Though the decoration was still pending, the house looked as if, exalted with flowers pots of all kinds. I somehow knew it would come on me. There were rooms hidden and camouflaged, where you would expect a wall to be and the most surprising space was the backyard.
Following down the steps from the endmost door, was the way to an open green space. To the right was a big concrete water tank filled with little lotus pods and enumerable fish and snail shells. The garden had a small walk-around track, which on the other side, led to another single storied small out-house, where the dinner was being prepared by 3 to 5 people.
I stared at them with hopeful eyes, since I had skipped a proper lunch and there reached, well before the dinner time.
We had tea and some snacks and subsequently, I was introduced to the relatives, as a friend from Bangalore, who came running to Ajmer, when she heard about the marriage. Quite right indeed, I felt, because I was the earliest of few, who had arrived. Some Bengali words flew here and there and I settled myself with being an obsolete for the fresh talks.
Big red bindis adorned few wide foreheads, as the crowd settled down for some dance. Those among standing were few locals, and started dancing right away to the beats of dhol.
Few ladies in ghagra and ghungat (veil) draped over their heads to hide their faces, circled round and round to slow beats diligently. I and another girl were pulled in by the bride to be (di) and her mum (aunty).
We, in turn made a self-rescue out of it, together and became the best of friends, for the rest of the days I stayed there. After obliging to angry glances, we made our way and danced few steps to freedom. The dhol served its term well and blew out to mark the end of dance.
My friend called us kids upstairs to first floor and we started our work of dressing up chairs and tables for the mini-cocktail party for the grownups ups. After the work was done, we took the break too.
We were on the terrace when I had a full view of the city at night. Covered by hills on three sides, the house stood on high grounds, offering a great view of the city that shone equally brilliantly under the stars.
And then there was the full moon, that cast a light shadow of mine, in its delicate light. The clear starry sky, the noiseless roads, not even a honk reached my ears. It came upon me that I had longed for this peace since I didn’t know when.
I hadn’t realized that the concrete jungle had taken a toll over me until Ajmer made me absorb it in its air. Time stood still and stayed with me. I hugged the silence of the city and I dreamed of this place as my own home.
Aunty called us down for dinner after some time. The sleep came swiftly after a long day.
Next day I woke up to a stunning view from the balcony of the first floor. A beautiful hill, covered with grass, stood astonishingly just in front, like a huge mountain. If I could take a flight, it was like the nearest tree I could perch upon. Lit by the morning light, it looked breathtaking. I insisted upon a trek to the top, amidst the marriage….Well, not that bad an idea.
Haldi Ki Rasam
The morning began with getting ready for the breakfast and yes of course the Haldi Ki Rasam ( The tradition of applying turmeric on the bride’s face). After having a hefty breakfast, I gathered my excitement to hear the familiar “ululu” tone, commonly associated with Bengali weddings, and the one I had hear only in Bollywood movies.
There was a lot of commotion as di (the bride to be) finally left her tomboy style and entered in the traditional avatar, as she came down to the garden in a beautiful, brightly colored sari, draped in Bengali style.
Fresh turmeric was mashed and applied on her face by married women, while they circled around her, uttering “ululu”. My newly-made good friend, successfully blew the Shankh (the Shell or Conch), though after a bit of funny whistling.
The surroundings were, as if, lifted up in spirits as the Gods came down to bless the bride-to-be, as is said happens when the Shankh (Conch) is blown. The ambiance of the place took a turn of extreme positivism and power, as the ceremony proceeded.
Women with maroon and white bangles, symbolizing their married selves, played around with the turmeric and even smeared it across our faces, saying that it brings forth the prospects of early marriage. They found me running and struggling away from the crowd thereafter.
Lunch happened and I saw my friend and her sister (the bride to be) having their first meals of the day. The brother, I thought, should also suffer. Meanwhile aunty called us in the front verandah and we started the decoration as I had predicted.
It was fun, as we tried the best of our creativity and convincing, to decorate the front yard, while it was getting prepared to be lit like a sparkling gem.
Meanwhile two young girls came out of nowhere and asked who among us wanted to apply Mehandi (Henna). I jumped up with excitement and offered my hand to the ladies. Intricate designs flowed cold on my palm and I came to know the girls were studying in 10th standard and doing a side job as a mehandi artist.
Many aunties poured in, first hesitatingly then jovially and we the kids started fanning our hands dry.
The evening as if came early, but I didn’t allow the mehandi to come off even a bit, so as to churn the maximum dye out of it, that made me slightly handicapped as I didn’t use my left hand at all.
The night cracked with the sound of the speakers that were put up and blared out. The crowd slowly swelled and we started getting really ready this time. The front yard glowed spectacularly in the night against the dull neighborhood.
By the time we were out, the ladke wale (the groom and family) had arrived for the function called Ashirwaad (Blessings from Elders). The bride to be arrived in a fairytale lehanga and almost elegantly took her place, over the intricately designed carpets in the yard.
She was gifted with jewelry that glinted in the video camera and in the wide eyes of beholders all around her.
The elders showered their blessings and with a constant expression that comes when under the surveillance, di received it all like a good bride to be. When it came to the groom’s turn, we had a good glimpse of him, after which we headed to our own selfie sessions and surprisingly discovered another short way to the back gardens. One big surprise house it was.
The ceremonies followed the much awaited snacks, which was followed by sudden migration of people to the terrace for the major cocktail party.
God, I really didn’t know Bengalis had Daru party in their Weddings, like Punjabis do.
People consumed the alcohol like there was no tomorrow and danced to Punjabi, Bollywood and even Honey Singh tracks. The uncles and aunties were pumped up and showed no sign of tiredness.
Few neighbors stood with ghungat,(veil) covering their heads and faces and glasses of whisky in their hands. Quite embarrassed at first, my friends had asked one of them to take a peg. She had refused saying abhi break li hai, kam kardi hai (I have taken a break, I have reduced). Next moment she and her friends sipped from the glass, with their ghungat now high over their heads and revealing their pretty, chubby faces.
People pulled them in for a dance on the regional Rajasthani music and they danced and danced, gladly around the bride, who looked confused and wondering, right in the centre of rotating dolls around her.
The bride and groom had their share of drinks and dance. We took the opportunity of the blaring speakers, the dancing drunk boys and followed the crowd to the place of dinner. I couldn’t resist being devouring and attacked the delicious cuisines. The chicken, the curd and the sweet satiated my hungry soul.
Sleep came like a wide fish net, thrown high up in air, and I comforted under my heavy blanket, against the cold night of Rajasthan, not bothering about anything else, no tomorrow, no office, no alarms, no calls, no messages. It was the best sleep I got into, after a long time. And no, the whisky was not to blame, Remember? I chose food!