Category Archives: P and C’s Wedding

Preparing for Bhoj

It’s about time I start back in with some of the Nepal posts…

We started preparing for the Bhoj around 12:15 when P’s younger cousin walked me to the local beauty parlor, a small shop tucked off one of the main neighborhood roads. The shop was barely big enough to fit the four parlor chairs (which were computer/office chairs) and the small sitting area for waiting customers.

The beautician seemed excited to work on a foreigner, and commented that my hair was “ramro” [nice] and soft (I’ve been told quite a few times my hair was “so nice” and “so soft” this trip. I’ve never really thought of my hair as nice, but kind of thin, stringy and frizzy; instead I’m jealous of many of my South Asian friends’ hair which I think of as “so nice” and “so thick.” I was told my hair was “so soft” in East Africa, but compared to tightly curled Sub-Saharan African hair my straight longer hair probably does seem “soft,” so I didn’t seem as surprised.)

Since my hair was “so soft” and apparently slippery to handle, the beautician slicked my hair with about a bucket of hair gel, then divided my ponytail into sections and rolled each section into a tight loop and secured it with bobby pins so that the final product was a large circular pun that looked weaved together at the center. She added small pearl pins and small red fabric flower pins to give it some color and design, and finished it off with glittery hair spray.

I was happy I could follow most of the conversation between the hairdresser and P’s cousin. They spoke sparingly and in short sentences:

“Is this for a wedding or a bhoj?”

“Where is your bhauju [sister-in-law] from?”

“How long has your dai been in America?”

“How does she like Nepal?”

When I got back to P’s place, his mother told me it was time to do the rest of my preparation. The two women who help in the house sat me down in P’s parents’ bedroom. One woman—L Didi—gently strung a long red pote necklace over my head and new hair style while the other painted my toe nails and finger nails fire engine red. As my fingers and toes dried P’s cousin (the one who took me to the beauty parlor) and the women who painted my nails debated over what make-up would look good on me–in a place where my pale-as-a-ghost skin color sticks out like a sore thumb, make-up shades take some deliberation. The nail polish woman powdered my face and P’s cousin started putting pale sparkly eye shadow on my eyelids. The woman took some kajol (eye liner) and lightly lined my eyes and put mascara on, while P’s aunt and mother debated over what shade of lipstick I should wear. I vetoed the first bright red one, and agreed to the lighter more natural looking pink.

What the 'naya buhari" should look like was a group decision...

Borrowed some gold bangle bling from mamu, although that thick one was a tight squeeze that scraped the back of my hand as it was forced over my thumb

With makeup done the extra women left the room while I put on my red petticoat and blouse. L Didi is the resident sari expert in the house and generally helps Mamu tie her saris (Mamu feels more comfortable in salwar kameze and usually wears those instead of sari on a daily basis). The last time I was here L Didi tied my saris, not because I didn’t know how, but because I was too slow, and her sari fixing looked nicer.

L Didi wrapped me up and made sure everything looked correct, occasionally patting me on the hip and saying, “dheri ramro cha” [very nice].

L Didi, getting the job done nicely.

Getting wrapped and fluffed up by others makes me feel like a living doll, but this was their family’s wedding party and I was ready to go with the flow. Everything looked so nice once they were done anyhow. One I was finished everyone else had to get ready—P’s mom’s hair was done by the woman who painted my nails, P’s cousins got in their saris– hair was curled, makeup applied, high heeled shoes put on. By 4:30 we were all ready to go.

With P and his grandfather, waiting for the car to the Bhoj venue.

Advertisements

The Art of Distributing Wedding Cards in KTM

My boss couldn’t believe that when P’s parents decided to do the bhoj that P’s dad could pull out a notebook and from memory write out a guest list with 550 people. “Who can do that?” he asked.

I was equally impressed/shocked that in the two and a half weeks time after P’s family decided to do the bhoj, they were able to organize a party for 500 people, including printing out wedding invitations, addressing each one, and distributing them out to friends, family, and neighbors.

The process is pretty interesting.

