Postcard: a very sari business

Cows meandering across the busy highway from Jaipur to Delhi in India's north are not the strangest sight on this hazardous stretch of road. That particular honour goes to the circuses. Or at least what we think are circuses dotting the desolate countryside.

Huge tents, twinkling with fairy lights play host to hundreds of vibrantly dressed men and women coming to see the show. Peacocks, horses, even the odd elephant parade among the festivities.

If we're lucky we zoom past just as the big tops let off their finale fireworks.

Sadly, for my inner five-year-old, it turns out these are no circuses. They're big, fat Indian wedding parties.

Come October every year, when the monsoon rains have disappeared and the summer heat has melted away, the non-stop nuptials of wedding season begin. The parties continue through until March and my sister and I have been invited to attend one. The groom, a friend of hers. Me, the plus one.

In a land where there is no such thing as too much bling or colour, pressure is high when it comes to frocking up for a wedding. Do we dare attempt all eight metres of the notoriously difficult-to-wear sari? We decide yes - but buying one proved our first challenge.

Even for locals, Delhi's sari markets can be overwhelming at the best of times. Once we fight the stampede of people, rickshaws and cows cramming down the dusty laneway, we dive off into one of the many embellished sari stores.

Before we can even say "Namaste", the shopkeeper unravels dozens of perfectly folded saris and begins to throw the colourful sheets of silk to present his most elaborate designs. Mountains of orange, pink and blue pile up before us while Indian women affectionately point and giggle at the display.

If you are terrible at making the most trivial decisions, like myself, buying a sari may compromise your sanity. Much like a mother's approach to ripping off a Band-Aid - make it quick. In haste I decide on a peach number with green and purple trimmings.

OK, phew. Now that's done we need a choli. A what? Bought separately from the sari, a choli is a little midriff blouse you wear underneath, the groom explains. We head to Delhi's go-to strip for choli tailors where mirrored bustiers that would be more at home in Madonna's wardrobe hang outside tiny hole-in-the-wall shopfronts.

The inbuilt bra in the purple and gold design I try on is way too big, but try explaining that with hand gestures.

Sari, check. Choli, check. The final touch - a bedazzled bindi to decorate my otherwise not-bling-enough forehead. Several concealed safety pins later and we fasten our saris for the big day.

But when we arrive at the groom's home en route to the wedding we are tut-tutted away by his immaculately dressed mother to have our below-par saris revamped to Bollywood standards. Only a few effortless tucks and voila! Off to the circus we go.

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