By Kulbhushan Kain
The wedding season is just round the corner in India! (Yes, we have a wedding season!) One of the many things that Covid hit hard was the weddings. No, not that people did not get married, but these were more like a group of only 50 people coming to celebrate a momentous occasion. Small numbers at weddings had a multiplier effect– Indian weddings pump large money into the wedding “economy”. COVID took away the income of the wedding gardens, the food and catering services, the light and sound industry, the tailors, the goldsmiths, the travel industry, etc. A good example of how people thrive during the wedding season was when I was staging the first annual function of my school in Jaipur. When we wanted back-up generators, or when I wanted a new suit, or when we wanted the best sound system – I was politely told, “Sir, aajkal shaaadi ka season hai!” COVID put a stop to what is a fabulous celebration in which hundreds gather and rejoice.
I for one wasn’t able to attend even a single marriage last year.
But that’s not how it was. When I was young, I got invited to a few weddings. My circle of friends was small and restricted to those of my age. When I became a Principal – the invitations increased. I became a “visible” citizen and hence got pampered and the circle widened! However– as I stepped into my 40s and 50s – the dam of invitations broke. The kids whom I had taught started getting married! I was invited to hundreds of weddings. It became impossible for us to attend every wedding and sometimes there were invitations from 10 or 15 friends, students or relatives for the same day and at the same time. The only way out in such a case was to do “wedding hopping” from one to maybe three weddings!
The customs and intensity of wedding in India vary from region to region. For example,
Gujarati and South Indian weddings are sedate. North Indian weddings on the other hand are raucous, flashy, noisy with band, baaja, baraat – I was surprised when I saw the Pom Pom girls of Rajasthan Royals Cricket team usher in the bridegroom at a wedding in Jaipur!
In Punjab, the wedding kickstarts with my favourite – the “Jaago”, when traditionally the bride receives the bridal bracelets from her uncles and women gather to sing songs. Everyone gathers in celebration, announcing the wedding that is to follow the next day. In the villages, this is how they invite everyone to the wedding.
The wedding procession starts off sedately with a few youngsters dancing in hip hop style to the playing of “aaj mere yaar ki shaadi hai”, “le jayenge, ley jayenge, dilwale dulhaniyaa le jayengeh” or “tequila”. But as the liquor starts taking its toll – everyone jumps into the boxing area – including the octogenarians! Sometimes, even the bridegroom is made to dismount the horse and shake a leg or two! In one wedding of a mate of mine we gathered in Faridabad where everyone was on cloud nine. So much so, that one of our most loved gymnastic coaches first took off his coat, then his sweat soaked shirt, and started to do cartwheels and pushups on the main road! When we asked him to put on his shirt and coat, he replied as a matter of fact, “yaar garmi bahut hai”!
Punjabi weddings are incomplete without alcohol and non-vegetarian food. Patriarchy is on full display as the “baraat”, which is essentially the groom’s family, is treated as if they are doing the girl a favour by accepting her. The “dulha” (bridegroom) is like a king – seated on a rather dilapidated horse (in most cases, the poor animal appears very confused and frightened with so many people dancing and fireworks going on right in front of its eyes). The liquor comes from an improvised bar – called “car o bar”, because it is in the hatch of a car! And, sometimes, non-vegetarian food can have as many as 25 varieties!
Weddings also bring to the fore egos! I remember attending a close relative’s wedding at an upmarket club in Delhi where the “ladkaa walaas” refused to eat or drink because the girl’s father did not serve Johnny Walker Black Label (It was a status drink 30 years ago). After 2 hours, a bottle was arranged and the bonhomie restored!!
In India – weddings are not just weddings. They are a mirror of the lives and backgrounds from which we come. They reflect the family traits and family politics which are an integral part of any wedding get together.
I love them! I love to dance in them! Things only cool down after the “jaimaala”, when the bride and the groom literally wrestle to put the garland of flowers on the other to the inevitable playing of “baharon phool barsaao, mera mehboob aayaah hai”.
Sadly, things have changed a bit over the years. The weddings have got less noisy and more formal.
But then everything has changed – hasn’t it?
(Kulbhushan Kain is an award winning educationist with more than 4 decades of working in schools in India and abroad. He is a prolific writer who loves cricket, travelling and cooking. He can be reached at email@example.com)