Recap: My baraat has left, comprising of a bunch of 80 relatives who are having the time of their lives and the man of the moment, N. Shenoy, who is not. The train is speeding through the plains of the Deccan, hurtling towards Bangalore. Is it also hurtling towards disaster for your hero? Or will he make it to the sunlit uplands of peace and prosperity? Read on in this crashingly boring tale of Naren's marriage
A second class compartment of the Indian Railways is about smells. There are good smells, bad smells, interesting smells, boring smells and the Unique Smell of The Train. In the twenty four hours that it took to get to Bangalore, we had a fair sampling of all of them.
Among the good smells were the Karjat Batata Wada, the Lonavala Chikki, the Solapur biryani and the assorted fruits that kept drifting in. Among the bad ones were the loo (middle note poop with a strong finish of well matured urine and nuances of puke), hair oils, ittars and talcum powder, the last named applied in quantities that made them look like Kabuki actors, and the fartharmonic orchestra that went on thru the night. There were the odd interesting smells such as booze, emanating from someone getting sloshed via a laced Coke or Pepsi, and the boring ones, namely the omnipresent chai and cigarettes.
The Unique Smell of the Indian Railways is, well, unique. It smells, in equal measure, of rust, engine oil, "composite" leather (composite used here in the sense of "fake") and rat droppings. And a couple of notes my philistine nose was not able to pick up.
At nightfall, the biryani consumed and the fartharmonic orchestra in the second movement of Concerto for Gas in C Minor, I was left to my thoughts. The rhythmic clattering of the train over the railway tracks only depressed me. What kind of a girl will she be? Do I really know her at all? Will she drag me out shopping every weekend? Will she expect me to shave every day? She didn't seem to like my mustache. Will she make me shave it off? The questions that raced through my mind were extremely serious. (Sorry to spoil the suspense but the answers to all those questions except the first two are in the affirmative.)
As I kept vigil over the gas farm, the train hurtled on and, to cut a long story short, we reached Bangalore. There was a little welcoming committee comprising of a few minions and two large buses to carry our party to Mysore. There I realized I had been double crossed. This was no small intimate ceremony. This was the Great Russian Circus, and Karandash the clown was yours truly.
The relatives were enjoying it. The old pa-in-law to be had organized city tours, gastronomic feasts, entertainment programs, everything for them. I, of course, was earmarked for greater stuff. A middle aged gent was sent to beautify me. He took one look at me and disappeared for a couple of hours, doubtless to renegotiate the contract. He came back, however, with the tools of his trade and gave me a decent haircut, a shave, a facial (I know) and a head massage of such vigor that I feared for the old cervical vertebrae. After an hour or so of this, he pronounced me ready. I looked into the mirror and saw a chap that at least five anthropologists out of ten would have certified as human. Incredible!
A minion arrived into the room and obsequiously requested my presence at The House. We drove to chez Sheela and found a "mehndi" ceremony in progress. A bunch of ladies of various ages and sizes were having their palms painted with henna and there was much giggling and good humor. Most of the humor went over my head, of course.
"Ah! The groom has come" (lots of giggles).
"Ah! The groom has come from BOMBAY" (even more giggles).
"Ah! The groom has come from BOMBAY and he is going to sing us a SONG!" (so many giggles that I suspect some of them actually wet themselves).
Well, all my life I have been requested, nay commanded, to stop singing and here was a gaggle of females urging me to sing! I immediately belted out some morose medieval Hindi song and the hitherto ebullient women began to look like so many helium balloons from which the helium has escaped. I stopped eventually, of course, but the damage was done. The missus-to-be had a dazed expression on her face which said "this half was not told unto me" and an eerie silence fell upon the assembly which then started making feeble conversation about the weather.
The Mehndi Ceremony was officially over!