#ShaluNalShaadi #Delhi #PaneerMasalaOnBananaLeaf

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I am at my desk flipping through pictures from the wedding on my phone. In what can only be termed whirlwind, we flew to Delhi last week to attend a cousins wedding. We returned late Saturday night after 34 hours of travel with three exhausted and sick kids. Ammu on waking Sunday morning declared “I love sleeping in my bed!”

All through yesterday I unpacked, sorted stuff for laundry, managed to cook a simple meal and relived moments from the wedding. It was the first wedding in the family that Saathi and I got to attend as guests, outsiders who had nothing to do with planning or scrambling around getting things done. We landed in Delhi, had a car pick us up. Our room was paid for. We had a decent plan for the week we were there. It was also the very first time our children got to experience a proper Indian wedding.

Less than 10 hours after we landed, the twins sported lehengas and Laddu a dress. I found a salwar that I deemed passable and Saathi looked formalish. We arrived at the banquet hall where the Punjabi groom’s family were hosting a Shagan. Between the lights, the food, and the people, I stayed open-mouthed and starry-eyed until we left. Ammu and Pattu danced until they had blisters on their feet. Saathi and Laddu stuck to the food section. We met family we hadn’t seen in over a decade. I got to meet a few of Saathi’s cousins for the very first time. We stayed in our small circles, chatting, eating and gaping at the designer gowns and stilettos.

The plan was to visit Agra to see the Taj Mahal the following day. We ended up sleeping through the day after Ammu threw up first thing in the morning. The day of the wedding we managed to be up and ready at 6:30 AM. The wedding hall was cozy and smelled of jasmine and coffee as we walked in. I pinned a string of jasmine to my hair wondering how much changes over time. Laddu wanted flowers just like Amma while the twins passed it on.

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We tucked away a hearty tiffin and roamed the hall until the priests arrived and the vratham and nischayadhartam were over. The bride looked lovely in a blue saree and her father reminded me so much of how Saathi would look years from now. Watching the girl who was all of ten years at my wedding all grown up and womanly made me mist up.

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We retired to our room for a bit, snuck in a couple of hours of sleep before we went back for the Sangeet and Mehendi. There were dhol players and a few men applying mehndi to the bride and guests. Pattu and I joined the line while Ammu and Laddu decided they were staying away from the smelly green stuff. The music was infectious, making dancers out of people with two left feet. Pretty soon most of the crowd was in the center swirling and twirling. My face threatened to split open from all the smiling and fun that the evening brought our way. Pattu declared on our way back that it was the funnest evening of her life.

The next morning we wore our silks, lined our eyes with kohl and stepped out to watch our baby cousin become a wife. She looked pretty as she sat on the swing with her handsome groom. Pattu stood behind the jhoola mighty thrilled to be the one rocking the couple as they were serenaded with songs and rice balls were flung to all four corners to ward off the evil eye. The laughs were plenty and the morning sun bathed all of us in warm light. All through the morning, I watched the wedding through the eyes of my young children reveling in the quaintness of the customs, the joy that seemed a quintessential component of every little thing.

I watched as the bride searched for her brother in a quiet moment in between rituals. I watched as her sister in law efficiently met her unspoken needs and orchestrated everything without drama. I watched at the mother of the bride hugged the mother of the groom and was envious of the warmth in that hug. I sat on the sidelines all morning and watched two families merge as two individuals exchanged vows. I inched closer to the stage as the time neared for the actual mangalyadharanam and found a sea of smartphones blocking my view. If the bride had a social media hashtag for the wedding, this was truly the first digital era wedding I got to experience. I watched the groom tie the thaali on the screen of the phone in front of me instead of the actual moment playing out a few feet in front. The flowers rained down and a lonely tear escaped my cheek. There is something about the moment when the groom claims the bride as his that makes me choke up.

That evening we returned to the mandap for the baraat and stood by the road watching the groom’s family dance to the drum beats. We stood under the fairy lights of the pandal watching the bride’s sisters haggle with the groom on a price to let him enter the wedding hall. We laughed heartily as he bit into a mirch stuffed into the gulab jamun. I watched as my husband stood as one of four brothers holding a flower doli over the bride resplendent in mithai pink. I watched my children soaking in the experience, making friends and running around the open pandal in only the way children can. I watched laddu and another little boy collect flowers and make piles of petals. I watched as each child watched what it takes for a man and woman in love to become a family.

In the wee hours of the morning, we watched the new man and wife leave the pandal throwing puffed rice over their heads to the strains of shehnai. We openly wept at the parting of the bride from her parents. We hugged and averted our eyes. We stood in a small cluster at 3:30 AM knowing that something momentous had happened.

“I feel sad. I don’t want the wedding to end…” Pattu seemed to tap into the bittersweet emotion of the moment. We left that night back to our room and to our life knowing our lives had been touched by being part of that wedding.

We spent the next couple of days battling Delhi Belly and arrived home after a grueling journey halfway across the world. The children are back at school clutching souvenirs for their teachers. I face mounds of laundry that is to be folded.

I sit at the study looking at pictures instead. 

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