Tag Archives: Wedding

Wearing Pote as a Newly Married Woman

Nepali Jiwan had an interesting post recently about “The Married Look” and what expectations people in Nepal have for the look of a married women including a few social cues such as tikka, churaa bangles, pote necklaces, nose piercings (for some ethnic groups), and wearing make-up like kajol. I basically left a blog post sized comment on her post, but I wanted to take a few moments to discuss at least one aspect of my new Nepali “married look.”

I’ve written about potes necklaces before, but I want to revisit the topic.

As I noted in the previous post, I occasionally wore potes (pronounced like po-thay) before I got married. P’s aunt, J Phupu, gifted me a necklace in 2008, and 2009, and sent a few more a little after that. The necklaces were generally short, colorful and multi-strand. I would sometimes match them with a saree if I was going to a South Asian party or dressing up for a cultural event at my work. On even rarer occasions I would wear one to the office to dress up an outfit (this makes me sound particularly fashionable, which I’m definitely not). S-di’s daughters would tease me sometimes saying, “Did you get married?” when I wore them because of their use as a marriage symbol in Nepal. They didn’t really have any special meaning for me at the time, other than a gift from P’s aunt, so I didn’t think it was a big deal to wear them before marriage.

Pre-marriage pote wearing examples over the years...

The week after we got married I informally wore red clothes (P’s mom didn’t tell me to do this, but I remembered my friend R being encouraged to wear red for a certain number of days after her wedding as a “naya buhari”, and as I was excited to be married I decided to wear red as well). I dressed up my red outfits with the short red, green and gold colored pote necklace that P’s mom brought for me to wear. It’s a nice necklace, but the Nepali wedding colors of red, green and gold remind me so much of Christmas, especially certain combinations and designs with these colors, that wearing red, green and gold jewelry in July seemed kind of “off-season.” (I’m definitely not a “Christmas all year round!” kind of gal).

Examples of green, red and gold potes hanging in a pote shop near Thamel. To the left are examples of "thin" potes, and to the right and above are examples of "thick" multi-strand potes.

During our second week of marriage I started transitioning into other outfit colors, and picking other potes, but as someone who rarely wore necklaces before, wearing the thick multi-strand short necklaces felt clunky, like I was wearing a tight collar every day. S-di had gifted me a single strand purple and silver pote during Teej 2010, and I started wearing this simpler, single-strand, longer pote on a daily basis, because I could hide it discretely under my shirt if I wanted to, but I still felt that connection of wearing a pote as a married woman.

I didn’t expect to wear pote every day. During those first two weeks I did it because I was excited to be married, and thought it was a nice nod to P’s mother’s traditions. I thought eventually I would probably stop. Then Mamu started talking about how my two very close Nepali friends—AS and R—both married to Nepali men, didn’t seem to wear “any signs of marriage.” AS wears a wedding ring every day, which to me is a sign of marriage, and R occasionally wears bangles, but neither wore pote or tikka daily, two signs that Mamu seemed really surprised about.

After hearing her talk about this a few times, I figured I would wear pote while she was staying with us, so that she would feel more satisfied that I was showing signs of being married in a Nepali fashion, but I didn’t like wearing the thick short necklaces all the time, and continued wearing the thin purple/silver necklace, even when it didn’t match anything.

The next time I visited R I asked her if she had any simple pote, very plain necklaces that I could wear inconspicuously. She said that the last time her mother visited she was also concerned that R wasn’t wearing pote as a sign of marriage, and had brought several simple ones for her to wear. She hadn’t made it a habit of wearing them, and said if I wanted to take one or two I could. I picked up two of the plainest necklaces: one that had pale pink and pale clear-yellow beads that basically blended in with my natural skin tone and another that had alternating tiny red and yellow beads that could blend with almost any outfit.

Sporting my single-strand red and yellow pote while out and about with P's cousin in KTM. In the US I usually tuck the thin pote under my shirt collar to be more inconspicuous, but in Nepal I felt more compelled to pull it out in the open to show I "belonged" more.

With my new simple pote, and the few fancier pote I already had, it was easier to find something to wear every day and it became more of a habit. By the time P’s mom was packing her bags to return home, I was putting the necklaces on without even thinking about it before I headed to work each morning, or slipping one over my head on weekends.

While I am in the US I don’t always want to show off the fact that I have on a pote. Most of the people I see don’t know the significance of it, so I wear it more for the significance it holds for me. However when I was in Nepal I found myself wanting to be very overt and intentional in displaying the pote I was wearing. Instead of tucking it under my shirt collar, I was pulling it out and wearing it publically and proudly. It made me feel like I belonged more—that I wasn’t just a tourist walking in Thamel, but someone married to a local person, someone more deeply involved in the culture. It felt like wearing pote was a statement—yeah, I’m a gori wife, “Mero shriman Nepali ho.” [My husband is Nepali].

