Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Part 4 - Story of a Kashmiri Wedding – An Affair to Remember

A special mention for Krul and Vyoog before I start describing the wedding day. ‘Krul’ are the paintings done on the walls of the home signifying the start of ‘wanvun’ meaning the celebration period. Last time, in 2009, I had the privilege of painting the krul on the walls of Meenu’s (this is not our Raina girl but the Bhat girl and Anita’s cousine). This time however, we had pitched in a professional painter with whom I had a gala time listening to his love story while he painted the walls. ‘Vyoog’ is the rangoli and generally has a coarse design in Kashmiri weddings. But Anita was determined to make this event special, had bought the stencils in advance and made the most of it.
The Big Day. We got up well before the others as we were expecting since most of them had a late night entertaining session. I also had a responsibility of driving the groom, Amit all the way to Jagati to get ready in the morning and get him back in time in Amphalla. And yes, we did that efficiently. We left at 6.45 am from Amphalla and came back by 8.45 am. Can somebody please give me a pat on my back? But the scene at Amphalla was a pure shocker. Almost 70% of the population was as expected bleary eyed and dazed. And worse than this, nobody was making an attempt to get ready hurriedly and loved chitchatting in their cosy blankets over simmering cups of tea. J
I and Arun (he’s the cousin of Amit and son of Ashok Uncle whose Wagon R I was driving in Jammu), somehow fled the spot undertaking an important responsibility of decorating the SUV in which the groom would arrive at bride’s place and would drive her back to his place. As per the suggestion of our driver, we preferred to go to Gandhi Nagar which is one of the up market areas of Jammu. We reached at a decent floral shop which is popular for decorating vehicles for special events.
In the meanwhile, the groom was getting ready in KPS , Amphalla. Of the whole attire a KP (I have been using this abbreviation for Kashmiri Pandits and not for Kevin Pietersen, my intelligent readers must have understood this) groom wears is not the suit, the shirt, the tie or the trouser but the ‘Dastaar’. Dastaar is a special headgear worn by the groom on his wedding day. It’s a saffron colored cotton cloth tied in a specific manner fixed with pins so that the hair of the groom are not visible. It is also a tradition to pass it on to the grooms in the family from the elders. So the ‘dastaar’ worn by me during my wedding was supposedly worn by Anita’s grand-father in his wedding and probably, Amit was also wearing the same one.
Even today, I get compliments for the ‘dastaar’ which was perfectly tied around my skull, thanks to the guy who took the efforts. However, my heart was sinking since probably one of my best appeals, my scalp hair were made invisible. The ‘dastaar’ actually resembles the ‘Mysore Pagari’ worn in South India, another similarity amongst KPs and South Indians along with their affection to rice.
As per the tradition, the groom changes his clothes twice means he wears three different attires within the day. However, the suit he wears in the morning forms the majority part of the pictures as the part of the wedding album. The other two suits are worn only after leaving the venue of wedding with limited audience. At my wedding, I wore the most dull suit throughout and my 2 other relatively better suits were worn when the electricity was cut off in the area in the evening. Nobody even saw them. L What an irony!    
Coming back to the scene in Amphalla as we returned from Gandi Nagar, I also had an additional responsibility of tying knot for Amit’s tie in a Samosa style with elliptical groove. No..i didn’t do that. I didn’t have time for wearing my own clothes. I was wearing a graphite colored mandarin suit with Chinese collared white shirt and I know what tough times I faced while wearing that attire in the store room of KPS, Amphalla. My honest advice to the wedding planners (within home or outsiders is) – kindly make an arrangement for changing rooms. Boys can’t change clothes in the store room while couple of aunties are busy finding the barfi (a sweet) and get frustrated over finding rosogullas instead of Barfi in the same place.
By the time, I managed to wear clothes, Amit’s baraat was getting momentum with people garlanding him at a hefty pace. I feel for the groom at this moment. I felt that at my time also for myself. The poor chap is weighed down by the garlands. The flowers start spoiling the possible white collar of his shirt and he is unable to rotate his neck along the atlas vertebra. Further, most of the ladies hold the groom’s ‘dastaar’ to kiss his forehead making the dastaar go loose. An unusual thing happened though when the dastaar was being tied around Amit’s head. A gentle sprinkling started which unusual in the month of November.
A visit to Shiv Mandir is a must before the groom arrives at the wedding venue. Fortunately, KPS had a big Shiv Temple (obviously) at a 50 meter distance from the gate of the community hall and saved herculean efforts of many aunties for gyrating more than the stated distance. We were though running terribly behind the schedule. As per the earlier schedule, we were supposed to reach the wedding venue in Barnai by 10.15-10.30 a.m. and we were still at Amphalla at 11 a.m. Amphalla and Barnai, by no means are near to each other (remember..Director of Tourism..huh?). We had to have the engagement ceremony also before rituals of wedding start.
Meenu had called me twice asking about our whereabouts and all I could answer was our GPS telling Amphalla. I don’t know if the maxim ‘whatever happens, happens for good’ stands good hear. I hear that the delay actually gave people at Unique Resorts some leverage to shift the arrangement from the park to the wall before the place was lashed with super showers. We finally made the move and were en route to Unique Resorts, Barnai. We managed to lessen some of Amit’s garland burden in the SUV itself. By 12 noon, we managed to reach the gates of Unique Resorts and well, what a congregation eagerly waiting for Amit’s arrival! J
You really turn up to be a star on your wedding day (if you already are not a star). The garlands of marigolds were waiting for Amit. Soon, he was in a similar situation of non rotating neck but with lot of excitement as he could see Meenu after a long time. Draped in a stunning red lehanga choli, she personified the Indian bride. From this point, we passed the responsibilities to Mr. Shadilal Sharma, the official ‘Bramhaji’ of the Bhat camp. However, we had one more important ritual to complete – the engagement!

