Greetings from Hindustan
Final Episode: Not a Monsoon Wedding
It’s not unusual for an Indian family to invite a thousand guests to a wedding, and that’s just for the bride. The groom has a separate party with another thousand. Our mob have adopted the thoroughly modern practice of combining the two, so we have two thousand guests. I kid you not!
The wedding takes place in a dedicated wedding arena that is half the size of a cricket pitch and exposed to the vagaries of the weather. Luckily the weather is not so vague around these parts. There is the wet season and the dry season. Anyone daft enough to opt for a monsoon wedding is doing it because they are in a hurry (and we all know why).
The guests file in and register their presents with the cashier, who duly notes in a ledger exactly who gives what. This is vitally important. When the time comes to reciprocate, it is essential to give something of commensurate worth. By the end of the night the couple is glistering with bling. Forget toasters and steak knives, Indians crave gold. Gold earrings, gold nose rings, gold ankle bracelets, gold chains, gold watches. In Australia we have superannuation. Over here they have gold. You never know when you may have to flee for your life: best to keep your meagre savings on your person. I even saw peasants tilling the fields with gold earrings glinting in the sun. Well, they could hardly leave it back in the mud hut with the hessian sack for a door, could they? The people with the most gold are the fishwives, flashing rows of sparkling teeth as they haggle and cackle and fillet the fish, and anyone else looking for trouble.
The poor couple are ensconced in the middle of the stage and must greet and exchange pleasantries with all the guests, who have dutifully formed a long queue snaking around the arena. This is after a full week of rituals at all hours of the day and night. Marriage Indian style is a marathon effort, not for the faint hearted.
The arena is ringed with kitchens and manned by an army of cooks, who are making thousands of japartis and tending rows of silver urns. The urns are steaming with exotic dishes that fill our nostrils with mouth-watering sensations. After all, we are here to eat.
The decorations are all rather tawdry, with lots of tinsel and tickertape and ice dolphins and mantelpieces adorned with an odd collection of objet d’art that look like they come from the op shop. The music is altogether underwhelming. We were expecting Ravi Shankar on his 12-string sitar. We get recorded western pop music that no one dances to because we are all having dinner. They even play, Down Under just for us, so we have to stand up and pretend to sing along, ‘we come from a land down under’.
After we finish our lovely dinner and have a brief chat with the semi-comatose couple, we all go home. Somehow l find myself getting all wistful for the good old Bogan wedding, finishing up with the traditional all-in-brawl.
After another few days of archaic rituals the newlyweds fly home to Canberra, no less, and live happily ever after.