Individual strands of pote hang waiting to be twisted and tied into proper pote necklaces in a pote shop in KTM

Completed multi-strand pote hanging in a pote shop. To the right are shorter styles, to the left are longer styles.

Actually, when I departed KTM for home, I was still dressed up for Dashain tikka—in the red and dark blue cotton block print salwaar kameez I bought in Delhi while studying there a few years back, the longer multi-strand shiny red pote bought for the bhoj party, the small red tikka sticker between my eyebrows I wore occasionally on my visit, as well as the giant red tikka and jamara grass from Dashain. I have to admit, I kind of liked the looks and surprised expressions I received at the airport—there are lots of tourists that leave Nepal with a simple red tikka, a kata scarf or a marigold garland draped around their neck, you might even see a tourist dressed in local clothing, but I figured you didn’t normally find a foreigner wearing pote, Dashain tikka and jamara grass unless she was part of a real Nepali family.

Mamu and P drop me off at Tribhuvan International Airport in KTM. In this picture you can't really see my thicker red pote well since it blends in with the red of my salwaar kameez, but the longer multi-strand necklace is hiding in between the draped sides of my dupatta scarf

Now that I’m back, I’ve been wearing a few of the thicker, multi-strand, but longer potes that I brought back from Nepal this time, as well as my good old simple single strand ones. I didn’t think I’d like wearing pote all the time, but it’s become kind of my “thing.”

Wearing the same shiny red pote as the previous picture, but it's more visible here. P's two cousins, J Phupu and I sit together after our first round of Dashain family tikka

I just kind of wish I didn’t wear them before marriage so that it would have been a little bit more special.

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.

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 II: A Birthday Dinner, Another Cop, And Last Minute Prep

I decided to call this series “Wedding Weekend” since it went with the theme of our wedding save the date magnets designed by my younger sister:

I realize that I have to start writing about our wedding eventually because more stuff that I want to write about keeps happening, and now I have a big blog backlog. I can’t keep bogging myself down with figuring out where to start, so I should just jump right (write) in.

The last pre-wedding post I did was July 6 (Wednesday). July 7th was P’s brother’s birthday. It was also the last day I worked in my office before the wedding. P and I got a lot done before his parents arrived on June 29th, but there were still last minute things to do—planting all my centerpiece pots, making the white wedding programs, stuffing the sagun bags, making the placecards, creating the flower arrangements. And of course I’m a control freak that was giving too much attention to every detail, so I was bad at delegating tasks.

The white wedding centerpieces that I made. I have a thing for funky looking succulent/cacti so I figured it would be fun to make dish gardens people could take home and enjoy rather than flowers that would die right after the ceremony. The table numbers were red construction paper pinwheels with "Happiness" written in different languages. Above is the "Nepali" table and the "Thai" table

White wedding place cards (can you tell the photographer sent us photo proofs?)

The white wedding program "fans" for the outdoor wedding on a hot sunny day.

Sagun bags, on display at the red wedding

Homemade flower arrangements-- red for the bride, white for the bridesmaids

While I was at work all day, P and his brother were “working from home” with their parents. I felt that it was tough to sneak out once I got home from work because I was gone all day, and the parents expected to spend time with all of us in the evening. I spent many of my lunch breaks racing around the city doing last minute errands, and I would occasionally leave work early but tell P I was working late, so I could have an extra hour to get things done. I kept thinking that a lot of bride’s feel stressed as the “big day” approaches, but they have so much more freedom of movement! What made me feel a bit stressed was not being able to freely run around and do crazy-pre-wedding stuff when I needed to. Although most things were in place by U’s birthday, I still couldn’t 100% relax until I knew that all the pieces for the two ceremonies were in order.

My mother and sisters arrived that Thursday afternoon, and I left work a little early with them so that I could help facilitate the C family and P family hanging out together at home.

A few years ago I was in the wedding party of a friend who got married on my 25th birthday, so I know what it is like to have a birthday when people are running here and there for their wedding stuff, and how special it was when they remembered, amidst all their organizing and planning, and gave me a cake and sang “Happy Birthday.” So we decided to take U out for a birthday dinner with a few local friends and our two families to give him time to celebrate.

Of course, as per my “bad luck” (telephone pole incident, tire exploding incident), as I was driving with my mother and sisters behind P (who was driving with his parents and brother) I passed a crosswalk, and then a cop on the side of the road motioned for me to pull over. I didn’t have a clue why he was pulling me to the side, thinking maybe my sister’s car’s registration had expired or something.

He came to the window and said, “Ma’am, do you see that man crossing the pedestrian crosswalk behind us in the blue shirt and jean shorts?”

