Wedding Dairy #4: Mic Drop

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Thank you for being part of the wedding dairies.

It has been few weeks since the wedding. It was everything and more I ever imagined it to be. The weeklong festivities went by so fast that it almost seems like a dream. Almost a year’s worth of effort and thought was put into materializing the perfect day, and for it to get done so fast almost seems unfair lol. With all the celebrations and so many loved ones from around the world to celebrate us, these were undoubtedly one of the most memorable and cherished days of our lives.

In these few weeks; we took a quick getaway trip to Delhi (Capital of India) and Agra to see the iconic Taj Mahal and to just relax and absorb the fact that we are married. In the mean time, first edits of the pictures and videos are here and we are short-listing them for the final album. I am so excited, I can’t wait to see the final version and to re-live these days vicariously through all the pictures.

It has been so much fun in these last four months in India but its time to say goodbye to India and head for new adventures in California now. With that being said it’s also time for a wrap of the Wedding Diary Series. It was a pleasure and a true joy to share this journey with you and I thank you for all the feedbacks, comments, and wishes that I have received. There was a remarkable amount of people who read this series and I am so glad we were able to connect and share something so personal and cultural.

Until next time, take care. Namaste!

Photo Courtesy: Devang

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Wedding Dairy #3: The Rituals

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We are out for a family dinner, probably the last few dinners that I will have with my family being just their daughter. My mom reminisces on her own wedding, shedding a few tears in denial that I am no longer her little girl anymore. She goes on to explaining the rituals and traditions; how they are done, what do they each mean and more of preparing me for the years old tradition that I will partake in. From the 3 hour-long ceremony to the things I wear that day, each holds a valuable and cultural meaning behind it all.

It starts with mandap mahurat, where you do the inauguration of the wedding; then comes putting pithi on the bride and groom followed by henna on hands and feet…all this is done to beautify the couple; then comes a prayer ceremony to get the blessings of gods so the wedding is a smooth sail. Finally, comes the actual wedding ceremony, while the ceremony continues there is a group of singers who narrate the entire wedding and each ritual as it unfolds in form of songs. These are cultural and traditional wedding songs. The wedding as per the traditions is done in the witness of a fire; mainly four people take part in the ceremony: bride, groom and the bride’s parents. About an hours ceremony is just done between the bride’s parents and the groom, then comes the bride and joins them in. All this then leads to the very famous Indian 7 pheras (circles) around the fire. Where the guest showers the couple with flowers. About an hour more of a few more rituals and then finally its all done. Wait….still one more thing left… after dinner comes vidai, when the bride says goodbye to her family and goes on to her new home. This is always the highly emotional part of the wedding. This may come as a surprise to most, but Indian weddings are a complete emotional ride; there are happy tears, sad tears, laughter, and many amusing and fun ceremonies, which are somewhat like a competition between the bride and groom side guests; it keeps everyone entertained.

Once the newly married couple reaches their home, there are still a few more ceremonies to finish all pertaining to the welcoming of the new bride in the groom’s home. In the end, it’s a long and emotional day. But certainly, a kind of marriage to treasure and remember a lifetime. In less than 10 days this is about to become my reality and I cannot be more excited to experience it all.

Photo Courtesy: Google Images

Wedding Dairy #2: The Grind

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Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara

Indian’s are very superstitious people, we believe in destiny and karma and in the perfect alignment of the stars and the moon for doing auspicious things. First step is to come up with a wedding date; as you can already guess for an Indian couple, the date is not something we decide upon ourselves; it is based on our horoscopes and a priest, who puts out a few options to choose from that we as a family like the best among the list. Among the list, March 3rd was the winner for us. There is a total of 4 major functions surrounding the wedding in a spread of 4 days: Grah Shanti (auspicious puja ceremony), Mehndhi and Sangeet (henna and musical party), Wedding, and a Reception after party.

Next up was to decide on a destination. After bouncing back and forth between the States and India we finally decided upon having the wedding in India to get a more traditional and authentic feel. Now that we know where then came the task of finding that picture perfect venue in Gujarat. After sourcing all possible venues my heart was settled on the Laxmi Vilas Palace. It is a heritage property and an actual palace where the king and queen of Vadodara reside. They have banquet halls and lawns that they rent out for weddings and special occasions. For me, this palace was the perfect pick, it gave a royal touch and it couldn’t get more authentically Indian than this for me.

