A rather tired cliché title for what can only be described as a blog post I have much joy in posting onto the interweb. Are you sitting comfortably? I shall then begin.
I met Pav at Henley College, way back in September 1998. He was in my A Level Business Studies classes and was regularly late for class. I never knew that this friendship would last more than twelve years and that I would be invited to his wedding. I just want to say how happy I am for Pav and Emily and thank them for putting on such a wonderful party over the weekend. A particular shout out to Em’s proud parents for hosting the festivities on their land!
The powers that be, were conspiring against me on Friday. I would have taken the day off, but due to late change of plan, I could only take half day (my colleague Richard already had the day off). To add insult to the injury I had to be in the office to get various reports completed by midday. The dream of leaving at midday never happened, I had to complete several additional ad-hoc reports before I finally got out the door at 12:30pm.
Now, before you expect me to enter the standard, jumping in my car and driving down to Southampton line, I actually took the train. Let me explain. The Sikh ceremony was to take place in central Southampton at the Shri Guru Ravidass Ji Gurdwara. There was not going to be much parking and given my time constraints, I did not want to drive. Michelle was going to be driving down on Saturday, so this was the best mode of transport. I booked my tickets via The Train Line a few weeks ago. The direct single ticket option was £30 but buying two single journeys (Swindon to Reading and Reading to Southampton) cost just £16. I was finally taking the advice of Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis. As it was not raining, I opted to walk to the train station, happy in the knowledge that it was over an hour before my train would depart. Unlike my experience, the last time I was on foot and heading to the town centre in late May last year. I had also upgrade from my colleague’s hand drawn map to Google Maps / Google Navigation on my HTC Desire. Even with the aid of GPS satellite navigation, I found I took a rather different route to the one previously. Although of course on this occasion it did not really matter too much. My train was not until 13:41, I had time on my hands. Once I got to the station and made my way to platform three I stepped into the waiting area, to have some sandwiches before going outside and waiting for the train. It was a few minutes late, but this would not affect my onward journey. I was quite chilled out, after what had been a very stressful morning in the office. Fridays tend to be like this, but when I am usually working from home, being able to put the lid of the laptop down and switch off at 4:30pm and kick off the weekend immediately is a nice warm feeling.
I had reserved seats on both trains but in both cases, someone was sitting in my seat. This did not bother me and I just sat in the aisle seat next to these strangers. The journey to Reading was only forty minutes or so and then I found the platform for my next train and had about a twenty minute wait. I had the rest of my lunch, while sitting on a bench sitting next to an elderly couple. They soon realised they were on the wrong platform and headed away to the lift to go to platform nine. Once the train arrived, I got to my seat to find a guy asleep. I woke him up, only so he could move his bag and his feet from my seat. I was on the final leg of my train journey. It started to rain hard outside, as I made my way via Basingstoke and Winchester to Southampton Central. As I got the station and made my way to the main entrance, I could see it was not yet raining but very close. I called Dee but he did not answer, so I called Jav. Again, he did not answer but called me back a few minutes later. There was hardly any mobile coverage at The Marwell Hotel. They were both getting ready and about to head down in but would meet me at the gurdwara. No issue at all, I got out my trusty Android phone, pumped in the postcode (I had noted down three postcodes on a conventional 3M bright yellow post – gurdwara, hotel and venue). I headed off in the direction of the first wedding venue and it started to rain. Not necessarily that heavily but it was a down pour. I had no umbrella, and just a flimsy summer jacket for protection. I was going to get wet. I headed in the direction of the temple, checking my phone from time to time, to ensure I was heading the right way. I walked passed Unity Radio. I knew where I was, as I had visited Southampton back in April 2006 with my Uncle, who was over from India, visiting a friend of his, who lives in the city. I made my way towards the gurdwara and saw the orange flag on top of the building. I had arrived but I was soaked through!
I came through the entrance to find Emily, looking fabulous in her lengar but on the phone to someone, giving them directions. The rest of the family where here, also waiting in the entrance area. I came in and said hello and found out where I could get changed. I head through the hall, down to the back and the toilets. There was even a shower here, so I could have got changed. I quickly put on my sherwani and got out of my wet clothes. I was ready. As I headed back to the entrance, the rest of the gang had arrived, including Best Man – Tom Fox looking surreal in his purple sherwani.
As I said hello to everyone that had arrived, I was given the duty of handing out headscarfs to all the men that turned up. (A sense of deja vu anyone?) Rav made the comment that I would probably end up handing them out at my own wedding, even though it is a Sikh ceremony taking place within a gurdwara. Once everyone had arrived (Elliott was one of the late arrivals) it was time for the milni. This is the traditional meet and greet in Punjabi weddings. Pav’s Mum was in charge, calling people out and providing the gardlands and gifts. The priest also gave a blessing before the meeting or literally merger of the families took place. I tried my best to grab some photos but I was behind a group of the bride’s family and friends looking on and cheering on each meeting and greet!
