Thursday, December 20, 2007

Attending a north Indian wedding (as a baraati)

(A step-by-step primer, based on personal experience)

Interpreting the wedding card: The wedding card will chattily describe the occasion as “a divine union of twin souls, blessed by your kind and benevolently auspicious presence”. This is merely a complicated way of saying “come to Paneer Tikka Haven”. (For reasons my tradition-resistant mind will never fathom, robust Punjabis, who on normal days sleep with large tubs of tandoori chicken next to their pillows, suddenly turn coyly vegetarian on their wedding day.) Treat this as a warning to eat properly before you leave the house. Carry snacks in your pockets if necessary.

Also keep a record (from weddings attended in the past) of the mean deviation between the time specified in wedding cards and the time at which the groom can actually be expected to reach the venue. Apply this to the present situation. Current research suggests that 8.30 PM on a card translates to roughly 10.30 PM in North Indian Wedding Time. So plan to reach the venue by that time. This way, Delhi traffic being what it is, you will reach at 11 PM.

Keeping yourself occupied: Entering the shamiana, you will see the following things in roughly this order:

– Six or seven groups of people, all from the bride’s family, glancing at their watches and looking bored

– Waiters drifting from table to table with paneer tikkas and samosas, glancing at their watches and looking bored

– Three stray cats sitting on the periphery of the lawn, complaining about the absence of tandoori chicken, glancing at their watches and looking bored

You now have to find ways to pass the time until someone you know arrives. One way is to do the disgruntled-loner thing – sip tomato soup, brood and wish you had gone to a nice warm indoor restaurant instead. Another, more entertaining way is to pretend to talk into your cellphone within earshot of the bride’s relatives: speak sentences like “Yes, it looks like the dowry won’t be enough after all" and "Don’t worry, we’ll let the groom out of the warehouse after all the negotiations have taken place."

But if the idea was to make a token appearance – to “show our face for a while and then leave”, as time-strapped yuppies like to say – you can exit after half an hour of waiting. Do remember to wave at one of the video cameras as proof that you were there.

A tip for the scrupulously punctual: if perchance you’re the very first to reach the venue, before even the bride’s family (believe me, this can happen), make sure to profit from it. Wait at the entrance with hands folded and pretend to incoming guests that you’re one of the hosts (at large north Indian weddings no one knows who’s who anyway). Pocket the shagun money and gifts and make a quick getaway.

Aftermath: At around 1 AM, you will receive an SMS from a friend: “Where ARE you? The baraatis have arrived. The horse is very nervous. It just crapped on the shoes of one of the dancing uncles.” Turns out you missed the best part of the union of twin souls.

34 comments:

  1. LOL very witty. Nice read.

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  2. same, same anonymous2:20 PM, December 20, 2007

    Dear jai,
    When are you going to turn uncle?
    i wanna see shit on your shoes.

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  3. couldn't help ROFLOL.

    Amazing interpretation! South Indian weddings have their own flavour to it. You must see some and blog about it...would love to see your observations

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  4. >>>Three stray cats sitting on the periphery of the lawn, complaining about the absence of tandoori chicken, glancing at their watches and looking bored

    -- ROFL. Good one.

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  5. Very Witty, some apt comments about Punjabi weddings.

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  6. Ummm.. Paneer Tikka! So true and too bad about the tandori chicken! :)

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  7. I guess I would have laughed like the other readers, however the recollection was far more painful; i.e. we actually have reached for weddings even before the tents were put up! (and this was spot on time mentioned on the card!)

    However, we got back at everyone else by having a wedding of our own, where 4pm meant 4pm. ofcourse 95% the people missed it! :D

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  8. I had somewhat of a similar experience recently. My only thought. Its great that you're getting married. But since its outdoors. In winter. And we have to dress up, not like we're going out to ski. Don't you think a little bit of alc would be good? Since we do not have YOUR high on tying the knot etc!!!!! Sigh. Had to spend MONEY and have a drink elsewhere after a quick escape from a waiter who was chasing me around large goverment lawn with cold plate of potatoes stuffed with something or the other. And this is only the first wedding I've attended. Have decided to get rude and ask. Alc? Non-veg? Then give RSVP!

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  9. Hello? What abt the kajra re dance? Sorry, inadequate description.