All along, save the date cards are being sent, since the wedding is set in India we have to give everyone ample time to plan their trip. Congratulations calls and messages are down pouring, Facebook profile picture is changing with the two of us in it and comments are flooding lol…wedding photo shoot is being arranged, hair and makeup appointments for all the events are being booked, among various other things happening, making this a sublime reality. Hard to believe that at the end of all this I get married and start a new chapter in my life.

Everything and every part of an Indian wedding is a “we”- we as in my family, his family, our cousins, the kids, the aunts and the uncles, our extended families and so on. This “we” is what makes this an enormous celebration because every person plays a huge part and is included in all of the plannings. This is fun and exhausting at the same time because everyone has an idea of their own so you can just imagine the madness…but this exact chaos is what makes the days leading up to the wedding the most memorable and fun. For me this very time is the one to cherish the most, everyone is beyond happy, excited, and high on endorphin, there is certainly an atmosphere of celebration in the air.

Wedding shopping, decor, catering, and so much more stuff is still in process to achieve as the days corner up rather rapidly to March.

Photo Courtesy: Google Images

Wedding Diary #1: Welcome to an Indian Wedding…

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In the center of chaos, noise and lots of emotions takes place the perfect recipe for a big fat Indian wedding. Indian weddings are world famous; know for its vibrant colors, music, traditional dresses, rituals, week long celebrations, and let’s not forget the array of delicious regional and international food served. We Indians love to gather people, get loud, and to eat, especially us Gujaratis LOL; and there is no better places than a wedding for all the shenanigans. All this marking the event not just as a wedding but also almost as a festival.

Naturally, all this comes with lots and lots of planning. Most Indian weddings start getting planned at least a year in advance. As I embark on my marriage, the journey till the day of is filled with precious memories and insights into being an Indian bride and on planning the perfect Indian wedding. I am excited and looking forward to sharing my encounters with you all. I have never felt more connected to my roots and traditions than now, I feel so blessed to be an Indian today and to have such rich and beautiful century old traditions to live by.

Stay tuned for the upcoming WD series #2 entry on the ordeals of an Indian wedding.

 

Photo Credit: Google Images

 

Wedding Diary Intro: On A Personal Note…I’m Getting MARRIED!!!

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So, the big news is, I am getting married.  It is a destination wedding in India. I am so excited to share all the details with all you amazing people out there, who have been part of my journey ever since I started this blog. Over the next few months, I will be sharing all the shenanigans of my big fat Indian wedding; the traditions, the colors, the food, the culture, and all the fun surrounding the big day. For today lets start with the basics.

how we met

Prashant’s family and my family have known each other for several years. Prashant happen to get my number through this aunt and all of a sudden messaged me one day. As wired as it was getting this random “hey, how’s it going” text, we instantly clicked and became best buddies. Before we knew it we were messaging each other every day, it got to a point our day would seem incomplete without talking to each day. Several months into our phone conversations we decided to meet up; and he flew down for a weekend from Boston to see me in Savannah, GA. The anxiety, excitement, and butterflies of meeting someone for the first time was all surreal. Even though we were meeting as friends we both deep down knew we had some unspkoen feelings developing for each other. That was the first, we enjoyed each others company so much and our relation over the years evolved and we continue seeing each other every chance we got. It is 2 years now, and we have managed to conquer against all odds, especially being in a long distance relationship. Long distance relationships are no doubt tough and require a sincere level of dedication, however, they are not impossible; thanks to today’s technology it makes staying in touch and keeping things personal so easy. We have been distant in the extremes; while I was in Georgia he was living in Massachusetts. Then I moved to London and he was in America, now I am back in America, living on the east cost he happened to move to the west coast for a new job opportunity. But in the end, distance means so little when someone means so much.

how he asked

Prashant recently moved to San Francisco for a new job opportunity. I was visiting him for the first time after his big move; this was also my first trip to California. Little did I know this trip was going down in books to remember all life long. Upon my arrival, he every casually told me that he stumbled upon a very good photographer, Ethan. Ethan and he had arranged for us to do a couples photo shoot the following day. He made it seem like it was just casual, all for fun, something special he thought of doing for our 2-year anniversary together.

During our photo shoot while the photographer was taking some candid shots all of a sudden Prashant pulled out a ring from his pocket and asked if I would marry him. I was so taken back that honestly I don’t even remember what other stuff he even said lol and of course my answer was a big YES!

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Following our photo shoot, we went to A16, an Italian eatery where he told me about another surprise that he had planned for me. He had booked a Hawaiian vacation for us to celebrate our engagement and this new chapter in our life.

From the famous Waikiki beach, we called our family and friends to share the good news. Our parents couldn’t be more excited, we soon came up with a date and got right down to business in planning all the details. We are getting married on March 3rd, 2017, it is a 5-day long grand celebration in India. I hope to make you part of this celebration as you join me through my “Wedding Diary” series.

