Life's Like That

Monday, June 22, 2009

The big fat Indian wedding: I

Yeah I know it has been two and a half years since I got married, but hey! Better late than never. Besides, as I was describing my wonderfully mad wedding to a friend the other day, I realized it was quite an experience, and I need to record it for posterity.

So I am Bengali. Rahul is Punjabi. But he was born and brought up in Chennai and his parents still live there. So when I announced my intention of marrying him, my mother promptly had a panic attack "Ohh Panjabi. Oder onek demand hoye. Bhishon money minded hoye" (Oh Punjabis are very money minded and have many demands) and immediately added a few more strands of grey hair to her head imagining the demands that the Sachdevs might make in he future. Luckily the Sachdevs turned out to be mild mannered harmless indiviuals who shrank in horror at the idea of demanding things. The first meeting happened in Chennai. I could not take time off work so I sent Rahul to coordinate the meeting with strict instructions of "Control my father. He might get over emotional or over hyper." I firmly forbade my father from taking Excel sheets of points to discuss at the meeting. He desisted, but then one of the first things he told my prospective in laws is "Oh my daughter is a wonderful cook. She makes two things really well. One, boiled water.Two,Maggi." Luckily for me my in laws have a sense of humour. My father in law was highly impressed with my father's organized methodical way of approaching the wedding. My parents were relieved with how nice and non demanding my in laws were. All was good.

Then came the roka. Which in my opinion, is a dreadful obsolete practice, totally unfair to the girls family. I was to meet the entire Sachdev clan, which is HUGE. And I still had not managed to connect the names to the faces or the husbands to the wives and the parents to the kids. I was introduced. I smiled politely and said hello in my best convent ed manner. Mother in law to be poked violently in the small of my back and hissed "Payar chuo" (touch their feet). I recoiled in horror. I hate touching people's feet. Its most unhygenic. But faced with relentless poking and hissing I had no choice but to leap at collective feet and make a mental note to wash my hands. After that initial hiccup this too went off well.

Confusion, short tempers, emotional coversations and much shopping ensued for the next few months leading up to the wedding. I landed in Kolkata a week before the wedding, expecting to be pampered by all, I was the star of the show wasn't I? Instead my mother snapped and screamed at me everytime she was stressed about something, which was pretty much all the time. I was the reason for all the stress and tension was’nt I? As the sangeet drew near my father's insistence on method organization and punctuality (he could have been Hercule Poirot in a different life) reached obsessive standards. As a result, my mother and I almost caused our driver to have a nervous breakdown by screeching “taratari chalaaaooo naaa” ( drive faster noooo) every 5 seconds, because my father told us we were taking too much time and were going to be late for the registrar (the registered marriage happened a day before the wedding). Except that we were the only ones in the hall when we reached. My father was still on his way from Salt Lake with the Registrar. So I just sighed resignedly and did what I am rather good at. Issued directions to the staff and DJ : “ Why are you taking the wires through there? Take them from behind the chairs so that they are not visible” “ Ekhan ta mocha hoye ni, theek kore porishkar korun” ( This place needs to be mopped. Please clean properly) etc. Just like I do before all my media events. Sigh.

The engagement formalities were soon over. Rahul even went down on one knee with the ring…which made me giggle and hiccup simultaneously for about 10 minutes. After the formalities, my husband to be vanished. I wandered about smiling at people and finally went to the balcony and had a nice satisfying gossiping session with SD and SR, my oldest friends in Calcutta. From the shrieking and screeching I could hear from the room, I presumed the Punjus were having a blast on the dance floor. So I went to investigate and was confronted with the sight of my uncle, all 6feet 5 inches of him, throwing his freakishly large arms and legs around with gay abandon while people all around him scurried away as fast as possible to avoid being injured. What was even more disconcerting than the sight of my uncle dancing was the fact that the Punjus were sitting demurely and conversing quietly while the Bongs were going bonkers on the dance floor!!! I even saw my father, tie askew, convulsing to Beedi Jalayi Le. My father!!!! Good god!!

I was eventually re united with Rahul who said he had been drinking and dancing all this while and had forgotten he had to be by my side (!!!). To redeem himself he went and got me large vodka disguised under some innocent looking orange juice. (The Sachdevs would have collectively fainted at the sight of their newest bahu chugging back vodka shots, hence some subterfuge was called for).

I was woken up at an unearthly hour the next day and made to wear a sari and plonked down next to my father for some pooja where he repeatedly picked up odd objects and touched them to my head. Objects ranged from dhaan dubbo ( paddy and grass..most agricultural )to big pots. After this strange pooja and the liberal smearing of holud I was packed off for make up and hair once again with strict instructions of not taking too long and coming back on time. I came back on time and sat on the throne and smiled and accepted gifts while the baraat took its own sweet time to arrive. They eventually showed up 1.5 hours late. My ever polite father finally snapped “ Eto nacher ki aachey ta ki? Biye hoye jaabar por nachlei toh hoye” (Why do they need to dance so much? Can’t they let the wedding get over and then dance?) when the Punjus showed no signs of stopping. The wedding itself was traumatic. All my aunts descended on the mandap and gave conflicting instructions to me, the priest spoke exclusively in Bengali to Rahul, I tried to translate and instruct Rahul as well as I could, the priest snapped at all and sundry and finally tried to tick me off for talking to Rahul. Poor man!! He didn’t know what he was getting into. I don’t think he has ever received such a whispered but solid jhar from a bride on the mandap. I hope it will be a lesson to him, don’t mess with a hungry tired irritated bride.

Given my newfound resolve to keep my posts shorter than usual, I shall stop here. Part II will have us being homeless in Chennai, me bursting into tears late at night on a desolate Chennai beach, and also me bearing a startling resemblance to He Who Shall Not be Named. More later.