Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Mehndhi from Hell

Last Friday, the night before my husband was coming to pick us up from my parent's house, we were invited to a South Asian wedding party. Friday night was the Mehndhi, which is actually like a pre-wedding party where the bride applies henna to her hands and there's alot of dancing, singing, eating, the whole shebang. But this mehndhi was a dud from the minute we arrived. I will forever remember this mehndhi as the "The Mehndhi from Hell."

The invitation said, 'Please arrive at 6:00 pm SHARP, Ladies and Children Only'. Yeah right, I thought, who the hell arrives on time for a wedding party hosted by South Asians? But my Mom insisted the bride's mother (the organizer of the event) had requested everyone to be there on time. Why ladies only? I thought maybe the family was being super religious, but no, they just wanted to save money on the headcount with the caterer, so they thought if only the ladies and children were invited (kids eat free) they would save a few bucks. This was only the beginning of their cheapness.

My Mom and I managed to get ourselves and the kids ready by 6:45 pm and my Dad dropped us all off at their house by 7:00 pm. It had been raining in Upstate NY for the past two weeks, and although there wasn't much flooding in our neighborhood, the ground was saturated to the max. I was wearing shoes with a pencil heel and was expecting the event to be held inside the house, but it was instead being held in their backyard under a tent. Ladies, have you ever had to walk across a wet lawn while carrying a diaper bag and wearing....stiletto heels? OMG this was the most difficult thing I've ever had to do in my life. Well not really, difficult was learning how to breastfeed, this was the second most difficult thing I've had to do. What were these people thinking holding a wedding party outside in their lawn where it had been raining for two weeks straight? Inside the tent there was a tiny stage set up and in front of it were about two dozen chairs. There was a speaker system playing some Indian music in the corner of the tent but no DJ, they just rented the dj equipment and played their own CD's (as I found out later, ad nauseum). To provide some light in the tent, they used two halogen lamps (the kind we used in our college dorms and later on, in our first apartments). The chairs they had placed in the tent were barely able to stay stable, the minute anyone sat on them they lost their balance and would start to sink into the ground.

No one from the bride's family came out to greet us or any of the guests. Some had made the mistake of actually getting there at 6:00 pm sharp and were regretting it dearly. To make matters worse, there was no food being served to the guests to help manage the long wait. Here's how the rest of the evening went down:

7:30 pm - My son tells me he's hungry, I tell him to please wait, maybe some food will be coming soon. 15 minutes go by, and no food or drink arrives, although I sense the smell of biryani, chicken tikkas, and samosas coming from the garage. My Mom and Aunt watch the girls while I take a stroll to locate some food. I see all the food is being prepared by the caterers in the garage, there's a tandoor there too, but nothing is being served. I see another woman with small children eating some chicken pastries and cookies and ask her where she got them. She said, "There's food inside the house, the host and all their relatives are inside with it. There waiting for the barat (groom's family) to arrive before they start serving the guests but you can go get some food for your children, my kids were starving too." So I venture inside the house and load some pastries and cookies on a plate and head back to the tent with my son. This time I realized I had to throw my weight forward and walk on my tip toes to avoid sinking too far into the ground with my stilettos.

7:45 pm - The kids have cleaned out the plate of cookies and pastries and are asking for more. I stop them, hoping vainly that dinner is going to be served shortly. The hosts had hired two people as "maid service" and they were supposed to be tending to the guests, but instead they were acting like one of the guests sitting on a chair eating chicken tikkas and naan. I was appalled. Where did they get that chicken? Then I thought, maybe they are letting the maid service eat first so they will have energy to feed the fainting guests.

8:00 pm - The ladies in the tent are finally served some appetizers. A table is set up by the caterers and on it was pakoras, samosas, dahi baras, and some sodas. Everyone gets up to eat, the kids eat a little more. Still no sign of the hosts or the bride.

8:45 pm- The bride makes an appearance with a friend. She sits down for five minutes, then leaves. The kids continue to get very cranky.

9:00 pm- It's begun to get very dark outside. And cold. The kids aged 12 and under have figured out that the host has a huge finished basement where tv is playing and they can run around with no shoes. I follow because my girls are still a little clingy and wanted me to watch them. I didn't mind, I got a place to take off my stilettos and make some calls on my cell phone. I send a text message to my husband, who was still in NJ, "I'm at the Mehndhi from hell." He replies with a "Why, what's going on?" Oh, there was too much to complain about so I dialed up and told him about the ruined stilettos and starving kids and rude hosts.

