Hi again! It's been quite a hiatus on my blog. But I have been very hard at work in the last 10 months at Kelvin Luffs Photography. For the very first time on my blog, I will include pictures taken from my mobile phone to depict the behind-the-scene situations I had encountered during the trip. This post will totally be different from the previous posts because it will include my own personal opinion, views and thoughts during and post-assignment.
So back in December 2015, I flew for the first time into India, New Delhi and my assignment was to shoot a traditional Sikh wedding in the city of Chandigarh, further north of New Delhi.
Prior to making this trip, I encountered people who were really negative about the county of India. They were questioning, why why why? Why India? Some comments I received were; India is dirty; India is unsafe; there's nothing in India; you are going to get sick the day you arrive, etc. When I accepted this assignment, I knew it was time to debunk any kinds of stereotypes that people have tried to impress upon me. As a professional photographer, it is my duty to go anywhere the job takes me. And I wanted to see and experience how the India was like.
- Arrival to New Delhi and onwards journey to Chandigarh
After 5 hours 40 minutes in the air, I finally touched down at New Delhi's Indira Ghandi International Airport. Quite honestly, the staff at the airport were not very welcoming. It had taken 1.5 hours just to clear customs and I couldn't help but feel it was parallel to some of the negative feedbacks I had gotten earlier. Apparently many tourist were caught up with e-visas and visa-on-arrival issues. So lesson here - always have your visa done at the Indian Embassy in your own country before the flight into India to avoid such problems.
The bride and groom were expecting guests on the same flight as I was and had arranged for taxis to drive us into Chandigarh. The estimated time from New Delhi to Chandigarh was about 4 hours 30 minutes (NOT), all in, we took a 7 plus hours drive to get from New Delhi to Chandigarh.
Having hit the 299km/h mark on my Suzuki Hayabusa on many occasions in the last 11 years of riding, the experience I got while in this taxi was one of the most harrowing I have ever experienced in my life.
Could you imagine a fully-loaded 7-seater vehicle roaring down what seems to be a highway at 160-180km/h with the driver seemingly having a blatant disregard for the safety of anyone, let alone the passengers in his vehicle? Then as the sky turned dark, the driver shockingly continued speeding down the unlit highway at 160km/h on the fastest moving lane, only to come to a sudden emergency stop - because a COW was crossing the highway! Whew, I have never felt more relieved in my life reaching my destination in one piece.
- Chandigarh and Sector 17 Shopping
Unlike the actual day weddings I cover in Singapore which are usually done in a day or in exceptional cases, two days, a traditional Sikh wedding can take up to four days long! That's four full days of formalities and parties leading up to the traditional wedding day and wedding reception.
As with all the photographic assignments, I do make it a habit to arrive early (1-2 hours earlier locally) and in this instance, I arrived three days ahead of the first scheduled event. This is to ensure that all my equipments are in working order, and for me to locate shops selling camera equipments in case any of my equipments were damaged en-route or stolen (which I have personally experienced back in 2013) needing replacement. Unfortunately there aren't any rental service in that part of India so buying would be the next best alternative should I need to.
In any part of my overseas assignments, I think the part I love most is getting to know people. Getting to know people surely has its perks - they share with you information which may take you to places to meet any needs you may have (for me, they are camera shops and tailors). Loving the jacket which was tailored to my liking and costing only SGD$70.
- Pre-Wedding Prayers & Party
Prayers before the actual wedding is actually rather common across most cultures. Whilst each differs in their own ways, the goal is the same - that is to give blessings to the wedding couple. Here in the next few photos, you'll be able to see Akhand Paath - the reading of the entire Guru Granth Sahib. You will also be able to see that the home (of the groom's parents) where the Akhand Paath was hosted had been cleared of furniture, and clean white sheets spread on the floor with fresh flowers placed beside the Guru Granth Sahib.
At the conclusion of the prayers in the groom's house, it was time for the family members, relatives and guests to dance along with the couple to the Gurudwara (Temple) to collect water. So what happens here is that a special jug called the Gharoli is used to collect the water from the temple for the groom to bathe in later on.
Did I mention that a Sikh Wedding is all about prayers and... PARTIES? Yes, it was literally non-stop partying and boozing and here are some pictures from one of the many parties leading up to the wedding.
- Haldi Ceremony & Mehendi Party
Some facts about the Haldi Ceremony which I learnt while I was covering the event - Haldi ceremony is basically an act of smearing turmeric paste onto the bride and groom's body and the significance to this ritual is really to ward off evil spirits that may affect the union of the groom and his bride.
Apart from warding off evil spirits, the paste serves as a cleanser for the body and soul and signifies the bride's preparation to be welcomed into adult married life.
This Haldi ceremony was definitely a mood lifter because it's when the bride can have some fun amidst all the tension and chaos of planning her wedding. Here, friends and family of the bride (including me) can take part in it and apply the haldi paste on the bride.
Mehendi Party or better known as Mehendi Ki Raat is when the gorgeous bride-to-be adorns her hands and feet with different designs made out of henna. The entire ceremony is one that's filled with endless fun and laughter as every family member and close friends of the bride and the groom can have the mehendi done on themselves too.
Even I had the privilege of getting a small mehendi done on me by the groom himself. Haha.
I hope you are still following by now. It will be easier if I break this article up into a 4 parts for your easy reading. For now, do enjoy the above photos and stay tuned for Part 2 of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India!