Being a Woman
Reams of newsprint have been spent on the Big Fat Indian Wedding. What about the Small Cosy Indian Wedding, which happens in the majority of households and which are no less interesting ? I come from Kerala in South India where our weddings are not very elaborate but the fun, frolic and confusions are not reduced in any way. Ironically, the poor bride and groom seem to have the most boring roles in a wedding. Not only do they have to look suitably solemn for the occasion but they also cannot indulge in any of the background revelry 🙂
Weddings in the family are eagerly awaited by us. Whenever I think of family weddings a collage of moments comes to mind – a barrage of relatives with uncles, aunts and assorted cousins of all shapes and sizes; copious amounts of food; parents not having to look after their kids cos the lil ones are taken care of by someone or the other and animated discussions on the most varied subjects and on which everyone insists on giving their opinions ! The anticipation starts right from the time the wedding is fixed. Lengthy telephone conversations happen between all the major players viz the aunts and uncles of the couple and each aspect is thrashed out to the last detail. Then follows the elaborate process of issuing invitations and also shopping.
In my childhood, relatives would start descending days before the wedding and the houses of the bride and groom would be overflowing. The kitchen was the most interesting place with a bevy of aunts holding court.I enjoyed curling up on one of their laps and listening to the interesting tidbits of information and advice being doled out. Kids ran all around and through the house and our favorite destination was of course the kitchen where something or the other was always available to satiate our hunger. The gathering of men was more boring cos politics was the main topic of discussion. I’ve never felt any sense of chauvinism here cos the women were so happy to be left to themselves ! Well-wishers drifted in and out of this arena and the kitchen spewed out endless cups of tea and snacks. We delighted in ambushing these trays and making off with the snacks 🙂 There were no barriers of language and every child who landed up was included in the group no matter that if we met in any other setting we would be tongue tied.Another favorite memory is bedtime when any available flat surface was used as a bed. The dining table was much sought after since it was directly under the fan, the only drawback being that we had to wait for the kitchen to cease functioning before appropriating it. The paucity of pillows also saw us stealthily filching pillows of the unwary few who slept early !
Nowadays due to busy schedules everybody lands up just a day or two prior to the wedding. Aunts still migrate to the kitchen, however this is more for chatting rather than any culinary activities. The services of excellent caterers ensure that nobody goes hungry. Children hardly run around since they congregate in a room and try to bring down the house on their heads with music and conversation ! Younger uncles also gradually sidle up to the kitchen since they know that interesting news and juicy bits of conversation is only available here 🙂 Of course the parents of the couple will quietly be going crazy in the background ! Organising any event involving so many different characters and that too who insist on voicing strong opinions is not for the faint hearted. (I’ve often felt that one of the criteria for selecting Indian Ambassadors to foreign nations should be conducting a son’s or daughter’s wedding !) The tact and diplomacy required for the smooth conduct of such affairs is mind boggling.
The day of the wedding starts in the wee hours with the intoxicating aroma of coffee wafting in the crisp cool air. There’s a rush for the bathrooms and the earlier you are, the more undisturbed the bath. Tiny tots are generally herded in and out in groups.Hapless uncles trying to enjoy their morning cuppa in leisure are hounded by strict aunties who have to finish the washing up before they themselves get into their fineries. Dressing up is such fun and there are a few cousins who are greatly in demand due to their competence in draping the sari beautifully. Parents dress the kids first and threaten them with dire consequences if they dare dirty their attire.
The parents of the bride and groom are total wrecks by this time. I’ve seen an aunt frown so ferociously that her bindi kept falling off her forehead ! There are so many things which do not go according to plan. The flower garlands which have to be exchanged by the bride and groom, went missing for a cousin’s wedding. The car in which it was carefully stored had departed for unknown locations with the said garlands still in the boot. I still don’t know how they solved it cos none of the flower shops were open that early, but the garlands were at hand at the time of the ceremony ! Yet another cousin had to wait to go to the mandap since her father who had to hold her hand and lead her went missing. A lil bit of pandemonium ensued until the poor gentleman came running from outside where he was busy welcoming some guests who had arrived late.
After the ceremony and the lunch, the couple proceed to the groom’s house . The evening of the wedding sees a weary group of relatives in various stages of repose. But there’s nothing weary about the detailed postmortem of the event which occurs. I personally hated the post wedding spell cos everybody would be packing their bags to return to their homes. The only consolation was that as long as there are young cousins, nieces and nephews around, there would surely be another wedding in the pipeline to look forward to 🙂