Anatomy of an Indian Wedding: Part I

One of my better summers in life was spent at an all-girls finishing school in Montreux, Switzerland, about 3 years ago. I was there for a month, but the friends I made there have since lasted and still going strong. A few months ago, my house mate invited me to her wedding in Delhi, India. Our rooms were adjoining, and we had a lot of laughs during my stay, and I really wanted to go to her wedding, for two reasons: first, she was a good friend and I loved her, but more because, well, it was an Indian wedding. So my father, my fiancee and I packed our best evening attire, hopped on a plane and went to India.

After receiving a glamorous invitation as big as a coffee table book in the mail (which included two rows of chocolate, delicately adorned with the same design as the invitation itself), we knew for a fact that we were in for an extravagant affair. The invitation was for four nights, and that made me feel really bad for the bride, and for the amount of make up and hair dressing it was going to take. But it made us feel pretty excited.

The first night was hosted by the bride’s parents (apparently these things are important) and it was called Musical Evening. It was held at what I can only call “wedding venue”, which I guess was a tent, though I’m not sure about the details. The whole place was made up in a night club atmosphere with a huge stage, a huge bar which proudly displayed Black Labels of as many years as I, and extravagant flower arrangements. My own engagement party had been held only two weeks prior, so I had an eye for that kind of detail, and I was like a hawk looking around the table settings. The musical entertainment was in three parts (or at least we left during the third one) and the first one was “India’s answer to Shakira”, whose name was Sophie Choudry. She spoke flawless English, but we found later that this was not extraordinary in the least, or the fact that she spoke only in English. Her show was a huge affair with many  male dancers in the background, lights and special effects, and it was amazing. After her, there was a less famous person who sang, and afterwards, a couple of what I only can describe as “rappers” came on the stage, and they were also really, really good. By then, our jet lag was making itself known, and we had fed ourselves from the amazing buffet. It was all vegetarian, but still, pretty delicious and with a huge range that can’t be described but felt.

The next morning was the Mehendi Celebration (mehendi basically means henna). It was held at the bride’s house, and included a nice breakfast buffet. We have the same thing here, though apparently the customs and the reasons for it are different. I believe theirs have something to do with an official invitation to the wedding, for the bride’s side. Anyway. Professional mehendi artists were employed, and I got to have these intricate designs on my palms, and they had this huge assortment of bangles as party favors. There was also live music of more traditional nature. Then there was the whole ritual, and the bride crying, which are similar to our traditions as well. A tradition they have here is that the bride gets the groom’s name written somewhere in the mehendi, and he’s supposed to find it – this shows that he has a sharp eye and an active brain. I had my fiancee’s name written as well, but mine looked bad since I kept accidentally closing my palm. You’re not supposed to touch anywhere for two hours so the material dries up and falls apart itself. It’s been almost a month since I got it done, and it just came off a few days ago. The decoration was also reds, oranges with lots and lots of flowers and flowing materials, which was again wonderful.

According to Indian tradition, the henna motif symbolizes the transformation of the bride from a young virgin girl to “a temptress for her husband”. Also according to Kama Sutra, henna is one of the sixty four arts of women (now this got me curious about the other sixty three, but I’ll think about that later). It is also said that the more the henna stains, the more the bride will be loved by her in-laws.

In the Turkish tradition, the henna tradition is a bit different. We only put a blob of henna on our palm, keep it there for about half an hour, and that’s about it. The henna itself is placed on the palm of the bride by her mother-in-law, and she also places a golden coin in her palm. The rest is similar, though in Turkey more people are prone to dancing than Indians, which is a surprising fact I have observed, but will address later.

I guess the Indian weddings are more of an elaborate affair than I thought, since I have two more nights to go and I’m running out of time. I’ll write the rest later. Stay tuned.

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After A While

It’s been quite a while since I wrote anything. After discovering Tumblr and reblogging anything pink or cute or flowery, I realized that maybe it was time I wrote in this blog as well.