“Yes?”

“Well, he is an undercover cop and we are conducting a sting operation,” (he actually said that, “a sting operation” as if I was on a tv crime show!), “and we are ticketing people who do not stop for pedestrians as they cross the crosswalk. License and registration please.” (This is a state law in Massachusetts BUT when I had passed the crosswalk the man was still on the other side of the four laned road and had just stepped off the sidewalk. Had I been a few seconds later, and he further towards the middle of the road, I could understand a ticket, but this seemed ridiculous!)

“Sir, please! I’m getting married this weekend and we are just on our way…” I nearly wailed.

“You say you are getting married this weekend?” The officer asked.

“Yes!”

“Alright ma’am, enjoy the weekend…” and he let me go. Thank god. But who gets stopped in a “sting operation” for pedestrians crossing the road??? I’ve never even heard of that! And of course, P’s family saw me get pulled over by the cops again. They must think I’m the worst driver on the planet, and that their poor son takes his life in his hands every time he drives with me! I promise I’m not. I may not be the best driver, but my driving certainly doesn’t warrant so many cop interventions in the past two weeks!

We had dinner (without any more police officer issues, although I was teased that I shouldn’t be allowed to drive anymore), then went home to have birthday cake. Since P’s mom is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat eggs I had earlier gone searching for an eggless Vegan birthday cake. We sang happy birthday to U, and D and I ceremoniously smushed the birthday cake into U’s face.

P said he had "photographic proof" of my cake smushing debauchery... but I wasn't alone, D also helped :)

See… I’m a cake smusher, through and through. I’ve had cakes smushed on me, and I’ve smushed cake on others. P knows this, and he was worried that I would smush our wedding cake into his mouth as well. He’d been warning (begging?) me for months not to, and because I love him, I had decided not to, but had to get the cake smushing out of my system at least once that weekend.

That Thursday the C family and P family spent the night together—My mom, sisters and I in my bedroom (on an air mattress, and on our bed), P and U were in the living room, and P’s parents were in the guest room.

At the close of the night, only one day remained until we had our first wedding.

Wedding Weekend Post I: “Crazy,” “Fun,” “Fast,” and “Exhausting”

Sorry for the prolonged silence. I’ve needed a day or two to recover from the festivities. The weekend was such a whirlwind. People say that your wedding goes by so quickly you hardly have time to get your head around it. It’s true, and it’s only now as I sort through pictures our friends and family have been posting on facebook that I am really getting a sense of what it looked like and what I want to say.

I have to admit that there were many times throughout the weekend where I thought, “I need to write this in my blog!” so I will break my story into several posts so as not to get too long winded at one time.

But now I’m left with the dilemma of where to start. I don’t think I have many words in me today, but I thought I’d share with you a few of the pictures that our friends took. We had a professional photographer there, but we won’t see his pictures for several weeks, so I will share those later.

If I could sum the weekend up in four words I would say “Crazy,” “Fun,” “Fast,” and “Exhausting”– Crazy because after years of being together, years of engagement, and a full year of planning, it was finally here and it felt so surreal; fun because we did have a lot of fun–dancing, talking to friends and family, singing, enjoying; fast because the weekend seem to be over in a blink of an eye, and exhausting because even though it went fast, we still had many long days, late nights, and lots of activity.

As I mentioned before, the weekend before the 4th of July P and I were doing as much wedding prep as possible before his parents’ arrival. My new in-laws arrived a week and a half before our wedding, which made it a bit challenging to sneak out of the house to get wedding stuff done, so I’m glad I did most of it ahead of time. P’s brother came July 1st and stayed with us until the 12th, my mother and sisters came on the 7th. The rest of the time went like this:

7th- last day at work before wedding, mother/sisters arrived, P’s brother’s birthday–took him out to dinner with friends

8th- final wedding prep day, white wedding rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, up until 2am making flower arrangements

9th-Nepali wedding day! temple set up, red wedding, red wedding “after party” (did I mention Nepalis know how to party?) until 2am

10th-American wedding day! last minute wedding prep, white wedding, and formal reception

11th-Get to know P’s extended relatives day and “welcoming the buhari” rituals  (until midnight!)

12th-Crashed like a train wreck

13th-Back to work!

Red Wedding:

Wedding sari pre-ceremony. Many of the sari wearing women got ready at S-di's house where S-di, her daughters, AS and R helped people who are not accustomed to saris get wrapped and folded accordingly

Me sitting under the mandap during the ceremony wearing the "dubo ko mala" (Nepali grass garland), flower mala, and veil

P and I with AS (left) and R (right) helping with the rituals under the mandap. I can't thank these two beautiful friends enough for all their help, we would have been lost without them!

