Marriages are made in heaven and conducted on Earth, goes a popular saying. In India, marriage ceremonies are always associated with grandeur, vanity, arrogant display of wealth by some sections of society, a strenuous time for parents of the bride (mostly) and a litany of complaints about wastage of food/ quality of food. Occassionally, attendees to a wedding also speak about the lip smacking varieties of food that they were treated to as part of the sumptuous spread. Here, I would like to narrate a not-so funny experience that I had a few years ago when I attended a wedding in Mumbai.
Shree Printers is a fairly small-time printing house in Mumbai located in a lane bang opposite the famous “Filmistan Studios” in the western suburbs of Mumbai. My father was associated with this gentleman for close to 20 years. In a way, it is a blessing that I do not remember the name of this gentleman.
In the early 90’s when I had begun working, one fine morning, my father informed us that we had been invited for the Maharashtrian wedding of the son of the elderly gentleman (the proprietor of Shree Printers). I had not attended a Maharashtrian wedding in years, so I was thrilled. I am very fond of Maharashtrian and Gujarati food – though they may be rich in calories, they are also very tasty. A gourmet like me would anyway eagerly look forward to such a wedding feast.
On the scheduled day, I reached home by 6 pm. My mother declined to come, my brother was studying in Pune at that time, so myself and my father left our home at 7.00 pm armed with a wedding gift. The venue of the reception was barely a stone’s throw from our residence. Generally, it was my mother’s practice to prepare an evening snack for me when I returned from office. But that day was an exception. I told her that I did not need an evening snack as I was attending the wedding anyway. (My mouth had already started watering!).
By 7.15 pm, when we reached the venue, we were wondering whether we had come to the right place. The crowd at the wedding hall resembled a kumbh mela.There was a long serpentine queue to wish the couple who were seated on the dais. As people were jostling with each other, I was wondering whether we would be able to wish the couple at all in this melee. As expected, some of the invitees who were standing in the queue had some free entertainment in the form of cat fights between two women (who decided to continue the quarrel that they had started and left halfway in the morning near the water tap).
The dining hall where the feast was being held was just adjacent to the main hall. To make matters worse, this dining hall had huge windows. So, all those who were waiting to wish the couple, longingly looked at the fortunate ones who had managed to scurry to the dining hall. The latter clearly were getting uncomfortable with so many eyes looking at their plates.
15 minutes into waiting in the queue, we saw the elderly gentleman (the owner of the printing press) walking along. We shook hands with him and greeted him but we were unable to understand why his face was more sombre. Ideally, the father of the bridegroom should be more relaxed, isn’t it? So, here, instead of appearing cherubic, he looked sullen. He then kept on muttering to my father, “Please, please”.
My father understood the situation promptly. Unfailingly, the owner of the printing press accepted the wedding gift without a trace of remorse. Through his gestures, he had managed to tell us not to partake in the wedding feast. Probably, there was a gap in the co-ordination between the two families which resulted in more number of invitees than what the bride’s side had intimated to their caterer.
Hungry and exasperated, we returned home at 8 pm. My mother asked us, “So, how was the wedding feast?” We explained the situation to her and expressed our embarrassment at what had happened. Luckily, the dough for idli was available at home and that saved the day for us. Friends, though this incident happened several moons ago, every time I manage to wade through Shree Printers, I am immediately reminded of this wedding feast that never happened. Poor me!
On another occasion, one of the boys in our neighbourhood had invited my father to his Christian wedding. My father and my younger brother (who had come home for a vacation) attended this wedding. Apparently, the wedding feast was good. As they both entered our home, we asked them the usual questions. My brother kept on chiding my father that something was missing, but he could not recollect anything. Seconds later, my father shouted, “O, my god, here is the wedding cover”. Both of them had been so much engrossed in the wedding rituals that they forgot to hand over the cover to the bridegroom.
On yet another occasion, myself and my father had the good fortune of attending a Parsi Navjyot ceremony at Grant Road in Mumbai. As we were the only vegetarians in the crowd, we were allotted separate seats (on the first row) in the dining hall. All that we could manage was a bottle of coke and vegetable sandwiches. However, what marred the day for us and all the other guests in the dining hall was the presence of some uninvited guests for the ceremony. A bunch of cats, looking ferocious and hungry, managed to pass through the dining hall, under the chairs. Rather than relishing the food, the guests were treated to someone scratching their foot all the time. What a sight it was to see the guests kicking with their legs even as they managed to put something in their mouth..! The feast had ended even before it began...!