Earlier today, I was at the last class of a beginner’s photography workshop. Even though our teacher was a bit on the cranky side, which I think is because of his age and the quality of the questions posed by the students, I realize now that I am a bit sad that it ended. I learned quite a bit, especially since he repeated the same thing each lesson. At least I learned how to use my new Nikon D7000, which I bought in Hong Kong for a quarter of the price here. That makes it even more valuable that it already is.

Photography is a fascinating art, though a bit on the complicated side. You have to remember lots and lots of variables, and the camera itself might take months to discover. It also offers endless choices and opportunities. There are tons of stuff to buy, and each with a huge range of prices and qualities. It must be a real challenge to stay on top of it all. You need to have the equipment, but that isn’t enough. You can have all the equipment in the world, but you still need vision. And that isn’t really enough either. You have to catch the moment. You need to be somewhere at least a bit interesting. As I was saying, you need all these variables, and they all have to be in the right place to take one good photo.

We looked at the pictures of many masters, but the one the teacher kept returning to was Steve McCurry. He’s the world famous photographer who took the Afghan Girl. I find that picture a bit on the overrated side, but alas, here it is.

He has many more, that are a lot of the times more interesting. I now leave you with his website. I believe he had it all: the vision, the equipment, and the chance to see it all.

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My New Obsession

My Tumblr: Lovely Pink Book

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Great Trip with The Tourist

I just realized that I haven’t written in months. It’s mainly because I’ve been preoccupied with, well, life, starting school again (my masters) and deciding to get married etc. I haven’t been reading manga much, nor many books, but I still can read, and I’ve seen my share of movies. That’s one thing about dating- you see every single movie. So I decided I should just get back in the game and write about them as time goes on. So as you can understand from my very generic post title, today’s post will be about…

The Tourist

I finished watching this movie and said to myself: “This is what I love about Hollywood.” But then I read somewhere that this is actually a remake; and a remake of a French movie at that.. Anyway, I’m sure this is much better than the original. Hollywood has that effect. You take two famous actors, toss them in a movie, and voila, great one. I know some people don’t agree. Most people find them, well, bad. Here is a mini list of movies with two famous actors:

–  Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts: The Mexican. Mediocre? Maybe. Did I like it? Loved it.

– Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock: The Lake House. Not the best movie in the world, but I still found it watchable. Others didn’t.

– Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in in Knight and Day. Plot? Scarce. Made you think? Almost never. Did I like it? Hell yeah.

Of course this list is one for famous actors who formed couples, not like Ocean’s Eleven or Tropic Thunder where you toss the lot of them in a pot and make them jump and run with clever conversation (though I love them as well). These are more like the cast director thought that if both are famous, the end result will be hot. And though most people don’t think so, it usually is. But this one, The Tourist, is even better than most. Much better.

I don’t know if I should even talk about the plot. You probably read it everywhere. Johnny Depp plays Frenk Tupelo, an American tourist. He’s a math teacher, and he’s going to Venice to mend his broken heart. Angelina Jolie plays Elise Ward, a mysterious British woman. She under surveillance and Paul Bettany plays the inspector who’s obsessed with finding Alexander, her lover who stole millions of pounds from a gangster and disappeared. She gets on a train in Paris on Alexander’s instructions, and meets Johnny Depp there and engages him in some fascinating conversation to make the police think that it’s actually Alexander. They go to Venice and the rest is set there, with nice chase scenes on the canals. There’s also one scene where Johnny Depp runs away from the Russian mob in his pajamas, and he jumps from these rooftops and it’s really good. I’ve been looking to buy these pajamas, but so far, no luck.

After you get over the fact that Angelina Jolie has gotten old (but she did snag Brad Pitt first, so the joke’s on us), she looks pretty amazing in some evening attire. The plot thickens as the story goes on, with witty side characters who also have their own agendas. When I say the plot thickens, I don’t mean it’s really deep like The Inception or anything (was The Inception deep? Hmm.) but it’s still good. Nice, clean fun that doesn’t make you feel guilty for liking it. Because some movies have that effect, like the previously mentioned Knight and Day. You can walk out of this movie and say you like it, and no one will say “You’re a loser because you like Hollywood movies with overpaid handsome actors,” because this one is actually good.

