Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Getting ready with the girls (for a Telugu engagement)

For me, the most fun part of our trip was being in Chinnattha's house before cousin-sister's engagement time. There is something about the simple act of "getting ready with the girls" that is such a bonding experience for young women. It certainly was for me.

I have never really gotten the chance to bond with husband-ji's younger cousin-sisters. They have always been very conscious that I have been an outsider, and then after that there was a formality that I was their elder brother's new wife. Having been in the family for more than 9 years, I was surprised to come back this time to girls who had matured into women. They all seemed so grown up now. Many of the girls have almost finished college and are earning from jobs. I remember back in the day when they were young enough for Barbie dolls. It was a quite surreal.

This time, all my younger cousin-sisters were all fascinated by the process of beautification - something that I am also obsessed with, like any other 20-something aged girl. Before we left, we got requests to bring "moisturizing shampoos" and "American lipsticks", to which I promptly went to Sephora and had a lot of fun picking out makeup kits for them.

The days before the engagement were a blur. We did all kinds of shopping with all the cousin-sisters, making me feel like Kate Plus 8 - me herding my little women around Hyderabad.


The day before the engagement, we hung out at Chinnattha #1's house in Nagaram. There was such a nervous hustle and bustle in the house. When we arrived, the girls had just returned from the hair salon in which cousin-sister (the bride) was complaining that the hairstylist did the other sister's hair straighter. She asked if I could fix it, and I used the paddle brush and the hair dryer and straightened each piece one by one. The girls sat there in awe and Chinnathha #3 even wanted to video it so that she could do it later!


After that, another cousin-sister did all of our mehendi's. She did an incredible job and could even open up her own mehendi boutique! But of course, she is studying engineering or something boring like that.




All the while, my MIL and her 3 sisters were practicing their singing for the engagement party. They planned on singing 2 or 3 songs, with my MIL being the lead. I told them they could form a new girl group called the "Masala Spice Girls"!!!


The day of the engagement was even more anxious than the day before. The whole family crowded in the 2 bedroom flat trying to get ourselves ready and pack all of the "offerings" for the engagement.

We got dressed first - the women in one room and the men in the other room. Of course everyone was hiding except for me, who just whipped off my shirt and all the girls got a Victoria's Secret show and a good look at all my tattoos! Chinnattha #2 tied my saree, and then I piled on all my gold. Chinnattha #1 (bride's mother) said that I can wear a more fancy saree because "the elder SIL should dress fancier than the bride", but I declined being already aware that my foreign-ness would draw attention. And a surprise foreigner, no doubt. I knew they would not have told the groom's family that there was a foreigner in their own family. Still the secret foreigner, in that sense...

It also dawned on me then that I was suddenly given this "higher status" role. That suddenly I mattered - because I was their eldest brother's wife. I didn't know how to process this change in perception that everyone had towards me. I felt like a responsibility was given to me (as a married woman), to help this younger woman transition to being engaged/married. To guide her. To be the elder sister that she can lean on.


After that, I did my cousin-sister (the bride's) makeup in about 5 minutes. She just wanted a very light makeup so I used a little bit of foundation and blush. All the girls were peering behind me like a scene from The Goonies, in complete observation of the makeup techniques I was using. The girls loved the makeup and they thought I did a great job. As soon as Chinnattha #1 saw her daughter's face, she looked horrified. "IT'S TOO MUCH!!!" She cried. She wasn't used to seeing any makeup on her daughter's face. "LET US NOT SCARE THEM!!!" Then the bride felt ashamed and embarrassed and wiped off nearly all her makeup. By Western standards, I only used a pinch of makeup - it wasn't even a half-face! I felt bad that I overdid it.

With everyone finally ready, it took another half hour to get everyone loaded into the 3 cars to the function halls. By this time everyone was like a bunch of mad hens clucking around a chicken coop! As we were waiting in the car, I felt cousin-sister's nervous energy, as she was just about to be engaged and sealed to someone for life. A man who she hardly knew at all. She didn't even know his birthday. I grabbed her hand and held it in mine and told her that she looked beautiful.

"I am a little nervous because everyone will be staring at me. All the guy's side will keeping staring the whole time," she said with a jittery undertone. I paused. Then I smiled and said, "I know the feeling. To this day.... I know the feeling." We both smiled and chuckled.

I think it was then that she truly saw me for the first time. In that short fleeting moment, we were finally speaking the same language, with no translation needed...

TO BE CONTINUED....

