The month(s) of many travels is finally at an end as I’ve just returned from a wedding in Chicago, reconnecting with several college friends while one of them got married. Ajay was a year behind the rest of us, and showed up at Case in the Fall of 1995 as a somewhat awkward, but incredibly good natured, newcomer to the Hitchcock dormitory. Nearly twenty years later he’s an incredibly successful software developer living in Trump Tower in Chicago, and he threw a wedding that filled the Sheraton Grand Hotel’s ballroom with 400-500 guests.
I flew out Thursday night, worked from a hotel next to O’Hare on Friday, and then traveled downtown to meet my old friend Kalyan before we headed over to Ajay’s Mehendi party. The invitation said 6:30, but we were the first to arrive when we showed up just beore 7:00, and the caterer looked annoyed as he told us the party didn’t start until 7:30. Other guests eventually arrived, including Ajay, and we got a few minutes to catch up with him before some traditional ceremony began that involved a number of women rubbing herbs all over the groom. When it became clear that Kalyan and I weren’t required to rub herbs on our friend we snuck out and returned to the hotel to watch the Indians beat the Cubs in game two of the World Series (side note: Indians & Cavs in the SAME YEAR??? Madness!). Later that night our friends Carrie and Dan arrived, and the hotel bar was shutting down when we finally retired to bed.
The next morning we all poured into the streets at 10AM to watch another traditional Indian ceremony as a hype man fired up the hundreds of guests, a drummer banged away on his instrument, and Ajay paraded through the streets on a white horse; if I had any doubts as to whether this wedding would be like others that I had attended, they were quickly disspelled. From the streets we moved into a hotel ballroom for a nearly three hour long ceremony in Hindi and Sanskrit that involved singing, chanting, fire, scarves, mango lassi, and a bunch of other bits that I didn’t understand, before it finally completed and we moved to another room for lunch.
When lunch ended we had four hours until the evening reception, so Carrie and I wandered off to Millenium Park to see the Bean, after which I made a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago to re-enact scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I got back to the hotel with enough time remaining for a quick nap, then it was off to the evening reception / talent show.
This reception was far larger than anything I’d been to before, and there were no less than five dance numbers, four skits, two MCs, and six speeches before all was said and done. During his speech, Ajay noted ironically that when he purchased a huge block of rooms to house his guests he wasn’t too worried when the Sheraton added a clause indicating room prices would be hiked if the Cubs made the World Series – what were the odds, right? – and that he was probably the only one in Chicago cursing when they won the National League Championship (the rest of us were checking our phones throughout the reception – Indians victory!) The music was still blaring after midnight when we finally hugged the bride and groom and wandered home to sleep.
As always happens with these reunions, it ended too quickly, with Carrie leaving before sunrise, and Dan heading off just after breakfast. Kalyan and I consumed a shocking amount of Chicago-style pizza before we had to part ways, although there is some hope that the group may be able to reunite again in the near future.