After the slight setback at the Mehndi ceremony, I decided to be on my best behavior. It had just occurred to me that the bride could still change her mind. The better kind of film actor can risk that sort of thing but considering that I looked like something from a collateral branch of the primate family, this was not safe at all. I took extra care with the grooming on the fateful day and entered the ring looking practically human. And when our eyes met, I noted with joy that Sheela's face showed approval.
In Konkani weddings like this one, a lot of the focus is on touching coconuts and sniffing dense smoke from a holy fire. In my childhood, I used to think that this was how babies were made - the incantations and the smoke went to God who sent babies, as per order. I was pleasantly surprised, upon reaching my teens, to discover that there were other and more interesting methods of furthering the human race. Consequently, I've always wondered why we have such elaborate marriage ceremonies. The officiating priest seemed to share my skepticism. He took off on his own in Sanskrit without pause, except for asking me, every now and then, to touch the coconuts, of which he had a wide selection. Neither of us really believed this was going to make my marriage a happier one, but he commanded and I complied unquestioningly.
Then, for a while, I decided to be a smart-ass and do some "class-participation" as they used to say in college. I kept asking all sort of technical questions to the priest who seemed none too happy about it. He gave me the look which said "If it were not for the dakshina, buddie, I would have told you where to stuff those questions" I was quite impervious to this - Bombay thick skin, no - but Sheela is not as easily ignored. She jabbed a sharp fingernail into the latissimus dorsi and gave me one of those "cheese it, buster" looks of hers. I decided it was best to resume the policy of unquestioning compliance.
By now, the proceedings which had started so earnestly had degenerated into a farce. It seemed to have dawned on people that as a baby making technology, this one was pretty out-dated. Miscellaneous relatives strolled on and off the dais and carried on inane conversations with us.
Auntie 1. "What father-in-law gave you? Ringa? Show, show. Small, no? (this to auntie no. 2)".
Sheela's glaring away at them. "That's the engagement ring. The wedding ring will be worn for the muhurta"
Priest "Say 'mumma'".
A quick word of explanation. "Mumma" is not "mother". It is Sanskrit for "me" or "mine". Required to be said from time to time when the priest says something important or clever. I think this is used in the sense of "Yeah! Me too!
As you can see, there was lot of action but little development, a bit like the Indian government. But eventually, things settled down and a mile long queue was formed, to wish us. We had to stand facing the cameras. My main garment was a dhoti which was holding up bravely against the forces of gravity but showed signs of collapsing. I was trying my best to hold it up with one hand but every third fogey demanded a feet touching which was making the whole thing a game-theory problem. Not that I was hiding any state secrets behind the fabric, but a sixth sense told me that if it dropped, I would not be hearing the last of it any time soon. Luckily it held and the attendees were spared the ordeal of having to see me dressed like a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Special Model.
Apart from the fact that the fixed grin was becoming tiresome, the wishing process was not without its moments of fun. I was receiving Mysore style wishes for the first time.
"Woppy married life"
"Gad bluss you"
"May you be blussed with happiness and other things"
And of course, the occasional "Many happy returns" cheered us most of all.
The proceedings started winding up. People started shuffling towards the exit. The missus and I sat on our thrones feeling a little exhausted. The missus had a dazed look as the realization that something irreversible had happened sunk in. I had a dazed expression myself as I realized that some 2000 people, possibly more, had put me under the keenest inspection. At this very moment, people must be discussing with other people. "Saw his face-a? Monkey only, no? Poor girl. What she saw in him, I say?" was the kind of thing I imagined people would be saying. The stomach churned and as we shuffled off towards the grand Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel to spend the night of April the seventeenth, nineteen ninety two, in idle conversation, I said to myself "Naren, some day you will blog about this and smile"
I hope you find something to smile at, too.