Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Gap Year – en route to Lamu – Gujerati interlude

It’s January 28, midnight, and I am finally setting off for Africa and the island of Lamu off the coast of northern Kenya. Mysteriously my flight from Colombo to Nairobi only costs £220 which makes it super-tempting to make this journey every year. Thanks, AirArabia!

The Colombo-Sharjah leg is dull and cramped and I’m stacked next to a Brugelesque couple who are shaped and dressed exactly like Russian dolls. The next leg – Sharjah to Nairobi – is much more promising. It’s peak wedding season in Gujerat right now and my flight is full of people coming back from exhausting festivities in the mother country. Lovely Chandni Patel is kind enough to tell me all about her own wedding and shows me lots of pics.

Chandni’s marriage was arranged but it morphed into a love match after an intense six months wooing via the usual channels -  ie facebook and WhatsApp. Now I love parties but I'm not sure I could handle a Gujerati wedding. They're are in a class of their own: hard-core endurance tests that involve a full six days of eating, drinking, dancing and performing elaborate marriage rituals. No wonder everyone on my flight looks absolutely knackered.

Here’s the schedule:
Day 1 – Meet and Greet
Day 2 – Disco
Day 3 – Gujerati dances
Day 4 – eight hours of putting on henna
Day 5 – resting (phew)

On Day 6 everyone pulls an all-nighter and the bridal couple engage in a series of elaborate and complicated rituals. These include a photo shoot, dancing round a fire and making vows, the bride’s parents washing the groom’s legs, looking for wedding rings in a bowl of milk and (my personal favourite) a game in which the groom’s parents tie the couple’s hands together with thread and then the couple have to unravel it one-handed.

There is also the all-important covering-yourself-in-turmeric ritual without which no Gujerati wedding is complete. Literally so, because if you miss out on turmeric daubing, you’re not even technically married. There is no alcohol, no kissing until Day 7 and the bride wears a different outfit every day; the whole thing costs hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Chandni says it’s a shame she can’t wear her dress again. I suggest she adapts it as it’s pretty nice – no, she says, she has to be buried in it. Cheerful thought.