We arrived in Mysore. It’s only about 150km (100mi) from Bangalore to Mysore, but it is a minimum three hour trip. The traffic, especially around Bangalore, is stunning. At one point when we were stuck in traffic, there was a “Go Slow” sign. Both of us said immediately, “If we were going any slower, we’d be going backward!”
We stopped at Rajeev’s parents’ house in Mandya on the way to Mysore. We got the whirlwind introduction to a bunch of his relatives and were, of course, fed a meal. Everything here seems to revolve around food. Very good food, at that. It took us a little while to learn to always be prepared to eat as much as we can whenever visiting anyone. A family’s hospitality is measured in how much food their guests eat. So even though we were running late and everyone was about to board the wedding bus to Mysore (yes, they had a whole bus to bring the family to the wedding hall), we sat down and were served a small snack by Rajeev’s mother. By a “small snack”, I mean what I would consider a “light lunch”. I have no idea what we ate (as usual), but it was extremely tasty. And then we were off to Mysore.
When we reached the wedding hall in Mysore it really struck home how huge this event really was going to be. The wedding hall was a gymnasium-sized building packed with several thousand people. Yes, thousand. Rajeev told us they were expecting more than a thousand attendees but it was not really real to me until I saw the hall full of people.
Indian weddings vary by region. In the south, the reception is held the night before the ceremony. The bride’s family hosts everyone. They paid for everything, including our hotel. It is a matter of status for the family. The more people who attend and the more extravagant the accommodations, the better it reflects on the family. We briefly met Jyothi’s father at the door, before being ushered inside to join the crowd. Rajeev and Jyothi were up on stage in front of a bank of cameras. There was a huge queue where everyone – all 5,000 guests – waited to get up on stage to get their photo taken with the couple. After having our photos taken, we were guided downstairs to – yup, you guessed it – eat!
A traditional south Indian meal is served on a banana leaf and eaten with your fingers. It’s vaguely like dim sum – the portions are generally small, and attendants circulate the room re-filling your leaf. It’s spicy, but so far nothing we’ve eaten hit the “ohmygawdiamgoingtodie” temperature. Indians take their hospitality extremely seriously – they’ll bend over backward for you at the slightest hint. They all know Americans aren’t used to spicy food, so I’m sure they’re tailoring what they put in front of us to be more accessible to our wimpy American palates (especially mine!).
We went back to the hotel after dinner. It was the first night since we’d arrived that we were finished with the day’s activities before midnight. A good night’s sleep, and then the wedding ceremony tomorrow!