Vellambans* do the Veirdest Things

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Via Mutineer Maisnon’s status message, an…um…interesting celebrity wedding:

Say Anything star Ione Skye and Australian singer-songwriter Ben Lee chose an exotic location and traditional garb for their Hindu wedding in India, captured in this photo for PEOPLE.
About 50 of the couple’s friends and family members, including Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother, witnessed the Dec. 29 ceremony in a village on the Bay of Bengal. [People]

Say Anything? How ’bout say WHAT?

My brain is short-circuiting with everything this story conjures for me: Lloyd Dobbler’s love, Chennai/Madras, Depeche Mode’s “Stripped”, Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”, Claire Danes so-called ex-, possible religious/cultural appropriation, an ex-Beastie Boy-wife…yowza.

To be fair, it wasn’t an entirely random choice; Ben Lee’s spiritual advisor is Indian, and the love guru did preside over the ceremony. That doesn’t make it any less jarring to see on People magazine’s website, though.

The two-hour ceremony was presided over by Lee’s spiritual guru, Sakthi Narayani Amma. Following the ceremony, a reception was held at a nearby guest house with Lee’s friends the Kahn Brothers performing as the wedding band. Lee, 30, and Skye, 37, then gathered the entire wedding party to visit an orphanage and performed for the children there.
The couple plan another ceremony in Los Angeles to legalize their union, since the Indian nuptials were not recognized at home in California.
“We have to go to City Hall tomorrow, and I’m mildly resentful about it,” Lee told the newspaper. “You go through a huge experience on an emotional and spiritual level, then you have to go and do the paperwork. [different People link]

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t everyone have to go to City Hall, to get a marriage license? And is this ceremony all right with all of you? In my entirely unscientific survey of two of you, one of you was offended and the other wasn’t– but only because “it’s not that surprising”. Things that make you go “hmmm“…

::

*Ask a Malayalee. Or a Tamilian. Hey, if I had to spend four years of undergrad and two years of grad school asking what dozens of Punjabi or Hindi words meant, you can learn something more than “kundi“. ;)

85 thoughts on “Vellambans* do the Veirdest Things

  1. In India if you are not a citizen, you can’t get a license or registered, not even if 1 of the spouses is one. So it is tiresome/annoying to have religious ceremony and then come and have to get another license/register specially in another country. (That’s what happened to me :( . I reckon that is what he was getting at.

    Not offended: they have a hindu guru, they find meaning in the hindu wedding ceremony (more than some hindus do) so personally don’t see the need to be offended.

    Some Desi folks get married in Vegas without the sarees and kurtas… I doubt Americans care or are offended.

    Aussies do find something interesting about hindu weddings. At my wedding in madras, I had 12 australians in the audience who were guests of my husbands uncle who is the head of one of the non-profits where they were volunteering at, and were interested in witnessing a hindu wedding. They looked like that had much more fun than we did at certain parts of the ceremony :( , but they were courteous and interested, and we were glad to be their opportunity to experience how a different culture performs a marriage custom.

  2. Hindu wedding? What’s that? Different Communities have different cerimonies (right down to the garb). Or was it just another way of saying “a bollywood wedding”

  3. 1 · rob said

    Are these people real celebrities?

    I guess I’m betraying my age when I say that to me, one of them is. ;) “Say Anything” was HUGE when I was a freshman/sophomore in high school. Nothing seemed more romantic than a guy holding a boombox above his head, playing Peter Gabriel’s best song ever. Wow, I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since Lloyd Dobbler went after the perfect girl. Maybe the passage of two decades does render her B-list.

  4. Say Anything” was HUGE when I was in high school. Nothing seemed more romantic than a guy holding a boombox above his head, playing Peter Gabriel’s best song ever.

    Sure, I kinda remember that myself; I just don’t connect it to these two newlyweds! My bad, probably. . . .

  5. ooo in response to my own question, I want to say WOW, that is seriously wack, but instead I’ll be PC and say..how interesting.

  6. Nothing seemed more romantic than a guy holding a boombox above his head, playing Peter Gabriel’s best song ever.

    wow! he tried to woo a chick with “shock the monkey”?? Now, that takes balls.

  7. wow. bold, underline, AND a …pause for effect

    :)

    i’m just a clueless dbd, though. must be some cultural ref i’m missing…

  8. 13 · kd said

    i’m just a clueless dbd, though. must be some cultural ref i’m missing…

    Awww, no. :) I just love the style and design of letters. Though interestingly enough, the two people who responded to my instant survey were ABDs.

