It seems as if this happened eons ago, but I still remember the way weddings used to be in our childhood. First they would put up those hideous yellow tents in the middle of a busy street or thoroughfare, leaving the tiniest gap on either side so that those stubborn folks (or lazy ones?) could negotiate a way, rather than using a different way or by alley. Next would be the red, yellow, green pepper like lights that they would 'drape' all of over the house to announce the place where all the action was going to take place. And then for days, young maidens and old ladies sang themselves hoarse singing silly ditties, folk songs, tappey/mahiye or the superhit songs from the latest bollywood movies. (Of course the singing themselves hoarse part happened first, followed by the putting up of the peppery decorations, and the hideous tents usually sprouted on the actual day of the wedding itself! All of the above may be anachronistically wrong, but this is not a 'scientific or methodical treatise". )
Then the sellers of unhygienic but the most delicious street-food appeared out of blue. They seemed to be summoned by some mysterious power, and all the kids would flock to them and stuff themselves greedily with all the eatables until they were quite delightfully sick and bloated. The young kids also had the magical capacity to be ravenously hungry the second the wedding food was served, and started eating anew. Oh, and all of this used to happen during the day time.
All of it started to change gradually. For one, now very few people receive the baraat in their own house or street. Now almost every wedding is hosted in a fancy banquet hall or at some hotel. The timing of the function has also changed from the day time to the late nights. The weddings have become much, much more extravagant then they used to be. Also, I remember how the brides used to wear a salwar qameez suit (usually red) with lots of gotta kinari on it. Nowadays, of course it's all designer lehngas/ghraaras/whatnots if you can afford it, or an imitation of a designer if you are on a tighter budget and so on. The scenario I described above refers to the weddings in the cities as I remember it, and of course my knowledge is limited.
Am I struck with nostalgia? Perhaps yes. Why? Well one of our cousins in the village got married this Friday. And it struck me how the weddings in the village have remained more or less the same. For one, the menu never changes. It is always:
1. Namkeen chawal
2. Qorma (usually beef or veal), in rare cases it can be chicken qorma, but people in the village don't like the white meat much. And let me point out that the beef or veal qorma is really more economical and fuel efficient as well. Imagine the huge pile of fuel you would have to burn to fry all that chicken first. And it's not even popular!
3. Zarda or Mutanjan
I don't know about others, but I love how predictable the menu is. How it never varies and you know exactly what to expect. And still no two wedding feasts are alike. Some are cooked by seasoned 'naai' and taste divine, while in other cases it's spoiled by some novice who is still learning the ropes. And it's amazing how even after years people would remember and reminisce how so and so's wedding food was the most delicious, and taunt some others for serving poorly cooked food. Oh, and I forgot to mention the part where almost everyone mixes up the sweet and salty rice together and pour loads of 'botis' on top! I myself have tried the combo (minus the meat part) and think it's a winning combination:) On the mehndi (on the evening before the wedding day itself), it's always daal gosht and boiled rice. Another yummy combo I must tell you and the one most eagerly awaited.
Anyway back to the topic of weddings in the village. The guests are normally seated in someone's huge courtyard, usually it's the same person. They don't even have to be related to the bride and groom for their house to be used as a venue of choice for all weddings. The only qualifying factor is the right proportion between the size of the courtyard and the number of baraatis. Since it's customary to bring very few women with the wedding procession, the ladies are generally herded to the bride's house, where all of them try to sneak a glimpse of the bride that's being readied in some inner, invariably darkest room of the house. The ladies on the bride's side consider it as the top most covert operation and use all sorts of tricks to keep the marauders at bay. The sole aim of each lady in baraat is to catch a glimpse of the bride before everyone else, while the girl's side wants to keep it as a big surprise only to be revealed after everyone has consumed the food.
The food is normally served in our village's one and only church. It's also customary to serve menfolk first, before feeding the ladies and the kids. I personally find it a bit sexist, unfair and inconsiderate. Because, invariably the choicest portions of the foods are served to the men first, or only to them. Isn't it a bit unfair that even young kids are made to wait(as they would have to be escorted by their mothers or sisters)? Khair. Such is life!
Hmm..this post is getting longer and longer and longer and I didn't really set out to write this! I mean there are still so many interesting details about the weddings in the village that I haven't even mentioned yet, but I had meant to to only write about how I watched 'live telecast' of an entire wedding on Skype and got to see almost everyone in the family. And oh boy, was it fun! So times are changing in the village too I tell ya! One of the older aunties even did the traditional 'pheri' in front of the webcam and the younger ones sang wedding songs. It made me homesick and all that, and I missed the mouthwatering feast, but to be a virtual guest at the wedding was a huge treat in itself.
The bride looked gorgeous!!! Waiting to see pics of the bridegroom. Lemme check my email:D