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  10. Hahaha...reminds me of the last time I attended a non-Bengali wedding. I was supposed to be attending from the bride's side, but no one other than the bride's brother knew me there. As chance would have it, I arrived exactly at the same time as the baraat. As testimony to my Bengali roots, I had worn a decently ornate kurta, while the rest of the men were in suits, except for the groom himself. Some uncle of the bride then mistakenly put some kind of garland around me as I entered and then went red faced later when my friend introduced me as a college friend.

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  11. What is the idea here "robust Punjabis, who on normal days sleep with large tubs of tandoori chicken next to their pillows, suddenly turn coyly vegetarian on their wedding day"?
    Punjabiz are known to be lavish spenders and it is incorrect to generalize everyone under the same umbrella.

    Poor post. In bad taste.

    The idea about going to a wedding is to interact and mingle with people. If that is something too much for some people then itz better for them to eat the tandoori chicken they so much desire at home itself.

    And who told you that weddings in other parts of india start at the exact time described on the card?

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  12. Poor post. In bad taste.

    PSV: you're absolutely right. Paneer tikka is bad taste.

    Have decided to get rude and ask. Alc? Non-veg? Then give RSVP!

    B'ray: you're still politer than some of my friends who reach the venue, discover there's no alc and then start loudly making a fuss about it (the real purpose, of course, being to embarrass the groom!).

    we actually have reached for weddings even before the tents were put up! (and this was spot on time mentioned on the card!)

    Anon: I make sure to be at least 15 minutes before time for most appointments or meetings. But even a paranoid punctualist like me knows that you're just not supposed to reach a wedding at the time mentioned on the card.

    However, your revenge was admirable.

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  13. PSV: And who told you that weddings in other parts of india start at the exact time 'described' on the card?

    True. I've been to Punjabi weddings in Calcutta, Bombay and a couple of Punjab as well...these also didn't start on time. So PSV didn't like the take on Punjabi weddings as such, but was nice enough to admit that it's something that doesn't only happen in Delhi.

    Jai: Whose wedding was it this time?

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  14. Shamya: no one particular wedding, more like an amalgamation of all the terrible ones we've been to (including Tarun's, of course).

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  15. btw the reason we dont serve meat on wedding day is because its a religious day ..we wont god to bless the union and be present there ..so the atmosphere has to be pure ..in case u forgot hinduism unlike other religions bans meat eating.. well with u'r poor attitude and complaining hope no one invites u to any more weddings.bv

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  16. we wont god to bless the union and be present there ..so the atmosphere has to be pure ..

    BV: so hypothetically, if someone smuggles chicken tikka or liquor into the venue, the gods will stay away? Just wondering. Because my friends and I have probably defiled loads of weddings that way.

    hope no one invites u to any more weddings.

    Oh, I hope so too. Unfortunately that doesn't look like happening - there are three wedding cards lying on the table awaiting RSVP.

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  17. ha! reminds me of the time i was invited to the wedding of a friend's sister. the baraat was about 3 hours late, so to keep the restive crowd festive, the bride's family had organised under one enormous shamiana: a stand-up comedy act, a nonstop pig-out section, a non-stop dance section, and several camels and straggly horses. there was an elephant welcoming guests, until it got restive as well, whereupon we heard an announcement on the PA: shaamiane ke aage park ki gayi laal maruti ke driver, dhyan de: haathi uspe baith rahe hai. yes, those were the days...

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  18. :))) I always look forward to these *Punjabi life* posts of yours, Jai. They elicit the most interesting comments!!!

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  19. Great post. And of course several hundreds (or is it thousands?) of these carnivals take place on the same auspicious day, adding to the chaos on the roads of saaddi Dilli.
    I've attended a wedding where the NRI groom was having such a blast at his own baraat that most of the guests had their dinner and left without even a glimpse of the hopefully happy couple. Now I wonder whom they gave their 'shagun' envelopes to!

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  20. Hilarious and wonderfully written

    You forgot to mention the absence of alcohol at a Panju wedding and the fact that we robust Panjabis sleep with a bottle of Black Label next to our pillows, too.

    Long time reader, first time 'commentor'.

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  21. Oyyye, a fullfull post on punjoo weddings and ne'er a word on gillas? what's a shaadi without a gilla, I say. (mutter mutter, nobody did enough khatirgari, nobody served me more than 25 pooris, the sweet stuff wasn't big/hot/cold/plentiful enough, nobody noticed my deymmand joolry) Oh, I'm sorry, I just realised that the whole "no non-veg" crib was a gigantic gilla itself.

    Jai kihogayigillai-oye.

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  22. So far I had only heardof rabbits checking their watches...so, even cats huh?

