As Shulamith Ezekiel Malekar and Sharon Pinhas Bhalkar tied the knot at the Safdarjung Club in south Delhi's Safdarjung Enclave, it marked a memorable event for not only the couple but for the whole Jewish community in Delhi.
“This is the first wedding in 50 years between two Indian Jews in Delhi. There have been Jewish marriages but they were inter-religious,” Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, the father of the bride, a retired lawyer and rabbi at the Judah Hyam Synagogue on Humayun Road, said.
According to him, only 10 Indian Jewish families live in the Capital now. The Jewish community in Delhi is only 50-members strong.
“There are also around 200-odd diplomats who are Jews. Every year, in winter, over 25,000 visitors come to visit the Judah Hyam Synagogue (the only one of its kind in North India),” Malekar said.
Hannah Judah, a teacher based in Mumbai, had flown in with her husband Akiv to attend the wedding. She said there are over 5,000 Indian Jews, most of who stay in Mumbai. “There is also a considerable Jewish populace in Kochi, Kolkata and even Manipur. In Delhi, however, the number isn't too flattering,” Hannah added.
While the men sported the traditional kippa (Jewish skull cap) at the wedding, the women showed off serene sarees and dainty dresses. Children ran around the venue in kurtas, lehenga-cholis, miniature wedding gowns and suits. Turban-wearing catering guys moved around with an array of snacks and soft drinks. A tiny dance floor was also set up for the post-wedding dance.
As the bride, accompanied by her family, walked towards the wedding shamiana with little flower boys showering rose petals and a pretty teen holding on to the trail of her dress, the groom started singing a Hebrew song — sung by millions of Jews for over 2000 years as a wedding ritual. However, Delhi and its people heard it again after half a century.
As part of the rituals, a glass was broken and a deal got signed quite literally. The veil was lifted and the bride smiled looking into the eyes of her tired-with-singing-out-aloud groom.
According to Shatrughun Jiwnani, a member of the Baha'i community, it was quite enjoyable watching the sanctity behind every custom that was being practiced. “I'm quite intrigued by them. The part where the groom sings was also very interesting,” he said.
The evening ended with an Indian vegetarian cuisine. The legal registry marriage awaits and will be done in a week, a relative said.