The panorama of an Indian wedding
If you have been out of India for a long time, you may not remember all the details and goings on during an Indian wedding. You may be following the same Indian method in your present country also but surely not to all the details of the true Indian style. This article would bring back to your memory all the grandeur and niceties of an Indian wedding.
Could there be any wedding without a reception following it? Could there be an Indian wedding reception without music? Could there be a wedding reception without dinner? If there is no dinner and it is printed as such in the invitation card, not one soul is likely to attending your reception. So, dinner is the buzz word and a crowd puller.
Besides dinner, what are the other attractions in a wedding reception? you may ask . Oh yes, there are plenty. You meet your friends, relatives, acquaintances and others you have not met for years and of course your girl friend or fiancé or your potential bride ! This is a bag full, isn’t it? It is indeed. You get all these besides of course a sumptuous dinner.
D’you know that many parents come to a reception arena with the hope of sighting a possible bride for their son? There is no other place you could find such a collection of so many beauties, in so many hues and with so many options.
And in their turn eligible spinsters too come, attractively dressed wearing all jewellery in their possession, in the hope that she would catch some mother’s eye or an young man’s attention.
And young men attend the reception so as to strike a friendship with a damsel of his liking. Here is a place you can walk across to any girl, say ‘hi’ and also comment ‘what a wonderful gathering it is’ and inquire if she had had dinner. She is bound to give an answer at least for one of these observations. And keep up the conversation, if you know the trick of keeping a conversation going. There you are; you have impressed one maiden; you have found a friend, in fact a girl friend. How you convert this wedding reception friendship into the fiancé status and ultimately leading to the marriage altar, would depend completely on your talking and behavioral skill involving your own parents in the matter. Many marriages have come into shape as a result of attending one wedding reception.
Western readers may remember that in India, love marriages are not the order of the day. Candidates are identified and matched into holy matrimony. And a wedding reception is an ideal hunting ground for this.
Haven’t we covered too much material which are the by products of a wedding reception than about the reception itself? Now back to the wedding reception.
The moment you hear the phrase ‘wedding reception’, you conjure up a picture of hundreds of well dressed men and women in a riot of colourful sarees thronging the area, a dais where the bride and groom are on their feet wishing or shaking hands with every visitor and of course collecting their gift with the other hand. Here, you would be meeting a pair after they have been pronounced as husband and wife in some kind of a religious ceremony a few hours earlier.
The reception is usually held in an open area because the invitees would number around 1000 without counting the children. Next you must allow plenty of space for people to move about and the children to run around. People attend a wedding reception for a bit of relaxation, meet friends and do a little business as well! So, you can’t cramp them in a closed hall. Yet, there are more indoor marriage halls in my city than outdoor open ground for holding the reception.
If you think that you could have a pow-wow with your long lost friend or relative, you are mistaken. There would be loud music, too loud to bear and you have to talk quite loud to convey your sentences. After a minute or two during which you would have repeated your every line at least twice, you would get tired and possibly prefer to sit quiet and listen to the music. It would be live singing performed by a professional music band whose favourite numbers would be the latest film songs. A popular play back singer would be at the mike. Normally there would be a male singer and a female singer who would take turns. In one function I saw only one male singer and he was singing in the voice of a lady. I felt he should have been dressed attractively too like a lady when he played the female role ! However, his rendering was in a flawless feminine voice.
The only time you could talk with someone else in the normal manner is when the band is taking a small break.
Notwithstanding the noise of music, the activity in the dais would go on at a steady pace. It’s not that you climb the dais, shake hands with the groom or have a word with the bride and return to your seat within seconds. Not at all. This is a kind of a mini ceremony in itself– you have to be photographed with the wedded couple. The video camera man is a fuzzy fellow; he decides who would stand where and in which direction to direct your face and only thereafter he would switch on the machine. All these might take a couple of minutes. And the next batch of well wishers will move in to meet the couple and go through the same rigmarole.
I had often wondered if the groom really tuned his ears to what his friends and guests were saying because he gave the same response and replies to every wisher whatever the question. “How nice to see you, dear fellow.” “Thank you.” “Of course, I am happy, friend.” “You too should get married soon, you know?’
One mischievous visitor said, “Prabhu, my grandmother died this morning. You will attend her cremation tomorrow morning, won’t you?” Prabhu, the groom said, “Of course. Why shouldn’t I be happy?” Another said, in a subdued tone, “I am going for a late night movie. Are you coming with me without your bride?” For which the groom’s response was, “Thank you Ravi. I feel great indeed. When are you getting married?”
The queue of guests wanting to meet the brand new couple is usually long and it might take you more than an hour to reach the sanctum sanctorum to congratulate the deities. If there are any queue breakers, who are in a hurry, the others would accommodate them willingly. “Poor people, they are in a hurry. Allow them out of turn. We could wait….” “You go ahead…”
So, having greeted the young couple and handed over your gift, you move into the dining hall for your famous dinner. You have already spent some two magnificent hours enjoying the sight of the crowd and meeting your old friends and relishing so many film songs. You are hungry and yet you are not all that hungry. The evening’s glory has filled your stomach half way. Nevertheless, you gulp your delicious meal. The members of the groom’s family and the bride’s family go round encouraging the guests to eat well, to eat more and to eat to your heart’s content. They ask you to have a second helping and a third… “Is the food nice..?” “Yes, it is. It’s in fact fantastic.” The inquirers are happy to hear such reports.
You look around to sight some familiar faces. Oh, there are none. All are new and unfamiliar ones. There are gate crashers here – real gate crashers. They are either bachelors or not-well-to-do type citizens. They belong neither to the groom’s side nor the bride’s. They are the uninvited guests as well. Their purpose of crashing into the crowd is to have a good meal. They are mostly men folk. They know exactly where a wedding dinner is in progress. They could walk in freely, go straight to the dining hall, have their fill and walk out. The organizers have to allow them and cater for them too, this being a buffet type dinner or in most cases a sit down type where the meal is served in quick succession of batches of a hundred by a host of waiters.
The time is now 11.30 p.m. Time to hit the road. As you drive along, your wife, for the umpteenth time says, “I am very impressed with that sweet girl. What’s her name? The husband says, ‘Radha’. Oh yes, she is a peach, isn’t she? Wouldn’t she make a wonderful wife for our second son? When are we going to ‘see’ her officially to formalize the alliance? Hope you have taken her address etc?” The husband is sleepy and he needs all his nerve to drive the car at that time of the night. “Did you say something, darling…? he asks. The wife is annoyed. “You are not really interested in Radha, are you?” she admonishes him.
“All in all, it was a nice evening, do you agree?” the husband essays as he switches off the engine at the portico of their house. It was an evening well spent. I have never eaten such full stomach ever as today. “Now, about Radha….” He yawns heavily and says, “Shall we talk about her tomorrow, my love? I am very sleepy….”