It’s not a typical Trini Indian Wedding unless these 9 things happen

It's not a typical Indian wedding unless these 9 things happen If you’re ever in Trinidad and Tobago, don’t miss the bacchanal of a typical Trini Indian (usually Hindu) wedding. Here are 9 things that may happen while you’re there.

1. The wedding lasts a long time.

Unlike traditional Western-style weddings that wrap up in one day, Hindu weddings in Trinidad and Tobago are marathon affairs. The wedding ceremony will be long and seem never ending so bring something to keep you busy, especially during the frequent wardrobe changes of the blushing bride or dulahin.

2. Guests, please dress to kill.

Ladies, now is your time to shine. Literally. Go bold with blinding, sequined shalwars, gharasas, and saris that you can pick up at any Indian expo that dot the big island. Guys, wear whatever you want.

3. Maticoor night is when ladies “get away.”

If you’re invited to Maticoor night on the Friday before the wedding ceremony, prepare for some raunchy action. On Ladies Night, mommies, aunties, and grannies can get very creative with baigan (eggplant) to show the bride what she can expect on her wedding night.

4. The groom arrives in style.

On the day of the official wedding ceremony (usually a Sunday), the groom or dulaha will arrive at the bride’s house in style, in a souped-up Benz, Audi, or traditional bull cart garlanded in marigold flowers, accompanied by a banging entourage that includes a music truck and full tassa band.

5. The plates are biodegradable.

At the wedding meal, take a freshly washed banana leaf, find a seat at the table, and wait to be served handfuls of silky paratha roti,  huge dollops of rice, dhal, vegetable curries, even dessert (sweet rice) on any free space on your leaf-plate. Go easy on the mother-in-law. This homemade pepper/chili sauce can be lethal. When you’re done, fold your leaf and throw away in the bin/bag provided. Now isn’t that easy and environmentally friendly?

6. There’s always tassa.

Learn how to throw waist to the beat of tassa. Don’t worry, you’ll hear the boom and crashing cymbals from a mile away. If you’re young, single, and female, you will be pulled on the dance floor and you will be expected to rotate your hips and wine down to the ground to the throbbing drum beat.

7. The rest of the playlist is nothing short of eclectic.

The hired music truck will blast Bollywood songs, chutney, dancehall, soca, and 80s rock until the wee hours of the morning. It will be more bass than song so that everything vibrates, even your teeth. Car alarms will go off nonstop. The rest of the evening will be punctuated by the DJ shouting, “Wheel!” P.S. if you weren’t invited to the wedding and you call the police to shut off the music on a Sunday night at 10pm, the DJ will say, “I is a registered DJ and I playing until 1am!”

8. Drinks are stored in car trunks.

If it’s a strict Hindu wedding, that means no alcohol on the premises. However, leave it to Trinis to find a loophole. If you see a group of men standing around the back of someone’s car parked right in front of the bride or groom’s house, you know they’re knocking back Forres Park or Johnny Walker from styrofoam cups. Drunkies may end up dancing in the middle of the road or fighting in a drain.

9. It ends in (happy?) tears.

When it’s time for the bride to leave her family, expect to see her mother clutching her dramatically and bawling her eyes out while the dulahin fights back tears and tries not to smudge her fahbulous eye makeup.

Photos: © Live Lyfe Photography

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11 insider tips to survive the Taj Mahal

Because many Trinis at home and abroad claim Indian roots, India is a popular destination. For many, it’s a dream to visit the “motherland,” the home of ancestors who came to the Caribbean to work on sugarcane fields as indentured laborers. The Taj Mahal is usually on their bucket list.

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Commissioned in 1632 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to memorialize the death of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj is now a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the seven new Wonders of the World. Although the white marble mausoleum, the mirror-image mosques, and manicured grounds are stunning, here are some insider tips to help you better enjoy the Taj Mahal.

1. Go at sunrise or at night.

The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, about 200 miles from Delhi. Agra is an old, chaotic, and expensive city and it’s not worth staying here overnight. Instead, take a day trip from Delhi. If you can get there for sunrise, even better: fewer crowds, better views. The gates open at 6:00 and close at 19:00. The Taj is also open for night viewing on the day of a full moon as well as two days before and after the full moon. P.S. The attraction closes on Fridays and during Ramadan when the complex opens for Muslim worship.

2. How to get there.

The drive along the privately-owned, 165 kilometer-long Yamuna Expressway from Delhi will be smooth but long. The six-lane tolled highway of “golden miles” leads straight to Agra so take your camera, some tunes, or a book to help pass the time. You will stop for breakfast. Don’t dawdle. The longer you stay, the more tourists will pile into the restaurant. Remember to carry a small packet of tissues or toilet paper to the bathroom. Always.

3. You don’t always need a guide.

You don’t need to hire a guide but you can if you really want to. At any of the four gates to the Taj Mahal, you will be harassed by touts and vendors who will push all kinds of souvenirs in your face: snow globes, flutes, postcards, and key chains. Don’t engage. Just keep walking.

4. Dress for the weather.

When I visited during the off-peak season and post-monsoon, it was still unbearably hot and humid. Dress in loose, cotton clothes, wear sunglasses, and ration your water supply. A bandanna or handkerchief will come in handy to mop the sweat off your brow.

5. How to get in.

For the tourist admission price, you get a souvenir bag, small bottle of water, and some disposable shoe covers. Before you enter the compound, you will have to undergo a routine security check. There are separate lines for men and women. The guards will check your bags for lighters, sharp objects, flammable stuff, food, mints, books, newspapers etc. Water in transparent bottles, cameras, mobile phones, and small purses are allowed. However, you can’t enter with a big bag or tripod. Also, you cannot take public transportation straight to the mausoleum. Instead, you can walk from the visitor parking lot or use the electric bus or golf carts provided by the visitor center.

6. How to survive the photogs.

When you enter the grounds, ignore the “photographers” with Nikons around their necks. They make all the tourists pose for the same awkward shot. For example, they will take a picture of you appearing to touch the tip of the Taj Mahal’s onion dome and will do the same for everyone else. Boring!

7. Keep calm.

Don’t get angry with the crowds. Although I visited during the off-peak season, it was still swarming with visitors, especially locals. Get used to hearing the security guards blow their whistles sharply when they want people to clear off or move along. Walk away from the stereotypical spots to get different angles. Or, surrender to the crowds and inject local flavor into your pictures. After all, good travel photography should reflect the reality rather than the fantasy of a place.

8.  Don’t get into a debate about marble.

Although it was brought in from Makrana, Rajasthan, the local government calls it Agra marble. P.S. Real marble is translucent and allows light to shine through.

9. Use those shoe covers (you paid for them!)

Slip those shoe covers over your shoes before entering the mausoleum. Why go through all that trouble? Let me tell you why. When I was leaving the tomb, I saw two men arguing because one of them had stolen the other person’s shoes. Who wants to deal with that hassle? After you leave the building, you can just throw the shoe covers away.

10. You are not allowed to take photos inside the main building.

Inside the monument, you will see marble tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife. These are empty. The bodies are buried at a much lower level, away from the public gaze.

11. Just do the Taj Mahal.

If you choose to hire a local guide, don’t mindlessly agree to go everywhere he recommends. For example, he may want to take you to a jewelry shop to show you the star of India or to a workshop to show you Agra marble. Don’t feel pressured to buy since the guide usually has an arrangement with the business owners to receive a commission on anything you purchase.

Photos: © Live Lyfe Photography

Did I miss anything? If you’d like to share your own Taj Mahal tips, feel free to add them in the comment box below!

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11 insider tips to survive the Taj Mahal