Photo Credit: Ethan Lu

The adventures continue: Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Beyond…

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I love to travel; it takes me away from my daily routine and errands. Traveling gives me an opportunity to discover myself. It makes me realize, how amazingly beautiful our world is; full of fascinating people and interesting things to do.
This time, I am back in action exploring Eastern Europe. It was a perfect getaway trip with my friends for 13 days; traveling around the capital cities of Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary. This was the first time; I was visiting Europe without coming here for work. In my mind, I was constantly contemplating on how unique of a cultural experience this would have been if I was here for a few months instead of a short time. Nonetheless, it was the perfect trip to get introduced to these countries with a striking first impression that’s going to leave me with no option but to return back to adore its beauty again.

My flight from U.S. was via Paris. The guy next to me definitely made this long journey pleasurable. He was a talkative Spaniard, who only understood Spanish, which made it all the more fun. It was fun talking to him because it forced me to brush up on my elementary Spanish skills, lol. Within an hour of my flight landing, the rest of my friends also arrived at Berlin Tegel Airport; hence the shenanigans began. Since it was a weekend, Berlin proved to be the perfect starting point. We took the city hop on and off tour, which allowed us to conveniently cover all the major highlights in the short time we were there. With Germany’s dark past, Berlin is bursting with a rich history. Though, the modern day Berlin is very socialist. Culture is quite diverse from what we could tell. The food was also quite interesting, with a heavy emphasis on potatoes and beer; a must try staple food, currywurst. We meet a bunch of foreigners here, who were traveling and making the most of the last few days of the summer, just like us. Meeting new people and making friends is the best part of traveling. It fascinates me to meet people from different parts of the world as they each have a story to share; thus changing my perception of life.

We caught an early morning fast train. In 4 hours, next up was Prague for us. If I have to describe Prague in one word, it would be…beauty! It is breathtaking everywhere you look. Prague is relatively small compared to Berlin but in no terms was it short on its enchantment. On the first day, we just roamed around on our own, admiring its old splendor while absorbing the Czech culture. Czech’s are very laid back people, however, a bit estranged at hospitality. Later, we found out from our tour guide that this is due to their culture and the communist mentality that was oppressed on them over the generations. Prague is divided into two half’s; Old town located at an elevation of a hill (consisting of the palace and acres of land with palace owned properties) and New town (more for the commoners). The iconic Charles Bridge connects both the towns. All of us decided to take the guided walking tour to see each of the towns in a stretch of two days. It turned out to be the best decision for us. We meet so many amazing people from around the world, who were part of our walking tour and together we got an excellent interactive glimpse of the Czech’s capital city. We also took a night cruise to admire Prague all lite up from the Vltava River. Prague was full of people and more so of tourist. Hence, mostly everyone spoke English and the food varieties were also very continental. One interesting thing we noticed, most of all local men we meet, (i.e. tour guide, bartender, taxi driver, restaurant waiter, etc.) all were of different nationalities but they each had moved to Prague because they fell in love with a Czech girl. Each of the men was in pursuit of chasing a girl. Haha. It is said that Czech women are the most beautiful looking women in the world!

After another four hours on a fast train from Prague; we made it to Vienna. Vienna is stunning; it looks like a Fairytale story setting in real life. White buildings everywhere with marvelous architecture make it a magical city. It was hard to absorb all of its beauty in one sweep. I was stunned by its miles and miles of charm. It is hard to explain in words, I haven’t seen any city like Vienna. To me, the city is a stunning woman wearing a crisp white gown with diamond jewels. The quality of the air is excellent; the tap water is the purest water you’ll ever find; coming straight from the Alps. The roads are extremely clean and most of the people you see are all dressed professionally in suits; giving it an elegant and sophisticated vibe. Vienna caters heavily to the international crowd; there is a large United Nations presence here as well. I can’t imagine how exciting of a place Vienna would be to live and work in. Due to the limitation of time, we decided again, to take a 2-day hop on and off tour bus, in which we covered all major highlights of this city. Also, I meet up with an old friend, who I know from working at the State Department in Italy. ‘On a side note, the most treasured thing that I have acquired from working with the U.S. Department of State is making friends and knowing people, all over the world.’ Not to any surprise, the culinary and the night scene in Vienna were excellent, very elegant. One of my favorite memories from Vienna was the apartment we lived in. The alluring setting consisted of white walls, white sheer curtain, white furniture, wood flooring and with an accent of red chandeliers. To top it off, a Mercedes waiting downstairs to take us around.. is my kind of European lifestyle. ☺

