Humourist Soumya tells us all about the trial and tribulations of a Bong getting married to a Sardar girl, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Having posted a few stories about being hit by lightning, getting hitched and its repercussions, which seemed to meet with some degree of readers’ approval, I thought I will try to describe the actual drama that bound me in the bonds that are supposed to last our next seven lives. Unless, of course, this trip is our seventh time around.
I met her in a dirty dingy government office, surrounded by mountains of dusty files, peering out from behind huge ledgers, to the background music of clattering typewriters. This was the pre computer Stone Age of snail mail, manual computing, adding machines, and files bound in tape holding typed letters. Finding this difficult to believe? And no, there were no dinosaurs then, and the world wasn’t black and white.
Hearing rumours that the presence of a young lady is about to improve the tone of the accounts department infinitely, I had gone to investigate.
I returned crestfallen, as the petite lady had actually made an appearance, and was to head the department, but my breezy intrusion met with a dead pan visage, and my attempts at witticism with a freezing ‘oh really, how interesting’.
I learned later that I was just the kind of smooth talking long haired unreliable boys her mother had warned her about.
However, as we were the only two non-geriatric beings in that vast dungeon, we sort of started to hang around together at lunch. It looked like other than being new recruits in this maze, we had nothing in common. Then one day, when I found her solving a crossword, I was elated. Pitching in, unasked, to help, we completed it to her mild irritation, but my skill with words must have impressed her a bit, as she seemed to thaw a few degrees. Finding at last that we had some common interest, I jumped in and discovered that we shared a common passion for books, art house cinema and although of a drastically different genre, music. We began to relieve the tedium of work by exchanging books and cassettes, (remember those?) and news of exciting new writers, bargain prices for old books, or views on world cinema. Remember this was the pre net, Google, Wikipedia and download world, when knowledge and information were at a premium and the exclusive purview of the ‘in’ set. I was introduced to the melodious world of Hindi music, and I, in turn, exposed her to the disruptive world of Rock, and the mystical realms of Rabindra Sangeet.
We progressed to visiting bookshops, Mandi House – the Mecca of theatre, and Shakuntalam – the auditorium for offbeat cinema. Next step, we became confidants. I share the woes of my latest unsuccessful attempt at long time relationship, while she confides her problems in getting her dad to accept her unacceptable boyfriend.
Thus, I learned that she was of that rare species that was thought to exist only in Bollywood or Hollywood, one who was willing to do the unheard of naïve act of actually marrying for love, with no concern for Economics, History or Geography of the groom. Armed with this revelation I took the only logical course, that of scheming to replace this undeservedly lucky guy.
At first, she thought it was an attempt at comedy, and my absolute inability to be serious about anything didn’t help. However, I launched a marketing strategy of perseverance, irreverence, and proximity. Brand promotion by my friends and scientific product promotion helped by market feedback from her friends started wearing down her resistance, helped along by jealous tantrums of my predecessor. Finally, persuasion in the form of Psmith, who gets his Eve by telling her that the plus side of marrying a mad man is that you never get bored, swung the scales, to my eternal gratitude to P G Wodehouse.
Now, in true filmy style, politics played spoilsport. Members of her community were being targeted in communal riots by people of my religion. Her NRI dad planned her wedding with some suitable boy of their clan on the next available date. Her protests that she had other plans were peremptorily dismissed, especially when she produced a new candidate; me, this time.
The next logical step was an elopement. While her dad was busy making arrangements for her quick disposal, we decided to close the deal. The registrar requiring some notice period, the Arya Samaj Mandir agreed to play cupid. We were assured that it was quite legal. Having no time to inform anyone or make any arrangements, we planned to meet at the venue next day, get the certificate and promptly leave for my hometown.
Now, more hitches started developing. Those were the days of long distance calls being made from post offices where you had to shout out your messages in front of a waiting crowd, that too after waiting for an hour for the expensive ‘lightning’ call to materialise. After going through this trauma, I learnt that my father was abroad at work, my mother having accompanied him, and my school going brother’s assurances that he was returning the next day and that I am not to worry but catch the train, he will take care of all issues, did not boost my confidence.
By now, the jungle drums had spread the news, and there were a bunch of my friends waiting for me at the temple, doing their best to add to my nervousness. Her delay was explained as second thoughts on her part, the late realisation of her blunder or her father had imprisoned her or worse.
My worry was that a Wodehousian story shouldn’t have a similar complication, where I wait by the Arya Mandir on Hanuman road, while she waits at the Hanuman Mandir on Arya Road.
Another helpful explanation offered was that she gave me a subliminal message in gifting a Talat Mahmood album, which speaks only of lost love.
In between there is a subplot of a bunch of my other friends, the girls from my college, having organised the wedding at another venue, which message did not reach me. As I had no telephone and was seldom home, this wasn’t surprising. Remember, this was the pre SMS and email era. Thinking that I had changed my mind without informing them, they refused to speak to me for years afterward.
Finally, she arrived explaining that she had to balance the books or some such office exigency, ignoring the fact that I had aged a decade in the meanwhile.
Quick ceremony over, certificate in hand, we proceeded to my ‘Barsati’, a rooftop shelter I shared with my friends, a typical bachelor pad of those days, familiar to all who have seen Chasme Baddoor. The plan was that my bachelor days roommates would move out, and she would move in. As I was completely broke, and she was leaving home with only the clothes she was wearing, my friends contributed to getting us the basic furnishings and kitchenware to start a home.
I had warned my friends that I had neither money nor time to organize a party, so they volunteered to bring provisions. When we took stock, we found that everyone had brought liquid refreshments of various degrees of potency, and many had brought other aids for expanding the consciousness, but none had thought of getting food. A helpful neighbour produced eggs, sausages, and bread, and a riotous party ensued.
Leaving behind various comatose bodies, a few relatively sober friends managed to load us on to the train. En route, at every station, I wanted to jump off and head back.
At the station, my kid brother was there to receive us but refused to disclose situation at home beyond the enigmatic message that we would soon find out.
A complete nervous wreck by the time we reached home, there was a sight waiting for me that I will never forget. The house was decorated in the traditional way to welcome the new bride and relatives had gathered over for the ceremony.
My brother explained later, that after my father’s return and receipt of the news, he had initially broken the world record for sitting high jump. But his next reaction was that the poor girl whom his idiot son had got into the mess had to be made to feel welcomed, and a traditional ceremony was organized overnight, with a diktat issued to all relatives that everyone was to be present to receive the new bride. The patriarch’s wishes were followed and a warm welcome followed to the girl from an alien culture.
I wish I can be half the man he was, in showing love and support to my children when they really need me.
Photos from the Internet
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