INDIAN MARRIAGES: Of Guns and Bands… The Desi Istyle (Part 2)
So the marriage is fixed now. And now that it’s fixed, even Brahma himself will think twice before cancelling it without the permission of both the parties. The next thing to do is to move to the base camp… I mean, the ancestral village. In most of the cases, all the marital ceremonies are carried out in the respective villages. In villages the setup is different from the cities. There is not any system of catering companies which take the contract of getting the marriage performed. Everything has to be managed by the families themselves. Whole infrastructure has to be setup in such a way that there is no compromise with the pomp and show off. In every family, there is a born manager who knows the addresses of all those who must be contacted. He would contact the cooking party, the tent house, the decorators, the videography ( MS word is underlining it in red) wallah, will get the cards printed and distributed and will arrange for SUVs needed for the baarat in the case of the groom side. It depends upon his managerial abilities that how economic and grand the “wyawastha” is.
Now, the guests start arriving. The khatarnaak ones arrive right 20 days before the marriage and pretend to take all the arrangements in their hands. The never do…all that they do is to roam from here to there and to disturb the one who is really doing something. The other variety is of those who has their own demands. Since he was a DFO in his youth, he would drink only coffee. Now, amid all that rush, you will have to arrange for his coffee. Most of the older ones come with a valet of their own who takes care of them and iterates the demands of their respective Sahebs. In our region, there is tradition of lavish hosting. Lots of guests are invited, whole families…and they live till the marriage in the same house, or houses. So when the number of the guests increases, the already existing kitchen system of the house fails. For this, in our houses, large utensils, the ones used for making food in parties are kept ready. Temporary chulhas of larger size are made and two or three men from the village, who are expert at it, are hired to prepare the daily food. This frees the women of the house. Now they are left with only two topics, jewels….and sarees.
The nights are really hilarious. Every single night’s food is sponsored by some guest. And when they sponsor, they volunteer to show their expertise in preparing that food, be it meat, be it fish….or be it the Litti. Now Litti is one thing for which a Bihari can take his heart out. And making a good littis is an art, a classic one. Right from the masala of the gram-flour, the sattu, the proportion of spices, khatai and namak has to be maintained delicately. Then this masala is filled in cups made of atta dough, and the cups are rolled into balls. A huge fire is made of dried cow dung, and when it becomes glowing red, it is beaten and made flat. Now the balls are arranged in fire in a circular manner and are covered with the ash. Toppling the balls upside down on the fire is a game of experts only. It’s always good to see old men fighting like children over the method of doing it. When the balls have been roasted, a bowl of ghee is kept and each litti is is punched using the thumb and is bathed in that ghee until the ghee enters every particle of the masala inside. Now its ready….and so is the bharta of baigan. Tummies full, the next demand is that of a Harmonium, or saaj… and these old guys relish their bygone days singing the oldies, the folks and ghazals. Whole clan, khandaan, sits around as the singers take turn, demands pour in, admirations pour in, the shy old ladies voice the classics, the Kajlis and the thumris from behind their veils, and we, the younger ones, listen mesmerized… and the night rolls on.
The marriage procedure is carried out in two step, one is the Tilak and the other is the marriage itself. For the process of offering the Tilak, the bride’s party visits the groom’s party. In this process all the monetary transactions are finalized. As I have told you, neither of the parties is ever satisfied with the terms finalized. Traditionally, the ladkiwallahs always bring an amount little less than demanded. So when such situation arises, one final weapon is used by the ladkawallah…the rice!! The process of Tilak is finally over only when rice is distributed among all the married persons present there and they throw it on the groom. Someone from the groom’s side captures the rice basket, and holds it until a truce is worked out. And the most interesting thing is that after a transaction of lakhs of rupees, the rice gets stopped only for a matter of few thousands. It has become more of a tradition, a funny one. The Agua then steps in, gets abused by both the parties, and works a truce. In worst cases, he may get thrashed too.