In a nutshell, go see it. Go see it for one of these reasons:

– If you don’t agree with my thesis that famous people make a movie good, go watch this to test your own theory.

– Go watch Angelina Jolie, if that’s your cup of tea.

– Or watch Johnny Depp, which is rarely a mistake.

– See magnificent shots of Venice.

– Fantastic clothes and jewels. Yum.

– Go see if it’s better than the original. I know there are some French movie buffs out there.

Rating: 9/10 – Go see to restore your belief in Hollywood.

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Series of Movies

I have realized that I haven’t been writing for a while, mainly because I thought there was nothing worth writing. But then I noticed that I have been going to the movies a lot lately, and most of the stuff I saw was very well below average. So I decided to write about these particular movies I have seen in the last two months, in chronological order. Here we go.

1. Bounty Hunter

I don’t know why I do this to myself. Although the trailer might seem promising, I must learn that if Jennifer Aniston is in it, I must not see that movie. Hollywood people are genius about making amazing trailers out of crap, and I must learn to accept that fact. But since I can be pretty naive, I went and sat through this.

Of course, I’m exaggerating a little bit. It’s not that bad. It’s about this bounty hunter guy, Gerard Butler, who gets the assignment to bring in her ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston. He’s really happy about this, since he “hates” her, and she “hates” him back. But it turns out that, yes, they’re actually still in love. The plot is totally see-through, but still, it could have been handled more tastefully, because it actually starts out pretty promising, but turns out the 2-hour ride gets bumpy and awkward.

You get to laugh at some stuff, and Gerard Butler is nice to look at, and he plays this dirty guy, one you expect will spill stuff on his shirt while he eats. There’s nothing wrong there. The chemistry is not bad either, since we know for a fact that these two have got in on in real life. But after a while you don’t understand what all the drama is about and wish that those two can get just get the sex over and done with. It can get surprising at times (not oh-my-god surprising, more very-hollywood-romantic-comedy surprising), and it can be nice to borrow as a dvd if you have friend who actually purchased it, but I wouldn’t bang my head on the wall because I missed it. I think Jennifer Aniston should just sit back and spend the millions of bucks she made during Friends, but who am I to talk.

Rating: 5/10 – Keep your focus on Gerard.

2. Remember Me

Now, this one is a real gem. Ever since I saw it, I’ve been telling everyone who will talk to me about this. I believe this is as low as Hollywood can ever get. I just don’t understand how the people who made this movie saw it and said: “Well, it works”. Their reaction should have been same as mine: “I can’t believe Robert Pattison can’t save this movie”.

I am a sucker for a pretty face, and will watch Brad Pitt recite poetry on big screen (of course, if he doesn’t have that homeless beard). So I thought that Robert Pattison might be nice to look at. And the poster seemed all nice and romantic. But as soon as the movie actually started, I realized that I just made a huge mistake. Robert Pattison is a college student, whose brother committed suicide a few years back, and of course it has taken its toll on the family. Emilie de Ravin has also seen tragedy, when her mother was shot by two muggers at a subway station when she was just a kid. You get a picture of their families and there’s this stupid kid sister of Robert, who’s being bullied by the “cool girls” at her school, because she’s “weird”, but she’s actually just hoping her father will speak to her once in a while blah blah. The plot is just too boring to tell.

There’s this independent/the camera moves around too much vibe to it, and sometimes you want to slap the hell out of the characters. And no, Robert Pattison can’t save the movie, and neither can Pierce Brosnan (who is the only thing that’s worth watching, though he’s kind of awkward there), Chris Cooper or any of the other people. The only thing that’s just bit nice is the very end. Not the “after 6 months” part, but the part before that. I have to hand it out to them, it’s good. Still not good enough though.

