Weddings are coming, weddings are coming,
Jewelers, caterers, couturiers are coming too,
Designer dresses, shoes by Choo
Antique sarees, Gold-rich kors, resplendent garas,
Chocker sets and old-time vaaras
Pagris and daglis fine.
It’s time to wine and dine
There are songs in the air,
There’s joy everywhere
‘cause it’s the wedding time.
Come September (Not the movie!), and everybody is busy running about, there is a sense of importance in everyone, tempers often run high, a million things to do. There is a wedding in the family.
Come October-November, and the countdown has begun. The bride-to-be has that glow on her face, she is radiant. Sometimes she bursts into tears at the thought of leaving her maternal home. She even misses her granny’s (Bapaiji’) taunts, “Randhta sikh’ nahi to poryo pacho gar-e muki jase.” (Learn to cook or else you’ll be sent back home.)
The groom-to-be, hmmm! He is on tenterhooks. He is wondering if he has done the right thing. Friends, all looking forward to a bachelor bash, convince him that everything will turn out fine eventually. Eventually!?
There is hectic activity everywhere. Old jewelry is to be polished as also the Bapaiji-na-lagan-ni Ses. Fittings of the clothes, check on the RSVP which is seldom Repondez-ed, leaving Vous to wonder if the so and so will turn up or not, and of course, the caterer is clamoring for the number of guests to be served. The Girl discovers that the spaghetti like strap of the blouse cannot hide the fettuccine like strap of the sadra. Also the sadra is a wee bit too long. Bapaiji again puts in her two-bit-worth saying, “Hamara wakhat ma to aie avu dhang-dhara vagarnu koi nahi peher-ta tha. Mara lagan-no photo jo. Kevu lambu Badian pehrelu, Queen Victoria jevi lambi royal-sleeves hati, ne tehne thi bhi lambo net-no sadro. Su bhabhko hato. Hamara matha-bana-ma bhi tamara blouse karta jasti kapru jatutu”
Then there is the checklist of things to do or have been done which is longer than the Bapaiji’s lagan-no sadro. There is also a worry that someone or the other has not been sent an invitation and, in all probability, that someone is usually the battle-axe of an aunt, quite distant, who is somewhat akin to Aunt Agatha in novels of P G Wodehouse’s.
Nowadays a lot of short-cuts are taken in the ceremonies. On about four days before the wedding there is engagement, ‘adhravanu’. The next day there is ‘varad-patra’, ceremonies in honour of the dead, ‘divo’, kindling of an oil-lamp in house of both, the bride and the groom to-be. Then the ladies of the two families in turn visit each others’ houses bearing gifts for ‘adarni.’ A rupee coin is slipped in the ‘divo’ by each lady of the visiting party. Then there is the mandav-saro, the planting of a mango sapling in a pot along with ‘sunnoo-rupu’ (symbolic slivers if gold and silver) to ensure fertility and prosperity. Nowadays the varadh-patra ceremony is sometimes foregone and parties of ladies do not in turn visit the other family, a very time consuming process. Instead, a hall is booked and all the ceremonies are done on the same day after planting of mandav-saro at home.
Boy o’ boy, this is a far cry from days of old when the fun would begin over a week before the M-day. Aunts of all sorts and sizes would descend en masse along with their kids or grand-kids. Houses were large, hearts larger! As the days would go by uncles, cousins, friends and gaam-na saga-vahla would all pour in. Neighbors would open their homes to the known, less known or unknown intru… sorry, invitees in the ‘mi casa, su casa’ spirit.
Gramophones would start blaring “Sakhi suraj ughyo, bhale-re ughio,” at the ungodly hour of five, thanks to some insomniac uncle with a sadistic streak. It was now, impossible to go back to sleep with the fragrance of sev or ravo wafting in, titillating our nostrils. The final coup de grace to the olfactory system would be made by akuri and aleti-paleti. All awake and soon they were, “forty feeding like one” as the poet Wordsworth puts it. Cooks called all the way from Udwada, Billimora or Surat would create traditional delicacies for the very finicky gourmet Bawaji who would gourmandize unabashedly. Now some hyperactive aunt would get it into her head that it was time for Garba, and soon there was a mass of roisterous, boisterous, swirling, twirling, handclapping masis and mamis, kakis and fuis singing garbas, hinting to the soon to-be bride about the shape of the things to come under matrimonial home, with new relatives, the sasuji, sasraji, dere, jeth and their better halves.
Then, they would go on to garbas about the gay (not in the present day sense) seamstress, the Rangilee Darjan, and about the twelve years old bride and her two and a half years old groom (baar vars ni kanya tehn-no eri varas no mati..). At this juncture more often than not, men would slip quietly away into a distant vacant room for a few rounds or flush or rummy. Even though there was prohibition in force there would be bottles of beer popping open by noontime. Something stiff with more authority would be served at the Happy Hour, courtesy of the friendly neighborhood boot-legman. Every day there would be quaint traditional ceremonies like applying the haldi to the bride, the Supra-ni reet, Khichri-ni reet, Ookerdi-ni loot of which the present generation is totally oblivious. Most of these rituals were a hybrid of Parsi-Hindu culture. They were very nice, very pleasant traditions and many of us are sorry to see them disappear.
Come the wedding day and the usual uproarious scene sobers down a bit with everyone preparing for the evening. A slightly early and light (Ha!) lunch, of sev, dahi, sali-boti, dhandaar and fish patio was served. Soon ladies would be running about arranging the trousseau in the Ses. The wedding evenings were much the same as today except the fact that everyone was in a typically Parsi attire. Men would be in daglis or duglas (somewhat akin to the bandcfghjkld-galas of today but slightly longer), heads covered with topis, pagris or phetas. Most of the invitees would be present before the ceremony would and upon their arrival they would be greeted by the close relatives of both, the bride and the groom, waiting at the gate. There would also be a nosegay of flowers presented to them.
A short while after the ceremony was over, the venue would wear a slightly vacant look. Men would normally slink out to the nearby speakeasy to down a couple of quick ones to do the justice to the Lagan-nu-bhonu that was to follow. A speakeasy was almost always found strategically situated near the Parsi wedding venues. The lagan-nu-bhonu would open very much like today but it was usually followed by a thick slice of custard or a dollop of pumpkin murambo. The entrées would have a dish of each, chicken, mutton and fish (Patra-ni machhi or sauce/sas-ni-machhi), the inevitable Pulao, dar, ice-cream and a small paper trey having a paan, couple of sweets and some cashews and almonds. The whole ‘Patru’ cos the host Rs.5/- or Rs5-8 annas (Rs.5.50ps).
The evening ended, (of course, not for the bridal couple) to the tune of the band playing ‘Irene, Goodnight Irene’, or ‘Arrivederci Roma’. Back home in victoria i.e. ghoda-gari with yours sincerely always insisting on riding besides the ghoda-gariwalla.
Those were the days of unrestrained freedom with no editor calling to say, “Darabsha, liquor ne lagan-na-bhona-ni stupor-ma thi bahar nikalia hoi to tamara ramblings mokli aapo.” There was some murmur on the other end of the line too, but PT being a family weekly, it cannot be printed!!
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