Step 5 – The Air-tight Alibi
I think my cousin sister, who tied the knot a year ago, will agree with me when I say that the “wedding reception” was invented just so that people could eat, have bright lights shined into their eyes, and so that the bride and groom could be tortured by having to change into yet another ensemble and stand for hours on end smiling incessantly while making small-talk sequentially with groups of as many people as can fit on to a stage at at any one time. Fun. Exactly the kind of physical torture you want to take on on the “happiest day of your life”.
On our way back to the reception we had to take three auto-rickshaws again. We still made a try for a taxi but none of them were willing to come along to where we needed to go. This separated us from the adults like before and we ended up reaching the place much later than them. Then there was the fact that the two rickshaws took two alternate routes further delaying some of us. By the time we got to the large lawn at the club where the reception was being held, it was well on its way. We then got a severe talking to for being “late”. As I said, I don’t know who came up with the theory of people becoming more patient as they grow older. So we were there and it was nothing less than a carnival. