Shall we continue ? Yeah ?
Having reached Delhi at 5:15 am on Saturday, I wandered aimlessly in the platform knowing that I had a couple of hours to kill before my next train to Mathura. I had specifically told RK Dada who had enthusiastically volunteered to meet me at the station not to trouble himself by coming so early and for the first time I regretted my hasty words. The Taj Express wasn't due till 7:15 but it was freezing cold in the station. I silently chided myself for the Nth time for having ignored sane advice from a couple of friends to carry quite a few sweaters and jackets. During this time I also observed that not a single person was wearing sandals or slippers. Everyone was wearing sneakers and seemed to have alteast mutiple layers of protective clothing. Though I tried to while away time by shooting some pictures in my digicam, I was mentally counting down time till Dada would come. Now Dada is an amazingly witty guy who can regale audiences with his whacky sense of humor. Dada has just been blessed with a son and for someone from not-so-creative Jharkhand, he's gone for an ultra modern (by Jharkhand stds) name for the kid - Rehaan. When Dada finally came (wearing slippers), it was just as things had been a year back uring graduation and a couple of years back in college. We started with a bear hug and gave each other gaalis about how we had both put on weight. We then shared gossip about the people we knew and it was a pleasant surprise to hear that Dada's roomie and another good pal of mine, Suman was also tying the knot in May. Time flew and before I knew it was 7 and time for Dada to leave. We bade a hasty farewell promising to catch up longer the next time around. Settling down comfortably in the A/C Chair car, I was just about to doze off when the person sitting next to me tapped my shoulder and asked me if I was going to Agra. Obviously with the camera strung on my shoulder I was a walking advert for a tourist and before I could say achchoo, he was on a long sermon as to the what-to-see-and-how in Agra. A good 20 minutes later, I wickedly told him that I was on my way to Mathura and had no plans to visit Agra. Needless to say, the rest of the 1.5 hr journey I was left alone. But then Delhiites never take anything to heart and love to give unsolicited advice so as a parting shot just as I was about to get down, he shouted to me to avoid drinking water in filthy Mathura :-)
Pranav's wedding was for Sunday evening so with more than a day to kill, I spent Saturday morning watching the ladies singles final only to see Lindsay lose to Serena (sob sob) and then chilled out till Sunday afternoon at my mama's place in Mathura. The best part of this stay was the wonderful time I spent with my two adorable cousins - 7 yr old Abhishek who is clearly going to be compared more favorably in the years to come vis a vis me as far as intelligence
goes (sigh) and 18 month old Nandini who is a lovely bundle of energy (and terror at the same time). In fact, Nandini even plays golf and I can see a bright future for myself as a future caddie for her :-)) (15% of her winnings wudnt be a bad deal, wud it ?) Come Sunday afternoon and it was time to leave for Delhi. In one of the rasher decisions that my Mama has taken in his life, I was put aboard a UP state transport bus at around 1 pm and therein began one of the most unforgettable journeys in my life. For sheer entertainment value, I think it would suffice to say that I travelled with farmers and their produce, sadhus who frequently went into trances, women who were peeling vegetables for their evening cooking (reminded me of Mumbai's locals) and loud UP youth who when they weren't smoking or chewing paan were urinating by forcibly stopping the bus at every damn field. The scene was so immemorable that I wanted desperately to capture it in a photograph a la SRK in Swades (those shots when he looks so serious in a bus/train/boat/moped) After 10 minutes of tough explaining on how to operate my digicam, I got my snap taken by an elderly kaka who just could not understand why I would neither stare at the camera nor smile :-p
When I finally reached Delhi it was 6 pm, just a couple of hours to go for the wedding, and Pranav had already called and given me a piece of his mind. Having refused his offer to pick me up since I wanted to discover the city by myself, I made friends with a fellow passenger from the Mathura bus who offered to take me from Sarai Kale Khan to ISBT. Since I was in an unknown city, I gladly tagged along with him and as we chatted in the town bus, I came to know that he was a professional exorcist - one who drove away spirits from possessed humans. It was an exotic 40 mt conversation that ended a little too quickly for my liking. After getting down at ISBT, I crossed over to the Metro so that I could reach the venue for the wedding in Rohini West quicker. At Kashmere Gate, as I waited for the train to arrive, I made my second friend for the evening. Vishwanath who had heard me asking directions from a cop came over and offered to help me. The man was a spitting image of the Tamil actor Arjun and so curiosity got the better of me and we started chatting up. After hearing a little bit about me esp the part that I was coming from Bangalore, he opened up and confessed that he was in awe of South Indian scholars. He mentioned about his interest in star gazing, astronomy and prediction of future based on planetary motions and his plans of studying these subjects in foreign universities. Soon the topic veered around to the supernatural and he told me a few crazy stories that I have thankfully already forgotten. Now Rohini West is a good 11 stops from Kashmere Gate and so in the next 25 minutes I was thoroughly entertained by Vishu who seemed to have no qualms baring his heart out to a total stranger. Things took a spooky turn when he asked me for my B'day so that he could make some predictions. Never one to believe in such crap, I gave the B'day of a dead pal of mine but was stunned when he came back with an question asking if something dramatic had happened to me in April 2003. My friend had died in Mar 2003 and I was at my wits end to answer the question..Thankfully his station Kohat Enclave had come and after wishing me luck for my Rajasthan tour and picking up my visitng card, we went our way.
5 minutes later Rohini West came and I alighted from the train. At 7:30, clad in a bright orange Tee and blue jeans with a camera and backpack, I arrived at the mandap - Anand PECS. Just as I feared, I knew abslutely no one. There were around 40 odd guests all presumably belonging to the bride's side dressed in stunning formal suits and traditional wear and there I was absolute ill-dressed for the occasion. I silently sought refuge in an obscure corner and tried to shy away from the curious stares and puzzled looks of all the onlookers. When the Baraat finally arrived at 8:15, I was the most relieved person in the hall since attention was now focussed on the hero of the day. I quickly got around to the entrance and started shooting pics of the ceremony. Now Kashmiri weddings are as different from South Indian weddings as chalk and cheese. Of course, the baraat is similar to the maapillai azhaippu and then there is this stunt where the groom is hoisted high by his mamas and the bride has to garland him. The similarity however ends here. At Pranav's wedding, what happened was that at around 8:15 there were around 400 guests. Once Vandana's family received Pranav, the couple were escorted to a dias where they exchanged garlands and stood like exhibits in a fair for 15 minutes. Then they were led away to a private room where a purohit performed some ceremonies and in 15 mts flat, the couple were pronounced man and wife. Then they broke for dinner. In a South Indian marriage, come what may the poor maapillai doesnt get to see food till 1 pm (Right Addy ??) Even before the dinner break was announced, people had started gorging themselves with the starters - chaat like paani puri and ragda sev and rosgolla. After dinner, at around 9:30, the hall was down to just 200 people. Pranav and Vandana were again led to the private room and an hour later more cermonies had been done with. People started greeting the couple, presenting gifts and leaving - and the most sacred saat pheres (atleast the most imp: acc to me since my reference point is only Bollywood movies) was yet to happen. At around 11:30 I grew tired of waiting and decided to call it quits. One of my friends from MBT days, BM now working with Bharti, had also come for the wedding and I prepared to leave with him to his flat at Gurgaon. When we finally departed, there were hardly 50 people for the actual high point which was supposed to take place past midnight and even this was only close family.