Thursday, October 15, 2009

MY FIRST WEDDING MEMORIES

No, I am not talking of my own wedding (first, and only) here.

I mean the first wedding I have any distinct memories of.

It was my Didibhai's (cousin-sister) wedding, and I was all of seven, innocent-child-on-the-brink-of-precocious-giggly-girlhood.

The marriage was an 'arranged' one, in the traditional Indian fashion, but my Jethun (uncle - the bride's father) was not too conservative, and so, the groom selected was not a Brahmin like us, but from a different (supposedly lower) caste. Caste has always been a complete non-issue with me, but many regarded Jethun's decision as a bold and unconventional.

But for us, the groom hardly mattered. We were more caught up in the preparations made for the bride and by the bride.

The daily ubtan (scrub-cleaner) of milk and turmeric, which magically gave her dark complexion an amazing caramel glow.

The endless rounds of trousseau shopping - the blue-silver tanchoi benarasi (heavily embroidered North Indian silk saree), the yellow-maroon kanjeevaram (heavy South Indian silk saree), the tangails (Bengal handloom cotton sarees), and the piece de resistance - the dazzling red-and-gold Benarasi that Didibhai would wear to the wedding.

The careful but lavish purchase of gold ornaments - the patterns chosen so that the necklaces and bangles would cover her entire neck and arms ("gaa jeno bhara bhara dekhaye").

The more reckless spending on cosmetics, after endless debates as to matching shades and such like. Lakme was the company of choice, there being no L'oreal on the horizon in the 1980s.

The painstaking paisley alpana (designs) that Didia (my other cousin, Didibhai's sister) did on the two piris (low wooden stools) where the bride and the groom would sit while the priest performed the marriage rituals. Gold and red paisleys for the bride, black and silver for the groom - those lowly piris were proof of the detailed preparations made for the wedding.

The excitement over the tatvo (the display of the gifts sent to members of the groom's family and gifts given to the bride). Each tray was lovingly and uniquely decorated. Sarees were tortured out of shape to construct fantastic flora and fauna. And it was quite a disappointment to see that the groom's family had made no such effort - they had only cellotaped their gifts for us on to the trays. But perhaps their tamper-free sarees were easier to wear than the ones we gave - all creased and crumpled from being forcefully shaped like a peacock's tail!

The debates and detailing of the guest list and the subsequent selection of the design for the wedding card. And when the invitation cards came, I did my first postive work for the wedding (till then, I had been a very passive if passionately-eager witness of the ongoing bustle). I was deputed to put the auspicious sindoor-halud (red and yellow) mark on the envelopes.

The planning of the menu, the hiring of the marriage hall (it was a huge three-storey school building which they rented out for weddings - in the mornings, we played on the grounds, there were swings and slides and a huge expanse of green grass), the arrival of many of our relations, the gradual countdown to the...

D-day.

I remember the self-absorbed excitement of wearing a saree for the first time on a social occasion - it was an old maroon heavy silk saree belonging to my aunt, and it was so sturdily wrapped around me that I could barely walk. And the unfamiliar lipstick on my mouth made me so self-conscious that I could barely talk.

But the lights and the food and the hoichoi (excitement) and the novelty of everybody getting all decked-up and happy and shiny-faced made me also bubble over.

I remember my Bhai, all of three, too young to get excited or to understand fully, falling asleep in the middle of the ceremonies. Maa took him to an empty room where he could sleep comfortably, but he woke up after some time and, seeing nobody around, got extremely annoyed and came running down the stairs in his chaddies (underpants) crying loudly for my mother and disrupting the priest's ritual intonation of the mantras.

I remember Didibhai fainting during the bidaai (bride's leave-taking of her maternal home) and how Kartickda (her husband) joked later that she pretended to faint because she was embarrassed at not being able to cry.

I remember realising then that weddings were salt as well as sweet.

WHAT ARE YOUR FIRST WEDDING MEMORIES?

15 comments:

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

As a "Sehwala" I joined The first wedding of life. All I remember self watching in front of mirror looking @ new white coat And Mother trying her best to arrange hairs And then riding horse sitting in front of Dulha. - Senti kar diya aapne.
Good memories.

Kavi said...

I remember so many weddings. Especially of relatives. And there was always food, fragrance, loud music and incessant noise !

those were different times though. Completely different times. Took me there...!

♥ Braja said...

You forgot the noise of the brass band :)))))

Ranu said...

awww..... you wore a sari at seven!!! that is soooo cute!!!

The first wedding I fully attended was that of my eldest sister..... I was in college and we had to do everything so it was work work and work from shopping to the bou bhat totto....no time to enjoy!!! No family member from Kolkata attended the wedding because of the '92 blasts..... so it was just the four of us..... very hectic. It was also my first exposure to the Bengali culture.....had fun in a different way!!! When it was all over it was Dad who fainted because of over exertion and we were sooooo glad it was over!!!