P and I under the mandap walking around the fire

With P's family after the ceremony-- left to right: P's brother U, P, me, Mamu and Daddy

With both our immediate families: left to right: P's dad in traditional Nepali daura suruwal, my dad wearing a Nepali dhaka topi, P, me, my sister K in a sari, my youngest sister M in a sari and mom in a sari, and P's mom

One of my favorite pics of the day (taken by U)-- P and I walking out after the ceremony to find our car decorated with red streamers and bows. The back of the car says "P weds C" and the sides of the car say "P2 + C2" (referencing that both our last names and first names start with the same letter). A childhood friend of P's chauffeured us to the hotel I was staying at so we could freshen up.

P and I after the red wedding but before the red wedding "after party"... wedding round 1 complete!

P, U and I at the red wedding "after party"-- yep-- that's me in my bridal sari with tilhari at a local bar, dancing it up (in front of my new in-laws and extended Nepali family... I guess I'm not the run-of-the-mill buhari, luckily it didn't seem to make a bad impression... I even danced with some of them!)

White Wedding:

White wedding ceremony

I have to put this picture in, because P was so embarrassed to kiss in front of his family. He wouldn't even let me tag him on facebook!

The groomsmen fooling around during the cocktail hour

Father/Daughter dance at the white wedding

International House college friends at the white wedding: 1st KS, 3rd D, 4th me, 5th P, 6th and 7th our American/Bulgarian friends (we are going to their wedding at the end of the month), and AD

More to follow soon!

Red Wedding Program

I come from a culture where weddings have programs so that “the audience” will know what to expect. P comes from a culture where weddings follow certain rituals, and although highly formalized, they can (to a Western eye) seem informal and chaotic because people get up and move around, talk during the ceremony, take snack breaks, and there is no formal program that everyone attending has to follow what is happening.

I was pretty adamant from the beginning that I wanted a Nepali program, especially since the ceremony will be in Nepali/Sanskrit, and I feared the non-Nepali speaking guests wouldn’t know what was going on. In my international education mindset of—“Great! A teachable cultural moment!”—I always envisioned a booklet type program with extensive notes on what was happening each step of the way.

However I found this more challenging to put together than I initially thought. First of all, many of my Nepali friends don’t know what each ritual in a Nepali wedding is called, nor what all the  significance is for each thing, or how to explain it. Secondly, weddings can vary greatly from family to family, so it is hard to know what exactly will happen. When I asked the Indian woman helping us organize the Nepali ceremony at the temple, she told me, a) “I could give you a write up” (she never did), b) “you can easily find things online” (we did to some extent), and c) “Americans don’t give us programs explaining every detail in their weddings, why do we always have to do that for ours?” (which I kind of disagree on, I’m sure she would get a program, even if it doesn’t explain all the cultural nuisances).

Eventually P and I met with the priest conducting the ceremony and I had P take notes about the order of how everything will happen. I’m a pretty detail oriented person, so it frustrates me when detail oriented conversations take place in Nepali, and I don’t understand. Yes, I’m a bit of a control freak.

The weekend before P’s parents arrived I asked him to design the programs (based on a similar design from our wedding invites), so he organized the priest’s notes and did some google searching to give a brief program/explanation of the rituals. The compromise is that the guests will have the program to keep everyone on the same general page, and a friend will act as an interpreter for certain parts of the wedding to help them follow along if they get a little lost.

P and I printed the program, hoping that we had the details right (and the order–we only had P’s notes to fall back on, based on a casual conversation we had with the elderly priest). The first weekend that P’s parents were here we took them to the temple to meet the priest, and he approved the information on the program, so I guess it is set. Before leaving the priest blessed me to have  “many sons” (eek).

So I thought I’d post our program, so people in the future might have a place to start. I’m not saying that all Nepali wedding ceremonies follow this order, or only have these rituals (this is certainly a simplified version of what could constitute a marriage ceremony in Nepal), but at least it gives an idea. I guess the only potentially “odd” thing is that P couldn’t find the Nepali word for the ritual called “Madhuparka” (I guess it is more of an Indian term).

Making Sagun Bags

My first “real” Nepali wedding experience was at R and S’s week long ceremony in 2009. I stored away different ideas that I saw as possibilities for our own wedding down the road. However they are both Newari, and what I didn’t realize at the time was that various rituals and traditions that I was taking note of were often specific to the Newari community in Nepal–and that even within the Newari community there were various “takes” on different traditions (as was evident when R and S would debate their own family’s particular wedding traditions).

P’s mom is Newari, but P’s dad is Chetri, so generally the culture of a household (if the household in Nepal is blended) tends to be that of the father, so much of P’s family traditions were Chetri instead of Newari growing up. (Conversely, S’s mom is Chetri but dad is Newari, so he grew up with Newari traditions).