Most people live in the KTM Valley, and although the Valley is terribly congested with traffic, and can take ages to make it across the city, it’s relatively easy to connect with people.

And those connections run deep. We were talking with a high school friend of P’s whose dad is now semi-retired but still so busy, “He has a group of friends that he went to primary and high school together with, and now they are in their 60s and still all together all the time. There is always something to do.”

Even with P’s dad the connections are all around and plentiful. Like the man who came to the house to deliver the electricity bill—he was a long time acquaintance of P’s dad and received an invitation to the bhoj. “You know,” P’s dad said, smiling, “When I was a small baby, P’s grandfather had me stay with P’s grandmother’s family in Thamel. I was the only small kid in a house of adults. This dai [older brother],” he continued, pointing at the electricity bill delivery man, “Used to watch me. He would put me on the toilet and when I was done I’d cry out and he would come and help me and clean me. He is my very good dai.”

By the time we arrived in KTM P’s dad had already printed the cards and addressed most of them. Instead of putting mailing information, you put family names, and group them together into packets for neighborhoods or friends/family that people will see.

For the next three or four days Daddy was busy entertaining visitors who would come and collect a packet of invitations (Daddy would look through the packet to verify that the visitor would see all the people, and ask if there was anyone else, and look through other packets to collect those cards), and taking packets of invitations with him as he ventured out around the neighborhood with an umbrella in the lingering monsoon rain. At each house he would make small talk, perhaps have a cup of tea and/or a snack, and drop off the card.

As the days progressed the giant stack of invitations grew smaller and smaller. P’s dad started calling people who he didn’t think he or a local acquaintance would see before the party. P and I got in a taxi and ventured to a few houses and work places of our friend’s parents to drop off invitations.

I guess that is how you spread the word about a party in less than a week, and since most people are in the Valley, traveling to the party isn’t usually that difficult.

However there has still been a lot of rain. Usually in the evening the sky will open up with a downpour. I’ve heard that when it rains people are less likely to go out because many people travel my motor scooter which would get messy in the rain, and getting very dressed up and going out in the water would also be uncomfortable. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t rain, or that there will be only a little. After all P’s dad’s hard work, I’d hate for weather to keep people away. I’m sitting on the roof now typing this post out on my laptop and the sky is fairly blue and clear.

The party is tonight. I’m both excited and a little nervous. P and I will be sitting on chairs in front of a big hall of people eating and drinking. 500 people, most of whom I don’t know, coming up and greeting me and saying hello. If there ever was a time I wish I spoke better Nepali, it would be tonight when greeting all these new family members.

The past few nights there have been conversations amongst the family members about what jewelry I should wear, and how I should wear my hair and if I should go to a beauty parlor. I smile and nod. I don’t understand all of the conversation, but I think it should be fun. After lunch P’s cousin is taking me to the beauty parlor for hair and makeup. I’ll post some pictures, but probably not until we get back home as the internet at P’s house is relatively slow.

Stay tuned :)

From “Very Good Saathi” to “Naya Buhari”

The first time I visited Nepal I was in Kathmandu for four days. There wasn’t really time to meet anyone, only a neighbor’s daughter who needed to practice speaking with an American to prepare for her US visa interview, and we visited Mamu’s brother’s clothing shop where I was barely able to fit into any of the pants because I was too tall. Other than my stay with the immediate family, my visit was largely unnoticed by neighbors or extended family, so little explanation was needed as to who exactly I was or why I was there.

The second time I visited we stayed for three and a half weeks. By then P and I had been dating for nearly six years and we were engaged (his family didn’t know, although they figured we would marry eventually). For the first part of our stay, our friend RH was with us, and we went hiking in Solukhubu, so having two white foreign friends at the house, probably made it easier to explain to the neighbors that we were “just friends” visiting P for the hiking trip.

I stayed on after RH left, and we even went to a neighborhood wedding ceremony. As with many close-knit South Asian communities, people “talk,” so taking me to a neighborhood wedding was opening the family up to lots of “talk.” As we were getting ready, P’s aunt J Phupu said, “It anyone asks who you are, you are P’s ‘very good American friend.’ Okay? They do not need to know our business.” That trip I was always introduced as P’s “saathi” [friend].

