‘Some lipstick. There. You ought to look right.’
‘But I’m just an observer for the night.
The guest of a guest, so what’s the point?’
Now the uncle intervened, forces joint.
‘Look at your aunt at her glamorous best.
You too are going to be put to the test.
You have to be beautiful. What will they say?’
Clearly make-up was the only way.
I trailed behind them into a cab,
A fancy shawl hid my skateboard scab.
At West End, yards of shimmering silk:
From the purplest rose to the bluest milk.
More saris fluttered through Festival Square
Welcoming every clandestine stare.
In the lobby of the Sheraton Grand,
Sharmishta wed James on the bulletin stand.
But upstairs with flowers and incense sticks,
The Champagne bubbled a cultural mix.
Excited introductions quickly laid bare
How a Scot and an Indian made the perfect pair.
Through the hallway, and a glance around -
My eyes in less than an instant found -
Great bearings of truth in what they said
For in all that I had ever heard or read,
Never had such synchronicity spun
Around me that made two cultures one.
Through the language of knobby knees:
Simply, male pride in kilts and dhotis.
Truly, find me a third race on earth
That displays leg hair with such mirth.
That of course wasn’t the only thing
That made the global wedding bell ring.
Chairs trussed up in gold and white
Sat patiently facing a platform quite
Encumbered under the fragrant weight
Of imported flowers, strictly up to date
With the latest Bollywood trends
Approved and attested by well wishing friends.
Then up the aisle, not on her father’s arm
But consciously exuding an exotic charm
Came Sharmishta precariously perched
On a little stool that unforgivingly lurched
On the shoulders of her brothers four
Who tried their very best to tow
The traditional line to the T.
But you stick to the rulebook for a fee.
This wasn’t a smooth Indian marble floor
But one, the Event Manager at the door
Had helpfully rippled in a carpet red
A suave young man who shook his head
And swiftly into his walkie talkie called
For an ambulance to be stalled
When through the corner of his eyes he spied
The bride flying through a crowd petrified.
But an old Scotsman, a rock climber they say
Instantly dived in to save the day.
You see, every wedding needs a priest
And this one had quite a feast
Of applicants from which to pick and choose.
Eventually the candidate whose
Credentials were approved by all
(Though he shivered in the festive squall)
Was a brother in law in the family tree,
Who taught Sanskrit at the University.
A great scholar and a goodly man
Who with great ease (reportedly) can
Recite all the mantras back to front
Translate a couplet in merely a grunt.
Some don’t believe it but even if it were so,
In the gathering, none of us would know.
He led the couple around the holy fire
(For which the Sheraton had to hire
A fire brigade with fifteen men.)
The bride and groom obediently then
Seven times around the flame
Did what the Hindus choose to claim
The absolute promise, the wedding vow
That bound them together for the then and now.
Once all that was said and done,
I found the wedding cake was one
Many layered creamy thing
Waiting to be cut at the banquet wing.
Dinner tables with labels set
All the western wedding conventions met.
In between an aunt and an uncle squeezed
At a table of immigrant doctors visibly pleased,
Benevolent now with champagne and wine
Quietly, I watched them dine.
I comfortably sat in but out of place
While they promptly began to question my face
How old was I? What did I do?
‘Literature? Poetry? But tell me who
In this day and age follows pursuits poor as such
But all’s forgiven though you’ll never make much.
It’s a pity, your parents … Oh well never mind
My children are the best biologists you’ll find.’
‘How long are you here? Only so many days?
Then back to India but there are so many ways
Of settling down here. You don’t want to??
These creative oddities, but it’s up to you.’
‘Writer to be? Will you write about us?’
So I took her up without further fuss.
More cheerful tidings in the rest of the room
As the Best Man in a dhoti toasted the groom.
Speeches were clapped at and glasses were raised,
As the newly weds were duly praised.
At the end of it all, when tummies were full
The dance floor sent out a magnetic pull.
The night predictably was danced away
As the enthusiastic hips set sway
Jiving, tangoing, and waltzing to
Hindi film songs made to woo.
So you see, both parties astute
Set the stage, for another liaison to boot.
Copyright Sria Chatterjee.