  9. Didn’t Ben Lee date Claire Danes for along time unless I’m mistaken. And did he ever have a hit single, cause to be honest I don’t know the name of any of his songs.

  10. 15 · Suki Dillon said

    Didn’t Ben Lee date Claire Danes for along time unless I’m mistaken.

    You are not mistaken. :) He totally did. For six years, I think.

    And did he ever have a hit single, cause to be honest I don’t know the name of any of his songs.

    I don’t know the name of any, either.

  11. More about the bride:

    Skye has had a relationship with Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis. Her first husband, Adam Horovitz, is a member of the Beastie Boys. In 1999, she had a romance with model Jenny Shimizu.[3] She had a daughter, Kate Netto, in 2001 with designer David Netto, although they did not marry. In 2008, she became engaged to musician Ben Lee.[4]On December 29, 2008, Skye and Lee were married in a traditional Hindu ceremony in India. [wiki]

    They’re actually both Jewish, from what I’ve read (which, admittedly, isn’t much, when it comes to them).

  12. I was just reading Ben Lee wilkipedia page and it seems like he used his friendship with bands like Sonic Youth and The Beastie Boys to get his foot in the door. Lee was one of those artists that was very popular among the elite alt-rock journalist crowd and got ton of press in magazines like Rolling Stone, Spin and other alt-rock magazines in the mid to late 90′s, yet never sold any records. Which I think might be one of the reasons he had several of his songs for use in commericals in the last few years.

    I wonder if most these artists like Lee who had critical but not commerical success would switch places with bands like Creed and Nickelback.

  13. Ok, so two B-list celebrities get married wearing Indian clothes in a village in India and this is relevant to this blog how?

  14. *Ask a Malayalee. Or a Tamilian. since we’re exchanging knowLedge, it would be something closer to “vellakaran” in tamil. and btw, this does look like a south indian wedding – anybody know exactly where they got married?

  15. Vellamban = Mallu for whitey. Abhi’s post was transparent, but on this post, I take offense on behalf of those in the upcoming majority minority – clearly, because they are assimilating our practices just to be cool – that cannot understand brownie languages.

  16. I like that first pic with the two well fed brahmin priests blessing the handsome white couple.

    Loved the mango leaves and the blue background. As for the foreground, since we are talking in south indian, I’ll just say even the “velakaris” dress better than the bride.

  17. I don’t see anything offensive about it. After all there are plenty of Indians who come to the US and get married the gora style, or should I say have a church wedding. Personally I think whatever makes the couple is fine.

    They don’t have to get a license from California. There is a supreme court (the Indian one) ruling that anyone can get register their marriage at the local panchayat or municipal office after a religious ceremony with witnesses and such a marriage is recognized in the US (don’t really know about same sex couples though, after all we do live in the lands of… I’d rather not say).However as usual the Babus at those offices are in denial and unwilling to do anything against the rules they were taught when their superior started their career. So I had to give up and go home.

  18. Wonder whether the juxtaposition of South Indian bride & North Indian groom is meant to be an earthly parallel to the divine embodiment of the ‘Amma’ (mother) in an ‘Achchan’ (father)? or was the groom too shy to go shirtless?

  19. Didn’t Ben Lee date Claire Danes for along time unless I’m mistaken. And did he ever have a hit single, cause to be honest I don’t know the name of any of his songs.

    Claire Danes the hipsterina. The ones who know Ben Lee are the Ben Folds Five and Jonathan Richman types. In my little world, it’s the same guys who love Farrelly Brothers and Wes Anderson films. How’s that for hipstereotyping? And as for two nondesis having a Hindu wedding…why not? It’s beautiful and doesn’t require listening to Mendelssohn’s Midsummer excerpt and Pachelbel’s Canon –> the music that continually bobs to the surface in the toilet of time.

  20. If many so called Indians (concentrated mainly in a south western state) can wear a bridal gown or suit, I don’t see any wackiness in a Sherwani white man. I assume the former tend to exhibit more a state of identity crisis while the latter does it to be more cool and perhaps wider geographic expedition.

