Right after we circled four times around the book; we were received by all present with an enthusiasm I won’t be able to inspire collectively in all of my relatives ever again, not until I announce a baby is on its way, which for now looks never. Not even if I declare I brought peace to Syria. Even those of my relatives who attended the wedding because the venue was Haldwani, one hour’s drive from Nainital, greeted us with a vehement cheerfulness, which I expected to surface not until the food was served. Not that I am complaining. Growing up in a Sikh/Punjabi family, I knew I had to be grateful because food is of paramount sanctity and if someone gives you as much love as they do to food, you must die for them. That is why I felt guilty when what I instead wanted to do was call them out for their pretence. Thank god for my significant training in “You can’t control everyone’s shit”, I didn’t. I played along, and at the time of my ‘vidaai’ shed as many tears while hugging my aunt, who thought ‘haaye ni, kudi ne Nepali naal viaah kar liya’ (Oh my god, our daughter married a Nepali!), as I did after hugging my sister and my brothers, all of whom helped me persuade my rather unsure parents that Rohit was indeed the right guy, and stayed by my side all the way till they walked me up to that elevated platform(they call it stage, rightfully so). As much as I wish this post was about ‘what is wrong about the Indian Wedding System and the stereotypes (my husband is a Kumauni), I won’t talk about it beyond this point.
I will instead talk about a man, a friend of my brother-in-law, who brought real joy to my wedding, and whom I met only the 2nd time in my life on the train, while leaving Delhi to get married in Haldwani. I haven’t met him since and this man was to my wedding what Shahrukh Khan was to DDLJ (a Bollywood movie), during the second half. Oh yes, he was even ready to pull the chain to stop the train as me and my family were late to the station. Talk about filmy!
Right from the moment he met us, he took charge. His lousy jokes brought smiles to my anxious parents’ faces. No, we weren’t asked for dowry, it was more to do about the wedding at another destination. I am carefully refraining from calling it a ‘destination wedding’. Other than the fear that a law may pass and I might be asked to give money in charity, the reason is that ours was a simpler wedding. Coming back to the man, Arun relieved my family of some of the minor and major rigmaroles surrounding a wedding in India. He would ensure everyone got their chais and all their meals; he had befriended all bhabhis, chachis, buas and didis; even Rohit’s. The cook would take instructions from ‘Arun bhaiya’; he would feed food to ladies with henna on their hands. Arun would wake up around the same time my parents would, even though all the kids in the family would still be asleep. I was quite astonished to see him. I, for one, knew I couldn’t be like him – extremely spontaneous and super fun. He was a bit too unconstrained; I thought. Also, I was bemused at his uninhibited approach towards life. No constraints could hold him from truly enjoying himself. If Arun decided he wanted to have fun, he would invent fun. Playing ‘antakshri’ one moment, and loitering around with my pretty friends the next (of course, he didn’t wait for an introduction), being sloshed and making fun of people around one moment to being all sentimental over a recent break up, the other.
Amidst a cohort of distant relatives who were sleep-walking through my wedding functions, coming to action only to eat and for getting dressed up; Arun was like a fluorescent marker. At every moment, he highlighted all too prominently the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who are not dead-alive, people who can still surprise themselves and others around them, people who can laugh and make others laugh and people who know they are not going to get out of this life alive.
If you are getting married anytime soon, and if you can; invite people who will bring one of their quirks/qualities you like to the table that you are paying your hard-earned money to set. Refrain from paying for the guests whose photos you are most likely to flip through in your wedding album. These will most likely be your friends and not close family, but that’s okay because whoever said ‘blood is thicker than water’ was just stating the obvious. No need to take that seriously too.