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Make Haste to the Hasta Melap

Love is what brings us together

sunny 88 °F


My favorite movie of all time is “The Princess Bride.” In the film, at a climactic moment, a wedding—or almost a wedding—occurs. The impressive officiant, who lisps, has these lines: “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.” For fun, watch the scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEe1cTDbXHU

B4 and I have come to a “Love Marriage” rather than an “Arranged Marriage.” It is ‘tru wuv” that has brought us all together. Parents didn’t arrange this match; love between Shloka and Akash created this match. You can see it.

Today, the ornate invitation card says: “wedding Ceremony.” Baraat Swagat & High Tea 6:30pm. Hasta Melap 8:01pm. Followed by Dinner. FYI: Our attire is Indian Ceremonial. We are excited to be here, honored and agog.

Baraat means "Procession." Swagat is "Welcome." It is said that "You only get once chance to make a first impression." This is that.

Hasta Melap literally means: Joining of Hands. The Hindu marriage ceremony, conducted by a priest in the ancient Sanskrit language, is consecrated in accordance with the sacred scriptures of the Hindus: The Vedas.

Here, the marriage is more than the joining of two persons, it is a larger joining of two families. There is much that happens. A Welcoming of the Groom, Prayers, The Arrival of the Bride, A Garland binds the two together, The Joining of Hands, The Bride is Given Away, An Exchange of Garlands, An Offering to the Fire, Steps Around the Fire, Seven Vows (more on that in a second), The Sacred Necklace (and, in a modern touch: RINGS!), The First Meal Together and, finally, Blessings from Their Elders--and from us as friends.

One of the elders blessed was Russell Mehta's father, Arunkumar Ramniklal Mehta. We had a fine discussion with him before the ceremony about the diamond and gem adorned buttons on his sherwani (jacket). He was so pleased at my praising of those buttons that he high-fived me. Twice.

The Seven Vows are: We will respect each other. We will care for each other. We will be patient with each other. We will be honest and faithful to each other. We will be together in sorrow and happiness. We will travel this journey of life with love and harmony. We will keep our family happy, healthy, and strong. Good advice, say we, for Hindu, Jew, Christian, Muslim; everyone.

It is quite something and quite beautiful and quite over the top; no, not over the top...over the top of the top's top. We have, frankly, never seen anything even remotely comparable to this. B4 says William and Kate have nothing on Shloka and Akash. This is even wilder than the fireworks I sprung for at the wedding of my daughter Megan and son-in-law Eric and that was really something to see. I am not really sure where to begin; except at the beginning.

First, we dressed up. Way up. My stole is worn as did royalty of yesteryear; I am of yesteryear so it seems fitting. B4's gown is petticoated to such a degree that getting into the car was a chore.


My shoes hurt. They really aren't shoes; they're slippers worn without socks and, by night's end, worn nearly without the nail on my right big toe. Our car picked us up and shuttled us and Aashish the half-mile or so to the first event ever held at the newly completed (yesterday) Jio World Centre at the Bandra Kurla Complex. Owned and developed by the Ambanis, we are told this was constructed to be ready for this event--in six months time. That, to me, is not possible but I am assured that it is true. a98494f0-42ab-11e9-a236-4b5450487830.JPG77fb27a0-42ab-11e9-a236-4b5450487830.JPG795e6120-42ab-11e9-a0dd-f784a0070666.JPGB4ReceptionHall.JPG9f8c52d0-42dd-11e9-9172-730735fcc32b.jpgThey worked 24/7 and just squeezed it in. And you don't have to squeeze in because it is cavernous. And everywhere what is normally raw concrete is iced in flowers. Millions of flowers are covering every surface imaginable. Even the metal detectors were garlanded. The procession of the groom--and a zillion other men--is rowdy and loud and celebratorily testoronized with much puffing of chests, high-fiving and all around adolescent behavior which is tamed by females who remind the groom that he is soon to settle down. It is theatre, loud and bawdy and quite fun. Golf carts--or 'buggies" as they are called here, whisked you down wide corridors flanked with fresh flowers made into various delights including a motorized peacock who displayed every few seconds. You could, if you like, stop at various stations offering tidbits of food and drink or sweets. We didn't but many did. Security.JPG01576c00-42ae-11e9-a236-4b5450487830.JPGDivided into three separate thirds, the center reception hall greeted you with fountains in front of a waterfall. Again, flowers dominate. There is food and drink here as well. Remember, no alcohol and no meat or chicken or fish. Nobody misses any of that including us. On the left is the wedding "chapel." This room is elevated with risers hosting stuffed chairs and couches, each seat equipped with a goody bag containing a program of sorts, a bottle of water, a snack and a silver whistle/tamborine device used for noisemaking at appropriate times. We quickly located our reserved seats...on the front row. Our friends from Israel, the Tannenbaums, beautifully attired, were close by. But then, everyone was beautifully attired. At home, elegant black would be worn. Here, other than Elliot's magnificent Indian tuxedo type sherwani, black was seldom seen. Instead, a cacophony of color and pattern and hue, elegantly wrapped with nine-yards of fabric needed to create a sari was the rule. American women could take a lesson from these Indian fashionistas and boutiques from coast to coast would find their sales soaring. Duppattas (the over-the-shoulder shawl often seen) would be a major accessory additional item used to increase the average transaction size (me: once a retail consultant, always a retail consultant). Men too; elegant tuxedos pale compared to what we men sported. It would also be good for the salon industry. Prior to leaving the Trident B4 and I visited the draping and hair preparation salon to ensure that we looked our best in our unfamiliar finery.