One tradition that I noticed at R and S’s wedding was that R’s family gave guests small red velvet bags with a picture of Ganesh with “R weds S” imprinted on it. Inside was a small packet of nuts, dried fruits, and chocolates. I assumed that this was a universal custom, not necessarily a Newari custom. So while budgeting for various aspects of our wedding, I had assumed that we would give small favors at the American wedding (as per our tradition) and that we would give a small bag of nuts and dried fruits at the Nepali wedding as a favor.

I mentioned this to P a few months ago, and he said, “Oh that’s sagun that’s a Newari thing. I don’t think we have to do that, but you can ask my dad.”

So we asked, and P’s dad said not to worry about the bags, we didn’t have to do it.

Around the time that P was in Nepal (three months ago), P’s dad realized that I had googlechat because P would message me when I was at work (if the power was on in Nepal). P’s dad loves keeping in contact with people, so after P left, he started messaging me nearly everyday to say a quick hello and ask how things were going.

A few weeks ago I mentioned to him that I was going to give out small favors at the American wedding, since that was the tradition, and asked if he wanted to do anything similar for the Nepali wedding. I think when he heard that there were favors for the American wedding, and thought it would be nice to do sagun bags too. So he told me he would talk to Mamu about it.

Eventually they decided it would be nice, so P’s parents went to a shop to order the red velvet bags with Ganesh that said, “Happy Wedding! C weds P July 9 2011.” (I bet it was the first time that the shop keeper put my name on a sagun bag!)

When his parents arrived in the States, they came with a suitcase of food, included several bags of cashews, almonds, pistachios, and 150 red velvet sagun bags.

R and S made a surprise visit this weekend (in part because the boys decided to take P out for a bachelor’s party– in true P style–deep sea fishing! That’s where they are as I type) so R offered to help put the sagun bags together.

We laid out a sheet, and put the different nuts and chocolates into different bowls for easy access, and R, Mamu and I started filling bags. The first 75 seemed to take a long time (especially when Mamu declared, “No mistake, no mistake” and R and I rushed to keep up with her pace), but later in the evening, after a long break, the last 75 went very quickly.

R and I filling sagun bags with cashews, pistachios, almonds and chocolates

So now we have baskets and bags full of 150 red velvet “C weds P” sagun bags to distribute next Saturday!

The Black Wedding Cloud Strikes Again

What the hell? I thought bad things happened in threes, not fours, and I certainly hope not fives and sixes :(

Its 1:15 in the morning, and the reason I am up is because we just got back from picking up P’s brother U from the bus terminal, but instead of taking us 1 1/2- two hours round trip, it took us almost 3 and a half–because our front driver’s side tire pretty much exploded on the way in to Boston, on the worse stretch of road possible, and the whole fiasco took us about an hour to solve. Let me rewind.

First things first. I don’t mind dealing with sticky situations, particularly when I am on my own. I deal with it and its over. The worst thing is dealing with a problem when you have an audience, especially an audience you want to make a good impression on. It makes the whole issue more stressful and feel 100 times more terrible (then it might actually be).

The week before P’s parents arrived I was trying to be as proactive as possible, not only with wedding prep (thank god I did that! I still have a few small things, but most is done, and I’m so relieved), but also with other things– like getting the car inspected for the year, getting an oil change, paying the car insurance, etc.

I was dreading getting the car inspected, because I was a little worried about the tires. With all the wedding expenses, the last thing I wanted to do was shell out for new tires, but if I had to do it I would. So I got my oil changed and asked my regular oil change guy to do a quick once over to make sure everything looked okay before I paid someone to do an inspection. The mechanic said it looked fine, that one or two of the car tires would probably need to be changed 6 months down the road, but we were good for now. P and I had recently noticed a whir whir noise from one of the tires and I asked the guy about it. He said that my alignment was probably off a bit, the tires were wearing down a bit differently, but it could be fixed later.

Okay, that sounded fine to me.

So the next day I took the car to the inspection place, paid the inspection fee, and hoped that this guy also felt the tires were fine. The car passed with no issues what-so-ever. I even asked him about the tires specifically and he said, “In a few months, but for now you are fine.” (He even said something like, “The tires fail at 2 or 3, your’s are at 7 or 8.”) Phew, just the answer I was hoping for.

So tonight, P’s brother was slated to get in to the Boston bus terminal at 10:30 from Philly. P’s leg has felt stiff all day, so I was happy to volunteer to go alone and pick him, but P’s parents hadn’t seen U in a few years, and they were eager to see him, and P had hinted that Mamu was nervous to stay in the apartment alone, so against my urgings the entire crew piled into the car for the hour and a half/two hour round trip.

