Location: Mohchingpura, Rajasthan.
I don’t quite know where to start with this post and I know I am never going to be able to do the story justice. I am never even going to be able to tell it all, so much happened and it was deeply moving on many levels.
First, some background, and if I have covered this before I apologise.
I have some friends made through staying at Chillout Hostel (formerly Hathroi Palace Hotel). Ajeet owns it with his brother Balu and Ajayraj, a cousin, used to work there. After I had already booked and planned my trip, flying into Amritsar and out of Jaipur, Ajayraj invited me to his brother’s wedding, about 100km East if Jaipur. Given that the wedding was at the start but the location was the end and I had planned to stay in the north, it was a dilemma for a few days. But the more I thought about it and discusses it with friends it was obviously an opportunity too good to miss – I wasn’t even close to how good it would be.
The wedding location. I was staying in the house at the bottom near the marker.
I am not exaggerating when I say I don’t know how to tell this story. I keep trying to think of which bits to share but there is so much that happened each day.
The location is am easy beginning. As you can see on the map Mohchingpura is very rural. To get there we drove along some of the worst roads ever. Winding, narrow, bumpy, cows, dogs, people, water filled pools and mostly too fast with the horn blaring (of course).
The family lives in a cluster of 7 or 8 houses where 5 brothers are all neighbours. This is not poor rural India, the houses are big and well cared for and life is, for the most part, very simple.
Cooking is done over a small fire. This is milk straight from the cow being prepared for the kids. I had some, the crap we are sold is nothing like this.
There are uncles and brothers and cousins and kids. Given there were (literally) hundreds of visitors and plenty of people staying I am not 100% certain who actually lives in the house. It seems to be about 10 people, it isn’t crowded at all.
I was sleeping in an outhouse where there were 8 beds and a newly installed bathroom – it was still being finished as people were arriving.
Dressed for the wedding. There isn’t time or space for the kurta buying story
At first people weren’t sure about me. Most of the kids and women were shy. But hey, breaking the ice with people is what I do for a living and it wasn’t long before I was king of the kids and the women were getting used to me. Since I am make I was accepted by the men once they saw the kids demanding more magic tricks.
Some of us settled down to a rum and whiskey session late at night. I left before it got out of hand 😛
I have to keep emphasising that this is about 10% of what happened and how. There is just too much.
The next day was preparation for the pre wedding “party”. Out the back a team of “chefs” was setting up and preparing food all day long. The place was being spruced up, lots of activity.
Rotis being cooked for a late night meal
Decorating the outside of the house
The groom was covered in a turmeric paste by women. This happened a couple of times. There were many and continuous rituals.
A big henna session for the women.
The DJ setting up to play Hindi pop music. If you think it was loud, you aren’t even close.
A couple of hundred people came and were fed. Yes, sitting on the ground, they would eat and move on and the next lot would sit down. The food kept coming and coming.
I could go on but I must move on. And quickly or this will never end.
I didn’t mention that a kid said he was going for a walk to the shop. Intrigued I joined him.
You can’t begin to imagine how in the middle of the back of nowhere this is. It is essentially a farmer making a few extra Rupees from kids and locals who need a pen or some sweets or something. That it is even there is a complete mystery.
Oh…so much more to leave out. A guided tour though the farms by the kids.
This is mustard seeds. They also grow wheat and chick peas and each house has a vegetable gardens.
It is being held at the house if the bride’s family, about 50km away over the worst roads in India. We leave early because Ajeet’s sister in law is also getting married and Joitee (his wife) is being taken there. This is 50km in the other direction over the same roads.
At the wedding there are more rituals and lots of food. There were about 10 different foods to eat, each one was awesome. I am having some of each and someone tells me that this is just the snack. There is a meal later! I immediately cut back to a taste of each instead of a small plate full.
No one could take money from Bhanu :o)
More rituals at a building (actually a school) over the road from the venue and then the groom is hoisted onto a horse for the ride there.
This is accompanied by the worst band in history, loads of fireworks, and lots of dancing. People wave money over heads and the “musicians” try to grab it. It was a hoot, and it took about an hour to make a 200m or so trip.
Eventually the groom touches the top of a door with his sword and he is allowed into the house while we stay out.
But, where are the women? I hear you asking. Good question, as usual they are invisible. Apparently they are in the house, but I didn’t see them at all.
Oh, and there is no dancing as we know it to all. The women will dance for each other, the men will dance during the procession. But the idea is every getting together and dancing and having fun? No. I can put it any more simply than that.
The next day was more food and awaiting the arrival of the bride and groom to the house. Oh dear. The poor girl. She is literally being led by the groom on a – I have to say it – leash.
More rituals including what I am told is the wife being beaten by the groom and a cousin. They have some switches and I am really not looking forward to this.
It turns out to be a game where a couple have a stick and they have to try to whack the other on the legs 7 times. Cousin is a bit too enthusiastic for my liking, I had urged him to be gentle and he reduced a woman to tears, he ended up getting a kick in the arse from Mumma.
Aside: I had discovered that there is a stepwell nearby and had been gently pestering people to get taken there. As well as the 26th being India republic day, is is also the birthday of Ajeet and his mother. Mumma is just gorgeous, the sweetest woman and though we couldn’t talk, we really connected.
Ajayraj is going to drive to Dhousa, about 20km away over the same worst roads in India and offers to go via the stepwell. It was almost dark, but mission accomplished.
It was in the back of nowhere, I can’t even find it in the map again. Leaving there we continue to Dausa, following our noses in the dark. We are following a motorbike as we approach an intersection and aren’t sure whether we should go straight or turn right.
Ajayraj honks his horn and the passenger on the bike immediately points to turn right. Given how much people honk their horns, it was hilarious that he knew exactly what we wanted.
We got our cakes plus some black market rum for later (liquor stores are closed on Republic Day) and you can see that a fun night was had.
Jump to final day and a pilgrimage to all the local themes with the bride and groom.
I am lost for words about this day. At one point I made a video but it is so personal I can’t share it.
Suffice to say we went to places that are so obscure and hard to get to. So old. So spiritually important for these people. So incredible. Photos is the best I can do.
I just can’t tell you about this place.
It is 10am in Jaipur. I need to get out.
This guy showed up unannounced at the house and sat in the family temple playing his goat skin “bagpipes”.
My next destination is a surprise. To me too. I have no idea where I am going to head tomorrow. I’ll figure it out today.