Even though I kind of understood the logic—in a country where arranged marriages are still rather common, there was no need for the neighborhood to know that their son was with an American before we were married—but I was still hurt. I didn’t want to be P’s “good friend.” I thought after six years I could be considered at least a little more than that.

I even noticed that the Nepali papers referred to one of the American casualties from the Buddha Air crash as a “saathi” of one of the other Nepali passengers. If you read about the crash in on American online news source they explain that she was the Nepali passenger’s fiancée, and had come to Nepal to meet his mother before they married.

So this time it is refreshing to be here with P as a married couple. Instead of being the family secret or the “very good saathi” I get proudly introduced as the “naya buhari” [new bride]. Mamu is not ashamed to walk me by the local shops, point and smile, “naya buhari.” While the neighbors smile back, “ramro cha.” [she is good/nice].

Now if I could only speak proper Nepali back to everyone, I’d have it made.

“People are crying, ‘Where is bhoj?'”

The first time Mamu mentioned it was about three weeks before they left. P had finally told them about the conference, and that we were pushing for his travel documents, and that we might go to Nepal for Dashain.

That night he had a social meet-up with some of his lab colleagues/professors, so he asked me to tag along with Mamu and Daddy. While the scientists were catching up over beers and chicken wings in the bar, I sat with Mamu and Daddy in the restaurant nibbling on French fries and splitting a local blueberry beer with Daddy.

After a few fries (which came covered in cheese, which really isn’t Mamu’s “habit,” but “what to do?”) she said, “In Kathmandu the people are crying, crying, ‘Where is bhoj?’”

“Where is what?” I asked.

“The people… they are crying. ‘You have bhoj in America, where is our bhoj?’”

Bhoj meaning wedding?”

Daddy shook his head, “No, no… wedding party, bhoj. You see, we have so many relatives and friends, they want a party.”

“We tell them… American bhoj is sufficient. But they are crying crying. What to do?” Mamu asked. “We tell them, you and P come later, but if you come now, what?”

After that conversation there wasn’t a lot of bhoj talk since it didn’t look like P’s immigration documents were going to come through in time.

But in the eleventh hour they were approved, and we bought tickets to travel, and suddenly the conversation started again.

“People want bhoj.”

“How many people would you invite to the bhoj?” I asked. With a week before our departure, and only two weeks in Nepal, the timing was ridiculiously short.

Daddy took out his journal and thumbed through a few pages. He had made a list of relatives, neighbors and friends. It was 550 people long.

Holy cow.

Daddy likes to have projects like this. Back in KTM he is one of the relatives to call if you need help coordinating an event. He likes to get involved. Time was short, but that wasn’t truly an obstacle.

He started calling friends immediately to try and secure a venue, making a list of tasks to do upon returning like printing invitation cards, and he combed through the list to see if there were any people he could cut to save on costs. I’m not sure if the list has grown any shorter, if anything it probably grew longer. Now I get emails from him during the day asking me things like, “how do you phonetically spell your parents’ names?”

Although idea of being the bride at a wedding party where I barely know a soul is kind of daunting,  the party is more for P’s family, particularly for P’s grandfather.

“I don’t think my family has hosted a big party like this since my aunt’s wedding twenty eight years ago.” P said, and we both know P’s grandfather is going to be beaming with pride and excitement the entire two weeks we are there.

So while I’m packing my bag tonight, I have to remember to include my wedding sari, bangles, jewelry, and tilhari for the last installment of P and C’s wedding adventure which is planned for next Friday—September 29th.

So no more crying people! The bhoj is coming.

A “Horrible Mediator” ;)

At our white wedding, instead of a traditional guest book, P and I set up a digital camera with a ten second timer on a tripod and set beside it an erasable marker/white board. We asked people to leave us photo messages in our “digital guest book.” A lot of people didn’t notice it (unfortunately), but a few did… and at the end of the night had about 30 pictures of different people posing with messages for us. (I stole the idea from our Canadian friend–you know who you are!)

