Jitendra and Lucie had already reserved a room for us in Kanpur just a few doors down from their wedding venue. We were the first international guests to arrive (we were keen ok?!) and when we called Jitendra from Lucknow he eagerly explained that he would meet us at the hotel the next day (he also told us the maximum amount it should cost us for a rickshaw ride from the bus station to the hotel... we paid twice that).
Kanpur is Uttar Pradesh state's largest city, it has a population of roughly 6 million people and is nestled on the banks of the holy Ganga river. Kanpur was once a major British military station and was the site of an important siege during the 1857 Rebellion against British rule. Today Kanpur is a large industrial city and consequently quite polluted. Most trains heading west to Delhi pass through Kanpur and there is very little respite from the railway, rickshaw and pedestrian traffic that jams up the city's streets. Unlike its neighbour Lucknow's rich Mughal history there are few major draws for tourists. One of Jitendra's first words to us upon arrival were: "Welcome to Kanpur. India's ugliest city!".
I met Jitendra in February 2005. He was an exchange student from India coming to study under my supervisor in Montreal. Due to visa problems he was arriving a month into the winter semester and my supervisor had given me the task of making sure he got settled in and got all his paperwork filled out etc... I still remember him holding tightly onto my arm as we shuffled down the icy streets of Montreal with him exclaiming "be careful Emlee I don't have my health insurance yet!". When he announced his engagement to the beautiful Lucie 4 years later (a French exchange student) we promised that we would be at the wedding. The four of us were 10 days early for the wedding, but there was lots to do, as the only foreign baraatis (invitees on the groom's side), we would have to make Jitendra proud.
Jitendra's sister Jyoti had already reserved jewelry and clothing for Antonia and I, but the men had a multitude of different outfits that had to be made for them. Within 2 hours of arriving in Kanpur, Jitendra had already had already whisked James and Yann to the tailor's. Our only instructions regarding apparel was that "we do what's traditional". Admittedly, the "Indian suits" that Jitendra had been talking about, were not exactly what we expected, but we made sure that James and Yann had the full 3-piece suits and we even got to customize the embroidery and beading. Yann almost chose the eggplant colour, but I convinced him to get the navy blue so that he could wear it in Canada!? After placing the rush order on the suits, there was another fitting, this time for the "pyjama kurtas", these are long cotton tunics and matching baggy pants. James and Yann picked out matching ones with flowery embroidery (selected by Antonia and I). Now, with a little bit of experience, Yann and James had started becoming selective. The process of picking the shade of off-white and the weave of cotton was painfully slow. Antonia and I had to be brought in to pick the embroidery. Jitendra left us with a shopping list of accessories and outfits that had to be purchased in the next few days for various ceremonies. Dress shoes, pointy shoes, dress pants, dress shirts, sandals, jewelry, bangles... That same evening we would begin our shopping. The fun was just beginning.
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