  21. I have been to Hindu weddings in the states that have the first dance, the cake cutting and the toast, not of which are traditionally Hindu, so for me personally this is not offensive at all, I say let them suffer like the rest of us with a very long ceremony and sitting around fire for few hours :)

  22. 25 · Sooraj said

    I don’t see anything offensive about it. After all there are plenty of Indians who come to the US and get married the gora style, or should I say have a church wedding. Personally I think whatever makes the couple is fine.

    The Indian church wedding differs from the Western church wedding. At the Catholic weddings I have witnessed, (Tamil and Manglorean Konakani) there is a mangalsutra ceremony as well, the songs are all set to ragas, and the closing song is, in keeping with Southern musical tradition, a typical Mangalam set to Madhyamavati. And there is generally no first kiss! Very charming!

  23. Jyotsana,

    We have clearly been to different Catholic weddings in India, the ones I have been to are Manglorean Catholics living in Bombay. There wasn’t any ragas or mangalsutra ceremonies, there was definitely a ceremony called roce which was similar in some ways to the mehendi ceremony and there were some traditional konkani songs and prayers in Latin that I didn’t understand.

  24. Lee’s spiritual guru, Sakthi Narayani Amma.

    This is probably the most tragic aspect of the entire story. Nothing spells has-been more definitively than when a member of the music-movie-nouveau-Hindu-Hindi-India-aspirational-class isn’t offered or is unable to enlist Deepak Chopra’s services for channeling Maya and understanding the circle of life. At this point, Ben Lee might as well send in his audition tape for Dancing with the “Stars”.

  25. music-movie-nouveau-Hindu-Hindi-India-aspirational-class

    Rahul, you really know how to get the undies wet. You wanna channel some maya?

  26. 33 · maya said

    You wanna channel some maya?

    rahul is a chamathu hindu boy; he reads the scriptures and does sandhya every evening; he knows not to hanker after maya.

  27. Sadly, ma’ momma always warned me about maya jal leading to my ensnarement in maya jaal. What to do?

  28. Vellambans * * Ask a Malayalee. Or a Tamilian. Hey, if I had to spend four years of undergrad and two years of grad school asking what dozens of Punjabi or Hindi words meant, you can learn something more than kundi. ;)

    Another *

  29. 19 · DesiDawg said

    Ok, so two B-list celebrities get married wearing Indian clothes in a village in India and this is relevant to this blog how?

    Your answer is in your question. Also, I hope you know that every time someone asks “How is this relevant to this blog?”, a kitten dies somewhere. So please stop asking that, unless you are pro-kitten-murder.

    22 · ak said

    since we’re exchanging knowLedge, it would be something closer to “vellakaran” in tamil. and btw, this does look like a south indian wedding – anybody know exactly where they got married?

    You’re right. :) Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that it was a Tamizh word, more like all my Tamizh friends know EXACTLY what I mean when I say it, because the languages are similar. I know “vellakaran” too, but I liked the way “vellambans” sounded in the title, more. We agonize over these things, you know? ;)

    I think they got married in Vellore, could be wrong.

    25 · Sooraj said

    I don’t see anything offensive about it. After all there are plenty of Indians who come to the US and get married the gora style, or should I say have a church wedding. Personally I think whatever makes the couple is fine.

    Careful there. It’s really offensive to conflate “gora” with church wedding. I know you probably weren’t trying to marginalize or insult those of us who are Indian AND Christian, but casual comparisons like the one you made are dangerous.

    26 · Keralite said

    Wonder whether the juxtaposition of South Indian bride & North Indian groom is meant to be an earthly parallel to the divine embodiment of the ‘Amma’ (mother) in an ‘Achchan’ (father)? or was the groom too shy to go shirtless?

    Oh, I forgot to include that detail in my post (and I should have, bc it’s part of why the image was jarring to me)! I’m SO glad you commented! :D Thank you.

    28 · wellsaid said

    If many so called Indians (concentrated mainly in a south western state) can wear a bridal gown or suit, I don’t see any wackiness in a Sherwani white man. I assume the former tend to exhibit more a state of identity crisis while the latter does it to be more cool and perhaps wider geographic expedition.

    I want you to know that someone emailed me your comment with a subject line of “Troll on your latest post”. I’m sure that person will now email me and ask, “Why didn’t you just ban and delete?” Well, because we actually don’t ban that many people and I’d love to operate under the assumption that you don’t dwell under a bridge.