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20 comments

  1. Alex,

    Loved your post. The bride was just lovely and you are the right one she needed to help her transition. Really liked the sister's singing together, just love Sandhya and all sister's together. You looked gorgeous in your blue sari. The Mehendi was beautiful and it was good for everyone to be together. The girl's getting ready, a great time of bonding.

    Melissa

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    1. Thank you Melissa :) It really was incredible day!

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  2. The bride to be is so pretty. Do you only wear silk sarees? I'm yet to see you in a glitzy one. Its nice that you've become so close to your extended in laws family. I know its none my business but is she the same girl whose wedding had got canceled. I remember you doing a post something regarding astrologers predicting suitable dates and all that drama.

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    1. She is, very gorgeous girl and so sweet in personality too :)
      I used to wear glitzy chiffon ones but as of late I like the silk ones because I am fatter... ha ha!
      This beige one is a chiffon one - http://madh-mama.blogspot.ca/2013/08/the-saree-i-love-story.html

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  3. Love your posts!! What kind of ring do you have on in the picture with the Mehendi? Its very beautiful.

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    1. Thank you :)
      That is my wedding ring, it is called a Vanki ring - traditional South Indian style...
      There`s a close-up on this post:
      http://madh-mama.blogspot.ca/2013/08/the-symbols-of-marriage.html

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  4. @Alexandra

    About the make up, Indians of the older generation did not use make up. In fact, it was unheard off and quiet expensive too. Yet, Indian women did wonders with just flowers and a kajaal pencil and a bindi. The only people who wore make up, both men and women, were film actors. Films were always popular but the professional was looked down upon because in olden days singing and dancing was traditionally associated with prostitution. Therefore, using that same allegory, the film profession was also considered bad as it involved singing and dancing and it was also the only place where a man could hold the hand of a women and express love. This made films a bad influence on the society. Watching films was considered a taboo. Despite that, people watched movies anyway.

    This is exactly why most Indians are still uncomfortable with makeup. The whole idea of bridal make up is to make the bride fair, often overdoing it. Indians still have a very basic idea of makeup as beauty parlors have come up quiet recently in India. There is something negative associated with make up especially in the minds of middle classes.

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    1. So interesting. Yes, none of them wear make-up, even my SIL did not wear a speck of mak-up on her wedding day! And when I was shopping with the girls they were complaining that the make-up was too expensive - it def is if they won`t wear it every day.

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  5. I feel confused... theses are girl cousins of your husband on his mother's side, so he is their "mama" ? One day I will understand South Indian family system... hopefully :) (Padparadscha)

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    1. These are my husband`s younger cousins. So his mother`s sisters children. We call them cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters.....they are like first cousins.

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    2. @Padparadscha

      Mama is a Hindi word. It means maternal uncle i.e. mother's brother. In India, unlike west, every single relationship has a different name in all the languages. In English ofcourse everyone is uncle/aunt/niece/nephew which causes a lot of confusion.

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  6. This is a really nice narrative and I look forward to the next part!

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    1. Thank you :)))
      http://madh-mama.blogspot.ca/2015/01/seeing-traditional-telugu-engagement.html

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  7. Oh my god! What beautiful sarees, salwar kameezes you have worn A! I wonder why I didn't shop on my last trip home :( btw, you carry off a saree so gracefully, with such natural ease... I can hardly do that. In fact when I wear a saree I usually sit in one place and not walk around much for the fear of tripping and falling. Can you imagine my mom and generations of women in my family have never worn anything but a saree!? I am such a shame to them ;)
    The bride looks so pretty and very young. Almost like a child. Hope the groom and his family give her all the love and respect she deserves. :)

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    1. Awwwwww thank you so much Kavs :) That means a lot!
      I hope so too....she is a sweet and kind girl.

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  8. Wow. You look so gorgeous in any silk Saree. I just can't carry off silk sarees so beautifully like you. The cousin sister has such a sweet look on her face. So elegant she is. Glad that you got along so well like close friends. Lol Victoria's secret show!!! You're so funny Alex. Keep the posts coming. This is an Awesome blog!

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  9. This is exactly why I don't want to do the makeup of my husband's niece next month! Your cousin-sister looked cute, shame they didn't like the makeup.

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    1. I know.....imagine if I did a full face! They would have had a heart attack! ha ha

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  10. actually ..tradiatiinally no more makeup is prefferred in INDIA ..but i feel in south India ..women are still dont know about makeup or not taking interset in it . but in noth india it is not like that .... most of the girls are crazy and doing makeup ...

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