Humour: The five kinds of desi weddings
Spare a thought for the wedding guest finding her place among the dhols and daiquiris
It’s almost October, which means the wedding season will soon be upon us. Long-forgotten silk ties will jostle for suitcase space with too-tight golden sandals selected for impossible to pack for out-of-town affairs. Brutal salons will be endured and paunch-diminishing exercises devised. Envelopes will be unearthed from the musty depths of cupboards to be filled with freshly-withdrawn bank notes, plus that vital one-rupee coin minted solely for this reason, and handed over with the inevitable “We know you said no gifts, but this is just a little something...”. Here’s a sampling of what you might find in the ballroom, garden or field you’ve been invited to as a wedding guest.
The traditional wedding
I’ll give this category one thing – everyone seems to know what to do. Protocol is what holds it all together. As men in robes sanctify the holy union of the bride and groom, friends and less scrupulous family members make increasingly raucous appearances around the tormented couple. From the clothes to the menu, the rituals to the revelries, everything follows an ancient manual, intricately illustrated for our times by the Manyavar ads. The Barjatyas and Ambanis are the spirit animals of this kind of wedding. Worth attending just for the return gifts.
The destination wedding
This wedding has the soul of a vacation, except you never really know how dressy or casual the affair will actually turn out to be, so ask very specific questions about the dress code. Everything’s exotic, especially the unpronounceable – and often unpalatable – drinks. People often wear fancy headgear. And there’s inevitably a professional team of wedding filmmakers with a hot and persuasive director who quickly gains popularity with the guests. Crazy Rich Asians (2018), Hollywood’s (significantly poorer) answer to Dil Dhadakne Do (2015), is the style bible for this wedding specimen. If you’re invited, go, if only for the “You’ll never believe what they did…” bragging rights you get over your more locally oriented friends.
The intimate wedding
This one’s tricky, in case you’re not an integral part of the core team. Pre-wedding parties and post-wedding festivities are conducted in the bride and groom’s respective homes. Drunken uncles ask you overfamiliar questions. The groom’s cousin casually spills deep secrets.
The bride’s boss looks hopefully at the exit. You have no option but to assume the air of an insider while the families exult in their familiarity. Make sure you’re actually close to at least one or two of the people involved. Once the unease has subsided, you’ll find it to be the perfect occasion for glugging tall drinks and giggling at in-jokes in corners.
The bohemian wedding
This one can be quite unsettling. The couple’s determination to do everything their own way often has unintentionally comical results. Like the vows, for instance. Some set them to tune, some to difficult poetry while some go the route of deep whimsy. You laugh nervously, wondering whether you’re cool enough to get the joke. The groom’s in a toga, the bride’s in a flea-market dress. There’s pizza for lunch, made out of anything but bread. Everyone pledges money to a charity in the name of the couple. And then there’s obscure Scandinavian music, and substances till the hangover hours. Swell.
The cross-cultural wedding
This east meets West confection begins with the fervour of an ethnographic exercise and spirals into the madness of a Kala Chashma outbreak. The two cultures could be from across India – à la Vicky Donor (2012), where Bengali bhadralok learn how to party like Punjabi pros – or its microcosm, the world. Foreign visitors in tilaks learn a smattering of local words that they will forget by the time their flights take off for home. But for the moment, there’s a jugalbandi between butter chicken and tiramisu, Neil Diamond and Daler Mehndi, tuxedos and tussars. In between revelries, tours are planned, stomachs collapse, brief romances flourish. And the lucky couple receives envelopes filled with green currency notes despite all earnest attempts at refusing them.
From HT Brunch, September 29, 2019
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