Things were going fine. We even caught a good percentage of the local fireworks show while filling gas at the station before getting on Interstate 90 east towards Boston. There was more traffic than usual for that time of night, probably holiday traffic, but we were cruising along. P’s parents eventually zonked out in back, and we could hear their gentle snoring from the front.

Right as we passed the first toll booth upon entering the greater Boston area, right where the highway starts to narrow and the shoulder disappears, there was a loud pop (which woke up P’s parents and started them asking questions) and then everything got bumpy and loud. I was in the fast lane, and had to move to the right hand side of the road, but didn’t know what to do. The tire seemed to have completely collapsed, so I didn’t think it would make it even a few feet down the road (trust me, I tried, frantically) and I wasn’t sure where the road would gain a shoulder again.

Not sure what to do we put our hazard lights on, and I tried to call roadside assistance. I quickly popped out of the car and assessed the wheel before jumping back in. While I was distracted by the phone, I think P was busy watching all the cars zipping by and realizing how dangerous our position was on the road. He jumped out of the car, and had his parents jump out, and they climbed over the guard rail  and up the embankment to give them and the car some space in case someone came whipping through and smashed the car. He kept calling for me to get out.

I was trying to get through to roadside assistance, meanwhile feeling completely mortified. I didn’t want P’s parents to think I was an incompetent driver, or had done something wrong. I knew I didn’t hit anything. A few minutes later a Peter Pan bus pulled up behind us, and I half thought that U had spotted us on the road and asked the bus to pull over and let him out, but the bus driver was actually pulling over to tell us to get out of the vehicle, “One tractor trailer comes through and doesn’t see you, and you are all dead. Get up the hill, I’ll call the police for you.”

So now we are all standing on the hill. I’m watching the sky (it was raining about 15 minutes before), and finally getting through to roadside assistance, when a police car pulled over and started yelling at us (what is with police and yelling at me this week?) I was trying to juggle the roadside lady on the phone and talk to the police, but instead of explaining anything he just kept yelling through his window, “Get in your car, get in your car right now and drive. You want to get us all killed?”

“But sir, our tire is flat.” I stammered, I was worried I’d start crying again, like with the other police officer.

“I don’t care if your tire is flat. Your car will drive clear to California on a flat tire, now get in your car and drive.This is incredibly dangerous. Never stop on an active road way. ”

So we hustled P’s parents into the car and jumped in. I’m now super flustered, the police officer, with his lights on, is still yelling at us but now through his loud speaker, “drive forward, just drive.” And the tire is so broken the entire car is shimmying, shaking and rattling as I ease her down the slow lane. I’m still flustered, and mortified, and the police is still yelling at us through the loud speaker to “keep moving,” while P’s worried parents are asking us questions, “What’s going on? Isn’t that a police officer? Why is he yelling?” Somewhere along the line the roadside assistance operator asked me if she could put my call on hold–“What does that mean? Are you going to call back?” I asked. “No.” she said–and I dropped my phone somewhere in the car.

After what seemed like an excruciatingly long time, the cop advised us that the shoulder had widened enough for us to pull over. I promptly jumped out of the car and walked back to him. He said gruffly, “Never ever stop on the road. Your life is worth more than a tire rim.”

I said, “I agree, but I didn’t know it would keep driving.” (I was blinking back moist eyes again).

“The car will always drive… on a flat, on a rim, on a damaged rim… always keep going. I called a tow truck, you’ll be fine here.” And he sped off, offering little in the way of comfort or additional help/advice.

P had us walk back up the embankment. I again looked at the sky hoping it wouldn’t rain. The ground was a little wet, and I went to the trunk to get out the towel we usually have in the back seat for our dog to sit on so that Mamu, Daddy and P could sit down, but no one wanted to.

“The police officer just drove away?” P’s dad asked, bewildered. “He could have stayed with the lights, to keep us safe, no?”

“I think he was in a bad mood.” I offered, “He didn’t seem very nice.”

We sat waiting for ten minutes, and I said to P, “This is ridiculous, I know how to change a tire, lets just do it and get on our way.” But P was worried about the busy highway. No doubt he had visions of a car whacking me while I was on hands and knees changing a tire, killing me or injuring me a week before our wedding. It seems our luck is going that way.

I convinced him that if we could get the car on part of the embankment, and off the road, I could change the tire, and so we arranged the car. I whipped out the spare, and went to work trying to jack the car. Like I said, I’ve done this before– but not with P’s parents squatting nearby watching my every move. They were just trying to be helpful, but it was making me more stressed out, making me worry about failing in front of them.

And lo and behold, just as the car seemed nearly jacked up, the dirt embankment buckled and the car shifted forward, wedging the jack sideways. I had to unscrew it and readjust all over again. I found what was a solid spot, and started again, sitting in the dirt on the side of Interstate 90, twisting the jack slowly by hand. Just as the car almost seemed high enough to work, the soil buckled and the car lurched again.

