To attend a wedding in India is a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list kind of experience. Whether Hindu or Muslim, Indian matrimonial traditions are steeped in rich culture. The celebration of two people coming together isn’t just between families and friends, it extends to an entire community. Today, Farakh and Qurrath are getting married. Though weddings take place over several days, this is the official religious service and my first time attending a Muslim wedding.
The wedding ceremony takes place in two connecting halls, one for the men and one for the women. Initially, Farakh’s face is covered by a veil of fresh jasmine and rose blossoms. His family is seated beside him as the wedding guests pay their regards. Once he has greeted everyone, Farakh moves to the men’s hall and waits for the religious ceremony to begin.
As Muslim custom dictates, Farakh and Qurrath are actually married in separate rooms. Though I’m able to watch the reading of the Koran through an opening in the partition, my eyes are on Qurrath and her female relatives. She remains perfectly still, her head bowed until the ceremony is complete.
After the couple are joined in the eyes of Allah, the entire room erupts in joy. Women rise to their feet and begin hugging and congratulating one another. I’m also swept into the sea of smiles, tears and embraces.
After the ceremony, Farakh sneaks over to the women’s hall for a quick hello with Qurrath, their first meeting as husband and wife.
What better way to celebrate the happy couple than to let the feasting begin. Massive buffets line the back walls of both reception halls. Just like the wedding ceremony, there are two separate receptions, one for men and one for women. I have to say that in terms of partying, the women definitely have the men beat. The mood in the women’s room is beyond bright – perhaps it has something to do with the dazzling rainbow of colors of the traditional saris. Women are laughing, eating and sharing stories. A group of rogue children streak through the room, one steals my camera and snaps several pictures. And then there’s the food…
One of my favorite dishes of the evening (and perhaps the entire trip) is the sev papdi chaat. Small, round, deep-fried flatbreads are topped with both sweet and spicy chutneys, doused in a cool yogurt and topped with tomatoes, chickpeas, onions, a ton of coriander and crispy sev (a fried noodle-like snack). You can tell this papdi chaat must be bad for you because it tastes that good. The spicy chutney delivers a fiery kick, soothed by the cool yogurt. I’m not ashamed to admit I visited the buffet more than a few times for this dish.
Besides my new foodie obsession, the buffet is filled with a variety of curries, rice dishes and incredible handmade Indian breads. Here, assorted rotis are served with a creamy mutton paneer.
Other dishes include lentil soup, rasam, fried fish, lasagna and salad. Below, a zafrani mutton pulao, a subtle yet aromatic rice dish, with hints of cinamon, ginger and cardamom.
I grab a key standing position in close proximity to the buffet, balancing my overflowing plate in one hand while scooping up food with the other. By this time, Farakh’s three British friends have joined us. They’ve gone AWOL from the men’s reception, because the women’s side is clearly having way more fun. I’m about to hit that papdi chaat one more time when Farakh approaches us. He extends an invitation to his out of country guests to attend the private family dinner, about to take place in an adjoining conference room. Really, Farakh? You couldn’t have mentioned something oh… three platefuls ago?
As a professional foodie, I’m never one to turn down a second dinner. I was honored by the invitation and more than happy to join Farakh, Qurrath and their families for another fantastic feast.
The wedding guests linger into the evening, even after we had finished our second meal. The two segregated receptions have now blended into one. Farakh and Qurrath pose for the requisite wedding photos, both wearing their stunning flower blossom veils.
The ceremony was beautiful and the food swoon-worthy, but the wedding memory I’m left with is one of Farakh being dragged away (yet again) by a rowdy, grinning group of kids. One thing I’ve learned about Indian weddings is that the groom needs to show up fiscally prepared, because his young relatives will tease him, torture him and hold him hostage until he pays up.
Congratulations, Farakh and Qurrath!
2011 Mileage Total: 16964