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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Birthday Boys

There was a lot of excitement in our family last week.

First my father turned 70 and then Max turned three. We celebrated both with a favorite in our house – rainbow cupcakes:

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Here’s my father making a wish and Max helping him blow the candle

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followed by high-fives. Max had so much fun blowing the candle that he did it several times.

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This birthday is a really big deal for my Dad, not only because it’s a round number and because we got to celebrate together in India but also because he had a couple very serious bouts of cancer in the last decade and we weren’t sure if he would make it. The last decade has been very, very difficult for my Dad. We are all thrilled that he beat cancer and the radiation and chemo therapies that followed and is doing well today. We are excited he and my Mom were able to make this trip to India to see us and get to know India a little bit. Happy, happy birthday, Dyado (grandpa)!!!

Max’s birthday started out a little rough. He may have shed a few tears because turning three is no joke after all. But things got better when we took cupcakes for him to celebrate his birthday with his friends at school.

Max Birthday Party

Max is a happy and energetic little boy. He loves his big sister and they get along most of the time.

His diet is still 99% this strawberry lassi drink:IMG_8632 He drinks so much of it that we have to place special orders for his stuff at the store as he consumes 5-6 of those a day. I dilute it 50/50 with water because he doesn’t drink water otherwise. I am pretty sure he is Mother Dairy’s (the manufacturer’s) best customer and I know they will feel their demand drop when we leave India.

Pretty much the only other thing he ever eats is pop corn but he does so with gusto:

Max popcorn-MOTION 
He loves, loves, loves cars. His absolute favorite is Lightning McQueen. He also loves playing with his wooden train set, building with blocks and drawing. He has a little wooden bike with no pedals and he has gotten really good about riding it around the compound. He is very quick on it but is also very careful, watching for cars and making sure he is safe.

He has a few friends on the compound and loves hanging out with them, especially in the hammock:

Max and friends in a hammock-MOTION

Happy birthday, sweet Max!!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How I married a Maharaja

I know some of you are thinking: What the What?

But I did. Let me ‘splain.

So, I’ve known the guy for a while. Maybe you know him too. He looks like this:

paul3a 

Dashing, isn’t he?

Anywhoo, about a year ago he says to me, “Wanna get married again? And again and again? In every country we are posted to?”

I was like, “Really? Lemme think… Hell, yeah!!!” And to myself, “Did I marry the right guy or what?!!!”

A few days later, we mentioned to my desk neighbors at work, Mansi and Josephine, that we were thinking about getting married again in India. They were like, “Yesss!!! You should totally do it! We’ll help you.”

And so it was agreed. We talked about it briefly a few times after that and Mansi and Josephine said that in order to make it happen, we had to start planning in November, which seemed totally doable at the time. But then life happened. November came and went and we had a lot going on at work, so we had no time to think about the wedding. December was even more hectic with Paul’s Mom passing (may she rest in peace), my parents visiting and the holidays. So we didn’t do anything again.

Josephine came by around that time and asked me if the wedding was still on. I really wanted it to happen but we were so far behind with the prep and so busy with other stuff that I just didn’t think we could pull it off. There would be so many things to take care of and I just didn’t have the energy. Paul however thought we could do it. Somehow he convinced me to do a pow-wow with Josephine and Mansi and see if they felt it was still possible. So that’s what we did and Josephine and Mansi were still optimistic. We had less than a month to plan it but we divied up the tasks, had a few drinks to seal the deal and the wedding was back on. Paul did get cold feet a week later but it was too late. The ball was already rolling and there was no stopping it.

Our initial plan was to have it on/around February 14, which is our anniversary but one of our friends, Marco, asked us to move it up so he can be there (he was getting ready to leave post the first week of February). So we set the date for February 1. We decided to do it on the green space of the Embassy Enclave and invited the whole consular section and some friends from other sections of the Embassy. We were also initially thinking we’d have Paul arrive on an elephant but getting an elephant on the Enclave would have been too much trouble, so we gave up on it.

Most people didn’t believe us when we told them we were going to have an Indian wedding. Others, including my Dad, didn’t understand why we’d want to do something like that. It made sense to us: we had been married 17 years but hadn’t done much for most of our anniversaries. We did go on two short cruises when we lived in Florida. We also spent one of our anniversaries in the hospital just after Max’s birth and that was special in its own way but other than that we’d usually just do dinner and that’s it. We wanted to do something different this time. We wanted a real Indian wedding. Or as close as we could get to one without going bankrupt. We thought it was a neat way to celebrate our marriage, Indian culture and the friendships we’ve made in India.

Weddings are a big deal in most cultures but Indians really take them to a whole new level. Most Indian weddings are celebrated over a week with different rituals happening each day. The weddings here are also big, often involving hundreds of people. It is not unusual for an affluent family to have several thousand guests. We ended up with about 150 guests which is mini by Indian standards but was more than both of our first two weddings combined. We got married twice in Bulgaria in 1997.

How authentic was it? Well, we had a real Hindu priest perform a traditional marriage ceremony for us. Most Hindu wedding ceremonies start in the wee hours of the morning and can last for hours. Our priest agreed to do an abridged version of the ceremony which started mid-afternoon and lasted around 30 min. He was also OK with the fact that we were not Hindu.

We had a small canopy built on the Enclave for the ceremony. We had Indian outfits custom-made for the occasion, which was an adventure in itself and I am hoping to blog about it separately. I pierced my nose and had mehindi (henna) decorations on my hands and feet. As the date approached the number of helpers and consultants increased exponentially – many of our Indian colleagues offered advice and assistance in various forms. We had a turban and a sword for Paul, all kinds of jewelry for me, we even played some traditional Indian games couples play at weddings here.

Our friends were really involved in the ceremony and the priest had a sense of humor so we all had fun. We may have drunk holy water from the Ganges during the ceremony (hopefully from upstream), some of us may have shed a tear or two and we may have made some rad promises but it was one of the most moving, meaningful and memorable things we have done in a long time.

Here are some pictures:

Mehindi1Mehindi - henna decorations, done the night before the wedding.

test daniela and paul's wedding card 1-1-2test daniela and paul's wedding card 1-3-2test daniela and paul's wedding card 1-4-2 
Getting decked out…

DSCN3488Meeting the priest

GarlandsExchanging garlands

test daniela and paul's wedding card 2-4-2test daniela and paul's wedding card 2-6-2

test daniela and paul's wedding card 2-12-2Rituals…

test daniela and paul's wedding card 2-12My parents

test daniela and paul's wedding card 2-6The giving away of the bride

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Making the seven circles around the fire and throwing our troubles in it

1510888_10152197066674769_148605722_n Putting santoor (redish powder) in the bride’s hair

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Putting the mangalsutra (special auspicious necklace) on the bride

test daniela and paul's wedding card 2-5test daniela and paul's wedding card 2-3 

test daniela and paul's wedding card 2-13-2 The kids

IMG_7819 Touching my parents’ feet (a sign of respect)

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Married - again!

Happy Valentines Day!!!

Picture Credits: We told our friends that we didn’t want gifts but encouraged them to take pictures and boy did they deliver! The pictures in this post were made by Dani, Kim, Mansi, Syed, Adrian, Josephine, Deepika, Greg and Gaurav. Thank you guys!!!

 
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