9:30 pm- I enlist the help of my 8 year old cousin and her pre-tween friends to babysit my kids in the basement and head back to the tent where the ladies are still waiting for the hostess to greet them. I was tired of hanging around the kiddie party and tweens watching "Who's Line is it Anyway." I needed some adult conversation. By now only instrumental Indian music is playing on the stereo. My Mom asks me what time it is, and I tell her. She says, "I feel like we've been sitting in transit." I tell her, "I feel like I'm in purgatory." It's dark outside now, and it's getting really cold. All the ladies are being ravaged by mosquito bites, but still no sign of the hostess or anything remotely "wedding". The kids come back outside to the tent accompanied by my cousin. They thought I left them there forever and were crying to be taken back to me.

9:45 pm - The groom's family arrives and is taken inside the house where they are served dinner! Yes, they are snuck into the house and served dinner while the "guests" have been sitting outside for almost 4 hours, hungry, cold, and being attacked by mosquitos.

10:00 pm- The kids have had it. They're crying, they are cold, and they want to go home, and I don't blame them. We call my Dad on the cell phone and he says he'll be there in twenty minutes. My Mom was going to get a ride home with her friend and sit out this hell of a wedding party, but I was ready to get out of there. The kids and I go back towards the house and wait for my Dad to pick us up.

10:30 pm- The groom's family has finished eating and now the host family is ready to begin the rasam, which is deocorating the bride with a flower necklace and all that crap. Who even gives a shit by now, this family should be counting their lucky stars anyone even bothered to stick around this long. I saw my Dad in the driveway and me and the kids were off to Wendy's drive-thru.

11:00 pm- After feasting on nuggets, fries, and burgers, my two year old daughter Z announces "I happy now." Honey, me too.

12:00 am- As the kids are drifting off to sleep, my Mom comes home. I ask her if she got to eat and she says, "Yes, they finally served the dinner after doing the rasams. Dinner was served at 11:30 pm, good thing you took the kids home when you did."

The next night was the wedding reception and although the children and I were invited to this party, I decided to sit this one out. We stayed home, ate chicken and rice my mom had made, and went to the park. My husband was coming up Saturday night too, so we wanted to be home to open the door for him. My parents went alone to the reception which asked guests to be there at 7:00 pm. When my parents came home at 11:00 pm, she said, "Good thing you didn't go, the dinner wasn't served until 10:30 pm". The nerve. I don't know why people like this even bother putting a "arrive by" time on the invitation. They should just leave it blank or write "come whenever you damn please".

I should also send them a bill for fixing my shoes.

Look, I brought home some of their lawn on my heels.


August Sunshine said...

Oh my god, why even bother insisting people arrive on time when you'll do everything off-schedule anyway? And this whole treating the groom's family differently makes no sense at all. It isn't a good idea to rate your guests and give priority to some over others. Maybe it made some sense some time back in Pakistan where your own guests were essentially your own family, and the only real guests were the groom's side. It's ridiculous.

On my wedding day, my nikkah ceremony was supposed to be at 7:30-ish. I was down and ready to enter by about 7:45. Okay, I was a little late, but it wasn't so far off! Anyway, I was waiting to hear when I could start walking when the hotel coordinator (who was wonderful and acted like a wedding planner at times) came and told me that I couldn't enter because she was informed everyone "will now be praying" (maghrib)

Shoot me for complaining, but I was furious. They had to get everyone in the special room set aside for prayer. That took a little while (and don't forget the wudu, which takes time when so many people are doing it). Then they prayed. Then they all got back into the main reception room.

By the time I entered, it was 9:00. Maybe if I'd have been there at 7:30, none of this would have happened. But I was still upset about it. I didn't want to go back to my room b/c I kept thinking the prayer would be done any time . . . so, I sat at the hotel bar and chatted with people sitting there.

August Sunshine said...

Btw, I feel sad for your shoes. I hope they're not ruined permanently.

Unknown said...

ohmigod, I would have completely lost it. Depite a lifetime of attending these events, I have yet to understand the rules of PT (Pakistani Time) hospitality.

Seems to me that if little kids are invited (and when are they NOT?) there needs to be a separate feeding schedule for them. At least lay out for some pizza or something..jeesh.

Sorry about your shoes - made me think of that episode of Sex in the City where Carrie's Manolos got stolen at the baby shower and she asked the host to compensate her. Personally, I'd be mad too if a good pair of heels gets ruined.

Bad idea having a tent party with the rain.

Bengali Chick said...

I would have been so bitter. I would have taken off way before you did. Those people suck.

Chic Mommy said...