We would learn later that cues on when to shake the aforementioned tambourines were provided by beautiful cheerleader-type maidens who artfully led us to perfect timing. On the right is the massive dining room. There one finds--later on--various food stations hugging hundreds of tables set with flowers and candles.

FrontRowSeats.JPGAmbanisAltar.JPGbd525b10-42ac-11e9-b194-5d080a34e271.JPGSecurity.JPGSecurity is tight but not as tight as were the flowers sculpted together in seamless renditions of parakeets or, my favorite, elephants. aa0bed60-42ab-11e9-b194-5d080a34e271.JPGShlokaMobileWide1.JPGc75fb590-42ab-11e9-a0dd-f784a0070666.JPGWe got seated for the wedding around 8:00, moments before the 8:01 announced start time. But, we quickly learned that the time--chosen because of priestly calculation to assure maximum good fortune--was for something else; not the actual Hindu wedding ceremony. Time passed so B4 stepped out to stretch her legs and chat and more time passed. Mr. Ambani also passed between us and the "altar" several times. The 8:01 Hasta Melap misled us regarding timing. The bride did not arrive in her floral "Shlokamobile" for the commencement of the actual ceremony until 10:15. A quick hour or slightly more of ceremony--which we could follow with our program--later and we were headed for dinner. All thousand plus or so of us at once.

A vast buffet of foods of all types--as long as they are vegetarian (I couldn't stop thinking about ej4's Mandy who would have been in Heaven here), were on offer and stretched for a football field of length. We opted for European cuisine (way in the back) enjoying Mushroom Wellington and Onion Pizza Tarts. Next to that was an Indian dish best described as mashed potatoes with a mozzarella-type cheese and truffles. (I thought of neighbor Sam). The chef apologized for having only six kilos of truffles on hand but that didn't stop him from shaving them robustly and generously. Asking if that wasn't enough he remarked that he used twenty-six kilos at the Academy Awards. While plenty of money was spread around the local economy, the globe benefitted as many of the chefs and their staffs were clearly imported. Stars with stars I think.TrufflesSixKilos.JPG We chatted with friends and others and finally sought out Russell and Mona to make our thank-you's. Expressing the honor of being invited to an event such as this is expected but what was not expected was Russell's heartfelt talk of the honor he felt that B4 would come all this way to honor his family. Namaste after namaste followed, respect being exchanged across the room and across the globe.

On the way out we strolled beneath the upside-down flower gardens hung from the ceiling, we posed by the floral violet peacock and we stopped by the "parting-gift chocolatier" who made up custom to-go boxes of amazing confections to accompany the silver candle favor that was handed to B4 as we departed. There was a coffee bar/tea bar on one side and ice cream on the other side--among various other offerings and all of that was after we had eaten a delicious meal. Even the pick up area for our chauffer-driven BMW was decked out in lights strung to make an electric tunnel for boarding and departing. Surrounding streets and trees, closed by municipal authorities for the event, were festooned as well. The roadside was decorated with light strands hanging from every tree illuminating more garlands of flowers wishing us a safe and prosperous trip home and beyond. a8684f80-42ab-11e9-a0dd-f784a0070666.JPGUpsideDownFlowerCeiline.JPGChauffeurPickUpTunnel1.JPG

