Gods conspired to make my wedding truly eventful and brimming with suspense. Barely days before I was supposed to become a Missus, Rajiv Gandhi decided to get assassinated (may his soul rest in peace and damn you LTTE). The entire nation went into mourning and all public functions were banned for two weeks. It elicited mournful reactions from our many relatives Shushantor meyer biyer ki hobe!! (Whatever will happen to Sushanto’s daughter’s wedding!) My dear relatives were more concerned about my wedding and so was I.
To make things worse, the weather gods thundered and enveloped the entire city with heavy rains. Just a day before my wedding, I witnessed a heavy downpour reduce a magnificent Pandal to a pathetic, soggy mess. For God’s sake, God, can you please try and help!
Your wedding is an event that changes you and your life forever, for better or for worse. I was more than willing to embrace this change, I was desperate. For me, this was my ticket to freedom, to adulthood and all things wicked that I had only read in books so far. It helped that I was getting married to someone who was everything I ever wanted in a man.
The first time I met him, I was far from impressed. Gosh, he talks too much. I don’t like his sweater. Did he just finish all the sweets on his plate! He in turn found me too snooty, cold and fell for my boisterous dad and amicable brother instead. It was years later he finally admitted that he had fallen in love with my photograph before he actually met me. Yes, we had an arranged match, aided partly by providence and enterprise.
Our age-old wedding rituals were created by ancestors who had too much time in hand or perhaps it was their grand idea of permanently etching this momentous occasion in our fickle memory. Designed like one of the reality shows that you’d rather not watch - you are made to binge and starve in turns. Your privacy goes for a toss, since your house is jam-packed with relatives who you had last met when you were not toilet-trained, running around in a red frock. They never let you forget that and insist on regaling the whole house with squirm-worthy tales.
On the D-day you are woken up even before your neighbourhood cock had cleared its throat, have food shoved down your throat since you are expected to fast until your wedding vows are solemnised. In the name of beauty ritual, your loved ones insist on slathering you with copious quantities of turmeric and then drench you with water in full public view. On your most special day you have to bear the ignominy of seeing your near and dear ones hogging away to glory, while your stomach growls in protest. Everybody has fun in a wedding except the bride and the groom. They are made to sit on a stage, smile till their sides ache and shake hands till they are ready to collapse. And yes they are also the last ones to be fed.
At barely 22, I may not have known what I wanted but I definitely knew what I didn’t. I didn’t want to look like an assembly line dolled up bride. The salon was quite taken aback with this chit of girl who didn’t want a jooda and almost gave the make-up girl a nervous breakdown with her long list of vehement don’ts. When I insisted that my short hair be simply arranged in curls, the lady asked me whether I was a Christian. How can a self respecting Hindu bride not prefer red and maroon all over her face!
My Maa was too busy playing the gracious hostess to notice my unconventional hair-do and make-up and by the time she did she could only express helpless outrage. In the evening, guests invited for the marriage ceremony saw a bride who talked non-stop with her hair done up like a school girl. In fact in most of my wedding photographs, my mouth is wide-open, my face contorted with myriad expressions. Yes, not even a minute’s break did I take.
My wedding ceremony was at way past midnight and convention dictates that my uncles and brother hand-deliver me to my waiting groom for the ceremony to commence. I was perched atop a pirhi (a wooden plank) with my face hidden behind a paan. At 44 kgs I wasn’t exactly heavy, yet my dear ones managed to sway dangerously and tried sending me hurtling to the ground or so I thought. I made a scintillating entry at the mandap – my alarmed screams reverberating in that balmy May night. Someone whispered an ominous warning in my would-be’s ears – Dada, she will be quite a handful.
For the first time that day, actually after many days I again the saw the man I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. In a conical hat (topor) and his forehead looking like a painted flower vase, I bit my lips hard to stifle a smile.
Traditional Bengali wedding rituals include a lot of fun and games. The hapless pair is lifted to dizzying heights to avoid the mala-bodol (garland exchange) and then they are expected to look deep into each other’s eyes with everybody loudly cheering them on. On your wedding, thoughts of romance are forcibly evicted from your mind.
After fun unlimited at our expense it was time to get down to serious business. For the next three hours both of us sat in front of the fire getting slow roasted while the priests chanted mantras in slow motion. Dressed in a heavy Benarasi and tons of jewellery, I was sweaty, tired and very-very hungry. At the end of our trial by fire, as we were finally declared man and wife, he gently squeezed my hand. My parting and the rest of my hair was now covered with vermillion. The brand new husband had got a tad emotional and poured a year’s supply of sindoor in my parting. I even had sprinkles of it on my forehead and nose. As I looked into his eyes, we smiled. All the madness, the anxiety of the last few weeks disappeared magically. The two halves had now become a whole, we were now complete.
To find out what happened after ....Marital Bliss