I salvaged the shoes by wiping the grass and dirt off with baby wipes, but the pink metallic color is forever gone. But it's okay, the front of the sandal is still decent.

August, I think it's actually good that you didn't enter at 7:30 because then everyone would have gotten up to go pray and you would have been sitting on the stage all alone, or the with the women on the rag (you know what I mean). At least you got to kill time by talking to some people at the bar. On my wedding day, I was sitting alone most of the time during the dinner because my husband had planted himself as a permanent fixture infront of the buffet. I was so nervous about ruining my lipstick I barely ate anything. Looking back, that was dumb, I should have enjoyed the wedding more instead of trying to sit there and look pretty.

Leilouta said...

I feel bad for you, I hate going to weddings!

Nice touch with the picture. I love it!

rabiaiman said...

honestly i feel this way with most of the parties we go to. be there at 6pm and dinner not served till 8-9 i think its rude strange and anything but hospitable. so many people complain about the timings but when parties come up at their own homes, its the same darn thing. there has got to be a break in the chain. i am just waiting for all these kids to have to go to school and HAVE to sleep by 7pm and then we HAVE to have earlier parties. i just really am so fed up by it to be honest. i think we should have parties from 6-9. get out by 9pm and home by latest 10. early enough to still wash kids and put them in bed by 10. i seriously think this keeping kids up when their cranky hungry and tired at these parties till 12 -1am is definitely some form of mild child abuse. ADULTS first CHILDREN who cares just shove them in a basement and let them rip apart each other some where. just really not the kind of socializing i want for my kids u know. there has got to be some other alternative. perhaps ONLY lunch buffet dates? i dont know. what do u think?

August Sunshine said...

That's a really good point. I always figured that time alone would have given me a chance to take pictures w/ friends but it's true, I'd have been angry if I had to sit alone for too long. I did lose him for about a minute later on (during or just after dinner) when somebody came to congratulate him and somehow walked off w/ him, I think to have him meet some other people or something.

I was pretty upset about that b/c we were standing together, I was talking to some people, and when I turned to him, he was gone. When I turned back around, the people I was talking to were gone . . . and I was completely alone for the moment . . . standing all dressed up in my desi wedding clothes, trying hard to strike that balance b/w an American bride that's having fun at her wedding and the Pakistani bride that is not letting her excitement show too much.

Right then, some auntie told me I should sit down ("beta tum baith jao"). I felt really embarrassed, and then when he got back, I let him have it. He apologized and didn't leave again. I hope I wasn't too mean, but boy was I embarrassed.

About the lipstick coming off, the woman who did my makeup said she was going to put something over my lipstick that would have the effect of keeping the lipstick on longer. So, I didn't even think about it while I was eating. The next day, at the valima, she told me she forgot to put it on me.

-And finally, this comment ends.-

August Sunshine said...

rabiaiman: I agree with you. I don't have kids, but even w/o kids, these dinner parties are annoying when you don't finish up until 1 in the morning, and it wasn't great conversation that was keeping you. It was the fact that you were suffering from a hunger headache and didn't know how far the closest Denny's would be.

Lunch buffet dates are a great idea. Maybe then everyone would eat by 6! :-)

Chic Mommy said...

rabia, lunch buffet sounds good. but it messes up dinner, because you end up eating lunch late and the kids wake up around 11:30 looking for a midnight snack.

August, I hate when Aunties tell you what and what not to do at your wedding. I didn't enjoy my wedding because I had too many opinions coming from every direction. I wasn't allowed to even get off the stage and mingle with guests. That would have been too bold. I was the oldest and I was the first of my parent's children to get married so maybe it was the inexperience. By the time my youngest sister got married, she was allowed to dance at her own mehndhi. And actually smile. She was so lucky!

... said...

ugh, that sounds horrible! what a nightmare. this is why i refuse to go to random weddings of people i dont know and dont care about (i.e. my in-laws' friend's cousin's son).

my mehndi and wedding were pretty much on time. for the wedding i came in at 8:30 and my dad was upset with me b/c i was supposed to be there by 8. i dont even know when everyone prayed - i think before i came. dinner at 9. everyone was out 11:30.

for the valima, my family got lost coming to the reception hall. my dad and his van didnt get there till 10:30. but my in-laws had the good sense to not wait for them and fed the guests, saving some food for my family. i was really upset that my own family wasnt there for like half of my valima, but traffic/construction/no sense of direction combined cant be avoided sometimes.

Ameet said...

Atrocious hosts. Ugh.

That's one thing I like about WASP weddings - everything stays on schedule (mostly) and it's SHORT!!