    Why don’t you say “Kerala” instead of a Southwestern state? Or did you mean some other state of which I am unaware? Identity crisis? Most brides I know in Kerala (whether ABD or DBD) get married in a SARI. No matter. According to you, it’s cool when a white person wears a North Indian outfit to a Hindu wedding in South India. And then gushes/whines about his “spiritual” experience and how it’s lame that he has to do something mundane (i.e. paperwork) like the rest of us. It’s cool for white people to appropriate Indian clothes, but when a Malayalee wears a suit to his wedding, he has an identity crisis. Got it.

    29 · umber desi said

    I have been to Hindu weddings in the states that have the first dance, the cake cutting and the toast, not of which are traditionally Hindu, so for me personally this is not offensive at all, I say let them suffer like the rest of us with a very long ceremony and sitting around fire for few hours :)

    But aren’t these people who were either born or raised here? Was Ben Lee brought up in Vellore? Aside from that, the part I bolded made me laugh. :)

    30 · jyotsana said

    The Indian church wedding differs from the Western church wedding.

    If I had your address, I would write you a thank-you note for stating this. That’s how much I appreciate what you wrote. The Syrian Orthodox qurbana my Mother attends weekly does NOT sound, look or even smell like the divine liturgy I go to at my Greek Orthodox church.

  30. Anna,

    Point taken, they were people born and raised here. And I also didn’t mean to be dismissive about the description of church weddings in India and I hope it was clear in the comment that followed.

  31. i may be mistaken but i don’t think sooraj meant indian christians when he meant indians who come to the u.s. and have white weddings. to me it read as if those indians are like those japanese who choose to have white, christian-style weddings, down to hiring a christian priest, whilst having no belief in christianity. it’s only weird if you think that people should have a spiritual belief in the ritual that they are adopting for their wedding. if so, then at least ben lee appears to have some spiritual belief or interest in hinduism, so the ceremony is actually less weird than indians/japanese who undergo white weddings with no belief in the spirituality behind those rituals. if you believe that any ritual from any culture that you have some respect for is ok for your own wedding and you conduct it graciously, then there’s nothing weird about it even if you are not a practitioner of that religion.

  32. 39 · umber desi said

    Point taken, they were people born and raised here. And I also didn’t mean to be dismissive about the description of church weddings in India and I hope it was clear in the comment that followed.

    Oh, I didn’t find your comments dismissive at all. :) And I apologize– I didn’t bold the part of your comment which I said I did in my mega-comment (to which you responded). If you look now, the words which made me LOL are duly emphasized.

  33. why does the link for lee’s spiritual advisor go to a photo of what looks like jimmy mistry in the guru?

  34. 42 · Whose God is it anyways? said

    why does the link for lee’s spiritual advisor go to a photo of what looks like jimmy mistry in the guru?

    Woops, it’s supposed to be linked in “love guru”…but I just realized that “Love Guru” starred Mike Meyers, not Jimmy Mistry.

  35. 38. A N N A said

    25. Sooraj said
    I don’t see anything offensive about it. After all there are plenty of Indians who come to the US and get married the gora style, or should I say have a church wedding. Personally I think whatever makes the couple is fine.
    Careful there. It’s really offensive to conflate “gora” with church wedding. I know you probably weren’t trying to marginalize or insult those of us who are Indian AND Christian, but casual comparisons like the one you made are dangerous.

    I apologize for not being specific. What I meant was church weddings in the US that follow western traditions and not churches where they follow Indian Christian traditions.

  36. 40 · Whose God is it anyways? said

    i may be mistaken but i don’t think sooraj meant indian christians when he meant indians who come to the u.s. and have white weddings. to me it read as if those indians are like those japanese who choose to have white, christian-style weddings, down to hiring a christian priest, whilst having no belief in christianity. it’s only weird if you think that people should have a spiritual belief in the ritual that they are adopting for their wedding. if so, then at least ben lee appears to have some spiritual belief or interest in hinduism, so the ceremony is actually less weird than indians/japanese who undergo white weddings with no belief in the spirituality behind those rituals. if you believe that any ritual from any culture that you have some respect for is ok for your own wedding and you conduct it graciously, then there’s nothing weird about it even if you are not a practitioner of that religion.

