Gaya Junction is a small station that is a part of Eastern Railway zone of India. Like any other railways platform in India, we envisaged it to be brimming with people, walking to and fro and waiting eagerly for their trains. The station was unexpectedly both clean and empty in the early morning hours when we arrived.
Our friend’s brother had come to receive us at the station. Miss Annu, the bride and our best friend was at home, playing badminton and holding onto every opportunity to shed a few grams of fat before her wedding day.
Gaya reveals its deepest side in the narrowest lanes of the city. In quick successions of a few left and right turns, we crossed a market place that was just waking up from slumber and took a final left to enter into a lane. The houses hugged each other side to side—the road was empty yet carried a plethora of sounds coming from adjacent households. The three-storeyed house stood tall—the back of my head touched my neck as I stared at what we would be calling it for the coming days—home.
Warm hugs and smiles welcomed us. It was a pleasure everyone in the family who had been expecting us since so many days—Aunty (our friend’s mother) called us for breakfast, something we had really been waiting for. We gorged on the food, satiated our hunger and went upstairs to our friend’s room for the ‘talk’.
Our best friend was getting married and like all girlfriends we were super excited to make the best out of these moments—we were the bridesmaids!
Applying mehendi or henna on the hands and feet of the bride is not just a traditional embellishment to make the bride look more beautiful. The lesser-known scientific reasons that back the practice are the cooling effect mehendi has on the skin. A wedding includes a series of customs that are performed one after the other. Mehendi provides a cooling sensation and releases the stress build from the whole day’s events.
We had to feed our friend, while her hands and feet were being dyed with the rich-smelling herb. It was a tedious 4-5 hour long process, which the aunty who had come to apply her mehandi completed without a sigh of exhaustion.
Our girl was ready, but we, her best friends made sure that her hena design was perfect and took the cone, much to the reluctance of the mehandi-wali-aunty, added a few streaks of wet mehandi giving it a final touch up.
The act was completed after dabbing a solution of lemon and sugar on the dried mehandi to churn out the color.
Adjacent to the Falgu river, on the Bakraur village road, almost 14 kilometres from Gaya, stood the famous Mahabodhi temple—the place known to have been an abode for Gautam Buddha, where he meditated for seven weeks at a stretch. Across the river, only 1.7 kilometers away stood the Mahamaya Palace Hotel, where the wedding was to take place.
In the late hours of the previous night, we had arrived with all our luggage at the majestic hotel in a slumber. With our eyes almost giving away to sleep, we made a way to our room and unloaded ourselves. The calm vicinity and light summer breeze of July allowed us to settle down with ease and brought the sleep quickly.
The ceremonies had begun early the next morning when we were still snoring in sleep. The commotion in the room stirred us awake—we squinted, looking at our friend who was busy getting dressed up and ready for the occasion we had no clue about.
Our friend had to change about half a dozen saris for the ceremony.
Rubbing our eyes, we saw the bride in a beautifully embroidered brilliant red sari. We were still in our bed in our nightwear, while a number of unfamiliar faces poured in the room much to our embarrassment. As girls in their mid-twenties among aunties clad in saris and traditionally intact, we got some sheer glances from top to bottom. We were being excused as friends from Bangalore by our friend who was by now completely transformed under the shades of makeup and traditional wear.
We witnessed a series of wedding rituals including the Haldi. Our friend had to change about half a dozen saris, one for each ceremony. We helped her get ready every time, to change the jewelry, sari, footwear and a touch of makeup.
The whole scenario of the bride coming to the room and quickly changing into a new piece felt more like an Formula 1 race pit stop—where the car comes to a halt in between the race and gets a tire change, fuel refilling, mechanical adjustments and hurriedly speeds up to join the race once again.
Evening was as fantastic as it could be. We dressed up in ethnic wear and came down to the banquet hall that was equipped with a wide stage and speakers blazing with party soundtracks—our happiness had no bounds! We both were shy at first, but on repeated insisting we took to the dance floor and then there was no stopping.
Then, it was just two of us, the stage, the light and lots of vacant chairs to see us perform.
The songs auto-played dance numbers one after the other and we couldn’t hold ourselves shaking a leg to each of them. The guests started retreating to the dinner table but we were still dancing on the stage with a few other people.
Those people then got off and we were left to dance with small kids. Then, it was just two of us, the stage, the light and lots of vacant chairs to see us perform.
Our friend asked us to come down, but we were high on adrenaline and pulled her along.
When only we two were left on the empty stage, the famous Indian number Kajra Re started playing, we couldn’t stop ourselves and kept performing the signature step until they put off the music.
“What do you think, we will back off if you put off the music?” We asked the cousins that sat cornered in their chairs at the far end of the banquet hall.
Undeterred, we started singing the lines of the song and finished the show.
The curtains fell with grace.