I remember getting engaged. Now I look back and wonder why I needed a man to commit to understand my place in our relationship, and the idea of one person asking to be bound to another by promising a shiny piece of metal and an overachieving piece of coal seems impossibly frivolous. But back then I was a squealing, stealing-moments-to-look-at-my-pretty-ring sort of human and I thought it was nothing short of incredible that Husband had proposed and that we would start planning our wedding and our lives together as a married couple. I wish I could have held on to the heady night that Husband proposed, to the intimacy of that moment and the sheer pleasure of knowing that he had ultimately chosen me but if I’m being honest, once the sparkle (and wine) had worn off, I was filled with an unparalleled anxiety. A day after getting engaged, I wondered if there wasn’t some way to keep the ring and Husband (well then Fiancé) and call the whole thing off. Truth be told, I didn’t want Husband to propose so that we could honour some time old tradition that commemorated our commitment, I wanted Husband to propose because that’s what I believed men did when they loved their partners. Let’s blame my embarrassingly warped sense of commitment on my youth for now, I wasn’t raised to believe that marriage was a progression point in life and I’ve never been the girl who dreamt of one day becoming a “wife”. But a wife I would be, and a wedding would be had. And although I’ve written and deleted these words more times than I care to admit, I guess I did want a wedding after all, it just wouldn’t be the one I got.
Are you serious?
When I said yes, or as Husband reminds me, “Are you serious?”, it would have appeared that I had momentarily lost sense of who I was, or rather of who our families were. Perhaps I was giddy from the mountain air or just plain down delusional, but somehow, I thought that I would soon be planning a low-key, intimate wedding that would be a celebration of our love. Once the light of day had broken, I regained my senses and remembered that for an Indian family concepts such as low key and intimate are laughable at best. Stupidly enough, even once that realisation had dawned on me, I still held fast to some of the delusions I had conceived, somehow choosing to beguile myself into thinking that I was an important part of my own wedding (rookie mistake). Needless to say, I would soon become largely unpopular with my new extended family and Husband and I would pepper the weeks leading up to the wedding with the sort of fights that were completely resistant to logic. I’d like to believe that in our finest fight, I could have been worthy of a spot on the Jerry Springer Show.
Can I be honest with you? You won’t really judge me and if you do, you’ll have to forgive me because, well, you’re kind of the only friend I have. I doubt that anyone is happy at an Indian wedding. Well, I was, but Husband thinks that I had simply lost mind to save from losing my cool on the day. But, since we’re honest, I made a choice early that morning as a relatively bored lady attached flowers to my hair; I chose to enjoy what I could of the day. So, I laughed (a lot), I ate (a little bit less than I laughed) and I lost myself in our first kiss under the shade of a giant tree. The day was far from perfect and there were many things that went so horribly wrong you would think it was orchestrated. Looking back, I regret bending to the will of others. At the time I thought I was being unselfish, I thought I could make everyone happy, but I couldn’t. Goodness, worse than that, it seemed that no one even cared about what I would give up to try and make them happy! Turns out that old adage about compromise is true, no one really wins in the end. I don’t know why it typifies Indian weddings that the bride and groom are so often the least important part of the wedding, but I do know that even though it’s often stated, it’s also something each of us needs to learn, often too late and painfully.
300 (like the movie, only my version is far more violent)
It was probably five seconds after we announced our engagement that the great debate regarding the number of guests started. Husband and I decided on no more than 60 guests in total, it was our wedding and we were footing the bill, so we should have a say in this, or so I thought. Five fights and numerous tears later, we settled on what my mother-in-law would painfully whisper to be a “small wedding”- 300 guests. News quickly spread that I was an evil bride hellbent on crushing Husband’s family’s dreams, “Only 300 hundred guests” one aunt said to me in greeting, wrinkling her nose as if she smelt something sour just in case I missed the disapproving tone in her voice. Soon I would be hearing bitter complains as I struggled to keep guest list to 300 or less, there would be a mass of previously unknown aunties with their 17 children who simply could not be left off the list. I could not possibly mention the fact that neither Husband nor I had never before heard of these aunties or their rapidly increasing brood. To do that would invoke a two-hour long explanation where I would repeatedly be presented with the same information in various degrees of inflection before I finally gave up mumbling something that was meant to convey my understanding. Chinese torture has nothing on Indian aunties, armed with a cup of tea and a biscuit or two and those women can get you agree to almost anything. My mother would offer some comedic relief when she said with a trace of sincerity “300 people? We don’t know that many people, I’ll have to pull people off the streets.” As least someone could see the madness in this “small wedding” of mine.
What would people say?
It does seem to me that Indian weddings are an excuse to unearth imaginative traditions that only serve to inconvenience the bridal couple and very often when trying to get to the reason behind those traditions, the point at which logic stops is usually the point at which the question “What will people say?” will be thrown into the mix. It’s like fat to a fire, Indian people are ridiculously proud and even more ridiculously concerned about what other people think about them. There are of course, exceptions to this rule, I was raised to consider the opinions of others at my own peril, my family simply had better things to do. I struggled, on so many levels, with that question, first off who were these people and how on earth did we know what they were thinking if we didn’t even know who they are? Did they communicate with us telepathically? I couldn’t fathom why this unseen, unknown, insidious grouping had nothing better to do than talk about my wedding and more so I had no idea why I had to care. I secretly wondered how these “people” also got together to form a united idea of what was wrong and right and how they managed to instil that conviction in others, with that level of organisational abilities surely these “people” were better off running countries instead of being overly concerned about what food I would serve at my wedding. But I was wrong (there is a recurring theme here), those “people” were created so that naïve young brides such as myself, could see the error of their ways.
Don’t get me wrong, to a degree I get it. I get that for Indian families a wedding is a chance to bring everyone together and to basically show off your success through your children. It’s the way it’s always been done- large numbers, gaudy outfits, old men sneaking drinks out of the boot of their cars while their wives complain about the softness of the potatoes in the breyani. And of course, I’ll happily jump and down with you when you announce your engagement, but you’ll forgive me when post the happy jumping I’ll ask you if this is something you really want to do. You’ll also need to forgive me when I propose that you should run away and get married (preferably somewhere linked to the destination I’m planning for my next holiday). Most importantly, you’ll also need to forgive me when I say that no matter what you do, no matter how perfect you think the day will be, someone is going to be unhappy, so you should do your level best to make sure that someone isn’t you. But of course, you’ll forgive me, you’re the only friend I have.