(The author’s observations are not targeted towards any particular family)
Once upon a time, weddings in villages and small towns used to be quite different from the city ones. The small towners used to be a hospitable lot with no dearth of locally available resources. Whenever there was a wedding in the family, they would insist on the groom’s party staying not less than 4 days to enjoy their hospitality however big the group might be. The party would be met at the railway station or bus stand with vehicles acquired for the purpose and with pipe (not piped) music. The groom’s party would be warmly welcomed and shown their quarters. There would be a sweet and a kheer with every meal. In vacant slots, cultural programs would be arranged. Family talents would be displayed. The people from both parties would be mingling well. In fact, some future alliances would even be fixed. When the groom’s party was to be seen off, it would be done with a heavy heart and with promises of frequent future meetings. Thus the weddings would not only bring about the union of the boy and the girl, but also that of their parents, families and relatives. During those four or five days the kitchen would never be closed. For those who missed meal times or arrived late, there would always be alternate dishes cooked up on the spot. The groom’s party would be treated like Gods those four days with every whim of theirs catered to. In fact there is a saying that even a bug from the boy’s party would get a special treatment!
What a contrast the weddings in big cities were? (I am using past tense as the latest generation does not believe in formal marriages). With greater population, everything had to be on a bigger scale__ the number of invitees, the marriage venue, the staff employed etc. Apart from the groom, no one else was important for the girl’s party. The parents of the boy would be tolerated for a couple of days till the latter became their son-in law formally. No one showed any interest in getting to know the members of the other party. When the boy’s party arrived, they would have a sort of welcome with thinly strung, single ply wild jasmine flower garlands. They would be treated to a tea of standard snacks after which the kitchen service would be firmly closed against the late comers.
In the days when the reception was not yet merged with the previous day’s rituals, there would be a simple meal in the night with one sweet and one kheer for the immediate groom’s party or whosoever stayed back. Later a new custom came into vogue. By holding the reception on the previous day itself, the girl’s parents would save the rent of the choultry or wedding hall. A grand buffet (a glorified poor feeding) would be held along with the reception. Thus the actual contact of the parties hardly lasted for 24 hours. Earlier the boy’s party left, the more relieved would be the girl’s parents.
Since the whole show used to be usually financed by the girl’s parents, the boy’s party would not take any liberties with the kitchen. Thus the boy’s side relatives would be left to fend for themselves.
On the day of the wedding, breakfast would be served. Busy as they would be with their own toiletries, nobody would make it a point to inform (or invite) the other party about the breakfast. In their own interest, people were expected to help themselves. If the breakfast items were still available, people could offer them to their ‘late arrival relatives’. Around 9 am the kitchen (not the coffee counter) would be decisively closed in preparation for the wedding lunch. After the rituals were over or sometimes before they were over, guests would be served lunch and disposed off, with the hosts hardly putting an appearance in the dining hall.Everything would be done on a contract basis. The groom’s party would have to find their own places for lunch scrambling with aam janata. While the arrival of the groom’s party would be by cars or buses arranged by the girl’s party, they would be left to their own resources at the time of their departure..
We had a bitter experience in one of the city weddings. It was the wedding of one of my cousins. My aunt had been quite close to my mother and late father. So, our mother insisted that all of us should attend the wedding on both the days. We all trooped into a jutka (as the horse drawn coaches were called those days) and set off for the wedding hall which was at the other end of the city. By the time the poor horse could take us there, the mandatory welcome snack session was over. Hoping to have a good meal in the night at the least, we sat through the rituals. After the rituals, the guests, except for a very close circle, started leaving there being no pressure from the girl’s party to stay for dinner. When our mother also made noises about leaving, our aunt meekly acquiesced without making the least attempt to hold us back. (Even the slightest hint would have been enough for us. But, alas, none was coming). The hungry lot had no recourse but to return home. Since no buses were available at that late hour, we had almost walked quite a distance before a kindly jutkawallah took pity on us and let us drag ourselves on to his cart.(At least the horse must have been happy this time to carry a lighter lot.). It was well past 12 midnight by the time we reached home. Unfortunately, expecting a double bonanza at the wedding house, my mother had not cooked any food at home. A meager stock of dosa batter was stretched, dosas were made on the charcoal chulha and the hungers were assuaged and by the time we all settled in bed it was 2 am.
Next day (or was it the same day?), any wonder that there were no volunteers to attend the main wedding ?!!!