Friday, December 14, 2012

Part 2 -Story of a Kashmiri Wedding : An Affair to Remember

Gold, the yellow metal has always been a matter of obsession, possession and frustration for the mankind, especially for the fairer sex. Kashmiri female folks are no exception for this and rather most of them can actually represent an organization smitten with gold. ‘Dyej hur’ is the most important and an interesting ornament worn by married kashmiri pandit women. It is KP answer to ‘mangalsutra’ for the rest of India. So the tradition of wearing Dyej Hur was supposedly started by the Kashmiri Saint, Lalleshwari or popularly known as Lal Ded. It still gives me jitters to see women wearing such a heavy ornament dangling from the ears. The provision for it is generally made in the childhood and well, must have to be done with local anaesthesia. It takes a considerable skill and long time for the women folk on the wedding day to make the bride wear her dyej hur. It must be painful for the bride too. Or is it just a small gesture to signify…welcome girl, welcome to the new world of pain and responsibilities! Whatever!  
My sincere advice to the father of an unmarried kashmiri girl – You must start accumulating gold as soon as a daughter is born to you if this crazy obsession with gold is not to see any waning in future. Such an undeterring consciousness amongst the elderly women about what and how much gold the bride is wearing!
Let us come to the main event now. A few days before the wedding the ‘saath’ has to be taken to prepare the mehandi for the maenzraat (Mehandi Raat). This is generally a responsibility of Paternal Aunt of the bride and groom. So she prepares the mehandi for the maenzraat on the day of saath with the womenfolk of the house singing the songs in appreciation of the Ganesh, the god of all auspicious events. The recurrent ‘Om Shree Ganeshay Namah’ sounds like ‘Omshrew Ganeshayen Maha’ after repetitive hearings. The aunt gets handsomely paid for this job though.
 Amit’s aunt, Shanno who is probably one of the most enthusiastic persons I have ever come across takes utmost pleasure in these proceedings. And yes, nobody is match for her when it comes to dancing on any kashmiri song. So actually Anita (my better half) and Shanno managed to dance for a while on the tune of Omshrew Ganeshayen Maha! J 
Co-operation of womenfolk in relatives and neighbours (and strictly in this order otherwise most of the relatives will be holding grudge which is generally known as ‘vaar’ in Kashmiri) is of prime importance. They play an important role in tasks like cleaning of rice and vegetables. They keep on singing traditional songs while doing the tasks. It all adds to the vibrancy of the atmosphere and beacons that the wedding is approaching.
A ‘Satsang’ was arranged on the evening a day before the shifting. It overlapped with Meenu’s mehandi raat. So me and Anita made a brief appearance for the Mehandi Raat before travelling back to attend the …hold your breath.. (me and..??) Satsang! Before I go ahead, kudos to your ‘Waza’, Raina Camp, the food was fabulous…loved every bite of every item prepared. Initially, I had my reservations for attending the satsang but I attended it and tried my hand at ‘Tumbaknaer’, a typical kashmiri instrument, which was appreciated. For the curious people, please google ‘Tumbaknaer’.
Shifting of people and goods to the venue of wedding remains a challenging task. This emanates from the earlier luxury of availability of resources in Kashmir. Now in Jammu (or anywhere else) few have the privilege of having an open space within the fences of home to conduct a marriage. So it is imminent that you book the marriage hall right in advance. Generally, winter (say November and December) are the preferred months for weddings. Hence, the wedding halls are bound to be booked well in advance and  if by luck (good or bad), any hall is available, the management will show all efficiency to loot the customer by charging stratospheric sums. In Jammu, the halls are generally called Resorts/Palaces or Banquet Halls but not just halls. J
Due to the wedding of Amit and Meenu planned in November, my father-in-law and his younger sibling had some sleepless nights over booking of the wedding hall. Some were asking rent of Rs.2 lakh per day and all we wanted was minimal stay of 5 days (Read as a cash outflow of Rs.10 lakh) So somehow good luck prevailed and out of nowhere, my in laws were able to book hall in Kashmiri Pandit Sabha (KPS) in Amphalla in central part of the city at a meager fee.
On Tuesday, 27th November, we started the shifting process in the morning. This is similar to establishing a new house. You carry almost everything with you rendering your house empty and thus, less vulnerable to theft. Three rooms were available with one main hall at the KPS. One was declared as the store room which can be entrusted with a very reliable person only. It is the holy grail for all your requirements during the wedding. The most reliable (as well as slightly unfortunate) souls selected for this task was my better half (actually a better 3/4th), Anita from the Bhats and Meenu’s younger sister (and Amit’s sis-in-law), Neha from the Rainas.
Rainas had camped at Unique Resorts in Barnai (Ahh..those wonderful memories of Barnai…Me in nuptial ties with Anita….at Durga Nag Trust, Barnai….4 years…hello, come back!) which is fairly near from their residence in Patouli. For the uninitiated, Barnai and Patouli are parts of Jammu on Akhnoor Road and the road lined with chilled water from Chinab in the canal (How good of me…I can become a driver of a matador bus in Jammu.. he he he…) On the other hand, Bhats had chosen (or were coerced with this fair option of) KPS which is 22km away from their residence in Jagati Mini Township, near Nagrota (on the way to Sri Nagar and Katra…yay…qualified as the guide of Jammu now…) But the advantage of being at KPS – it was situated in Amphalla in the central part and hence was accessible easily from everywhere. Guess I was the guy who made the most of it due to its proximity to Kachchi Chavani, Parade and Pucca Danga! (Ahh…Director of Tourism, now!)
In KPS, Amphalla, along with the main hall, we had three rooms to do everything from chatting to relaxing to sleeping to keeping our luggage to changing clothes. No..not three rooms..as I mentioned earlier, one was labeled as store room with restricted entry. Hence, 2 rooms were available, a fairly open space for tents (I don’t know what the thorny tree was doing there and why was it allowed to grow so big?) and a temple with arrangement for Yagna (or holy fire) for the sake of all the ceremonies. And…well no…nothing…that’s it…!
Being the only guy in the Bhat camp who knows four wheeler driving, I automatically got the responsibility of driving the brand new Wagon R vxi on the roads of Jammu. The Wagon R was recently bought by Amit’s uncle and gave me the much needed experience of driving on the roads of Jammu. The vehicle came very handy for all the mornings that we didn’t spend at Amphalla. Oh yes, skills are essential and necessary. We youngsters had the luxury of travelling all the way to Jagti to get ready and other folks fought a hard battle at KPS which I don’t want to describe.
Now the wedding feeling was sinking. The relatives had arrived and all of us were ready for maenzraat (known as Mehandi Raat elsewhere).

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