Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Neighbourly Nuptials

Boy Wonder and I were lucky enough to be invited by our neighbours (Mr & Mrs N) to their son's wedding last weekend.  As our first Indian wedding, we were excited to look forward to a traditional Sikh ceremony.  But unlike Western weddings, this wasn't going to just be an event over in one day, but it lasts about a week!  We were invited to party with them on both Thursday and Friday nights before the big day on Saturday.

The thing that struck me the most was how colourful the clothes of the women were - bright jewel colours adorned the room.  There is a lot of singing and drumming.  This is Mrs N on the drum to kick start the celebrations on Thursday night.

Thursday night was Mendhi night.  These are the henna decorations that are worn on hands and/or feet to unite in the celebrations for the bride and groom.  I'd never seen mendhi applied before, and the two girls that came to do it worked so quickly.  I chose to have the designs drawn on both my hands.  The henna comes out very dark and is initially raised on the skin while it dries; as it does so, it stains the skin in a reddish brown.  The girls spritzed glitter onto the designs to match each persons outfit which was a really nice touch.  Here's mine...

The hospitality was incredible.  Everyone kept trying to feed me!  The homemade food was delicious.  The aubergine curry Mrs N made on the night was my favourite.  Though most guests were vegetarian, they also made a chicken dish just for me, which was incredibly thoughtful.  I'm glad to have tried it as it was melt in the mouth delicious. 

There was a chickpea curry on the Friday night that was also gorgeous!  Everything was home made on these days - even the chapatis.  And there was a gorgeous sweet, which I later found out was Gulab Jamun, made with milk powder and sweetened with a sugar syrup and a hint of rosewater - not only was this served on both nights, but Mrs N insisted I take a box full home with me - yum!

The singing and dancing continued.  While the songs were sung in Punjabi by the older women, I was told they were rather raunchy... and a further elaboration of this made me view the arm gestures and banging of a large stick in a whole different light!

The younger girls danced around, a few of them dressed up as men, turning their scarves into turbans, while one of the aunts was the demure bride.  The dancing continued.  And it's still only the Thursday night!

Friday night rocked around.  Tonight was the N family's chance to celebrate the groom. 

There was more ceremony with the sisters dressed in white and Mrs N arriving with ceremonial vessels on their heads topped with candles.  These vessels were then passed between family and friends.  I'm not sure of the symbolism, but it was obvious that everyone was taking part in congratulating the groom on his forthcoming nuptials.

The groom was in great spirits - he barely left the dance-floor!

Saturday came around far too quickly!  With the ceremonies starting at 9am, it was an early start to the day after two late nights out.  We headed to the temple, where the families met outside to exchange gifts of sweets as part of an engagement ceremony.  We then moved inside for tea and refreshments of samosas and pakoras, which was a different start for breakfast than I was used to but tasty.

I'd chosen to get a traditional salwar kameez for the day, which I really enjoyed wearing, and I think was appreciated.  This is a long top, with trousers and a scarf that can be used to cover the head in temple.

Shoes off and we headed into the actual temple.  The traditional bridal colour for Indian weddings is red.  So the groom and male family members were in red turbans or head coverings.  Both men and women are require to have their heads covered in the temple. 

There were various Gurus who lead the ceremony at different points.  The holy book was kept under a covered canopy with a Guru sweeping a feathered fan across it regularly.

The bride arrived, accompanied by her brothers and cousins.  Her dress was incredibly elaborate, and looked like it could weigh a tonne!  Apparently it can weigh 10-20 kilos, which must be exhausting. 

Both the bride and groom looked a little nervous, which is unsurprising given that they were being watched by about 400 of their nearest and dearest.  

The bride is led around the canopied area by her family, and on the fourth time the couple are married. 

Time to head to the ceremony, where the numbers grew to between 700 and 800 people.  And it got even more glamorous, with the suite lit in pink and chandelier-style centerpieces.  The bride and groom arrived looking much more relaxed.  They fed each other cake and the families fed them cake too, which was surprisingly touching (though not the most photogenic, so I've left those shots out!).

They shared their first dance, then the dancing started, interspersed with dinner... and more dancing!

What a sensational experience, shared with lovely people.

Cheers, KangaRue

Monday, 9 August 2010

My Eclectic Cycle to Work

About a month ago I started cycling to work in an effort to get fit, from Woolwich to Canary Wharf.  The added benefit of it being a great form of relaxation is only heightened by those days I have to contend with public transport and the masses that push, shove and often stink amongst it!

Some days are a struggle, but some times when I have awoken early enough, it's lovely to take a gentle cycle and admire the views - ranging from the mundane to the architecturally stunning and the just plain bizarre.

Early on my cycle takes me through Royal Arsenal Riverside, with it's beautiful old buildings and the canons...

And then I go past this art installation.  To be honest I'm not really sure what it's about, or even that it's called, but it's an intriguing piece we've lovingly named The Zombies...  this would be the bizarre part!

So off I go to catch the Woolwich Free Ferry which transports cars, trucks, a growing number of cyclists and a few pedestrians directly across the Thames.  I pass the Thames Barrier along the way which is an impressive site - even more so when the sun shines and it glints silver.  That's my destination, Canary Wharf, in the background on the right.

There is a beautiful old pub that has been closed down.  I love the tower with it's cosmic depictions.  Hopefully it will be reopened and restored one day soon.

I keep going past a few factories and at the start of the bike path come across the Brick Lane Music Hall.  In an old church.  Which is not on Brick Lane.  But it's a beautiful building and the mural on the side is lovely.  My goal is to go and see a production here this year - it's crying out for a visit to a panto at Christmas don't you think?

 Along the bike path, dodging oblivious pedestrians, I go past a beautiful garden that leads to the Thames Barrier.  There's a great cafe in the park next to the garden too.  This was just a bare plot a few years ago, so I love what they've done with it.

Amongst the residential blocks, are the Tate & Lyle warehouses and factories.  I love the giant Golden Syrup jar on the side of one of their buildings...

Not much further to go now, and the view changes to the O2 (originally known as the Millenium Dome)... which I'm pretty sure falls under the bizarre category.  It's a striking building though and it's difficult to understand quite how huge it is until you're standing in it's cavernous space.

Obviously the reverse views on the way home.  Impressive and diverse views that I hope I never get jaded looking at.

So what do you think about the views on my commute to work?

Please vote for my photos on Mesomo.

Cheers, KangaRue