Nazish Rahman said...

It is really very well written. Well expressed. The best was that chaddi part...lol!!

The Weekend Blogger said...

I love reading your posts. I think that the first wedding that I ever attended was that of an aunt of mine and all that I remember was being very, very excited when I was appointed to serve the "lebu-lonka-noon" (lime-chilli-salt) to the guests during dinner. In fact there were no professional servers, all the food was served to the guests by family members amidst much laughter and bantering. I miss this in the modern weddings.

Ugich Konitari said...

My first memory is that of a cousins wedding, when I was 7. That was the first time I saw her, and I had to stand behind her with a kalash (with mango leaves)during the actual wedding moments. The next memory I have is a whole bunch of us children going beserk having coca cola drinking competitions. We were ever allowed to have it at home or otherwise, and here it was , at the reception, and noone was checking !. This was way before George Fernandes threw Coca Cola out. My last memory of that occasion has to do with the bride in tears, as she left, and I really couldnt understand why they were getting her to marry ..... confusing na ?

seana said...

Well, the only Indian wedding I've 'attended' was Monsoon Wedding, but I did enjoy it very much.

I didn't go to any weddings as a child. Most of the relatives lived very far away, and actually I think I grew up in a kind of gap in family weddings anyway. Everyone was either already married or way too young.

When I graduated high school, there seemed to be a flurry of weddings for a few years. I was never a bridesmaid at any of these, and I think found the formality of them not to my taste. But as the years have gone on, I do enjoy going to weddings as both social occasions and as a witness to a rite of passage. Having been a bridesmaid once, though, I am happy to say that I think I'm too old to be pulled into service again...

Aleta said...

First memories of a wedding, it was an odd one. I was 13 years old. It was my cousin getting married. I wasn't close to her. She was 15 years my senior. She came from a VERY wealthy family and she wanted to defy them. Her wedding wasn't the luxury that her parents would have wanted. It was a backyard wedding. With a monk as a minister, dressed in a brown outfit. She, the bride, was barefoot and looked like a hippy. So was her groom. It was the absolute strangest wedding and the first I can recall from my youth. It was odd enough that even my brother still recalls it and laughs.

Destiny's child... said...

Glad that I came here :)
That was a very interesting read indeed.
I am from Kerala and the weddings here are devoid of all the shor-sharaba and hungama north indian weddings have. Yet, this one (the first wedding) was exciting as it was the first one I undertsood (I was all of eight years!) I remember I was excited about the black and white frock I was going to wear (Some color for a wedding, eh?) ;)

Ekta said...

hey lovely post....
i recall my own wedding..where both of us were behaving like kids in a theme park..laughing and gigling over everything..finally my parents had to literally scold us during the pheras to be serious..
hah!

Piscean Angel said...

Ahhh... when I read about your deputation to put halud & sindoor on the wedding cards, it reminded me of my chhoto-mashi's wedding where I was deputed to do the same. How typical of the elder ones to give us a job that we couldn't mess up & also keep us occupied. :)

Shaswati said...

I remember the first wedding way back when I was just 3years - my cousin getting married. Since there was few months gap between the engagement and wedding - the preparations were elaborate. What I remember of it is that whenever I would cry out loud, my sisters and Mom would say - "Habuda'r biyer shanai baajchhey!"But I was most dissapointed that I was not taken along with the "barjatri"as I was too small! I remember very clearly boudi coming as the new bride in a turqouise blue benarasi. Now - her son and daughter are married! :)

OfficeTips said...

Great post as usual :)
My earliest memories of a wedding was at an older cousin sister's wedding. I don't recall how old I was at that time. What I do remember are the countless 'paan' that I had with my parents busy with the wedding preparations :D. And yes, the bride weeping profusely stuck in my mind for a long time since. I could not figure out how the parents could let go off their daughter when she was so heartbroken.....

lady said...

We lived down south, so my very first memory of a wedding is that of a Christian one in a church. I must have been around 6. My Ma was unwell so I went along with my Dad. I still remember the bride floating down the aisle in white... I was mesmerised! We were given small coulorful balls of confetti to shower on the couple, but I had never seen them in my life n was somehow convinced that they were coloured sugarballs, NOT to we wasted on the bride n groom. So when dad was not looking, I quickly popped one in my mouth n was mightily disappointed at the gooey aftertaste! I was so upset after this that even when the wedding cake was offered to me, I carefully picked out all the silver sugarballs, not wanting to risk my palate anymore. But yeah, it stayed with me... till date I tend to associate weddings with white dresses n white cakes!