Just Pakoras

My stepdad was at a meeting and my mom called to ask what I was doing. I told her I was going to crash the reception of an Indian wedding. My mom loves weddings -- and free food -- so I asked, "You want to come with me?" "Am I allowed to?" Mom asked. I told her that there are no rules when it comes to crashing. In the movie Wedding Crashers , Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn had each other as wingmen when it came to picking up girls. It would be difficult with my mom in tow, but I was up for the challenge.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the community center in Encinitas, I saw a pizza delivery driver show up with a few large boxes. I said, "Cool. At least I know there won't be a lot of funky foods I'm not familiar with."

As I followed the delivery driver, I realized he was going into the gym next door to the reception hall.

The bride was standing at the door of the hall greeting guests. She looked confused, but she smiled at us. Luckily, my mom had brought a gift. When I told her I was going to write about her wedding reception, she seemed fine with it.

The majority of the crowd was Indian, but we were seated next to an African-American man and a Caucasian woman. We made small talk and the woman mentioned that she was a lawyer.

When I returned from the bar, my mom leaned in and said, "He asked if you always bring me to parties with you."

I noticed that there were things on the table that you stick to your forehead, "bindis," and a few of the Indian women had them on. I'm sure they showed up with them, though. Their outfits were colorful, although I'm colorblind and have trouble with my blues and purples.

I met Sunana, the bride's sister. She helped organize the reception. She told me that she writes a column for North County Times , and we talked a little about that. When she talked about organizing fund-raisers and parties, she mentioned her brother, a plastic surgeon.

"He also DJs parties. He goes by the name DJ Nip/Tuck. He says that he can DJ your party at night and do your face lift in the morning." They had a DJ at this event, but it wasn't him. However, Nip/Tuck did hire the dancers. Sunana said, "He was at a wedding in San Francisco and saw [these dancers] performing and hired them on the spot. Nobody in the family knew he was bringing them here."

They performed interesting dances that seemed Russian in style, and then people were climbing on each other's shoulders.

I said to my mom, "It's time to get some free food," and we went for appetizers. The food was catered by Indian Tandoor and was a bit spicy. One guy in line said, "You gotta love this food. It's delicious and it clears your sinuses for the rest of the year."

I was happy to see that the food was labeled, although "tikka," "samosa," and "pakoras" didn't help me much. I knew what the chicken kabobs were. I grabbed one of those. I met a third-grader named Keshav. He was piling pakoras on his plate. "What are pakoras?" I asked him. He said, "They're pakoras." I smiled and asked, "What do they taste like?" He responded, "They taste like pakoras." I said, "Is that a meat, like chicken? Or is it a vegetable?" He sighed and said, "They're just pakoras." I said, "Let me ask you this -- I've never had them before -- do you think I'll like them?" He said, "How should I know?" He walked away, tired of my questions.

I put some on my plate and wasn't disappointed. They had onions and spinach and were mixed with potatoes. Sunana said, "...and, like everything good in this world, you fry it."

I heard another guest asking about the samosas. They're a staple of Indian food, like french fries.

As I sat to eat, a guy came over, shook my hand, and said that he just wanted to introduce himself and say that he liked my column. That was cool, getting props in front of my mom (though I would've appreciated it more if I had a date with me). A woman with an orange dress and strawberry-blond hair with a red flower in it came over. We talked a bit, and she said that she hated being single. If my mom had been a male friend, I would've kicked her under the table.

When the woman went back to her table, I decided to steal a move from Wedding Crashers. I wrote a note saying we should have an arranged marriage. I wrote a date for a year in advance and made "yes," "no," "maybe" boxes for her to check. I included my phone number and a statistic that stated 85.3 percent of arranged marriages work. It was completely made up, but I thought that throwing the percentage in there would seem more...professional. A little girl walked by and I gave her a few dollars to go over and give it to her.

When I talked with Sunana later, I mentioned that arranged marriages have the same success rate as normal marriages. She told me that it's actually higher in arranged marriages. She told me that her sister's marriage wasn't arranged.

"She graduated from USD and passed the bar. Before she got a job, she went to India. And, if you are over 25 and not married, wherever you go, relatives will parade men in front of you. When she met J.D., they hit it off. They toured New Delhi together and two months later were engaged."

I snuck over to the gym next door and watched a few people play basketball. A couple of the employees were eating pizza. I told them that I was hoping the pizza was for the wedding next door, and they said, "Hey, man, if you'd rather have pizza, grab a piece. We aren't going to finish it." I grabbed a slice of pepperoni and we talked a little basketball before I headed back to the wedding.

Speeches were being made as I walked back in. Some made me teary eyed, which was odd -- I didn't know any of these people.

The DJ started playing dance music and the dance floor filled quickly. My mom and I left before dinner arrived.

I saw the third-grader walking by with a soda in each hand and asked him if I could take his picture. He put a look on his face as if to say he wasn't in the mood for my antics, but he gave me a smile.

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 X421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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