    Kshmiris share the no non-veg gila totally, but we make the boy's side serve it for the reception!

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  23. Dipali: at one of these weddings, we left our gift with a lady who had been identified to us as the bride's mother. Problem is, when we told her we were the groom's friends, she looked exceedingly puzzled at the mention of his name. Definitely not the proud mother-in-law-to-be reaction. It may have been the wrong wedding.

    V: thanks. Alcohol isn't personally as important to me as tandoori chicken is, but yes, that's another sore point for many of my friends.

    Feanor: lovely! I enthusiastically propose that all Punjabi weddings include a resident elephant that can be trained to sit on uncles who get too boisterous.

    Sudha: so THAT'S what they mean by "gille-shikve"

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  24. Jabberwock !
    One technical query:
    You went in as a baraati , then how come you reached much before the Baraat !!!!

    Always always always remember ... be it punjabi, gujarati, marathi or bihari wedding ( all four types pretty regularly attended by yours truly) baraati's should reach with the baraat... warna koi bhaav nahi dega :P

    Now some interesting observations :
    * Rural Bihari Baraats(Rajputs) are accompnied with crackers as well as air fire of live ammunition ( anybody from Motihari, Begusaray, Gaya, Palamu etc can confirm). Its considered a matter of pride to fire so many rounds through the shamiana that it cannot be reused.

    * In UP,Bihar weddings the actual ceremony begins mostly after the gifts and photosessions and lasts through the night. I attended a friends brothers wedding once... almost all guests started leaving to their sleeping allotments but we being decent guests waited to *watch* the ceremony ... thats when grooms father came and said ... "Beta poori raat ka function hain ... aap log sone chale jaao" !!!! Only people left at the ceremony were the groom, bride, brides parents, grooms brother and sister in law !!! EVERYONE ELSE LEFT !!!

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  25. Blue Bike: the answer to your query is implied in the post. If I happen to reach the venue at the same time as the marauding uncles/horse/groom etc, then no problem, I'll go in at the same time. But no way I'm going to tie up to meet the silly dancing baraatis at the point where the commence dancing/walking towards the venue.

    (At this point, I should mention that I don't go for many weddings - not more than one in two years if I can help it - and am not too interested in being around crowds when I do go. So the "bhaav nahin dega" bit isn't important. The main problem remains the lack of chicken.)

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  26. True... miss chickn too but then

    jahan 4 yaar mil jaaye wahin raat ko guzaar so i dont really care for the rest of the crowds... as long as there are come close knit friends around to share a laugh, ofcourse you can meet them at a bar too, thats a diff case.

    And ya I agree you really dont want to leave with the baraat when they start of ... coz all the uncle logs will make you dance no matter how reluctant you are... man I've danced on the streets of jhumritilaiya as if on a Ganesh Visarjan !!!

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  27. Delayed reply to the anonymous Jai-hater:

    "btw the reason we dont serve meat on wedding day is because its a religious day ..we wont god to bless the union and be present there ..so the atmosphere has to be pure ..in case u forgot hinduism unlike other religions bans meat eating..."

    I agree Jai has a poor attitude towards most things. But I don't. I'm Hindu. Bengali. And we don't celebrate anything without fish and mutton. The gods continue liking us, or disliking us, or at least ignoring us or showing indifference. Almost all Bengali marriages turn out as badly (or un-badly) as other marriages. So no go there....

    Jai: This one took the cake - I was asked to spell 'weswegnj' - the longest yet.

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  28. I once disrupted a Punj wedding in Calcutta by saying "come quick! there's a gang-bang on and leading a mob consisting of drooling bride's folk and baraatis to the garbage dump behind where the local dogs (plural) were having it off with the local bitch (singular). After that, I made a quick exit.
    Revenge for the lack of meat!
    DD

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  29. I have had the pleasure of reaching venues on time and not finding a sign of the bride's side or even a vague sign that it is a marriage venue.. the carpets, the chairs, the waiters... everything materialises out of nowhere in record time even after the time mentioned on cards.

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  30. would you believe that my baraat reached before even one member of my family had arrived the venue !! so it was a bunch of friends and me , the bride , watching the baraatis wait from the hotel room :)
    and that was a punjabi wedding too!!

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  31. oh gosh..

    But but to be fair, dont forget a Southie reception where everyone files past the newly weds to take pics, not smile and move on... and no present...Swear, mine was like that

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  32. LOL @ anonymous who got back at everyone by having their wedding on time so everyone missed it!

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