Love in a Far Off Place

Story by Holly Ruppel

When asked about writing this story, I was a bit perplexed about how to approach it. Over the last few years, I’ve so much enjoyed helping tell the wedding stories of other couples, but I’d never considered how I might tell my own. But I suppose with any story, it’s best to start at the beginning.  

I met my husband, Anmol Sidhu, in April 2009, when I was feeling unlucky in love. I’d gone through a breakup a few months prior, and while I was a bit skeptical about starting a new relationship, I believe in love and people, and I was willing to try again. Besides, we connected immediately. But he lived in Columbus, Ohio, where he was a student at The Ohio State University, and I lived in Arkansas, so we began the arduous undertaking that is long distance dating.

We always knew we would marry someday, but we were happy for the time making road trips and taking flights back and forth between Arkansas and Ohio.

The proposal came in September 2011, and was anything but romantic. Anmol had planned to surprise me and pop the question at a Columbus observatory under a blanket of twinkling stars, but life was hectic, as sometimes life proves to be, and the ring was burning a hole in his pocket, so he asked me in the kitchen of his apartment when I was tired, disheveled and not feeling well. None of that mattered, of course, and I happily said yes.

While I wasn’t the sort of little girl who dreamed of my wedding day, I knew that I wanted it to be eclectic and non- traditional, and that I didn’t want to wear a white dress. We also wanted to have the wedding in India, Anmol’s native country, and we wanted to incorporate Punjabi traditions (Anmol’s family is from the state of Punjab.) So, at least for me and our American friends and family, the wedding would be unique.

Though we had a vision for the ceremony and reception, planning the wedding was difficult from 8,000 miles away, so we decided to wait until we landed in Delhi to complete most tasks. Many people worked hard to bring everything together, but we were lucky in that so many elements fell into place in about two weeks.

We found our wedding clothes and put together many small details in only a few days, and Anmol took care of booking a lot of the vendors, including the DJ, a team of Bhangra dancers (traditional Punjabi folk dancers) and our florist. His parents, Gobinder and Nishan, had thankfully, already arranged for a caterer, so that was one less detail to sort.

After a whirlwind few days in Delhi, we returned to Anmol’s family’s home in Rajasthan. But less than a week later, we made another trip to the capital city to pick up our friends Mindy, Ron and Megan Bixel, and our photographers- turned-friends, Kinsey and Josh Mhire, an amazing young husband-wife team from Springfield, Mo. A couple days later, our friends Sandra and Phil Metzler, and their daughter Rachel arrived, too.

For us, one of the most exciting things ― and the greatest honor ― was that our friends and family from the United States traveled to India to witness our wedding ceremony and just hang out and travel with us. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my entire life.

It was particularly special that my mom, Aleta, who had never flown anywhere, and had never been outside the country, boarded a plane and endured a 14-hour flight to India. i maybe should not write “endure,” since she enjoyed every moment and is already daydreaming about her next trip overseas. I’m so proud of her for stepping outside of the box and going on an adventure.

The few days leading up to the wedding events are a bit of a blur, since everything happened so quickly, but there was lots of laughter, love and masala chai (hot, milky spiced tea). We couldn’t ask for more, and we’re grateful to our friends and family (old and new) for their help, love and support.

In an Indian wedding, there are many traditions and rituals — some we embraced, others we passed over. The day before the wedding, there was mehendi, a ceremony in which the bride’s arms and feet are covered in intricate henna tattoos. This ceremony took place on the lawn, and was one of my favorite events. All of our close friends and relatives came, and the ladies were dressed in the most dazzling range of colors, like dozens of pretty butterflies, flitting around and lighting on flowers.

That night, there was a ceremony called haldi, in which Anmol’s female relatives covered his face hands and feet with turmeric and rose water paste. Afterward, we had sangeet, which traditionally, is a party celebrated by the bride’s and groom’s families separately, but in modern times, is sometimes a blend of both families. Our entire wedding was a harmonious merging of East and West, of modern and traditional, and this party was no exception. It was a lively, spirited evening of dancing, food and drink, and traditional Punjabi folk music.

On the morning of the wedding, I was excited, nervous and eager to see Anmol. We had decided to have a traditional Sikh marriage ceremony, called Anand Karaj, which means “Blissful Union”, and as I made my way to the ceremony site, I was filled with an array of happy emotions that perfectly sum up that moniker. Lots of hugs and well wishes, and more dancing and music followed our ceremony.

After the wedding, our group had many more adventures. We attended a family member’s wedding, where the Americans danced the night away and became the talk of the town. We caravanned (15 people in three vehicles) to a nearby archeological dig site, toured several forts, and made the long journey from the house to Jaisalmer and rode camels into the Thar Desert to watch the sun rise over the rolling dunes. We created memories to last a lifetime.

Whether their weddings take place in Arkansas, India or some other far flung destination, I’m certain many brides and grooms harbor regrets about their big day. I have two.

The first is that it ended. I’m sure many couples feel that way, but it’s difficult not to when you have such a wonderful time.

The second is that my brother, Nathan, and my best friend, Jacina Prater, and her family (who are like my family, too) were unable to make it to India for the wedding. I missed them sorely, but they were all with me in spirit. I’m consoled by that, and the fact that we plan to have a stateside celebration soon. st Main, Downtown Russellville (479) 968-3117

 

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