In Konkani weddings (and most of the south Indian Brahmin weddings), most of the rituals look more like a stage performance. The only difference is that the pandit directs you at each and every step. A simplified story goes like this:
A guy, going to the Kashi (I don’t know exactly why, some say it is the higher studies of olden days), is stopped by a man (the father of a gal of supposedly marriageable age) on his way. The man requests the guy to cancel his plan and instead marry his daughter and become a family man. The guy (should) agree without even seeing the gal. The gal, who has no idea about the guy and this conversation, will obviously disagree for the marriage. She is persuaded by her maternal uncle and she agrees. Her uncle brings her to the mantap and then the guy and the gal are facing each other but a cloth is held between them so they cant see each other. After the chanting (which look like never-ending) is over, they are allowed to see each other. The gal is asked to garland the guy first to say she has accepted him and then the guy will garland the gal. Then after another set of chanting and rituals is over, the guy will tie the Mangalsoothra (sacred thread) around her neck and they are married. Done!
In reality, all these sound kind of absurd. In my case, my husband had introduced my parents to his. So the story is quite opposite to mine. My husband (after our engagement) used to get weird ideas on the going-to-Kashi scenario. One was that he would take a few steps towards Kashi, take a look at my dad’s side from the corner of his eye and if my dad has not started towards my husband to stop him, he would come back and start again. Another was like when he is asked to go to Kashi, he would tell the pandit ‘No bhatmaam (pandit), she has waited for me for years. I can’t leave her and go just like that you know!’ Other weird ideas about the moment we are married were like if he had a time machine, he would have it paused, moon-walk on stage, come back to his seat and then play the time machine!
When it comes to my wedding, it gets completely different compared to just attending a wedding. It is me on the stage. I get reminded again and again that I’m the limelight (something I never liked). But then it felt like why I should take it that way after all. As my colleague had said, this is my day. This is going to be the most special day of my life. Why not enjoy the limelight! Unlike the brides whom I had watched in movies or my cousins, I was not nervous about how my future life will be and how my in-laws will treat me (I was a little nervous about that but it was negligible). Instead I was nervous about how the day would go. I knew I was clumsy. Dropping things from my hand or tripping a couple of steps is not that rare. If people are watching then it just gets worse. I can be called attention-phobic. When I asked mom for suggestions, she said ‘do what the pandit tells you to do’ which just added to the tension.
Another tension was how I would look in the wedding sari. I din want to look fat (no, not the way girls would worry about looking fat) because my husband is on the thinner side and I’m average. We have to match up to each other. He would be wearing a shervani so he would look a little fatter. He is photogenic and loves posing for pictures. It is not the case with me. Posing for pictures is not that a comfortable thing for me. Secondly when it comes to pictures on the wedding day, the photographers will ask you to stand in the poses that are way too embarrassing.
Like every other bride, I just slept for 45minutes the previous night. At 7 am we were in the wedding hall. While I was dressing up (the dress looked more like a dance costume) I was hyperventilating on how the day would go. My cousin, who recently got married, told me that feeling comfortable and behaving yourself will make you look better. It did work! I instantly felt better and my sister also told me on stage that I am not looking awkward in any angle. My head started working positively and I remembered that people close to me are coming to attend my wedding. I did not want to be like most brides so busy with their rituals that they will not even know who is attended and who is not. I was probably the only bride in the history of Konkani weddings who was sitting on the stage and waving at the people (not by lifting my arm, just from my lap-height) gracefully enough not to look awkward. And I was right. Whoever enters the hall first sets their eyes on the bride. Therefore it was easy to smile at them and still not get shouted at from pandit for not listening to him.
The signature moment was great. My three uncles and aunts brought me to the mantap. After seemingly infinite minutes of chanting, when I was allowed to garland my husband, he bowed at me as a gesture of gratitude of accepting him. I returned the favour by bowing at him while he garlanded me. Some more rituals and he tied the Mangalsoothra (now a coral chain) around my neck and we were declared married. The feeling was definitely great but it did not make us forget the hunger and tiredness of being there from 7 am. There was only one break to change into another costume and simultaneously have some food someone got for me which was not enough. The remaining rituals were with my husband. He made me feel a lot better by speaking to me.
We were lucky that the Muhurtham (auspicious time to get married) was early (at 11 am) as that prevented the photographers from clicking our photos in embarrassing poses. But the worst and the unavoidable part about wedding ceremony even in my wedding remains the same - photo session. I tried my level best to smile and greet the people whole heartedly and smile for the photos. After some hundred photos, I realized my cheeks were paining out of holding a smile for a long time. There is one photo where I am looking like I was about to cry. We knew this would continue till 2 pm. Finally we got to have lunch and head towards my house. When I was waving at my parents and sister, I could see that everyone was hiding every feeling from everyone. My cousin, who was teasing me since three days that he is too happy I am going out of my family, told me that he had teased me a lot but now he realized that he will miss me a lot. After I sat in the car next to my husband, my dad just held my hand and pressed it a little that told everything he had to say. I knew that the next time I go there; it will be my mother’s house. I was going to step in a new chapter of my life. With a few drops of tears I had not let out, I set off to my new house. Once my mom’s house was out of my sight, I saw my hand my husband had held and realized that he had not let my hand free from his from the time we were married.