My big fat Indian wedding

2016-09-25 06:06
Tharuna Hiralal (27) adorned with henna on her hands and feet ahead of her wedding to Zaheer on Heritage Day. (Harsheen Patel)

Tharuna Hiralal (27) adorned with henna on her hands and feet ahead of her wedding to Zaheer on Heritage Day. (Harsheen Patel)

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Instead of tucking into some “chop and dop” on National Braai Day, as is usually the case, yesterday I indulged in scrumptious mutton biryani and sweetmeats, or “mithai”, as I celebrated the wedding of my cousin-sister, Tharuna, to her beau of 14 years, Zaheer.

The beautiful Muslim wedding took place in Pietermaritzburg, to where my family and I made the five-hour drive from Johannesburg so that we could partake in the wedding festivities and celebrations.

Much like traditional African weddings, Indian weddings are usually a three-day affair, involving several outfit changes for each guest and an ample supply of food.

If you are watching your figure, you can be guaranteed of temptations lurking around every corner, from burfee, vade, dhal roti and puri to the ever-so-rich soji halwa dish.

Moving away from the norm of this year’s Heritage Day celebration was a treat, because I got to spend it with family and loved ones, whom I would ordinarily only see during the December holidays.

This year marks the 156th anniversary of the indentured Indian labourers entering South Africa.

South Africans of Indian origin continue to comprise the world’s largest non-immigrant Indian population outside of India.

Since the arrival of my forefathers, Indians have learnt to thrive in a country that was both foreign in language, landscape and love.

Yet, this weekend, somehow, through the wonders of evolution and adaptability, 156 years on, traditions which have travelled from the distant shores of India were still celebrated on our rich African soil.

Love was all that was felt as warm hugs of embrace were exchanged to mark the uniting of Hindu and Muslim families.

This is the essence of what Heritage Day really means to me.

Today, as the world becomes more global and ideologies travel, South Africans can be found scattered across every continent.

Despite this hunger for growth and travel, one thing can always be heard by returning expats – we live in the best country in the world!

This year has been a tumultuous one for us to say the least.

Racism has been at the top of our headlines, #FeesMustFall is an ongoing plight that is faced by all students and activists nationally, and economic constraints are changing the way South Africans dig into their wallets.

What makes Heritage Day so special to me is that, as we are fast approaching the end of year, we need days like this more than ever to remind us of our importance during tough times.

To remind us of how we as South Africans can rally together, despite our cultural backgrounds, to call upon a new culture of positivity and togetherness.

It is a day where friends and families can get together, as a nation, and let off some steam through good food, refreshing drinks and, as I experienced this weekend, an ample supply of sugary sweetmeats.

Despite the current climate of instability that has fallen over the country like a blanket of clouds, it is imperative for me to acknowledge the good that still exists.

This weekend, my cousin stood on stage as she waited for her one true love as they took their first steps into marriage.

On day one of her pre-wedding rituals, she was adorned with henna, or “mehndi”, on her hands and feet, to beautify her body.

The next day, she was lathered with a thick turmeric paste, or hurdhee, which would ensure that her wedding glow would be impeccable.

Rituals that span thousands of years were still observed this weekend, acknowledging our Indian heritage.

This weekend, a big fat Indian wedding took place as the African sun set and, yes, the mutton biryani was flawless.

Read more on:    heritage day  |  weddings

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