This wedding season, a blast from the past
The much-glamourised Indian wedding has lost the emotional touch.
- Total Shares
This is going to be a bit of a nostalgia trip, triggered by a black-and-white photo of a Kashmiri wedding I just saw on a Facebook timeline and then I got a spam from the "Biggest Wedding Exhibition of the Year" - unbelievable offers from brow design to flawless hair and henna.
Now, I have been out of marriageable age for quite some time, but it did kick off sundry memories of weddings held eons ago and how different it was from the structured, choreographed and micro-managed mega-events held today.
Earlier, after the wedding had been "fixed", photos of the "girl" would be framed and sent to all key relatives who could take a dekko at the "hone-wali bahu". Blue inland letters would fly across the country with sisters and uncles asking for details, education, family and what not. The red-and-yellow wedding invitation card would arrive with a touch of kum kum and turmeric and a grain of rice if it had managed to stay put across its journey traversing hundreds of miles.
In homes far away, there would be palpable excitement. The wedding was the destination in itself as those were the days before credit-card fuelled holidays in Mauritius. Everyone would want to know where would we all go to? Except for the bus or train tickets to the girl’s city or town, family would make their own monetary arrangements to get there. There was nothing "all-inclusive". Since the wedding news would come months in advance mothers and fathers had time to make extra savings to travel. The only common thread then and now was that Hindi films did influence attire. So I remember my Bobby frock with fondness, down to the polka dots and piping. My mother was a fiend with a sewing machine and the weeks before the departure would be spent with the continuous hum and steady knock of the needle and the wheel as she would cut, press, sew and make me try copious times the perfect dress.
hoto for representational purpose.
In between, she would take tea breaks, and I do not remember ever buying a single attire at any shop. It was a mark of personal achievement for my mother that she stitched every item of clothing for all the ceremonies for all of us. No wonder we made do with milk and bread for lunch since she wouldn’t be distracted with mundane boring things like lunch and dinner.
As I grew older, she felt no pain in cutting up her priceless Benarasi saris for whatever she was "designing" from me. She would knit my brother the most difficult sweaters with intricate patterns, like Amitabh Bachhan in Kabhie Kabhie. It was a miracle of counting in myriad colours and not a stitch would be out of place from the arm to the chest. And we took it all for granted. She once got her own hair cut like Parveen Babi and I didn’t speak to her till the fringes grew out. Now five-year-old girls and their grannies go for hair trials to match each outfit. I wonder who is trying to outdo whom?
We would get on the North East Express and reach the marriage house. It could be in Bareilly or Agra, Lucknow or Shahjahanpur, and there would such an effusive welcome and teary-eyed hugging that the memory really puts me off the new- fangled ushers and hostesses with their tight-clothing and plastic smiles. You have to really crawl through the crowd till you can find someone called "family". The rest are all network contacts.
The home-cooking was the best part. All the women would chip in. There would a "maharaj" to do the heavy lifting, but I remember an important relative asking especially for the "pardarshi" (transluscent) rotis which my Lakhnavi mother was known for.
The "halwai" would be set up five days ahead starting with the stuff which was meant to last longer like laddoos and balushahis, which would be stored in the larder in woven baskets lined with red paper, though I would hanker for the five kg vessels full of pickles and whole green mangoes resting in cane vinegar.
I have picked up quite a few cooking tips from those simple cooks, fluting a mathha on the palm, a savoury and sweet extra-large mathri which was broken into pieces and eaten with pickle, or sprinkled with sugar for tea time. There would always be a big boiling vat of full fat milk and the tea service never stopped.
If we were in the "baraat", all hell would break lose on the morning it was to depart. Someone would definitely lose their suitcase key. A relative, usually a son-in-law would throw a tantrum because he wasn’t made to feel important enough. My mother would still be tightening up a hook or two. We would clamber on to the bus or the second-class train compartment and head off. There was rarely if ever, any booze, but lots of rummy and yummy eats at stations across the hinterland. The bus would be festooned with paper flags and the height of indulgence was flyers pasted on the windows stating "Rita weds Sanjay".
We felt giddy as we were welcomed at the wedding with garlands of marigold, no one got a special Pashmina shawl. But we would wait for the packets of money for tika, a very Kayastha tradition and our pickings were simple. We would plan to spend it all in Archana Arcade’s video games. Everyone would sit next to bolsters with paan, chai and "daal moth" as the interminable wedding rituals were concluded and kids slept on the thighs of their mothers.
In the morning, we would head back laden with baskets full of poori, kachauri, mithai and sookhi sabzi, warm in the summer and dalda-hardened in the winter. But it always tasted delicious. Today, I see 50 counters for food and I still come back hungry.
There is a lot of noise, but rarely genuine laughter, a lot of expenditure, but hardly any bonhomie, and maybe I am just cynical, there is a lot of warmth near the steel brasseries, but hardly felt in the heart.