Amit and Meenu made a beeline to the stage which was very well decorated. Raina camp had a very good army of youngsters well led by Neha and ably supported by Anil. Coming back to the engagement ceremony, the ring exchange took as expected. As I mentioned earlier, me and Arun had kept few roses inside the SUV while decorating the vehicle in the morning. Amit stealthily had picked one and had hidden it in his suit. And it was a Kodak moment when he produced the rose out of nowhere and presented it to Meenu. Thank God, finally he gave the red rose..at least official records say so! Meenu was surprised and bowled over too.
Time was ripe and right. Guts had been experiencing a cascade of gastric juices. Time to go for the elaborate spread of the Waza. “Wazwan” is generally a term used for a feast and includes the more popular non-veg cousins like rogan josh, goshtaba, tabaknat, yakhni, risht, kali and machch. I just know them by names and seen them. I am a veggie. In Kashmiri Pandit wedding, the non-veg items are strictly prohibited since the wedding is associated with some sacred rituals like havan. However, the non-veg connoisseurs can actually look forward for ‘firsaal’ (fir ek baar saal – the feast, once more) at the bride’s home where all these delicacies are served. So I had my portion of rice along with our regular friends like dum aloo, rajma, paneer, nadru yakhni etc.
By the time, I finished my lunch, Meenu and Amit came back to the stage to perform the Jay Mala ritual. This turned out to be probably the liveliest ritual in the all 7 days. It was an impromptu idea of Amit to make this moment a bit funny by making it difficult for Meenu to garland him. However, the Youth Army in Raina camp had already planned for it. What they didn’t know was the sheer physical advantage the Bhat camp had got. It was me, 179 cm (5’11”) and Arun who is 182 cm (6’) who were standing guard for Amit. When Meenu stepped to garland Amit, he first stood on his toes indicating it’s the time. In a rush, I lifted him from the back though the alert Raina camp were quick to lift Meenu also. The second part was even more interesting. It was Amit’s turn to garland Meenu and Meenu was lifted in advance by her cousins. This time, it was a double effort by me and Arun and we raised Amit to such a hight that his Dastaar was touching the top. And Amit lunged forward to garland Meenu and was almost horizontal in the air while me and Arun balancing his weight. It was indeed a Kodak moment and has been well captured by the camera.
This was followed by a brief session of shutterbugging. At a point, I felt like James Bond is getting married in an Indian way. The poses given by them were new and unique (and not the typical boring style). Just the bond didn’t have a gun in his hand and the bond girl was extremely well dressed (not that the normal bond girls are badly dressed.. ;))
The couple was now ready for the serious part of the lagan (wedding) and proceeded to the place where Mr. Shadilal was waiting anxiously for them.     

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