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The Celebration of a Lifetime

A "wedding for days" sounds like quite the party-- and it is!

Jaipur has been one of the most culturally exhilarating parts of my trip so far. Thanks, in part, to the wonderful family that I am staying with via. AirBnb. Nitin and his family pull out all the stops when it comes to throwing me into the deep end of Indian culture. I am over my head with the amount of new information that my mind is trying to comprehend and process, in only the best way.

I spent my first full evening in Jaipur trying to understand the game of cricket, while watching one of the highly anticipated events to hit India in quite some time, the Pakistan Vs. India cricket finals. I joined Nitin and the boys for some beers and snacks while we watched the game on the big screen at a bar in a local hotel. My constant questions seemed to not phase Nitin at all, as he humbly and patiently tried to explain the base rules of the game. Sure, I come away knowing more than I did before-- but there is still a lot to be learned.

The following evening, I joined Nitin and his wife, their two children, the grandmother and grandfather, and a random child cousin, as we packed into a compact hatchback and made our way to a neighbors wedding celebration. Everyone was dressed up so elegantly, and I was as well, decked out in one of Nitin's traditional Indian formal attires; A kurta (long shirt), flowing drawstring cotton pants, and sandals. We arrived at the wedding garden and saw the groom outside, atop a horse, as others danced and partied around him. The wedding had started days before, and I had heard the music blasting from the celebrations when I first arrived at Nitin's place, a few nights before.

After the groom makes his long journey on the white horse to the wedding venue, a procession known as the baraat, he ends it with drums and dancing as he sits atop the horse until the wedding is set to begin. We passed by the excitement outside and entered into the gardens, where hundreds of people ate through a plethora of traditional food choices. There were probably at least 50 different choices to choose from, and Nitin had me eating as many as my body could handle! They were all delicious, but don't ask me to tell you what any of it was.

We also had an array of desserts and drinks, all very different from what a traditional American would expect at a wedding celebration. Music blared the whole time as men and women, all dressed in beautiful and colorful clothing, enjoyed the festivities. The groom made his way to the stage, where all of his family and friends joined him for photos and such, and a tiny little groom, dressed in his same exact attire sat next to him.

When it was time for the bride to arrive, a fairytale inspired buggy, like that of Cinderella's, entered the gardens as the loud Hindi music boomed from the

speakers. People crowded around to watch her, waving money at her and cheering as dancers in white led the procession in front. They waved around big white feathers and hearts.

As the bride made her way to the stage, joined by her sisters and bridesmaids, she was greeted by her groom, who stood beside her until it was time to exchange flower garlands that they placed around each others' necks, a promise of unity forever. The music continued to pump as fireworks around the stage blasted loudly up into the air and confetti canons shot out colorful papers that rained down upon them and the wedding party. Children ran around, picking up the confetti and dancing with fruity drinks and desserts in-hand.

After the large and grand ceremony, the family then has more intimate moments, shared only among close friends and family. There is no kissing or hugging between the bride and the groom, as such signs of affection would not be acceptable in front of the family. Instead the bride and groom sat down together on a decorative bench onstage. It was after this that people began to leave the ceremony.

As we exited the wedding garden, Nitin took me over to a table with paan. Paan is pretty much a huge betel leaf with nuts on top. Crowds were gathered with hands outreached, waiting for their leaf, as the man behind the table took each leaf and folded it together in a fancy little pouch that was easily popped into the mouth. As I had done with all of the other foods that night, I bravely threw the leaf in my mouth and began to chew as Nitin watched. These leaves are meant to help with digestion and have many health benefits, but all I could do was hold it in my cheek until we exited the gardens where I spit it out immediately. I can taste it all over again as I write this, and it's as though Im re-living those moments of panic where I was sure I would throw up right there at the wedding.

Paan is definitely not my cup of tea, but the wedding experience, as a whole, was unbelievable! It will surely be a highlight of my India travels. The culture, the music, the colors, the clothing, the food, the jewels, the everything! It was so beautiful and so enriching. I can't thank Nitin enough.

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