These words and photographs do not do justice to the event. Live music from two separate Indian orchestras and another Indian band kept us entertained and embraced every step of the ceremony itself. Staff was everywhere providing whatever needed to be provided. Water? Here you go. Juices? We've got many types. Coconut water was a favorite among these Indian revelers. We are told that "thousands" of staff were needed to place the flowers and set up the venue. The event team (many of whom were also in St. Moritz for pre-wedding festivities) all signed Non-Disclosure Agreements and shouldn't have even told us that they signed the Non-Disclosure Agreements about which I just made unattributed disclosure. I'll take the fifth if asked.

In front of our seats at the wedding ceremony itself--front row remember--was a group of eight young folks who each held wicker baskets with linen linings. We would learn just prior to the ceremony that those baskets were to hold the shoes of the wedding party when they mounted the alter which, it appears, was a "barefoot" zone.

Bollywood movie stars were everywhere and mostly easy to spot as they strutted with sunglasses or inappropriately attired in too-casual designer jeans. Everyone else--everyone--was dressed to the nines. Diamonds the size of lifesavers adorned necks and foreheads and earlobes. Emeralds and rubies glittered. Our guess is that most of it was real. There were many multiples of diamonds in many necklaces, as B4 notes, "all appeared to be of the highest color grades." Mrs. Ambani's necklace hosted diamonds so large that we needed sunglasses to handle the spectral reflection even at our medium-distance audience perch. Many of the women, Mona Mehta and Shloka included, sported impressive diamond nose rings (nathori, I think) which are quite the rage but to our western eyes are less appealing--other than the fact that they increase sales of diamonds which is always a good thing. And, of course, there is the gold or gem bindi (Hindi from Sanskrit bindú), meaning "point, drop, dot or small particle" worn on the centre of the forehead. I wished that B4 had one. All the beautiful young--and not-so-young--fashiionistas wore them.

We know some folks with lots of beautiful diamonds (Shirley, are you reading any of this) but these ladies would make Gideon (our NYC diamond guru-extraordinary) gasp. B4 was in a state of disbelief more than once, be sure of that.

Oh, did I mention that we had a nice chat with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair? Well, we did. Or that we had another chat with Google CEO Sundar Pichai and his beautiful wife, Anjali? We discussed B4's PhD son and his AI and machine learning experience as Sundar's eyes widened a bit when we mentioned by whom Edward is employed. We send a big "thank you" to our friend Sam for teaching me the technique to get those conversations to happen.
I noted that former US House of Representative member Eric Cantor (you may recall he was stunningly defeated a couple of cycles ago) was working the room but we didn't stop to chat with him. I suppose his vice-chairman seat at investment bank Moelis & Company has to do with his attendance at an Indian billionaire's son's wedding. He was dressed in western clothing and stood out because of it. One other western clothes wearing gentlemen sported a fine tuxedo but he fit in because he topped it off with a colorful turban. We felt at home in our Indian Ceremonial attire and are wondering when we might get an opportunity to sport these duds again.

Somehow, the Symphony Ball doesn't seem like the right place. But; you never know. You never know.794ef7d0-42ab-11e9-a236-4b5450487830.JPG

Posted by paulej4 18:10 Archived in India Tagged wedding

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Beryl, your dress is breathtaking, and you look amazing in it. Paul you look very handsome!

by Linda Fraschilla

Thank you Paul for sharing the love, beauty, grandeur and vibrant colors of this once in a life time event. You both look wonderful..hugs liz

by Liz Chatelain

You both look stunning in your new attire. What an amazing experience!

by Mitch Maggart

Love the pictures and narrative..living vicariously through you. We wanted to know if you got them a blender or toaster oven as a wedding gift😄.

by Biddy

What an amazing journey - thanks for letting us come along virtually with you!

Please tell Beryl she looks absolutely regal. Just stunning. You make a majestic couple.

Safe travels and keep the stories coming.

by Theresa

You both look fabulous. I've been following your adventure. Looks like a trip of a lifetime.

by Catherine Kelly

What an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing with us!

by Brad Hampton

Have fun!

by Catherine Kelly

Did I count 3 complete outfits? One for each event? Wowser! Spectacular!

by Linda Lee

Biddy....now that was funny. I bet the gift was a Keurig.

by Liz Chatelain

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