #12: Every driver needs three things: good skills, a good honk and good luck. The traffic in India is indeed something else. They honk not because someone is doing something dangerous – it's merely to let everyone else know that you're coming. And it's not uncommon to be sitting in traffic for hours because everyone thinks that they're the most important person in the world who has the need and the privilege to cut through everyone else. Some studies estimate that New Delhi alone wastes about $10 billion every year because of this.
Mind blown #13: The Delhi Belly. I do not know a single European who has visited India and has not gotten the feeling that they're producing The Powerpuff Girls in their stomach. I was no exception. Don't live in a glass bubble, but be mindful what goes in your mouth, from what water you use when you brush your teeth to how the ice in your cocktail was made or how your salads were washed.
Now, you might argue that some of those things are pretty normal, and rightfully so. Nevertheless, when these things happen to you, you're caught off guard – at least I was. Such trips are difficult to consider a resting vacation, especially when then things that bring you down are the ones I deliberately left out, such as poverty. However such visits are still well worth it, as the cultural shock enrichens your way of thinking and makes you reassess the values you cherish in your normal everyday life.
Oh, and if you every happen to be invited to an Indian wedding, I will personally start haunting you if you even think of not attending – they truly are some of the most awesome events you can experience in your life. #soshi