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Where Peacocks fly-27

by Prema Sastri

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Both parties had originally regarded the wedding as an event to be speedily gone through, with as much grace as possible. As the day approached a sense of celebration overtook everybody.

Meera shopped in Karol Bagh. She found a shop which specialized in South Indian wedding saris. She bought a lemon coloured Conjeevaram silk with a green border, and had the blouse made up at short notice. She bought gold bangles and a heavy North Indian necklace from Zaveri Brothers. She was able to get a jeweller to make a South Indian Tali chain with the traditional footprints of Lord Siva in gold. She ordered a silk gharara and top in pale blue along with a matching sequined dupatta for the reception. She set aside the greater part of her jewellery to be given to her daughter. The groom was to receive a Rolex watch. Gifts were bought for all the in laws.

All this was possible as her parents chipped in to complement the saving Meera had squirreled away from her house-keeping money. Ramaswamy bought the watch. He had come to see the advantages of the union. There would be no need to search for a groom or pay a large dowry. The Singhs were well educated, rich and respected. The question of caste and creed did not arise, as his mother was no more, and Meera along with her parents had accepted the match.

The Singhs too had got into the spirit of the occasions. They bought gifts of clothes and jewels for the to be daughter in law. Designer clothes were ordered for the groom.

On the day of the wedding the hall was decorated with flowers. The groom wore a white kurta and red turban. His friends and relatives were dressed in all their finery. The bridal couple exchanged rings and garlands. They went through their wedding rows before the registrar, who pronounced them man and wife. Even Sankaran was solemn and quiet during the proceedings.

After the ceremony the wedding party moved to the Gurudwara, the Sikh Hall of worship. There were readings from the Granthsahib. The young people touched the feet of their elders. The party moved on to Hotel Janpath. Meera’s mother had arranged for recorded South Indian wedding music with drums and clarionets to be played in the dining room. The tables were laid with banana leaves spread with sumptuous South Indian fare. The guests enjoyed the repast served, from shining stainless steel vessels, by white clad attendants.

Among the guests were Nita and her husband. She congratulated the Ramaswamys and remarked on how beautiful the bride was looking.

“Did you know Gregory is no longer in the foreign service. His new wife found out he did not have the money or privileges she expected. She ran away with a French diplomat. Gregory took to drinking and became unfit for his job. He had to resign.”

“I’m sorry to hear it.”

“Greg was a weakling. Betty was too good for him.” Nita took her leave.

There was a great change in her appearance. She was dressed in a turquoise blue salwar kameez. She looked dignified and happy. Mehra was in the running for a post as a diplomat.

The Singhs were determined to organize their share of festivities. They had a sangeet complete with dhol, and vigorous music. The groom turned up at the Maurya Sheraton on a horse. He wore a cream sherwani with a silver border. His face was covered with strings of white jasmines, hanging from his white head gear. He was accompanied by a group of youngsters, who danced in the streets following the horse which had been covered with finery worthy of its rider.

The groom dismounted before the gates where the bridal party was waiting to receive him. They met him with aarathi and anointed him with sandal paste.

The hotel was a fairyland of lights. Cars drove in as an unbroken chain. The dais was decorated with silver bells and stars. Hundreds of people came up to greet Surinder and Mangalam. They came loaded with brightly wrapped presents which covered the tables.

The buffet tables stretched in an endless line. There was a separate stand for Bhel Puri. It was stacked with crisps and chutneys. The open tureens served Murgh Masala, Mutton Biryani, Kheema Parathas, Kabuli Channa, Sarason Ka Saag, Mutton Paneer,dal makhani, Tandoor Rotis, kulfi, varieties of sweets and kheer covered with edible silver paper. There were fruits, there were nuts. There was a paan stall. There was a table holding coloured glass bangles to be given to the women guests. The stage was set for everyone to have a good time , and they did.

The guests came from all parts of the city. There were politicians, diplomats industrialists and bureaucrats. Savitri and her husband were present.

He was dressed in white khadi. Savitri wore a simple handloom sari. She looked plump and contented. He had joined the Congress Party contested a by election and became a member of parliament. He was frequently seen on national news channels and was tipped as being in the running for a berth as a cabinet minister. He was a devotee of an international spiritual guru and was known for his widely publicized works of charity.

“A wonderful wedding. We met many people and enjoyed ourselves. You must come to our bhajan sessions.”

Meera folded her hands.

“Thank you for coming. I’ve been busy but I will certainly join you.”

“I’ve known the Singhs for many years. They have contributed generously to my cause. Thank you for remembering us.”

Meera wondered whether the cause was political or social. They spoke to Ramaswamy and left.

The guests kept arriving almost till midnight. The function was not over till the early hours of the next day. That morning they were to meet again for the Bidai or official parting with the bride who would now be taken to her husband’s house. The ceremonies were simple. Both Surinder and Mangalam looked tired. As they left amid sorrowful leave takings, Meera felt as if her heart was in a clamp. She wondered what the future held for her daughter.

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