A few months ago I got married to a wonderful woman. Our wedding was a beautiful affair. While there were a number of incidents of note – some funny and some otherwise – there is one incident I would like to share with you all, especially to would-be grooms so that you might avoid the pitfalls I couldn’t avoid.
To properly set up the anecdote, I have to narrate from the start of the Nikah. It began with the sherwani. I am someone who is more comfortable in a pair of t-shirt and jeans than kurta-pyjama. Whether it’s the lack of a hulking physique or my awkward gait, I have never been able to carry any traditional wear with panache. However, this was my wedding. Sherwani was essential. After much drama, I bought a sherwani that fitted me to some degree.
Just before the nikah, my friends helped me put on the sherwani. That was an ordeal in itself. But that’s a story for another time. For the time being, let me tell you that keeping a track of the dupatta while balancing the safaa on the head was taxing. Don’t even get me started on those weird pointy shoes, or the socks that curiously look like the pouches used to store apples in fruit markets. Despite my struggles, a glance at the mirror suggested I appeared decent enough. The thought of maintaining that appearance for the rest of the evening made me nervous though. Fortunately, by the grace of the almighty, the actual nikah part went quite smoothly. Once the “qubool hais” were over, I started to relax, and the knot that was in my stomach for so long went away.
However, with the going away of the knot came the coming of the hunger. All right, that was a terrible sentence. But not as terrible as the hunger pangs I had when everyone was congratulating me. I could not help but fantasise had I been a guest at my wedding, I would have been helping myself to second or third helpings by now. After all, what are weddings for if not food? Well, they are also about two people getting married and starting a new life together, but food is what brings people together, right? Thankfully, I was brought out of my dreadful musings by my brother-in-law who announced food was ready. I could have hugged him, but that would have crumpled my sherwani, which in turn, would have needed readjustment leading to a repeat of the whole sherwani hoopla. As it was, I avoided doing all that and simply followed him to the dining area.
Aah, my senses were greeted with the smell of kebab and nihari, biryani and pulao, and the sight of people having their fill and smelling their satisfied burps. I immediately dived in and didn’t object even when the waiters were serving dishes I didn’t recognise. After several rounds of seekh kebab, it was time for dessert. And there they were — the top prizes among desserts — gulab jamuns. I intentionally did not count the number of gulab jamuns I had. By the time I had finished, my stomach had expanded so much that my sherwani fitted perfectly.
I got up from the dining table and walked back to the reception area to meet my friends. Before I reached them though, my brother-in-law told me that I was being sought upstairs. I was to meet my new bride and have a photo session. I followed him again and saw my wife for the first time. The joy of the precious moment was short-lived. As soon as I entered the enclosure where the bride was sitting, a mob of women surrounded me clicking photos and temporarily blinding me with the flashes. As it turned out, all these women were my wife’s aunts, cousins, and a whole bunch of other relatives.
As curious as it is, almost every wedding has its own sets of customs and rituals. Who comes up with these variations, I wouldn’t presume to know. As the tradition goes in my in-laws’ place, the womenfolk of the household offer their salaam to the new groom and present him with gifts. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? That’s because I didn’t tell you the full story. The catch is that every woman who comes up to the groom for the salaami, offers the groom a gulab jamun before handing over the gift. While normally this would have been a deliciously attractive prospect, I was alerted to the contrary by my stomach with a slight wail saying, “Dude, you just ate like fifteen of them. Even a pig dressed in a sherwani would have looked more decent than you.” I was like, “I bet they will just feed me a couple as part of the tradition. It’s cool. I will be fine.”
How wrong was I? Woman after woman came to greet me and fed me a sweet till I lost count. Of course, I can’t blame them. They must have thought like any other respectable groom, I might have shied away from the dining area without eating much. They didn’t know I tend to put away all my self respect in my back pocket when it’s time to eat. So the gulab jamuns kept arriving. Have you ever experienced a level of sweetness that is borderline bitter? The smile on my face that was a genuine expression of happiness till now turned into a creepy grimace as I kept trying to imagine the different sections of the human tongue that deal with tastes other than sweetness. Looking back, I seriously question that particular science lesson.
The ordeal was not over with that ritual. Before long, I got the opportunity to sit next to my wife without anyone else around. I cannot stress the importance of that occasion. I was now a married man, and I was about to have my first conversation with my wife. These are things you remember for years to come. My wife was too shy to say anything. After a few excruciatingly awkward moments of silence, I thought of a topic to initiate the conversation. Before I could properly articulate the words, both of us got shocked by a loud rumbling sound. There was no denying it. My stomach had rumbled. If it wasn’t my wife sitting next to me, I would have exclaimed, “What in the world woman? Can’t you control what you eat? Holy moly!” However, it was my wife, and I couldn’t bear myself to shift the blame. After all, she also knew the amount of ghee and oil floating inside me was going to concoct an evil plan sooner or later. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It turned out that my stomach had taken that adage too much to its heart.
As I conclude my anecdote, I would like to offer one simple piece of advice to would-be grooms. Fellas, don’t stuff yourself on your wedding day. Thank me later.