Monday, March 10, 2014

Through the same eyes.....

(Very clearly, one is a child's observation and one, a mother's, both being the same individual.......)  

Fifty years ago.

The emphasis was on sides.  The bride's side or the groom's side. 

The former always had several ladies bustling around in a permanent crisis-handling mode.  The bride was the least important.  There were standard sarees, standard jewellery , the muhurtam or auspicious moment was always what I called a Prime muhurtam (indivisible by any number)  like 8:47 am etc. There was never a hint of any fancy makeup on the bride's face. Jewellery was not so much about what suited her, but more about what needed to be seen.

The groom's side had an intrinsic victorious look, that manifested itself in the form of relaxed folks,  accompanied by what one might call expert commentators, in the form of older grand folks.  They sat in the first row in the wedding hall, keenly watching the proceedings, with an eye on who was presenting what to whom, occasionally nodding in a fashion that implied "I told you so ...". The groom's sister usually enjoyed her day in the sun (if not yet married) , and an opportunity to flaunt her enhanced status (if already married), all the while thinking about how she went through it all herself.

There were no quick and fast religious rituals based on conveniences of guest folks going to work or the priests having to go preside at another place.  There was a time for each ritual and was strictly adhered to. 

Someone from the groom's side sulking about something was always de rigeur. The reason could range from the absence of a certain delicacy in the food, to what would be hitherto unseen level of ordinariness in a particular gift. At some point the mother-in-law/son-in-law's feet were washed in some ritual, and folks from the groom's side who refused to have this done, were considered akin to saints.

Soon after they were pronounced man and wife, the bride was led to the enclosure meant for the groom's side,  and gifted sarees along with someone vicariously insisting that  she change forthwith into sarees "from our side" . 

The bride was usually asked to "say" her husband's name in a rhyming couplet having to do with  God, stars, gardens, flowers, kind in-laws, honor, respect and so on.  This was usually done after displaying a suitable and approved level of  shyness.      

The food was always traditional, there were jilebi and laddoo gluttons who devoured stuff by the plateful and were applauded, with a wild disregard for their metabolic state.  Some predecided lady with latent musical talent was urged to sing , and with a suitable humble delay, she would start, her right hand on a piece of chapati/puri , eyes looking down into the sabji, or even a shrikhand, while some kids 3 lines away had a ha ha moment.

There really were no receptions.  Brides were not supposed to go beautify themselves in parlours.  If at all there was a reception, someone purporting to be a beauty expert came to do the bride's hair etc.  Very clearly, the only place the bride went to, from the wedding venue, was the house of the in laws.  There were no buffets, and multi cuisine deals. There was a "plate" consisting of items arrived at from a judicious mix of  sweet, spicy, hot, fluid,  sometimes accompanied, inexplicably , by Coca Cola. 

Which brings me to the  preferred activity of kids at the wedding. Most families didn't allow their kids to drink Coca Cola. No one kept crates at home.  And so weddings were a wild free-for-all. (Many who grew up during the time Coca Cola was banned , and Thums Up appeared on the scene, may not realize that we did have Coca Cola in my childhood , 50 years ago. It's just that we kept our distance from it, at home ).  This always resulted in bunches of kids having competitions to see who could drink the most, with disastrous consequences later. There was no bride-groom divide amidst kids, hitherto united by the objective of glugging down unlimited bottles of cola . 

There really were no professional photographers.  There were, if at all, candid photos, clicked by guests and family chroniclers.  Small children, attracted by the fancy chairs meant for the bride and groom, usually landed up magically and sat on them , while the bride and groom went to touch some one's feet somewhere. (This has possibly remained unchanged even today)

An amazing feature of these weddings was what is called "Waraat" in Marathi and possibly "Baraat" in Hindi. Unlike the north Indian custom of baraat being a collection of the groom's side folks dancing in wild abandon around a baffled horse carrying a decorated groom to his wedding, the "waraat" , a post wedding event in Marathi weddings, was almost always a decorated open vintage car (the likes of which are collected by  rich folks today), with a flower bedecked umbrella canopy on top.

It was led in front by a uniformed band playing  suitable tunes which were then popular, along with a set of folks  walking along with big petromax lamps on their heads.  This flower bedecked car,  being possibly being driven at 5 kmph, was followed on foot, by all kinds of folks , walking sedately behind, in suitable finery,  in a great show of unity , as the bride and groom proceeded to  visit the family deity at a popular temple, before reaching the in law's house. A prosperous groom's side would often have a fireworks display  preceeding the band.  Some troublesome kids were often plonked in the front seat of the vintage car from where they often instructed the band to play certain tunes at times.  The bands would often play what are now considered old classics, the lyrics all having to do with a bride leaving her parental home, having to find happiness in the house to which she was being "beqeathed" .  Towards the end , it was not unusual to see young parents in the waraat , carrying sleeping kids,  walking  slowly, patting the child's back.

They had probably, as they say , " been there, done that "....... 

And I think about all this, today, when weddings are more about how the bride and groom want them to be.  When mandatory rituals are now explained before being performed.  There is an indulgent attitude towards the bride's and groom's wedding clothes, more so when it harks back to old traditional  wear, with the groom wearing a dhoti and puneri pagdi, and the bride in a radiant traditional yellow nine yards. Digital photography has meant unlimited clicks, and a detailed chronicling of the events of the day. Beauticians think nothing of visiting the bridal house at 5 am to "do up" the bride, hairstyles, makeup, and a beautiful draping of the wedding nine yards.  The bride and groom chit chat before and after the event, much at ease.  There are fun  "mangalaashtakas" sung  before the final Sanskrit verses by a young person from the groom's side, bringing a smile to the faces of so many from the bride's side.  The "sides"  per se, are mostly virtual, as the guests mingle around and mix around the vidhi mandap, waiting for the final verses to start.  Poses are held , aided by the officiating gurujis, so that various stages of the ceremony can be documented electronically, closed eyes are instantaneously detected and the click redone.  The bride still says the groom's name in a rhyming couplet, and it still mentions  flowers, God, trees, honor, in-laws etc,  and similar  elderly folks nod in approval, all the while knowing that the bride simply normally refers and calls  her groom by his name in  second person singular. Almost no one sings at the sit-down lunch, which is in itself rare these days, what with the multi cuisine buffets happening. Receptions are dress-up occasions, with grand decorations and entire meals . There are videos made, and thousands of photos clicked. You sift through these and the photographer presents you with a fancy album at the end of it all. All this for prices which would be considered outrageous , but we don't talk about that. 

The only thing that remains unchanged across  almost half a century, is that heartfelt tug in the mind of the mother,  as she sees her daughter depart to step into a new life .......


  1. ..... just say Queen yesterday. Rings a lot of bells.

  2. I have witnessed both kind of weddings and could relate to them completely . Your description of type 1 and type 2 wedding was very vivid . Enjoyed reading it.
    Recently I attended a wedding where nobody was willing to sing Manglashtaka other than Guruji (out of tune) and things looked highly impersonal and mechanical as the bride and groom had been working in the US for a long time and had lost touch with their cousins etc. So even young crowd was very distant and the whole event lacked the enthusiasm which is generally found in abundance during weddings.

  3. Tearing up on your last line...knowing well that my lil girl will all too soon grow up and pack her bags for college! She's just one, but you know how time flies...

  4. And best wishes to your daughter and son in law! The header pic is lovely!