DAMN IT.

I reasoned with P– we had to move the car so at least one of the tires was on the pavement. “Fine,” P agreed, but I think he was also loosing faith, and had started calling roadside assistance back. I started all over again, with P’s dad crouching near me.

I really wanted to get that damned tire off, and fixed myself. I wanted to be the hero to save our crummy situation. If I had to be humiliated as the driver when something stupid like this happens, at least let me be the one to fix it, and win some “Wow, did you know C could change a tire? How impressive!” points. But my two previous failures seemed to be making that less of a possibility.

Before I could get the car jacked a third time, this time on the pavement, a tow truck showed up (sent by the angry police officer). The guy quickly used his giant jack to hoist the car, changed the tire, and fit the spare. He showed us that in fact the inside of my tires were worn to oblivion (“But I just got my car inspected last week and it passed with no problems!” I told the guy, “Well, this shouldn’t have passed” he responded) and had literally blown open.

I felt like an idiot, P’s parents were watching, P was stressed out too, U was stuck at the train station (and supposedly “starving”– he texted us just after we left asking us to bring food, but we had already left. “It’s just another hour and a half,” I told P, “He will be fine until we get home. Then he can eat Mamu’s cooking” famous last words), and the whole thing took us an hour or more to fix.

I’m sure P and I probably felt worse about it then U, Mamu or Daddy. We were embarrassed, tired, and frustrated. The whole situation made it seem like our car is in bad shape, and we are reckless. They were quite chatty on the way home, while P and I drove in near silence. We were both listening to every noise, worried that another tire would blow. Why do these stupid things happen when you least want them to? Any other time would have been better… although as I write this, perhaps better now than next weekend on the way to one of our weddings!

As we neared the apartment a cat crossed in front of the car. “Bad luck,” U clucked in the back seat.

“One crossed in front of us on our way out too.” P said.

“Do you believe in these superstitions C?” P’s dad asked.

“No.” I said, “Do you?”

“No.”

I was really thinking, Let’s all hope for no more bad luck!

So now tomorrow morning, instead of taking P’s parents to the white and red wedding venues (before my lunch meeting for work), we have to probably buy at least two new tires and try to get the alignment fixed on our car.

Can people send some good juju vibes our way?

I’m a Little Late for Father’s Day, But…

I called my father yesterday to ask him a quick question. He is a pretty quiet, relatively serious kind of guy, not the type of person to engage in idle chit chat. He used to intimidate my friends in high school with his weather hardened face (from many years of working outside in the elements) and air of silence.

After asking my question he said, “I was just on the phone with India for two hours.” Not the kind of statement I would normally expect from him.

“What were you doing talking to India?” I asked.

“My laptop wasn’t working properly so I took it back to the store, but they told me I had to call HP and gave me the number. When I called I was routed to a number in India.”

“Oh,” I said, kind of expecting him to perhaps complain about outsourcing or how he couldn’t get his computer fixed right.

“The woman on the phone was nice, we eventually had to uninstall and reinstall all the software to get it working again. It took about two hours over the phone.” He said.

“How did you know you called India?”

“I figured it was somewhere else when I heard her accent so I asked. She said she was in Southern India.”

“Oh, Chennai? Bangalore? Do you remember?” I asked.

“I don’t remember the name, but I mentioned to her that my daughter was marrying a guy from Nepal in a few weeks. She said ‘Nepal is far from me. It is north of North India.’ And I told her, ‘I know.’”

Perhaps this is my dad’s way of getting excited about the wedding. It is absolutely uncharacteristic of him to strike up conversation with a stranger over the phone, let alone share personal details. I find it sweet that he was able to connect to this random South Asian on the other side of the world.

I guess I don’t give my dad enough credit. I underestimate his willingness to “go with the flow” with a lot of my “different” ideas.

I’m sure the things I am interested in are kind of weird to him. In personality and interests I’m not sure if I could be any more different: he’s a hunter, I’m a vegetarian. He’s a republican, I’m a democrat. He loves American football, I don’t really care for sports at all. I love to talk, he enjoys silence. He would probably rather live in a small cabin in the woods undisturbed by the rest of the world, while I’d rather be out exploring it.

When I first started to discuss our wedding ideas with him, I met him for a Subway sandwich at a mall halfway drive between central New York and Boston. Even then I fully intended on doing both the “white” and “red” weddings, and my mantra was still that I didn’t want to force anyone to do anything that would make them uncomfortable. I couldn’t imagine my dad feeling comfortable sitting barefoot under a mandap wearing a topi and participating in a Hindu marriage ritual. During our meeting I explained to him that the parents of the bride have more of an active role in the wedding ceremony, but that if he didn’t feel comfortable taking that on I would understand, we could find a proxy or something, no big deal. I’ll never forget what he said: “Of course if you want me to do this, I’ll do it. You just have to let me know in advance what I should be doing.”

