KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
On the 15th, the parents of the groom, Anil's older brother Arun and his wife Neena, arrived from Patna by train. That same evening we headed out to the New Delhi train station to catch the train for Mumbai. When family members on the groom's side join together to travel to the bride's home town for the wedding, the group is referred to as the "Baraat". We were the core of the baraat, the other family members were due to arrive in Mumbai from all corners of India.
I was a bit surprised that the New Delhi train station has not changed one bit since I first saw it over thirty years ago. There have been so many improvements in the infrastructure - especially the roads - that I had hoped that they would have made the train station a more inviting place. There were still the old staircases up and over the train tracks and the usual hordes of people sitting and sleeping on the platforms. Trains are still the chief mode of transportation for the people of India; millions travel the rails each and every day.
We had reservations on the Rajdhani - the finest train in India. It is an overnight trip to Mumbai so we had booked seats in the air-conditioned second-class sleeper car. Neena's sister and her son were joining us in the same car, so we were now a party of eight. The Rajdhani ticket includes tons of food, bottled water, and bedding for the night. As soon as the train departs, the food service begins and seems never to stop. In some way, it is a little like flying in terms of the meal service. We were delighted to see the train pull into the station on time, and to find that we had a relatively new car to ride in. There was the usual chaos as people tried to board the train and load their tons of luggage all at the same time. The space under the seats is fairly limited, so people scramble to get their large suitcases stowed away before their seat mates find their place. One really has to experience boarding a train in India to know what it's really like.
There were other members of the family on different cars of the train and we spent the evening eating and playing musical chairs as everyone wanted to visit everyone else and catch up on all the latest news. We all settled in for the night by 10:00 p.m. Anil and I had the upper berths so we had a bit of a climb when we wanted to get up in the night to use the toilets - but that is all par for the course. We arrived in Mumbai the next morning, one and a half hours late, but the bride's parents, Nitin and Bhavna Shah were there to meet us and load us into cars for the ride to the hotel.
One thing that you may not be aware of, is that it is the obligation of the bride's family to plan and execute the wedding and this includes providing transportation, hotel rooms, and all meals for the duration of the wedding festivities. This expense is on top of the clothes, jewellery and all items required to set up house. The government is doing its best to discourage the "dowry" system, but in most cases, it is alive and well.
This means that we were to be well taken care of once we arrived in Mumbai.
We were taken to a hotel near the International Airport, the Lotus Suites Hotel, and once we had settled in, taken a bath and changed clothes, the cars arrived to take us to the Shah residence for lunch. We arrived and found the relatives of the bride, Komal Shah, gathered together in the living room. It was the first introduction for most - and everyone was in high spirits and very friendly. The menu consisted of typical Gujarati food, most of it unfamiliar to Anil and me, but all absolutely delicious. Gujaratis are usually vegetarian - and I was amazed to see so many dishes, made with the same ingredients as the Punjabi food that I am more familiar with, looking and tasting completely different.
After lunch, we were given an itinerary for the following two days - for the journey to the resort in Lonavla, and then for the wedding the next day. Once again, the cars arrived to take us back to the hotel. We spent the evening with the Kapoors gathered together at the home of Kajal and Deven Pabaru. Kajal is the daughter of Anil's sister, Manju and her husband Kamal. Once again, everyone was in high spirits, aided by the bottle of Glenfiddich and several bottles of soda. I took loads of photos of all the family members, but have not posted them on this site. It you are interested in seeing them, please email me and I will send you a link to the photos on Yahoo.