Garlands of red, yellow and orange marigolds falling from their shoulders, the Bride and Groom rode side by side holding hands, serene in the happy madness of their wedding parade as their friends followed behind, celebrating the eve of their marriage in Rajastan. In front of their richly adorned horses, an Indian marching band dressed in American stars and stripes belted out ‘Tequila’ ‑ roughly in time. Through the dancing guests fifty street urchins romped on the heels of the best man ‑ an ungainly but capable ‘pied piper’. Faces beaming, they parted the sea of ox‑carts, honking rickshaws and ancient ambassador taxis before them. Every stairway was a stage and every crossroad a dance floor as the procession paused beside rambling temples and shrines, encircling first one dancing pair of guests then another. Through the twisting streets dress swirled and brilliant saris floated on the afternoon breeze. Above the throng, Udaipur spilled out of its windows and cheered.
Forty five of us had spent the previous two days catching up with old friends, exploring the fabulous city and stretching the tailors, cobblers and trinket sellers to their bargaining limits as we hunted for colourful Indian dress for the parade, wedding and feast. Though, as a brother of the groom pointed out, “Our invasion of the Udaipur markets is nothing compared to actually getting to the ‘temple of on time’. Collectively, we’ve been vaccinated 135 times, travelled more than 500,000 kilometres on over 180 international and domestic flights. Taken 384 taxi rides and about the amount of rickshaw rides. Spent a total of seven and a half months in varying standards of hotels and eaten almost 540 assorted curries that had, directly or indirectly, resulted in 108 relatively minor cases of Delhi Belly.”
In the fading light, the parade rounded the vast City Palace, its sixteenth century walls aglow in the burnt orange sunset, and Lake Pichola spread out towards distant desert ranges. On the far shore a broken temple also basked in the last rays, for a moment challenging the jewel at the lake’s centre. Suspended like some giant lotus, the Lake Palace floated before us, vibrant white walls, voluminous domes, archways fine and delicate leading to secluded balconies and cool alcoves under elegant towers, their blue shadows creating a powerful relief. Though almost half of the guests were staying in the island hotel, it would be another twenty-four hours before we all would make the lake crossing for the wedding celebrations.