Saturday, December 21, 2013

Marriages are made in heaven - Disha becomes a Blah

I do not know where to begin. Maybe I should go back to 2002, when I first came to know that my daughter Akhila was dating Anirban Das Blah. I thought, ‘Here comes trouble; Later on in 2003, I met Anirban’s younger brother Indranil and I am reported to have muttered under my breath, ‘Here comes double trouble’. So, I have known ‘Indranil’ for a very long time – a man of few words, at times reticent, always affectionate and forever respectful; in short, a very likable person. All along, he was a bachelor to boot, with a cool job and an even cooler bachelor pad. I often referred to him as "Bertie Wooster". All those foot loose and fancy free days had to come to an end, sometime or the other and it did, when Indranil, happening to look in the right direction, fell for a very pretty, bright and charming girl called ’ Disha’ . On second thoughts, the title of this blog should have been ‘Indranil clean bowled’.

Marriages are made in heaven

Indranil and Disha celebrated their wedding on 6th Dec 2013.It was not quite so simple though. The preparations started many moons ago in the Blah and Bhavsar household. Everyone from the 2B family circle joined hands to make the occasion a memorable event. The bride’s father Ashok Bhavsar and Akhila were pivotal in organizing the wedding. Akhila with her childhood military grooming and a flair for organizing, treated the entire event as an Army Commander would treat a military manoeuvre. Under the title of ‘Disha becomes a Blah’ a number of check off  lists were made to ensure nothing was left to chance – Transport requirement, airport transfer, guest list, menu for each function, wardrobe for events, individual responsibilities etc – every aspect of the wedding had a when, who and how tag attached.

Within the 2B family unit there was a confluence of many religious and social traditions; a variety of customs and traditions originating from Gujarat, Meghalaya, Assam and Bengal were amply evident in all the wedding ceremonies. Throughout the three day affair they managed to strike a balance between religious ceremonies and youthful antics. In the final analysis it was a sacred union, under an umbrella of gaiety, fun and frolic. Every individual fostered this mood.

A large posse of kith and kin from the 2B circle made it a point to attend the wedding and bless the couple. The entire staff of CAA KWAN was there to lend support and join in all the revelry. One aspect which stood out very loud and clear is the excellent network of friends painstakingly developed over a long period of time by both, Anirban and Indranil. They were all there from different corners of the country and the globe to attend the festivities. A heartwarming development indeed. Their presence added a special flavour to all the proceedings. The mood throughout was one of bonhomie. To further charge the already electrified air – a number of Bollywood celebrities graced the functions.

Without a doubt, the most handsome people in the wedding were Indranil and Disha with their nephews Ayaan, Agastya and Aarin in their colour coordinated outfits coming a very close second. 

The run up to the wedding was one great ball. The Blah home had all the ingredients of a ‘Marriage Transit Camp’ – hordes of people, endless cups of coffee and tea, breakfast till 12 noon, a constant flow of visitors, the endless ring of cell phones, permanently occupied toilets, blaring music, dance rehearsals, dormitory arrangements for sleeping and so on. The endless cacophony was amply mitigated by unlimited flow of ‘Laphroaig’ – kind courtesy of my son in law. To quote “The pungent, earthy aroma of the blue peat smoke, the sweet nuttiness of the barley and the delicate, heathery perfume of Islay’s streams,” more than ensured that I slept well through the night. I had been given the task of taking the children to the park in the evenings and making them sleep after lunch – a very enjoyable task indeed. 3rd and 4th December were spent in last minute preparations, visits to beauty parlors, canteen, departmental stores and dance rehearsals late into the night etc.

