Let’s face it. Marriages are made in heaven, but their execution can be quite an uphill task, especially if you are an Indian. Let me clarify that not all Indians have a big fat wedding, yet excuse me if I take a few liberties at generalizing. Though people want a court marriage with the least amount of fuss, they usually end up having to host receptions, carry on with the traditional customs and host a full array of guests.
I have gone through a few marriages myself, from very close quarters, may I say, and I have to admit that I would any day let go of the frenzy for the fruit. I am not married more than once, in case you thought otherwise. I have witnessed and participated in the marriages of my sister, cousin sister and brother in law, and let me tell you that I take these relations very personally (just as all good Indians do) and in many ways hold them as important as my own marriage. In fact, I have felt least involved in my own marriage.
You see in most Indian weddings, the bride or groom have primarily one important task, of looking good while watching people around them losing it completely.
We and more importantly, our elders, hold family ties as sacrosanct. Every distant relation is a relation nonetheless, which is why joint families are still not eradicated from the Indian scenario. While it is great to be having ties with your uncle’s children, it is quite another matter to know and keep in touch with the uncle’s wife’s brother’s children or grandmom’s sister’s daughter in law’s brother. And when there is a marriage in the family (and I mean the ‘extended extended’ family), then all relations suddenly spring to life and force with a veracity that is not seen before. Everyone wants to attend the marriage, since this is a great way to meet the others, reconnect the old ties and in many cases visit a new place. Marriage thus becomes a pleasant excuse to well just say, party and holiday.
In all the other marriages that I have micro managed and slogged my body and mind at, the most important function is to invite, count, reconfirm, recount, arrange for accommodation and then arrange for return gifts for family and friends visiting us for the holy union. I can only dread to imagine what it must be like planning a wedding, in the days when mobiles and online messages were not heard of. At least, it has become that much easier to figure out who is coming from where.
There are calls made to everyone, cards printed and posted, addresses cross checked and invitations are sent out. Usually close family members and friends are invited with a gift, something like candy to allure the guest.
We had to rub our heads over what gift to give who and pack the goodies up in nice shiny sheets. The other important job during a wedding is to pack gifts. Now gifts are of varying types, invitation gifts, departing gifts, gifts for the groom’s or bride’s family, gifts for the extended family of bride or groom and finally gifts for the bride or groom. We had packed each of these types in different colored papers, hoping against hope that we did not mix them all up and landed up giving someone’s gift to another.
Of course, it is a great fun fare moment to have everyone sitting and writing cards, or packing gifts. When you call people to your house to help write invites or pack, and that can take up to more than a day, you have to ensure that there is enough food and drinks to keep up the tempo and merriment. Starting from snacks, to lunch to tea the pre wedding preparations are just a small sign of what is to follow.
Marriage functions are spread across a minimum of two to three days. For any custom or religion, there is a specific charter of things to do during a wedding. There are fun activities like Mehendi (applying henna on the hands of bride and close family), Sangeet (jiving to music to commensurate the couple’s journey) followed by the most important rituals such as, ‘feras’ (for Hindus) or ‘nikah’ (for Muslims). Then there is reception to formalize the event and have people come, wish the couple and devour on delicious food.
Since the marriages are sprawled across couple of days, guests arrive and leave according to their convenience and hence begin the strategic planning of picks and drops. Now, this is sheer calculation, road traffic sense that gives the guys in the family finally something worthwhile to do. It is usually the boys of the house, who need to pick up the guests from stations or airports and ensure they are dropped at their designated stay. There were cases, where in a single day, various people where landing at different times and a master plan was made to chart out who was going to pick up who and when. Cars are borrowed from neighbors, drivers are hired or friends are made into one, just to make sure that the guests who are arriving are met at the airport or station in time. The same story unfolds when the marriage is over and the same people need to be dropped back.
And just before I wrap up, let me not forget to mention that weddings are a great platform to flaunt designer clothes and flawless make up. Women like me find it extremely taxing having to survive coat after coat of painted beauty on my face, and trying to fit into my grand wedding clothes for another’s D day.
This is why I say, weddings in India can be a potential cause for hypertension, cardiac problems and hyperacidity. The close family go through tension to ensure the entire event turns out well, and are often presented with unprecedented problems, such as, last minute additions in guest list, a slight attack of dementia in identifying the guests from the other side or the famous last hour ditches by decorators and cooks. The hyper acidity is because of the heavy food that is laid out on all days of the wedding. Not surprisingly, I was victim to all the above.
Indian weddings are loud, colorful, musical, bohemian and great levelers at some point. I enjoy the fun, the late night family gatherings, the stories told by people who have lived them, the snacks and bouts of chai (tea), the teasing and chattering of friends from both the sides. (The groom’s side and the bride’s side – distinctions made very clear in all ceremonies).
However, when a wedding in your very own family is over, you cannot help heap a sigh of relief and silently count in your mind how many more are there to go. I have had lots of fun in all my marriages (the least being my very own), yet, I have to admit, that I have been tired, sleepless and in need of complete spa therapy after they were over.
Here’s wishing the couple a happy married life.
PS – Wishing the family and friends of the happily married couple peace, lots of sleep and dry cleaning errands.