Rating: 2/10 – Recommend it to people you hate, and tell them to go alone.

I’ll write some other movies later. I just wanted to share these two because they’re the worst of the lot. It will get better. Or we would be in big trouble.

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I Do Love Beirut

I’ve recently been to Beirut. Beirut is not one of those places I wanted to go to, but an opportunity presented itself, and I said “why not”. I really didn’t know what to expect, because you hear all these stories about the Middle East, but hey, it’s only an hour and a half by plane. So I went there, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s so amazing. The new Downtown district has been completely rebuilt, and looks as posh (or even posher) as any European city. The restaurants are top notch, the food is better than anything I’ve tasted. The nightlife is enough to satisfy anyone. The people are actually nice, as far from snobbery as can be. All of them speak English (and usually French, too) so communicating is never a problem. I would recommend it to anyone.

Since I have to go to a bookstore in each country I go to and browse every English title, it’s no surprise that I loaded up on books. I read in Time Out Beirut about this book called Beirut, I Love You: A Memoir by Zana El Khalil and I had to give it a read. I finished it yesterday, and I really can’t decide if I like it or not. The writer, Zana El Khalil, is an artist. She lived in Nigeria and USA. She moved to Beirut for college, after the war, as the city was just getting used to peace. It’s sex, party and rock’n roll for the people. How nightlife was a must for everyone, because that’s how people forgot. She talks about September 11, when she actually watched the towers go down in New York, and she actually had to move back after people began to give her the evil eye. She makes some good points, on how American TV series gives us the feeling that our lives are just not cool enough, how everyone has a better living experience in New York etc. How NYC gives people freedom, one that is difficult to find in the Middle East. She talks about the war, of course, and how people began to “get used to it”. It’s heartbreaking.

Since it’s a memoir, she mostly talks about the people in her life. Many, many men in her life, and how dysfunctional each one of them was. Her best friend, Maya, who helped her stick to Beirut in times of difficulty. But mostly, this is a love letter to Beirut. She identifies herself with Beirut on every level. When Beirut is drowning, so is she. She stays in Beirut through thick and thin, though she has a foreign passport, she just can’t bring herself to live.

She uses brilliant imagery, though sometimes it’s disturbing. Mostly it’s describing things. Short dialogues and strange events. But you really get a vivid picture of what’s going on, both in the author’s mind and in Beirut at that time. It helped me get a better insight into what’s happened, though that shouldn’t be the reason you read it, since it won’t be enough on that front. It’s just a different read, something fresh and original.

This is her artwork, and this was her blog during the last war in Beirut.

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You’re Both Beautiful and Amazing

It’s been a while since I posted anything. I don’t want to lie and say that I didn’t have any time, because let’s face it, time is something I can definitely be sparing, but I just didn’t do anything worth writing about. (I mean book/drama/movie/manga wise, of course) But lately I’ve been back to life, and I finished watching the drama You’re Beautiful.

For those of you who are living an the moon, this drama aired last year in Korea. It’s plot is very original (!), for a Korean drama at least: a girl, Go Mi Nyu, who is about to become a nun, disguises herself as her twin brother, Go Mi Nam, to join a band, called A.N.Jell: consisting of Jeremy, a semi-stupid, fun guy; Shin Woo, a gentle, composed guy; and Tae Kyung, the arrogant, sexy main guy. They live together in this amazing house where Go Mi Nyu causes all kinds of trouble, especially to Tae Kyung. Things get even more complicated when the idol Yoo He Yi, who has a thing for Tae Kyung, learns about this secret and uses it to her advantage. On the sideline, the reason Go Mi Nam wanted to become an idol in the first place was to find their mother, who had left them when they were a baby. Since Korea is small, could it be that Tae Kyung’s mother had something to do with it?!