I wanted to share one of my favorite pictures. It looks a little like a mug shot, but the message is absolutely priceless and hilarious. Our friend AD made the perfect choice.

The white board reads, "I'm glad today happened despite me being a horrible mediator."

I told the story over a year and a half ago in the post “The Main 3” but it warrents a retelling in honor of the pic:

Shortly after P told his family (“He Told Them!“) about our relationship our friend AD (pictured above) traveled to Kathmandu to visit family. During his trip he was also charged with the task of “talking me up” (positive reinforcement) to the P family.

At the time P’s parents and aunt had kept P’s “I’m in love with a white American” story secret from P’s talkative Grandfather in case P was just “going through a phase” and would eventually leave me and marry a Nepali someday. When AD and KS showed up for lunch that fateful afternoon in January 2005, every time AD dutifully brought me up in conversation one of the “Main 3” (mostly J Phupu) would shut him down or change topics to deflect the “match maker/mediator” role that AD was not so subtly fulfilling.

Six and a half years later, Mamu, Daddy, and AD sat in the audience watching P and I get married. It made me laugh to think about AD’s message concerning his skills as a mediator (it wasn’t his fault he kept getting deflected!).

:)

A Message From Home

I nearly forgot to mention something very sweet that P’s family did after our wedding weekend.

P’s 87 year old grandfather couldn’t make the trip to the US from Kathmandu for the wedding (understandably), even though he really wanted to be here for the “big day(s).”

P’s aunt (J Phupu) also couldn’t make it– she was elected to stay back and watch over P’s grandfather while P’s parents were away, and then she tripped in the market and broke her knee right before they left town, so even if she was originally coming, she probably couldn’t make the journey so soon after the accident.

P’s cousin MK (J Phupu’s daughter) is stuck in Nepal waiting for her K-1 fiancee visa to be approved so she can be reunited with her partner MS in the US, so she couldn’t come. And SK (MK’s younger sister) is still in high school and doesn’t have a tourist visa, so she also couldn’t make it either.

As much as we would have loved to have all the siblings and immediate family together, having family on the other side of the world makes it difficult to get everyone in the same place at the same time. But we know they were thinking about us over that weekend.

And then they did something so sweet– they posted pictures of themselves on facebook holding up “Congratulations P+C” signs and tagged us in the photos so we would see them celebrating from the other side of the world.

MK, P's grandfather, J Phupu and SK

Wedding Weekend Post X: “I like my American Bhauju”

Monday morning I would have paid anything to be able to sleep in. Actually ideally I would have loved to leisurely sleep in, then get up and have an entire day alone with P, perhaps open up wedding gifts on our own, go out for lunch or dinner, and just enjoy the high off the previous two wedding days, and probably go to sleep early.

Instead P and I had to get up pretty early, get ready, pack up the room and head back to our apartment where P’s family (U, Daddy and Mamu) were waiting along with a few friends that wanted to say goodbye before heading out of town.

An Indian friend from New York had stayed in our apartment that night and greeted us when we got in. After she left two older friends of P’s from Maine came to the house, and we chatted for about half an hour before they said their goodbyes. Next AS and N arrived to say goodbye before heading for the bus terminal in town, but were stopped by my mom and sisters who arrived and told them to jump in the car since all five were heading south to DC/Virginia. Finally with most goodbyes having been said, around 10:30 in the morning, the P family packed into the car to drive to the hotel to meet up with eleven members of P’s extended family.

Our wedding had been an excuse for a mini-American-based family reunion. Four families had flown in from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas and Kentucky, and had decided to spend an extra day in Massachusetts so that they could all see each other and visit.

