I went to a childhood friend’s son’s wedding yesterday. This friend was a neighbour in the suburb of Chembur and all the family was known to me. So, it was an occasion to renew old bonds, and to show off my mildewing old suit. It is interesting how the Syrian Christian weddings take place. People are at their best and their worst at the same time, as you will see. At this wedding, as usual, there is an interesting mix of Christians from around Bombay. In one corner were the Santa Cruz Marthomites, because the girl was from there, in another was the Vashi Marthomites, because the boy was a member there, in another corner was the Panvel Marthomites, as the boy is currently based there. Scattered elsewhere were the odd Anglican CSIs from Sanpada, Chembur, and Vakola.
Everybody was in their best behaviour at 7 p.m. which was the official time of the reception. Children were running around, a DJ was being crazily loud, but no dancing happened, we are conservative, you know, though a few old uncles, well past their seventies were seen jiving with their hands in their pockets. Well, um, the DJ also danced alone, behind his console. Then the welcome drinks came as a welcome relief from the heat, and, then, what is called “starters” which was panneer, vegetable sizzlers, and chicken tikkas. We waited exchanging pleasantries with an old neighbour, my companion for the evening, from long ago. We hadn’t seen each other for ages, so we had a lot to share.
Though the DJ was splitting our ear drums with crazy rap and hip-hop numbers, we managed to talk, as only Malayalis can. We used sign language mostly. Then one hour passed and the bride and groom hadn’t arrived. An emcee said they were on the way and there would be a sweet welcome for them. Meanwhile, beauties were seen sashaying and young studs were seen swaggering around. So we waited in patience, ogling the girls in pretty numbers, men doddering around, old uncles and aunts in wheel chairs, all in silent expectation.
The emcee was looking harassed but was managing quite well. We had run out of subjects to talk about. Then we started pointing out the people – who looked familiar - and how we were either related or were from the same village. It was like playing a game. Then this game, too, exhausted. We were consuming starters and welcome drinks by the litres. It seemed as if we won’t need dinner if this continued.
Then the emcee triumphantly announced, at 9.30 p.m. that the girl and boy had arrived, after two-and-half hours of waiting. Curiously we were very hungry by this time. The zen-like patience we had exhibited earlier had evaporated and we were waiting for the announcement that food is served. Even the sashaying and swaggering had stopped. See, the music had not entertained us, it had made us impatient and edgy. All the more reason to believe that modern music doesn’t work for us old codgers. We were waiting for the meeting to begin so the music would stop.
Then there began a round of introduction for the bride, groom and their families. The emcee handled this expertly. I guess he has some experience with such states of anomie, or he would have been a wreck by now. That over, the bride sang a song, which was melodious. We all admired her voice and said, “She is very talented.” Our eyes were on the buffet tables to see if it had begun to be filled with food.
Introductions over, the groom gave a very humorous speech, which was lost on a distracted audience. Only a few claps resulted. Since the music stopped, talk had resumed. One uncle, potbellied, was standing, welcome drink in hand, staring at the audience continuously from a front row, as if searching for meaning to life.
Mercifully, then the emcee announced that the function had ended. And then the whole audience erupted into an ungainly and unglamorous dash towards the food tables. The carefully nurtured sangfroid of the evening was abandoned. Manners were disregarded, feet stamped, saris and sequinned dresses held aloft, husbands were separated from wives, mothers from children, brothers from sisters. At the buffet queue, luckily I managed to get behind my wife, but my companion for the evening and his wife, son, and grandson were not to be seen.
Luckily we found a seat to sit on. Like in a train, seats were reserved, and a handbag on the seat meant it was “Reserved against Cancellation (RAC)” by the lifting of the handbag. My companion then came around asking for his wife. Then the wife came asking for her husband. And, then the son and grandson came asking for both father and mother. We had become a chomping, slurping, gorging mass by then.
You see the rap and hip-hop music had made us crazily hungry.