    Thank you. You expressed my hazy thoughts better than I did. I guess I should have waited to comment till after my first cup of coffee:)

  37. 28 · ANNA said>> I want you to know that someone emailed me your comment with a subject line of “Troll on your latest post”. I’m sure that person will now email me and ask, “Why didn’t you just ban and delete?” Well, because we actually don’t ban that many people and I’d love to operate under the assumption that you don’t dwell under a bridge.

    The above mentioned person’s treatment of this disagreement as “Troll” is deeply offensive — he/she or you have put forth no argument to “listen” to, for why there is even the slightest need of insulting native Indian dress style by this post is useful or otherwise desirable. Perhaps he/she belongs to the same ilk I mentioned in my comment. well, it shouldn’t matter if I live under a bridge or not, as long as I don’t try to meddle with other traditions and beliefs of this great land.

    Why don’t you say “Kerala” instead of a Southwestern state? Or did you mean some other state of which I am unaware? Identity crisis? Most brides I know in Kerala (whether ABD or DBD) get married in a SARI. No matter. According to you, it’s cool when a white person wears a North Indian outfit to a Hindu wedding in South India. And then gushes/whines about his “spiritual” experience and how it’s lame that he has to do something mundane (i.e. paperwork) like the rest of us. It’s cool for white people to appropriate Indian clothes, but when a Malayalee wears a suit to his wedding, he has an identity crisis. Got it.

    100% identity crisis. Otherwise, I don’t see the need for a non native Indian trying to wrap up in a Sari or Mundu for their wedding. And for your statement of “It’s cool for white people to appropriate Indian clothes, but when a Malayalee wears a suit to his wedding, he has an identity crisis. Got it.”, think about it this way. I never mentioned any particular cult/religion/state in my comment. So your emphasis on Malayalee lives by your assumption and not mine. And not to forget, the white people usually travel out of their native place to experience another place’s traditional wedding, while in your example a non native Indian would do it in his presumed native place itself, but with a suit/bridal gown. That is the difference and there lies identity crisis! I am not sure how all Malayalees dress for their wedding

  38. wellsaid, what exactly do you mean by non native Indian?

    Also, where do you get off saying that Syrian Christian brides wear dresses at their wedding. Have you actually been to a Nasrani wedding? I’ve been to quite a few and all of the brides have worn an off-white saree for the minnu kettu (that would be when the groom puts the thaali around the bride’s neck) and a red or pink saree for the reception. I’m not sure where you’re getting you’re info from, but I’d check the source again.

  39. 47 · Lea >> wellsaid, what exactly do you mean by non native Indian?

    this is what the meaning says in freedictionary : http://www.thefreedictionary.com/nonnative

    Also, where do you get off saying that Syrian Christian brides wear dresses at their wedding. Have you actually been to a Nasrani wedding? I’ve been to quite a few and all of the brides have worn an off-white saree for the minnu kettu (that would be when the groom puts the thaali around the bride’s neck) and a red or pink saree for the reception. I’m not sure where you’re getting you’re info from, but I’d check the source again.

    I don’t know what a syrian christian means? catholics from Syria? are they natives of India or no? I have read that Kerala had some 1200 AD trade routes with the middle east, in addition to the arrival of the portugese and perhaps the descendants of those connection. I am not sure if they wear sari for their wedding, but I’ll investigate. Thanks

  40. You’re right. :) Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that it was a Tamizh word, more like all my Tamizh friends know EXACTLY what I mean when I say it, because the languages are similar. I know “vellakaran” too, but I liked the way “vellambans” sounded in the title, more. We agonize over these things, you know? ;)

    i know. you were right – you didn’t imply anything beyond the fact that tamilians would understand. i was just adding to the south indian diction of my fellow readers. and yes, vellamban sounds much better in your title. plus, how else would i know exactly how to say “vellakaran” in malayalam? you never – i might need to use it as frequently as kundi ;)

    I think they got married in Vellore, could be wrong.

    i assumed so, after i followed one of the links about the guru. vellore is my dad’s town!

  41. 46 · wellsaid said

    So your emphasis on Malayalee lives by your assumption and not mine.

    To what Southwestern state in India were you referring, then? This is the second time I’m asking.

    >>The above mentioned person’s treatment of this disagreement as “Troll” is deeply offensive

    You were neither banned nor deleted, so their “treatment of this disagreement” isn’t really significant. I included that information to let YOU know how your words were being received, in the hopes that you would clarify your statement (since based on your past commenting history, I don’t believe you are a troll).

    You don’t seem to realize that your comments have been offensive, too.