My cousin told me that the last time she saw my dad he said, “I know I’m going to be barefoot and have a special hat” when she asked him about the Nepali ceremony. That brought a smile to my face.

Regardless of any of the debates/discussions, at the end of the day I very much appreciate my family’s willingness to go outside their comfort zones for me. Both on P’s side of the family and mine. I hope they know how much it means to me… to both of us.

Wedding Crashers, Nepali Style

For a similar post check out “Invited to the Wedding.”

You know you are in an intercultural-South-Asian relationship when you have run out of invitation cards, and the RSVP date has passed, but you are still inviting people to your wedding.

You also know you are in this type of relationship when you hear other people talking in town about your wedding, who might “come anyway” even though they weren’t technically invited (“Maybe I was invited, but they didn’t have a chance to give me the invite?”), because extra guests aren’t usually that big of an issue back in Nepal.

This has happened to us a few times. In particular it is difficult with Nepalis we know in town through P’s university who might not be our close friends, but who are still part of the local Nepali community, so we kind of feel an obligation to invite them. We used to have this issue with our annual Christmas party too—P and I have had many a debate over why or why not this or that person should be invited. My argument was always, “If you don’t see them or have dinner with them at least every now and then, you don’t have to invite someone just because they are Nepali, especially if they don’t invite you to their things.” But alas, the issue persists, why did I expect our wedding to be different?

Case-in-point, at our Christmas party this year I was talking to one such person (a Nepali who we are friendly with but not really “friends friends” in the close sense) and while making conversation I asked, “So do you have any plans for the summer?” The guy responded, “Other than your wedding, not too much.” Er—he wasn’t at the time on our list, but found his way there!

Something similar happened over the weekend. Two friends of ours (non-Nepali) were eating at an Indian restaurant in town where a Nepali acquaintance from P’s university is working as a server. He had met this friend briefly at a dinner we hosted several months ago, and recognized her when she sat down at the restaurant. While taking her order he struck up a conversation about our wedding—he knew all the details—date, time, place, etc. We hadn’t invited him because he fell into the category of “acquaintance” rather than friend, and we hadn’t seen him since that dinner, but someone must have said something to him. Anyway, since he knew all the details our two friends assumed he must have been invited too. So when he asked them, “Are you going?” they responded yes and asked him, “Are you?”

Nepali acquaintance: “I haven’t been invited yet. I’m sure I will be, but if not I might just go anyway. I’m sure they won’t mind.” (Me: “Whaaaaat?”)

After dinner our friend gave us the heads up. Perhaps this is another person we might have to add to the list at the last minute?

It’s tough to draw the line. With close friends it’s a non-issue, they are obviously invited, but with various acquaintances it’s tough. We live in the same Nepali-community-abroad, so we don’t want to hurt other’s feelings, especially when the culture in Nepal is to invite as many people as you know, but P and I can’t keep adding to the list indefinitely. We have had many a discussion at the dinner table that goes something like,

P: “I feel really bad. We didn’t invite X, we’ve been to her house for momos several times, and even though I haven’t spoken to her in a year, I think she has done bhai tikka for me before as well. She might be sad that she didn’t get an invite.”

Me: “But Y lives near her. We aren’t as close to Y. So he might be sad if he hears that X was invited but not him.”

D: “Yeah—and if you invite Y you have to invite his girlfriend too. And he is always with Z as well, and might bring him along.”

P: “I don’t really mind not inviting Y, and I certainly don’t want him to bring Z along, we barely know him.”

D: “But X and Y see each other every day. If you invite X you will probably have to invite Y… in the end that might mean 4 extra people!”

In addition, we are also not sure if some of our Nepali guests might bring along extra people as well. It’s not such a big taboo in Nepal to do this, heck I was brought along to a neighbor’s wedding the last time we were in Nepal, and I certainly wasn’t listed on the invitation card. With the buffet we have set up for the Nepali wedding it won’t be such a problem, but with the sit down dinner at the American wedding, if extra people show up they won’t have any food.

D was joking at dinner last night, “Well at least the Nepali wedding is first—like a rehearsal to see who might show up for the American wedding. If someone brings along extra guests you can talk to them about not bringing them the second day. Maybe you can get someone to be the ‘guest enforcer.’”

In my “type A”-list-making-American-personalitiy-ism I have been trying hard to keep tabs on who is and isn’t coming, so that I know how many favors to order, programs to print, and table set ups, etc, but I might just have to realize that I won’t know with 100% certainty who will be at each event until they happen. Hopefully the numbers from my list and the numbers who show up are not that far off.