The man in the photo is Rory, easily one of my most successful long-distance friendships. Ever since the spring of 2007, when a clerk in the Trinity College housing office decided halfway through the semester that the room next to mine would be a good place for the stepson of a visiting fellow to finish his thesis for LSE, our instantly compatible, pathologically immature senses of humor have been making bystanders uncomfortable all over Melbourne, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. And last November, thanks to a generous paternal grant to the Gus Tate Early Birthday Present Fund, I was able to acquire a round-trip ticket to Delhi to see Rory get married to his girlfriend of many years, Ira.
What followed was an extremely surreal 72 hours which I will now attempt to spin into a coherent narrative.
The night before Day One: I arrive at the Dehli airport, find my way to the taxi stand and 30 minutes later I am in my hotel room. In setting my alarm, I notice that my Indian SIM card has a Rape Crisis Hotline preprogrammed into the address book:
I hope it doesn’t ruin the rest of the story, but I’ll just go ahead and let you know that I was not raped at any point during the trip. But it was nice to know it was there, and perhaps helped me sleep a little more soundly that night.
Day One: I wake up and look out the window:
Does this overpass look unreasonably high to you? It sure does to me, although I didn’t notice at the time. In any case, this is the overpass I followed to get to Rory’s hotel, where I met him, his friend Simon, his mother, and two of his mother’s friends for an exquisite brunch. I stupidly forgot to bring my camera, but to give you some idea of what kind of brunch it was, I can tell you that, according to Rory, “this is one of the only places in Dehli that serves steak.”
The only event on the docket for that day was a bridal henna party at Ira’s family’s house in the evening, so Simon and I took the suggestion of Rory’s mother and her friends that we visit the Bahai (a word I’m surely not using enough accent marks and apostrophes on) Temple close to our hotel:
Which, as with any landmark, necessitates me convincing whoever I’m with to help me take some jumping photos:
Luckily Simon was happy to oblige:
Point of interest: Entering the Temple premises requires one to remove one’s shoes, and shoe collection is handled with remarkable efficiency by underground staff members…
…their subterranean status prompting one of us (probably Simon) to refer to them as “shoe trolls” for the rest of the afternoon, and how they probably volunteered for the job to satisfy their extreme foot fetishes. Upon retrieving our shoes at the end of the visit, Simon remarked on the prints visible through the dust on the tops of our shoes:
“Does yours also have a shoe troll nose print in it?” For some reason I thought this was hilarious, and made a mental note to start writing down all the funny things that people would say during the weekend. Here’s what that list looked like after the trip:
“Does yours also have a shoe troll nose print in it?” -Simon
“Hang on guys, I’ve got to go shake-y snake-y make-y lake-y” -Simon (referring to going to the bathroom)
“Look at all the mozzies out here” -Simon (referring to the mosquitoes)
“Like a baby holding an apple” -Simon (referring to the size of someone’s member)
“Well that was relatively fresh” -Simon (don’t remember what this was about but I laughed, apparently)
“How come all of these are Simon’s? I’ve been saying hilarious things for days and I haven’t got one single quote in here” -Rory
After a quick nap back at our hotel, Simon, Rory and I were picked up by some of Ira’s friends for a trip to the outskirts of Dehli for dinner and a traditional henna party at the bride’s family’s house. We told this trip would take a half an hour, but due to traffic jams which Ira’s friends called “unsurprising”, we didn’t arrive until hours later. Luckily, someone had the good sense to stop for a box full of Kingfishers, so no one (but the driver, I hope) had to spend much of that time sober. This also meant that I ended up meeting Ira’s parents and extended family, strict non-drinkers, drunk as a skunk. I’m pretty sure I shook everyone’s hand for like seven whole seconds each.
After ridiculously delicious meal of who knows what at Ira’s parents’ house, the young people headed back to the city for a night of clubbing. I don’t remember tons about this part of the trip, but I do remember trying to glide/slide across a stage of some kind, before a security guard picked me up by the shoulders and set me back down on the dance floor. According to reports the next morning, my legs were still moonwalking in mid-air as I was being lifted off the ground.
Day Two (day of the wedding): I wake up and my hand looks like this:
Perhaps I’m recounting that a bit dramatically. This isn’t The Hangover; I totally remember when I got it, and I probably would have gotten it even if I wasn’t drunk. But I’m still going to show you the whole thing in a dramatic finger-by-finger reveal sequence:
And the best part is, it continued to smell faintly of lemons even after I got back to Beijing. Which really helped during all the Indian pooping I did in India, i.e. wiping with my left hand instead of toilet paper. “Ew, does your hand smell like poop? Oh wait, no; poop and lemons!”
Anyway, with the wedding not until the evening, Simon and I chose to spend our few daylight hours at the Red Fort, which every Indian we talked to pronounced as “the Red Fart”:
Unbelievable timing on this jumping shot. Those dudes are holding hands RIGHT under my crotch!!!
So the wedding. Simon and I met up with Rory just in time to have a beer…
… before he put on his ceremonial duds:
Indian marital tradition (which particular culture I have no idea) required Rory ride a white horse up to the hotel lobby to meet the bride’s family, and all of us were required to dance along:
Oh the embarrassing videos of this that I’m not going to show you!
Inside the hotel courtyard, Rory prepares to “meet” his wife’s family:
As someone who “hates being in the spotlight”, Rory did a pretty good job of looking natural, especially when I he had nothing to do but sit in the gazebo and be stared at while waiting for Ira to arrive, which she did with an entourage of her own:
I just noticed the guy on the right’s “like a boss” face. “You guys need a canopy-bearer? I got this.”
The ceremony itself was surprisingly small and sparsely observed (I think most people went to grab food first), so I got a front row pillow view of the action:
This is what I look like at this point, by the way:
I don’t even remember how the dot got there. Not because I was drunk, but because it’s been five months since it happened. I really need to get on the ball with this blog stuff. Jesus, I’m going to be married before I get caught up on everything.
Anyway, the wedding went off with out a hitch. Nobody shouted out during the part when the priest asked for any objectors to speak now or forever hold their peace, either because no one understands Sanskrit, or because Ira and Rory really are meant to be together. In any case, that’s how Rory and Ira got married and I hope they stay so for many years, if nothing else just so I can tell their children how I sat at their parents feet and watched them walk around a burning pot of incense five times and showered them both with my blessings in the form of flower petals.
Day Three: So I was a little confused about how no one could tell me anything about what would be happening on this day except “brunch”. “Yes, but what are we going to do for the rest of the day?” is what I kept wondering. I didn’t realize the brunch was going to be all you can eat, all you can drink gourmet everything, and take about seven hours. It was one of the most ridiculous meals, if you can even call it that, that I have ever eaten:
Take this last photo and multiply it by twelve to get an idea of what we did for the second three and a half hours. I quickly became the cameraman of the afternoon/evening, such that “Gus!” and “Shots!” were shouted with equal frequency. “Shots! Gus! Gus, shots, Gus, shots!” Actually most of my photos from this weekend are from this marathon brunch alone. I can’t paste all the embed codes in here; you’ve got to check out the album page to get any real idea: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jatate/sets/72157628156150069/
And that’s basically it. India, man. Wish I could have stayed longer. Obviously I’ve left out quite a few details but I’ve already spent three days working on this one post; time to move on I think. I’ll just leave you with the last photo I took; an Indian McDonald’s employee yelling at me not to take photographs:
I just wanted to document the beefless menu. Sorry bro!