Especially when they are within family and more if they are of relatives from the land of the Bengal ..
The routines, the placements, the discussions on what is to be put where, when and why .. debates from each section of the varied members, who all pitch in with their confirmed ideas and thoughts .. and this is not just for fun, its serious business .. the delicate rituals that need to be practised, and the correctness of it .. each elder giving their version, each party of the bride and the groom putting in their values .. ‘in our part of the region we do it like so’ … but how .. ‘oh you are from West Bengal, in our East Bengal the ritual is this, not that ..’ and a discussion starts … which is oblivious of the ceremony per se .. the bride and groom waiting in elevated condition for the elders to decide who does what and how and when … !!!
Finally after a few disgruntled opinions, the coast is cleared and the ceremony proceeds … watched with hawkish eyes if the ‘pandit’ is performing it well and correctly or not … not wasting any time at all in correcting him as well … which … yes, you got it … is the beginning of another verbal battle .. where voices are raised … the religiosity of the ‘pandit’ now being scrutinised and questioned is grave matter … I mean lets face it he is the guy that shall solemnise the betrothal .. if he ain’t budging, the duo do not get married .. matter is that simple … so give in to what he says .. ‘pandits’ are hard to come by … its the festival and time of marriage season …. they are busy people .. he may just realise his opinion and talent being questioned and leave … difficult to find someone who can do all the ‘pooja’ at this late hour, so succumb to the dictat of the priest of betrothal !!
And this the head gear to be worn by the groom .. I mean come on !! It looks so much like the dunce cap .. or .. wait … maybe that is why .. the dunce cap, makes sense .. grooms are being prepared for what is to follow … hahahahahah !!
Its quite a speciality this head gear .. I asked several of the elderly ladies, who you must be knowing by now are always the experts when it comes to weddings, both from the West and Eastern parts of Bengal, what the reason and matrimonial ceremonial significance this hat had …
Which explains many things …
Do I really need to explain …
See .. the boy sits with the ‘pandit’ alone and there is some ritual .. when with the loudest yoddling, by females … them putting their fingers in their mouths and quivering it as they scream in ‘hohohohoooooo hoooooooooo ‘ .. the bride is brought into the ‘mandap’ sitting on a ‘tipai’ a small stool like object, carried by her brothers, with, and this is the most intriguing part, her face covered by a ‘paan’ or beetle nut leaf, rather her eyes covered, so she does not see the groom …
A sheet is thrown open on top of the meeting of these two groups – the boy’s side and the girl’s side, underneath, the brothers still picking up their sister about to be married, beetle nut leafed, getting a little strained by the weight of the lass … and then dramatically when it is presumed that there is some room for a little privacy under the sheet covered heads, the LEAF is removed and the bride and groom see each others face for the first time … this is the practice of our very archaic practice of arranged marriages … but ..
This is not an arranged marriage .. !!!
So I bend over to my Grandmother, Jaya’s Mother, who as you may guessed by now is, among the many others of her age, the experts in such matters, to ask why this routine is done and what its significance ..
She is conservative Bengali, in her late 80′s and she responds in her Bengali Hindi, which when translated in the interests of those that are fluent in every other language but Hindi is :
“ See Beta, the bride is not supposed to have seen the face of the groom, and vice versa .. in our times the arranged marriage was conducted thus … the elders went and sought a girl or a boy respectively and without informing the two involved persons, marriages were conducted .. but here, what is the use .. both these two have already ‘seen’ each other from before ..”
The ‘seen’ within inverted, because the boy and the girl have been living together for some years .. !!!
And GrandMom looks up to me with a half wicked half mischievous smile and gets back to giving her details to the other concerned women relatives of the girl … she has come from the boy’s side .. he is her grandson !!!
There we are .. the dunce cap … the beetle nut leaf and the elevated bride on a small stool, being carried by the brothers … but wait … more follows ..
The boy’s side not appreciating the fact that the girl has been lifted higher than the boy, then lift the guy about to be betrothed on their shoulders, to out height the girl’s party .. !!! and this goes on for quite a while … the girl screaming her unbalanced position on this thin and unstable stool, and the boy’s screaming loudly the discomfort they subject the girls side to …. all in good faith of course ..
Then comes the moment of acceptance … the girl and the boy having ‘seen’ each other, garland each other … the ‘varmala’ … and its done.. confirmed … gone … another guy attached for life, another girl attached for life !!!
A few routines around the fire .. the ‘pheras’, the filling of the ‘mang’ with ‘sindhur’, the tying of the ‘mangalsutr’, to be worn by the wife till ‘death do us part’, and in Bengal an ivory bracelet on the girl’s hand, which she cannot ever remove .. and if she has to , only the husband can and has to do the needful !!
There is clapping and more flower throwing and ‘hooooo hoooooo ‘ by the ladies and their fingers .. and to the rhythm of the latest Hindi Film music, the relatives start to sway and dance ..
hehehe .. never too far away from the Film Industry .. !!!
Ok .. enough on weddings .. I must to the beddings .. very early morning to Cairo .. and more from there when I am there …