Once the milni was over, we were requested by the groom’s family to enjoy some tea and snacks before the ceremony itself upstairs. You cannot beat a nice cup of sugary Indian tea (in a glass) plus some samosas and bafrees (Indian sweets). Everyone was being very British and not going over to the food, until they were pressed by the Khural clan. Do we sit down, was one of the questions I was asked? No, the chairs in the corner are for those to frail to stand I responded. We are expected to stand and eat before the ceremony. Around twenty minutes or so we all headed upstairs for the ceremony, when prompted by the groom’s father. Although some people, like Matt and Chris waited back to follow me and watch what I did as I entered the room. “You seem to know what you are doing, Teg, we are going to follow your lead”.
Upstairs we sat down and waited for everyone to arrive and sit down in their relative places before the arrival of the bride and ceremony to begin. I thought I would be able to sit down and just watch and take the odd photograph. Mother of the groom had a different idea and called on me to take photos throughout the ceremony. Some where good, the majority were rather bad, but I am including the cream of the crop for my blog post.
It was at this point in proceedings I bumped into Jav and Dee at the back of the prayer room. I asked if they had missed the ceremony, they had not but had arrived quite late. They had got lost and gone to the other two gurdwaras in the city. At one, Dee had asked, “Is there a wedding here today?” The response was, “No, there is a funeral…”. Jav had already scampered at this point, leaving Dee to apologise and make a fleeting exit. They had seen the majority of the ceremony but I had missed their arrival as I had been too busy at the front taking photos. There were a few more obligatory family photos to take, I heard Div shout out “Teg, Teg, photos!” After which it was time to head back to the hotel before getting to the venue and the party could begin.
I had already arranged to get a lift back with Mel, in her MG but it was tempting to jump in Dee’s Evo! In the end, as Mel needed a navigator and the boys were going to stop by and get some food, I opted to jump in the car with Mel. Even though Mel has now had this car for several years, it was my first ride in the silver beast. The irony is that Mel is to change the car imminently. A BMW Mini Clubman! It was raining, so Geoff had been the ultimate gentleman, holding a brolly for Mel until she was safely in the car. She then informed me that as she had to run the fans to clear the windscreen, the car was going to get very hot. I did not mind. It was good to be inside from the wet. We made our way through the rush hour traffic from the centre of Southampton onto the M4. From junction eleven, the moment we got on there was a great deal of traffic. I tried to call to let him know and advise them to take an alternative route. Foxy then called me, from a number I did not recognise, as we had lost Geoff’s black Seat Ibiza up ahead. Even though battery life on my Desire was scarce, we were using Google Maps to navigate to the hotel. We arrived eventually around 7:30pm.
The Marwell Hotel is sat beautifully in the Hampshire countryside, right next to the Marwell Zoology Park. I was impressed with the three star hotel and the rather pleasant tranquil surroundings. Each group of rooms are fed off the long corridor which heads to the back of the complex, all the way to the end of the park. I was in Room 404 and after dumping my stuff and having a quick clean, it was back to reception to find out what the plan was. Dee and Jav had arrived at this point, so I called them to find out their room number. I headed over to their room to find them both eating. I was not sure why as food was to be provided at the venue, but perhaps they both had a case of the munchies. Jav put some music from his iPhone playing on his portable Bose speaker system. It was at this point Dee decided to show me the surprises he had brought with him for the evening. I was surprised, but should not have been as this is Deepak we are talking about. We got ourselves sorted, or rather Dee and Jav did and we headed to reception. There had been long debate as to whether Dee should wear jeans with his sherwani or not. In the end, he opted to go for the mixed casual look with the faded grey jeans. You can be the judge from later photos, if you felt it worked. We headed to reception to be greated by Vicky, who called several taxi firms for us. No one was available, it was a Friday night and it was going to be costly to get a car to come from Winchester, the closest town to take us what is just a ten minute journey up the road. In the end, and out of sheer kindness, Vicky gave us a lift in her black Vauxhall Corsa down to the farm. We were very grateful, as otherwise we would have been waiting over thirty minutes for a cab and had to pay for the priviledge of having a car come all the way from Winchester.
Just as we walked in the semi-darkness to the marquee, Pav had come outside to call me. The time was 20:48. I ignored the call, as he had spotted us by now and shouted out “Terry!!!!”. The evening festivities had begun!