P’s parents hadn’t seen some of them in many years—like the cousin from Minnesota. I unknowingly told a story about him once before (way back in September 2009 when I first started blogging!). The story was about how P and I wound up at the same university in northern New York (and ultimately first met), and included a paragraph about how P flew from KTM to Maine, stopping for a layover in pre-9/11 America in Minneapolis so that his cousin could pick him up at the airport, and visit with him—including a trip to the Mall of America (of all places!)—where P picked up an alarm clock, converted the US dollar price to Nepali rupees, and promptly put the clock down because the price seemed insanely expensive. His cousin scolded him that he had to stop converting the money back, because he was in America now, and he wouldn’t be able to function in our society if he always thought about what the price was back home. That was over ten years ago. P hadn’t seen his cousin since—and here he was, at our wedding—with his wife and their two adorable little sons.

I had met P’s relatives briefly (and a bit awkwardly) throughout the wedding. My first meeting was at the Nepali temple. P’s dad whispered that I should bow my head and say “Darshan” while cupping my right hand near my face/nose when I met them. I tried to do that, but it came out weird—maybe they weren’t expecting it, and thought I would be less formal. It almost felt like one of those comedy skits where an American and Japanese business man meet, and the American puts out his hand to shake and the Japanese man bows, and realizing their mistake on the second attempt they both switch and the American bows and the Japanese man tries to shake hands.

I was told at one point P’s dad wanted to organize a ritual that is done to welcome the new bride to the family/congratulate the bride and groom/respect the elders in the family. He had wanted to organize the ritual at the temple so that P and I could pay respect (touch feet) to his Nepali family and to my parents and grandmother, but with the ceremony/dinner/people heading out after, it just didn’t happen. Originally P’s parents expected me to do this ritual once we got back to the apartment the night of the red wedding, not expecting me to stay in a hotel that night, and they were really surprised to hear that I wouldn’t be around. The compromise was that we moved the ritual to Monday night after the wedding.

At the Nepali wedding after party the extended Nepali family all sat together at the bar, and eventually danced a bit, but I still didn’t clearly understand who any of them were or how they were related to P, or evenly which side of the family they were from.

At the white wedding they also hung out together, and enjoyed dancing. There were other family members at the white wedding—including a few from Boston who P and I had briefly met at another distant relative’s wedding two years before (“”Frank Uncle…”), but I still didn’t know who was who.

The four extended Nepali families at the white wedding

So even though we were both pretty tired, I did appreciate getting the chance to know these family members before they left Massachusetts. P and I, being the good little tour guides, took them to Quincy Market for lunch, brought them through the “T” (Boston Metro) to Providence Place for a Duck Tour (a little cheesy, but you get a lot of history and see a lot of the city) of Boston and the Charles River, and then a group split off to check out Harvard while a second group headed back to our apartment.

Duck Tour photo

P and I organized dinner at our place for everyone, and in the evening we sat around visiting. While the “adults” were catching up in Nepali, I started playing with P’s Minnesota cousin’s six year old son. We had quite a rousing game of “guess the picture” going on for over an hour. By the end of the night the little guy declared, “I like my American Bhauju!” (sister-in-law).

"I like my American Bhauju!"

As it approached eleven o’clock, we had not yet done the ritual (mentioned earlier), so P’s dad said it was time. All I was told was that we would be given coins, and that P and I had to pay respect to all the elder members of the family by bowing and putting the coins at their feet. Then the family member would touch my head and let me rise, and then as the new bride they would give me an envelope with money in it.

Touching P's parents feet, then paying respect to P's Minnesota cousin

First we did P’s parents. Then his cousin and wife from Minnesota, then the other people, until we had paid respect to all the older members of the family. A little after midnight the families headed back to the hotel.

Although I would have loved a day of crashing right after the wedding, it was really nice to have a chance to get to know P’s extended American-based relatives. More people to add to my holiday card list, and keep in touch with, and more destinations on the map to visit. I’m hoping maybe we will make a trip to Minnesota/Wisconsin sometime for another P family reunion.

And even though I was valiantly planning to go back to work that following day (I’m trying to save my vacation time for a trip to Nepal in December), I emailed my boss asking for a reprieve. Had I gone into work that Tuesday I would surely have fallen asleep on my keyboard. However Wednesday we were back to “normal” and the wedding weekend had officially concluded.

And thus so have the official “Wedding Weekend” posts, and just in time as well…

Happy one month anniversary to P :)