Finally, the date of marriage arrives. In our region, only males go in the baraats. Right in the morning, the village barber, ventures out in the area with an “Agya”, a command, issued by the head of the family, to invite all those who have to go with the baarat. It is never said directly, it is always said in passive voice, in an indirect manner. Like he would say, “ Baabu Dhoti rangwa leb…jekar dhoti piyar na hoi okra ke bolahta naikhe”. In turn, the old tradition was to chase the barber away from the house. This is called “Vijay”. Strange, but lovely. By evening, all the SUVs line up and to carry the village people, the band wallahs and the goods, usually a bus is also hired. Finallly, the contingent leaves for the destination with the groom in the decorated car, with the blessing of his kuldewta , mother, aunts, sisters…etc etc..
In the way, some of the cars stop at the liquor shops and quota for the night is made full. Those cars always run ahead or behind of the cars carrying elders. First pegs are taken in the running cars themselves so that pahuchne tak mood ban jaae. Believe me, as a child, when alcohol was still a bad thing, I had many myths, many of the elders were my ideals. But when I saw this mast wala system, I understood….beta, sab moh maaya hai.
At bride’s place, the ladkiwallah side, the preparations to host the baraat starts 3 or 4 days before the marriage. The house gets all dolled up with lights, all the tents are put in place…and the cooking party reports. First things to be prepared are the sweets. And after they have been prepared, they are stored in a room, the room is locked and the keys are handed over to the manager about whom we talked earlier. The preparation of food for the baraat starts only on the day of its arrival, and one man from the family is assigned to keep constant vigil on that. The children of home are given the task of making cardboard boxes to keep the sweets in them. In childhood, it seemed to us that the biggest of the responsibilities have been handed over to us…making boxes, and we did it with the same zeal. Several boxes of Thandha, or cold drinks, arrive and so does the ice to keep them cool. In villages, we have granaries, called Bhusauls, to store grains. The cold drink bottles, wrapped in ice, is lowered into the one containing thatch to keep them cold. Decoration of the mandap is done with papers and colours. In our village, Mustafa, the tailor, is called for doing this since time immemorial..
The arrangements for holding the baraat are made at some distance from the home, usually some school ground or simply a field. The place is called Janwasa. The baraat is received here and served with light breakfast and paan. And then, the village barber, in our case Kalamuddin, comes with the “Agya” to move the baraat to the ladkiwallah’s duar. The Vijay on this Agya is done by rewarding the barber. And then the barat marches. Spearheading the baraat are the light wallahs, after that, the band wallahs and after that, the the Great IndianBaraat dancers. These includes the brothers, their fathers, friends, uncles, grandfathers etc.. etc. The alcohol has already done its magic. The singer of the band usually can sing in both male and female voices. The most favorite dance songs are Jimmy Jimmy, I am a Disco Dancer, the Naagin tune and last, but surely not the least, Yah Desh Hai Veer Jawano Ka. I still cant understand how the hell this one song made into a marriage playlist. Dance steps are sheerly easy…just hold both your hands up in air and jump up and down. These dancers can dance on any tune…even on the sound made by a generator. Along with the Baraat, several veterans with their guns held high move, usually recoiling Dunaalis, and keep firing rounds in sky.
Finally, the dancing, stumbling and firing Baraat reaches the duar of Ladki wallahs. The swagat of the baraat is done with high pitched Gaalis sung in chorus by the ladies of bride’s side, and garlands of course. Now this, is a scene of utter chaos…the sound of band, sound of shahnai, and sound of Gaalis together produce a baffling effect. If you want to brake in a party, this is the best time to do so. The two samdhis embrace each other and the groom is taken out of his car…but this also, is not without trouble. Usually, the driver of the car locks the gates and seizes the key. Only after a handsome bribing he opens the gate…
And thus begins the marriage….but more fun is to follow, the feast is still to be given, and the Naach or the orchestra is still to come into action and so are some more lovely traditions.