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The Tragic Comedy In Bodhgaya, Bihar: Best Friend’s Wedding Part 1

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.

Know how to reach from Bangalore To Gaya, via the second largest city of India, Kolkata.

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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.

The Best Friend’s Wedding

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’.

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Trying our friend’s Jewelry – Things To Do At The Best Friend’s Wedding

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Me: “There is no stopping to the drama, Ok! ”       Shalvi: “This thing in not fitting in my nose”

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!

The Mehendi

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Henna design in the Making

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.

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The Final Outcome

The act was completed after dabbing a solution of lemon and sugar on the dried mehandi to churn out the color.

The Sangeet

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.

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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.

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Our beautiful lady in Red – Hugs and Kisses

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.

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Our best friend and bride to be.

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.

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Please excuse the expressions – We were basking in the summer morning light.

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 Party

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.

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The Three Musketeers sharing the spotlight.

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.

 

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The Old Lady In Blue Sari

I was walking back home from the bus stand. A long day I must say, plus the honks of traffic and the bustle of the vehicles clearly didn’t make things any better.

On the way, I saw an old lady walking ahead of me. She carried a jute bag full of clothes—it was her ripened age that made her bend over rather than the weight of the bag she carried. A polythene with a few Parle G biscuits hung loosely from her fingers. She wore a blue sari wrapped shabbily around her petite frame. With her ragged white hair spread carelessly on her tiny head and her hunched debilitating body, she walked at a slower pace. I easily overtook her.

Through the corner of my eyes, I saw her turning into a lane—was it my curiosity or my pitying over her state, I slowed down and started following her.

Her steps were little and her walk was slow. I had to stop to keep up with her—I pretended to be on phone, lest she notices me following her. At one point, I saw her talking to herself, gesturing at the big houses that we were passing.

I realized she might have been not been in the best of her mental health, probably, downtrodden by the rugged conditions of her life . Walking parallel to her and keeping up with her pace, I saw her approach a few street dogs. She sat on the road side, called out to them and started breaking and throwing the biscuits  at them. I was so touched by her act—despite being in a deplorable condition, she was feeding street dogs, who happily waged their tails, feeding on the morsels she had to offer.

I couldn’t hold myself—I went near her and knelled down next to her. I started petting the dogs to make it look like I wasn’t following her lest she might become suspicious or uncomfortable. When she saw me, she started talking to me with vigor, but in a language I couldn’t understand. She talked about the dogs ( Naai in Kannada language ) in the beginning. We engaged in a conversation as if we were casual friends and had met after a long time.

A closer luck at her made me feel sad. Her face was a wrinkled with stretches of lines running athwart the face. Her puckered skin had adjusted to her aging body. Her eyes reflected the pain and turmoil a 75-year old could have gone through.

While talking, her tone shifted suddenly. From the bits of Kannada I knew, I could make out she was talking about her house—her voice wavered and streams of tears started pouring down her cheeks.

She continued speaking and what I understood was that somebody (probably, her family) left the house, leaving her alone. She said she didn’t know where they went. Her lips quivered—grief and dismay poured from her eyes. She spoke in low, cracked voice—though I couldn’t make out single word she was saying then, I listened to her.

I brought my hand near her face and, gently, rubbed off the tears from the creases of her skin. I pressed her hand in reassurance—though she might not have understood my tongue, I consoled her and asked her not to cry. The touch of sympathy made her cry even more—I tried holding back my tears as I felt her pain. She pinched her arms, showing the loose skin that hung from her thin limb. I couldn’t say anything to comfort her, but I offered her grapes that I had purchased that evening and the little money that I carried in wallet at that time.

She folded her hands to thank me, but I persuaded her against it. Refusing to accept her gratitude, I tried to deviate her from the topic by asking her about her home, making the shape of house by pressing together my finger tips. She understood and spoke something, out of which all I could get was ‘Kerela’. We continued talking that way deciphering and responding to each other’s words with our expressions and gestures.

People passing by noticed us and gave us quizzical glances. I thought I could ask someone to interpret the old lady’s language for me, but, then, felt against it. I might invite unnecessary comments and the old lady may get uncomfortable—so I stayed put.

We talked like that for good 15 minutes, after which we both instinctively got up to walk again as if we knew the time was up. She called on those dogs and started feeding them. She somehow explained me the way to her home—inge, ange and asked me where I lived. I couldn’t explain much but she seemed convinced and moved on, talking to the dogs and speaking to herself.

I continued walking towards home contented. Strangely, my heart felt lighter after talking to her.

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Image Source: http://www.shutterstock.com

P.S: I didn’t want to take her picture. Taking and posting her photograph felt like a tool to gain attention online and a disrespect towards her.