The whole house was rearranged to accommodate a 90-strong guest list for the traditional Assamese ritual ‘Juroon’. And ‘Mehndi’, on 5th December. Due to logistical imperatives the Blah home momentarily become the bride’s house and Juroon was held in the house. Juroon is a very interesting, fun filled pre-marriage ceremony carried out before the wedding. This ritual is performed by women. Here the groom's mother visits the bride's house accompanied by close relatives and friends. The groom’s mother gifts the bride her bridal trousseau, including an odd number of pairs of Mekhela Chadar (traditional Assamese female attire) a complete make up kit (whoa!), gold ornaments etc. Once they reach the bride's house the groom's mother is welcomed by the bride's mother at the entrance with a XORAI or BOTA in her hands which contains tamul-paan covered by a Gamosa.

In many Hindu weddings, it's traditional to have a Mehndi party before the wedding. Artists use a paste made from dried henna leaves to paint intricate patterns on hands (and sometimes also feet) of the bridal party. The bride gets the most intricate patterns, to set her apart. It is believed that henna gives blessings, luck, and joy, although it is also seen as a beauty enhancer. Some brides get their future spouse's initials hidden into their Mehndi design. In our case Indranil got a ‘D’ in a heart mehndied on his palm.

As the Mehndi dried and the stars glittered, the guests were treated to really tasty Kashmiri fare. Amongst the many delicacies, what caught my taste and imagination were - Rogan Josh, Tabak Maaz - Lamb ribs with turmeric, cinnamon and saffron, Chicken Yakhni , Phirni for desert and finally Kashmiri Tea- Qahwah ;very tasty and authentic Kashmiri food indeed.

The wedding was solemnized on the lawns of the ‘Army Officers’ Institute’, Juhu Mumbai on 6th December followed by a reception. The spacious outdoor setting with tall trees and well mowed lawns was ideal for the wedding. The weather was very supportive and all were at ease. The ‘Baraat’ arrived at sharp 4 pm and all of us were made to wear a dark pink Pagdi as against a light floral Pagdi for the bride’s side. The Gujarati wedding ceremony is a derivative of the traditional ‘Vedic’ marriage. It starts with Var Ponke wherein the bride's mother welcomes the groom and his 'Baraat' at the entrance of the wedding venue. Before the groom can enter the premises, he is made to step on a 'Bajat' (low stool) where the bride's mother performs the traditional 'Aarti' for the groom, applies the 'Kunkhu' (vermilion) and rice 'Tikka' on his forehead. The bride's mother places a clay pot filled with rice on the ground and the groom breaks it before entering the wedding 'Mandap'. The groom is thereafter led to Mandap and made to sit on a low stool for the ceremonies. This is followed by worship of the ‘Kalasha’ - a copper pot filled with water. Mango leaves are placed in the mouth of the pot and a coconut is placed over it. The Kalasha is believed to contain amrita, the elixir of life, and thus is viewed as a symbol of abundance, wisdom, and immortality.

As the guests waited eagerly, the bride's 'mama' (maternal uncle) escorted Disha to the 'Mandap' for the ‘Varmala’. This was followed by Kanya Agamana. In this ritual, the bride and groom exchange garlands at the marriage altar in front of the sacred fire. Her maternal uncle accompanies the bride to the altar and a small screen is placed between her and the groom. Amidst chanting of mantras, the screen is lowered and the couples exchange their garlands. Indranil and Disha garlanded each other in accordance with ancient Vedic customs, to demonstrate their free choice and acceptance of each other.

'Juta Churai' was next to follow. During this ritual, the bride's family members try to steal the groom's shoes, only to be returned much later for a fee which is negotiated amidst much laughter and bargaining. Very regrettably the bride’s party with utmost cunning and stealth stole the groom’s shoes from Indranil’s car. I understand a princely sum of INR 5000 was handed over for the shoes. The groom’s defense strategy was very ‘shaky’ to say the least.

This was followed by an elaborate reception with drinks and dinner. The food once again was excellent with Chicken Zafrani, Mutton Tawa stealing the show, amongst other items on the menu.

Majority of the invitees knew each other and the remaining struck a happy chord with the barman. In all, everyone looked happy and contented.

We had to check out of the army premises exactly at 12 midnight – none of us wanted to be turned into a pumpkin. The Vidaai marks the exit of the bride from her parental home and her arrival into the groom's family. It also marks the beginning of a new life, with new people and relations. According to the custom, the bride's brother accompanies her till the exit of the home along with relatives and gives her hand to her husband.

Next morning Disha came home for the first time as a ‘Bahu’ - daughter in law. Her arrival marked yet another ritual ‘Ghar Ni Laxmi’. The groom's family welcomes the bride to her new home. The bride is considered as Goddess Lakshmi, who brings wealth and good luck to the family. As a ritual the bride is asked to knock off a vessel with rice grains as she enters her new home. The happiest smile was on PK and Rita’s face – the groom’s parents.

This was followed by Aeki Beki which is an excellent tradition, wherein the couple joins the entire groom’s family to play a few innocent games. This breaks the barrier and sets in an easy ambiance. A ring is hidden in a vessel filled with rice. The bride and the groom are asked to play the game and whoever finds the ring in a maximum number of occasions is considered as the winner and declared ruler of the house. If my memory serves me right, Indranil found the ring.

In the next game both Indranil and Disha were blind folded. The women in the house were made to stand in a row and Indranil was asked to feel the palm of the ladies and recognize Disha’s palm. Lo and behold, Indranil got it wrong and selected Kshama’s hand instead. In the next turn all the men stood in a line and bang on, Disha homed on to Indranil with utmost confidence and certainty. Well done D.

In the evening 0f 7th December we all closed up at the Juhu Club Millennium for Sangeet. Normally this is a fun filled evening which takes place prior to the wedding, but in this case it followed the wedding. All the ingredients which go to make a successful Sangeet were there. Blah and Disha’s friends had prepared for this function from a long time. Vijay and Dhruv took the lead and unfolded Sangeet in a truly professional manner. There was a PPT on the childhood days of the couple with tongue in cheek remarks, speeches by the bride’s father, grooms mother and brother. However the best oratory went to 6 year old Ayaan when he said ‘I must declare that the couple is one of the best couples in the whole world’. The Bollywood dance sequences put up by the FOBAD (friends of Blahs and Disha) were truly amazing. The irony of it all was not lost on the people present – specially the Bollywood celebrities who at times approved the dances and at times put thumbs down.

In all ‘Disha Becomes a Blah’ was a memorable event. I am sure; all the invitees went back with sweet memories. This was one of those weddings which focused on creating a platform to correctly showcase how a wedding ought to be – a right mix of rituals, traditions, customs and expression of happiness in the union of two souls.

We all wish Indranil and Disha a very happy and long married life.

If you have managed to read the blog up to here – please spare some time and enjoy viewing the photographs

Rehearsals for Sangeet - 3rd Dec

House ready for Juroon - 5th Dec

Traditional fish preparation - but as a sweet dish

Groom's mother being welcomed by the brides mother

Rita with Disha - full of anticipation

Disha applying kumkum on Akhila
Intricate designs of Mehndi
Indranil's  palm with a D

Another example - Many palms
Some guests with Akhila and Jai
Rita celebrating 

Entire Blah clan arriving - Baraat - 6th Dec
Brides mother doing an Aarti with Kalasha - Var Ponke

Groom about to step on a small earthen pot
Brides parents on the Mandap
Madhuparka ceremony in progress

Kanya Agamana the priest holds the antarpaat

Arrival of the bride

‘Varmala’ - Brides brother,father and uncle accompanying the bride to the mandap 
Disha garlands Indranil

Indranil garlanding Disha

Now as husband and wife

The couple with grooms parents

Disha has become a Blah

Smile of a lifetime

The couple with brides mother

With us

The mandap from a distance

Bahu entering the house - Ghar Ni lakshmi.

Searching for the ring

Disha gets it right

Colour coordinated - Ayaan,Agastya and Aarin

Couple join the Sangeet - 7th Dec

Bride dances with her father

A very happy Bhavsar couple
Rita and PK dancing to the tune of 'O mere sonare sona'

Anirban,Akhila and Ayaan on the floor