Just Married Please Excuse

Chapter 5: Marrying a Sharma

The wedding was a fairly low-key affair at the Radisson hotel in Delhi. It would perhaps have been a little higher-key if all of my friends had shown up, but unfortunately, a lot of them were scattered over the country and worldwide, and apparently the notice that I gave them – ranging from about two weeks to fi ve days before the wedding, depending on who I remembered when – was not good enough for many of them to make the trip. Instead, they sent their love and best wishes for the both of us with a few choice abuses just for me. The argument that I used in my defence that I had never been married before and it was all very new to me did not cut much ice with them.

As always, blood proved to be thicker than friends and most of my family, also scattered all over the world, did make it for the ceremonies – perhaps also due to the fact that Mother Dear had handled their invitations and had apparently informed them about a month in advance. So my favourite cousin Mini had flown in from Australia and was flashing her dimpled smiles all over the place; and my brother Abhimanyu and his wife Vandna had also graced the occasion, coming in from England.

My make up was done by a distant relative that we called Myna Masi, who was a beautician by profession. She had been overly enthusiastic, caking on layers and layers of makeup on my face and sticking about sixty seven pins into some sort of a fake bun on my head. I was itching to get away from her expert hands and was fervently wishing that this distant relative would make herself distant again and then, just as I was on the verge of tearing out of the room screaming, she said ‘There! All done!’

I looked at myself and I had to admit that she had done a really good job. I looked quite stunning. I probably wouldn’t go out to the market like this, but for my wedding, it seemed just about right. My pale-pink and silver sari, which I had insisted on as opposed to the usual red or maroon varieties, was shimmering around my person delicately. The fake hairbun and make up didn’t actually look half-bad either. My mother took one look at me and a little tear started to form in the corner of her eye, but she stopped herself from making any sort of impulsive display by somehow finding one stray hair and tucking it behind my ear in a business-like manner. I just grinned at her cheekily, for once refraining from protesting at this gesture. It was okay. I understood how she felt.

It was finally time to make my appearance in the wedding hall. I eagerly waited outside the door to the hall, concentrating on not tripping on my sari. My brother’s wife Vandna was accompanying me, and just as the door opened, she whispered to me ‘There is no need to smile so much.’This remark rather confused me for a moment considering that this was supposed to be the happiest day of my life and all that, but I quickly deciphered it to mean that she thought I should be a bit more of the coy, blushing bride. I obeyed her as I entered the hall, and managed a fairly somber expression, although it was quite an effort when I caught sight of Vijay.

He had been refusing to behave like the typical groom and had been wandering all round the large hall, greeting old friends and long-lost family members – much to the consternation of Rama Didi, who had a very strong sense of propriety and was unsuccessfully pursuing him through the crowd in order to inform him that he should really be sitting still on one of the two chairs on the platform. When the door opened to reveal me and I started walking in slowly, everybody turned to look at me with gratifying ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at my get-up.

Vijay, who at that point had been merrily chatting to some old friends from IIT, also joined the crowd as they all turned to look at the coy, blushing and no doubt radiant bride that I was. He stood there transfixed, along with everybody else, watching me in this strange new avatar. As I walked along slowly, I kept my eyes mostly lowered but I spotted him through the heavily mascaraed lashes and had to bite my lower lip to keep from laughing at the gaze of pure admiration that he was giving me.

He continued to stand there with a silly grin on his face until Rama Didi finally caught up to him and urged him to take his place on the platform. He reached there and quickly sat down just a few seconds before I did, but the serene smile on his face as I reached him gave the impression he had been fixed in his seat waiting patiently for me for the last hour or so.

It was as he stood up to welcome me that I got my first close look at him for the evening. Instantly, I realized that I could have done a better job of helping him with his wedding suit – the silver-white Sherwani that he had got tailored for himself was too broad at the shoulders, and in combination with his height, his skinny legs and the bright red turban on his head, made him now give an uncanny impression of a larger than life tube of Colgate toothpaste. I could almost see the words inscribed near the base ‘For Best Results, Squeeze from Bottom Up’. I was unable to retain the sombre expression that Vandna had imposed upon me and started to laugh. I had to pretend to have a coughing fit to disguise my giggling. He sat next to me, giving me the odd quizzical glance now and then, but otherwise resplendent and elegant, as far as human toothpaste tubes go.

After this, a lot of people, most of whom we didn’t know, came up to us to wish us well, hand us gifts and envelopes stuffed with cash, and to have photographs taken with us. The photographer was possibly the most annoying photographer in the world, creating blinding fl ashes when we least expected it, and constantly telling me ‘Up your chin, up your chin, Madam.’ After a while, every time he said this, I started to mutter under my breath ‘Up yours, Sir!’

He then started repeatedly saying between fl ashes from his camera ‘Madam, can you more down? Sir, can you more up?’ I was about to tell him off, but then I saw that he had a point. While sitting, for some reason, I looked taller than Vijay.

This realization came as an immense shock to me, as his six feet two inches usually dwarfed my five feet six and a half inches. I asked him to stop slouching and sit up, but even when he straightened his back completely, I was still taller than him. Why had I never noticed this before?

I hissed at him ‘Oh my god. You have a freakishly short upper body!’

A few people who were standing near the podium turned around to look at us and I immediately looked down coyly and started examining the mehendi on my hands. An annoyed Vijay whispered back to me ‘Or maybe, you have freakishly short legs. How about that?’

I mumbled that I had a longish upper body and average length legs. Still, this wouldn’t do, our wedding photos were mostly of us sitting next to each other and I was now sure that we looked silly like this. So I whispered a suggestion to Vijay about lifting up his red pagdi slightly. For the rest of the photographs, I slouched as much as I could while Vijay straightened up with his pagdi perched higher on his head. These simple steps resulted in giving the camera the correct impression that he was taller than me. The only slight glitch was that he now looked like a Colgate toothpaste tube whose cap had been screwed on too loosely, but I figured this was a small price to pay and wisely refrained from pointing this out to him.

The greet-and-photo session went on and on. We got so used to saying, ‘Thank you’ with fake smiles over and over again to people that when one gentleman said ‘I’m Dr Gulati, an old friend of your mother-in-law’, Vijay gave him his best fake smile, shook his hand firmly, and replied, ‘Thank you, uncle.’

Eventually, it was time for the pheras – the ceremony where we walked around the fire and the Punditji droned on and on about our vows. It was late, almost 2 a.m., and Punditji was explaining the meaning of each of the vows to us. I tried very hard to listen to him, but I was actually stifling yawns the whole time. I had been sitting crosslegged for a long time on the floor and it was very uncomfortable. At one point, to my horror, I thought I felt my sari giving me a wedgie – but it thankfully turned out be a false alarm. I only woke from my stupor when Punditji said that now as a part of the ceremony Vijay and I should feed each other ladoos, which sounded to me like the most sensible thing he’d said all night. He asked Vijay to go first. I turned towards him and lifted my face up with a coy smile. Vijay broke off a piece of ladoo just the right size and I opened my mouth expectantly. Ignoring me completely, he proceeded to swiftly pop the ladoo into his own mouth, much to the merriment of the many observers and to the chagrin of Punditji as apparently this marred the ritual that denotes the sharing of every aspect of our lives. I accepted Vijay’s next offering in a haughty manner. Clearly, he was not taking this sacred ritual seriously enough, and was paying even less attention to Punditji’s instructions than I was. In the background, I was aware of my cousin Mini and sister Gitanjali holding on to each other in a fit of helpless laughter but I pretended I didn’t find it the least bit funny myself.