It was the marriage season. Everyone was either getting married or getting an invitation card that carried an invisible demand draft of at least Rs 200. There was, of course, this new concept of “not accepting gifts”. Though taken with a pinch of salt, this was a sure hit with those who preferred to remain perpetually “out-of-station” during marriage season.
Even I was getting married. That was my first marriage and, despite repeated attempts, remained my only one.
I always wanted to marry a tall, dark and handsome prince on a white horse. The reality was a lot different, though. And despite several feeble attempts by me to sabotage a gala ceremony and go in for a quiet signing of papers, my marriage was gleefully red and traditional. I was guilty of being the first born of my parents and my husband-to-be, the only offspring. And hence we were sentenced to suffer 10-long-agony-hours of a red, red, red marriage.
Everything was so surprisingly red about the marriage that I even wore a red bindi to match with a blue sari, during one of my umpteen catwalks that I had to do throughout the auspicious day. I was smiling so much that I felt stifled with the sweetness of the occasion. Everyone was smiling more than I did. My relatives, who last saw me when I was a baby, repeatedly said: Look at you! You have grown up so much!!!
Of course I had grown up! That’s why I am marrying! However, they were too sunk in their self-created affection for me to realize that. Someone brushed a little hair off from my forehead while someone wiped a little extra kajal from my eyes.
The deadline arrived. I was wrapped in a 10-kilo heavy sari, bedecked with every kind of gold jewelery and finally, topped with a flower crown. I looked at the mirror and shrieked! “I LOOK LIKE A CHRISTMAS TREE!!”
Everyone laughed. They were all so happy!
The bor finally arrived and everyone shouted! “Bor eshe geche! Bor eshe geche!“ (The groom has arrived! The groom has arrived!) As if he wasn’t supposed to. They ran toward the entrance. I was tempted to run too, only I weighed too much. Apparently my husband-to-be was looking like a prince!
Was it someone else? The last time I saw him he looked grumpy as usual. Did they make a last-minute switch? I was tempted to look.
Then they placed me on a very feeble square piece of terracotta called ‘pinre’ and lifted me in air. Some of my feminist, still-single friends clapped and joined in the fun. Not to mention, that was the last time I saw them feminist, single or having so much fun.
Even I was laughing. The bor was very glum. (He later told me that he did not recognize me suspended in mid-air tinkling with so much jewelry and was tempted to change his mind). We exchanged garlands and ended our day of gold and red.
By Kaberi Chatterjee (Right after marriage in 1995. Originally appeared in The Telegraph October 10, 1995. A little edited.)