Shaadi Mubarak!

2011 has been big on the weddings front. Two very close friends and a brother got hitched and I’m very fortunate that I was able to be present and collect my own share of happy memories with them.

Ridhima-Bhavya in May, Shoi-Bulan in July and most recently, Riki Bhaiya and his Jabalpur bride this month.

Amongst a variety of speculations on whether I would be or should be able to attend the November wedding, I decided that regardless of what happened in the past, such functions are times when the entire family comes together and if possible one should be present.

Thus began my four day expedition from Gurgaon to Kolkata to Jabalpur and back to Gurgaon. The schedule was extremely constricted and packed with activities worsened by SpiceJet’s four hour delay in departing from IGI!

I reached Calcutta by almost midnight on Wednesday and spent the next morning meeting paternal relatives, strolling the narrow streets and absorbing my beloved city’s laziness and being fed luchi aloo-dum with the best of Bengali confectionery. Come evening, I set sail for Howrah station – there is definitely something about railways platforms that intrigue me – the hustling, the noise of the engines – even the announcer’s voice has a strange allure to it. The last time I stepped into a train was the Duronto trip from Mumbai to Kolkata – almost two years ago! On reaching the station and Mamaji haggling with the porter, I spotted a group of particularly loud people standing around what was a mountain of luggage – and yes, that was my family of around 45 people ready to board the Howrah-Mumbai Mail. Followed immediately by excited greetings, incessant chattering and my five Mamaji’s scurrying around the platform performing their designated duties – luggage, food and beverage, seats on the train, getting everyone on (counting heads periodically) and overall crisis management.

Throughout the 22 hour journey from Bengal to the heart of Madhya Pradesh, we were stuffed to our necks with pre-packed Halidram’s thalis, sweets, salty treats, fruits, dry fruits and not to forget we brought along our own entertainment – a dholki (accompanied by Mamiji to play it) and an iPad for continuous shaadi music!

On reaching Jabalpur (and dancing our way out of the station complemented by a dhol-wala), we were transported to the beautiful Sports Club Resort where we were all allotted rooms and asked to dress up for the sagan and sangeet. Followed by a night of music, food, dance, pre-wedding rituals amply photographer by yours truly – we retired for the night. The next day was heavy on duties for sisters – taking mehndi and haldi to the bride’s home, several ceremonies and gaana for our brother, sehrabandhi in the evening leading on to the final wedding night. Just like most Indian weddings, the ceremony began post-midnight and we found ourselves awake till 5 am dragging our bodies up two flights of stairs to get to our rooms. While my gang of girls fell asleep immediately, I meticulously packed as Air India had inconsiderately brought forward by flight timing by 5 hours and I now had to catch the 8 am back to Delhi. On reaching Jabalpur airport by quarter to seven, I was astounded to see that the airport door had a huge lock on the gate. In around ten minutes, two women in red arrived, fished out a key from their purses, opened the gates, turned on the lights and switched on the baggage screening equipment. I had seen smaller airports before but this was an epic experience – the aircraft was parked in the middle of a savannah-like geography with tall grass and I wish I could have stayed awake for the actual take-off but alas!

In an hour and a half I woke up to find the plan slowing down at IGI and with much effort got myself home, dropped down on the bed and woke up 11 hours later.

Throughout the days I found myself missing Ma and Baba – it would have been so much more fun to have my family along with the whole bunch.

Riki wed Rashmi on November 26, 2011; this is what my camera saw: