Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's been one of those long hiatuses, again. :)

In the intervening period, I've graduated. Yay. Way to go, Manav. I have also been for a wonderful trip to Kashmir. Siddharth's blog has the descriptions, I suggest you read them.

So, today, I'm going to talk about Delhi's weddings, having been for one recently. In a really old post, I remember describing the Sangeet as an occasion where old crones sing^, and where old (and young) men make a beeline for their whiskey, and keep at it. Usually, at some point, with the older generation, the talk turns to Partition, and then sentiness takes over.

Things have changed, somewhat. First of all, it is ESSENTIAL now, to have a DJ. This is supposed to be a good idea, and it is, to the limited extent that it shuts up the old crones who used to alternate between singing in terrible voices, and (depending on their essential characters) discussing the following topics:
A. How they have outlived everyone, including (and this is important) people who are six months younger than them, even though they were so 'Dalicate' in their youths.
B. What Mrs. Chadha actually said, and why her daughter-in-law does not live with her any more.
C. How they really brought a lot of dowry, and they would like to know what happened to it, and how (meaningful pause) the gold necklace that their "Nanad" is wearing (meaningful pause) looks familiar.

To that extent, a DJ is a good idea. However, Delhi's DJ's play TERRIBLE music. There's simply too much Punjabi music (as I discovered while organising my parent's silver wedding anniversary, where me and an aunt had a tussle about the need for a DJ, but that's a different story), and it's all simply too repetitive. This is a function of the fact that now people earn much more than they ever did, and that loud Punjabi music, interspersed with (for God knows what joy) Britney, is the best way of announcing it.

The essential nature of weddings (and families) has changed too. I was reading a wonderful book, Mother Pious Lady, by Santosh Desai, which spoke of the cliches of being Indian, where it talked about the elastic nature of the Indian house. Being the last generation to actually have experienced that, I know what it's talking about.

See, until the middle of the last decade, and when our parents were young, and their parents were young, and so on ad infinitum, weddings were a time when the whole family got together. Relatives were accomodated at your house, and at the houses of other relations who lived in the same town, up to the point where the house was full of bursting. It didn't matter that you had a one BHK, you still had 12 people staying there. The one thing I do recall was that there was never a need to ask. You called, and told people the date you were coming, and it was expected that the persons you were staying in would be at the station to pick you up, and you could stay there for a while. Likewise, the house where the wedding was was where the family congregated EVERY day. Some used to help in the cooking, some in the wrapping up of gifts, some with getting the clothes organised, and a few were invariably dispatched to buy the booze, no small matter at a wedding! Usually, this was the uncle who was in the army, who got vast amounts of rum, beer and whiskey by exhausting his, and his best friends' quotas for the next year.

When people speak of the 'raunaq'- a word for which there is no English translation of a 'Shaadi Wala Ghar', my memories run to the two hours before the Sehra Bandi/reception of the Barat, depending on who exactly the relative in question was. Utter chaos prevailed at home, with kids running around as irate mothers, clad in various stages of formal Indian clothing, ran behind them. Invariably, an aunt in a blouse and petticoat would be roaming around the house asking plaintively "Does anyone have a safety-pin? I'm sure I put mine in the purse, but...". All of us (the slightly older kids) would be sent to the presswalah to get everyone's clothes ironed, and there would invariably be a tense moment or two when Bua/Chachi/Tai/Masi discovered that she couldn't find one of her ear-rings/kadas/rings, until it would finally be discovered on the bed, and, on one immensely memorable occasion, in the WC!**

Recently, though, things have changed. As the "Ji, mere rishtedaar ke shaadi hai, do hafte chhutti milegi?" requests have started to be increasingly rebuffed, the number of relatives who come have reduced. The ones that do come, come as guests. They will usually require a bedroom to themselves, and shan't do too much work. Those hosting, on the other hand, balk at the idea of too many people coming, and have an array of hired helpers that they didn't need earlier, and couldn't afford either, to help out. Everything seems a little too choreographed, a little too formal, and lacks the zest of earlier.

Or maybe, in my case, it's nostalgia for a half-remembered past. I can't imagine giving up my room for two weeks for relatives I hardly know, so there!

* Some songs were really REALLY ribald, including one that describes the stages of pregnancy in excruciatingly funny detail.
** The restoration of the article of jewellery involved lots of consternation, a bet, five hundred rupees, and LOTS of Dettol soap.