I really like this drama. The soundtrack is amazing, and I really wanted to attend an A.N.Jell concert. Jan Geun Suk, who plays Tae Kyung, at the beginning, is annoying as hell, but gets milder by the minute, and by the end you don’t even notice how mediocre and actor he is. Right now, the fact that he’s got full make up on doesn’t bother me at all, and I’ve become a fan. Park Shin Hye, who plays Go Mi Nyu, is also good, but Korean actresses usually are. Jun Yong Hwa, who plays Shin Woo, can also be awkward at times, but I’ll cut him some slack since Shin Woo goes through some really difficult times and it’s his first role. I have nothing to say about Lee Hong Ki, who plays Jeremy, since I don’t want to get started on his blond hair.

Another point I want to mention is the hugging scenes. This is actually fairly common in Korean dramas. I was watching Boys Over Flowers the other day and I noticed the same thing. When a boy hugs a girl, he basically pushes her into himself like.. I don’t know what. I haven’t been hugged by many boys, but I’m fairly sure if someone did that to me, I would be pretty mad. And don’t even get me started on the kissing scenes. I am fairly certain that there’s a reason they lack the actual kissing and only involve touching the lips by slanting your head. Oh well. That’s Asian dramas for you.

I don’t like when dramas put ultra silly stuff in, or emphasize how poor the family is etc. This one played on some dangerous ground with Manager Ma and Coordinator Wang and their conversations, but for some reason that didn’t bother me. They were quite fun and cute. Even the stupid aunt didn’t bother me. I think I’m getting more good natured:) Also the thing with Go Mi Nyu’s father and Tae Kyung’s mother doesn’t drag on for 200 episodes, and gets resolved fairly soon, without boring us to death, which is a real plus.

My favorite scene is when Tae Kyung is chased by a pig in the rural village they go to. It’s so funny I laughed out loud. He’s listening to music from his nice MP3 player and dancing to himself in the fields and he sees some old dude waving his arms at him. He thinks: “Wow, is it because this is a rural place that people greet people they don’t know?” and he waves back. But actually a pig is nearby and that guy is telling him to run. His expression is priceless as he runs away. I think it’s the best piece of acting he does, maybe with the exception of his crying. I mean, I’m not saying he deserves an Oscar for acting but that guy sure can cry. After he runs away from the pig, he gets lost and then Go Mi Nyu finds him and goes: “It’s okay, they took the pig home.” Hillarious. I just had to mention that.

In a nutshell, I cannot recommend this drama enough! You should just ignore the fact that you can tell what will happen in the next scene and go along with the nice soundtrack and good natured conversation.

Update: I was just on my way to the airport, listening to You’re Beautiful Soundtrack, and I realized that I haven’t commented on Tae Kyung’s wardrobe. I haven’t been this impressed since Matsumoto Jun’s in Hana Yori Dango. Actually, Domyoji and Tae Kyung are very similar characters, which is called tsundere. It basically means a mean character who changes when he falls in love. Just like Domyoji and Tae Kyung. It’s actually pretty common in the Asian pop culture, but maybe I’ll talk about it later. But now, I just want to say Tae Kyung’s wardrobe is.. well, I wish I had a picture of all the clothes he takes, so I could frame them and hang them in my room. I am no fashion wonder, though I do tend to look okay at times, but come on. You may be a teen idol, but sometimes you shouldn’t wear things that show your chest. Or shirts that make you look even more girly. Or fur. I do believe Domyoji was worse with his white fur jacket, but Tae Kyung comes a very close second. I’ve ignored his nice eye make up through the drama, but some of the outfits are too hard to pretend not to notice. Also his hair is another story. Each time he was on the screen, my mother (for some reason was watching it) went: “Oh, that dude’s got a blow dry.” I don’t know why he insisted on having half of his hair in front of his eye, but he was really successful in keeping it that way. Sometimes he puts it in a nice bun. If my spouse put his hair in anything resembling a bun, that would be cause for divorce but I don’t know how things work on that side of the world. After a while, I really started to think that it works for him.

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