After a week long of exploring, we were back at another round of weekend shenanigan’s, with our last stop at Budapest. While riding the short 2-hour train ride, is exactly, when we began to feel the Hungarian excitement. Most of the passengers on the train were young and were already in a party mood. Budapest is known for its young and vibrant appeal; very laid back and a fun city. Budapest has a massive thermal bath culture; there are several public baths in the city. They believe that it heals the body and keeps the mind fresh. We decided to take on the bath culture a notch further and booked our tickets to a “Sparty Night”. The Szechenyi Thermal Bathhouse is over a 100 years old and is Europe’s largest bath complex; on selected Saturday nights it turns into a Spa party for the youth. Attending the Sparty was probably the craziest, unique and coolest experience for all of us. Another highlight in Budapest was watching the fireworks show, for the Hungarian Independence day, from the iconic Chain Bridge. Over a million people had come out to see the fireworks display and to enjoy a day full of live music, food, and festivities. Talking about food, it was excellent; a little on the hot side but very authentic and true to its culture. Even their traditional coffee has a kick of peppers in it! Lol. Eggs are a very big part of their diet; omelets and desserts are a must try as they are simply delicious. My favorite place was the New York Café, it is exquisite. They tag themselves as the most beautiful café in the world, and they are definitely not lying. Since FIFA world cup was going on, we had a great time catching the game with a group of diverse people from around the world.

Four major cities, in four major countries, in 13 days, with great friends, is enough to make this trip full of lasting memories to treasure for a lifetime. Once again, I fell in love and I left a piece of my heart in these countries- to their amazing culture, their culinary experiences, to the interesting people I meet along the way and to all the wonderful moments I had. As I am moving through this life, my travel experiences are leaving marks on me. After each new journey, I am not the same person that I was before…the experience that comes with traveling leaves me a bit more informed and more aware. It makes me realize how big this world is and how much there is still left, yet to explore.
With the holidays just around the corner, I hope you fill your life with different escapades and not things. The experience of traveling gives you an opportunity to share stories for years to come!!!
Take care, until next time! Tschüss.

 

Photo Courtesy:Google &  Dhara Shah

IBIZAAAA!

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It’s always hard to say goodbye, especially when something becomes so dear. We forget that one day we will have to leave it all and return back. As my love affair with London has come to a wrap, one last trip was in store before saying goodbye to Europe for now. And to go out with a bang, there is no better place in the world than the Island of Ibiza. Couple of my friends and I, decided to go to Ibiza for my farewell party. A short flight from Gatwick and there we were in the world’s most notorious party-island. A point of pilgrimage for anyone trying to forget life itself.

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The island of Ibiza is located east of Spain and in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The perfect strategic location for hard shenanigans; however, this island is so much more than its hard-partying reputation! The island offers breathtaking white sand beaches, beautiful hilltop towns and an incredible array of delicious food. I’ve had some of the best culinary experience of my life in Ibiza. A must recommended, traditional Spanish dish Paella and some refreshing pitchers of Sangrias. We also found some excellent French and Italian cuisines, as this island has a wide array of cultural diversity.

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Ibiza is relatively a small island; with a map we roamed the entire island on the rented scoters. Most people speak English and the locals are also very friendly, catering to the international crowd. There is an incredible young vibe to the island; it is bustling with young people from all over the world, who are mostly there on a backpack trip with their friends.

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Of course, no one leaves Ibiza without visiting at least one nightclub. This is what Ibiza is known for, and it is an experience that should not be missed. Typical parties last until dawn and most clubs offer a fantastic line up of headliners.

After three extraordinarily days in paradise Ibiza, it was time to come back to London and say my final goodbyes to everyone at the U.S. Embassy and this amazing city. My time in London has been amazing (every minute of it!) I am beyond thankful of the people, I have meet and for all the incredible projects that I had the opportunity to work on at the State Department. This journey has been an experience, which has molded me into a different person; a little bit more cultured, humble, and aware. This world is so much more than our bubble of perception, it is meant to be experienced first hand; to appreciate life, culture, diversity, and so much more. Traveling truly is the only thing we do that makes us richer.

Like I have said before, life is a constant journey, and I move on with little bit of each place in my heart, to cherish forever.

I hope all of you have enjoyed this journey as much as I have sharing it with all of you.. until our next adventure, Cheerio!

Ps. Next up is Berlin…Stay Tune 🙂

Photo Courtesy: Dhara Shah and Jessica Jimenez