When we were planning this part of the trip I asked my friend Bargavi if she’d be in India during May 2017. It turns out she was in India during May 2017, and for a cousin-in-law’s wedding no less. What good luck and timing I have had inviting myself (and crew) to other people’s events. After spending a pleasant three days in Bangalore we headed 2 hours east to the city of Tumkur for a wedding.
The wedding itself was an absolute delight. The stay in Tumkur…. not so delightful. Allow me to consider these as two distinct experiences.
Bargavi and her husband Shushruth traveled all the way from NYC for the wedding, and I’m still delighted at the serendipity of meeting up with them. As a member of the wedding party, Bargavi had to get very glammed up in amazing jewelry and clothing. She hated it, but I really loved it. Honestly I think that her discomfort was worth it since I enjoyed it so much.
The wedding was a two-day event: a reception the first day and the ceremony the second day. In many ways, the reception felt a lot like a western wedding. There was delicious food, frantic photographers, and the poor exhausted couple standing in a reception line as relatives-of-relatives jostled for a photo. Unlike a western reception, however, the Indian wedding involved phenomenally colorful outfits, a drone, a deranged flutist running around the hall, and EXTREMELY loud music. I can’t emphasize enough how loud this was – like, it felt like a CIA interrogation stress test. Matt, Jeff, and I have all confessed to having fever dreams starring the deranged flutist so I can’t image how the bride and groom fared.
The next day was the actual ceremony, and we had no idea what was going on. There was a whole lot of standing around in the morning, then the bride and groom were hustled into the wedding hall. The couple was ensconced on a tented platform, and sat facing each other holding a coconut for about 3 hours. Everyone in attendance pushed their way into the dangerously swaying platform, threw some rice on couple’s heads, and poured a few tablespoons of milk over the coconut. There were lots of other rituals (that we didn’t understand) but this seemed to be the crux of the ceremony.
Pretty much all attempts I made to understand what was happening were met by a casual hand-wave. Bargavi told me that Indian marriage ceremonies are so region and caste specific that most attendees don’t know what is happening. It was fascinating for us to see, but I’ve decided that I never want to get Indian married. It looks exhausting and confusing. Bargavi’s husband Shushruth has a theory that India’s low divorce rates are due to the stressfulness of the wedding ordeal. No one wants to do it twice. I think he might be on to something…
The Stay in Tumkur
I’ve stayed in a lot of sad hotels, but the Naveen Regency in Tumkur takes the cake. We had a reservation for two rooms, but about a week before our stay the hotel informed us that they didn’t have two rooms available. They did, however, have a suite available with multiple rooms and sleeping accommodations for 3 adults. Fine, this all seemed very reasonable.
We arrived at the hotel, only to find that ‘multiple rooms’ means one small room and ‘sleeping accommodations for 3 adults’ means one double bed… Uh, how does this work for 3 people? Are we going to cuddle up like Alvin, Simon, and Theodore on one tiny bed? Of course, the hotel staff was entirely nonplussed by the situation. After much pantomiming and gesticulation, we conveyed that one bed wasn’t going to cut it and they dragged in a fetid mattress, for more money of course. Poor Matt took it like a champ, but it was grim.
Because this hotel was in the middle of nowhere and extremely inconvenient to any eating establishment, they served no breakfast. You may know that I appreciate my ‘moments’, by which I mean 30 minutes of coffee and NY Times first thing in the morning. Without this, I am not human and frankly I don’t think it’s asking too much. The first morning at Naveen Regency I called the front desk to see if I could get coffee (because there was not a kettle in the room, of course).
- They told me to call ‘014’ on my phone.
- I called ‘014’ on my phone.
- The person who answered told me to call ‘014’ on my phone.
- Steps 2 and 3 repeated until I teared up.
After about 5 minutes of this self-referential hell spiral, someone finally agreed to bring me coffee.
At every turn the staff of the Naveen Regency seemed to willfully misunderstand me and make things hard. I tried to arrange a taxi to the region of Coorg, the hotel arranged a tuk-tuk to a small regional courthouse – which definitely seems like a place a foreign tourist would want to go on a Sunday. It was absolutely maddening, and didn’t leave a good impression of our non-wedding time in Tumkur.
After wrapping up our time in Tumkur, we drove into the mountains for an ill-conceived nature adventure in Coorg…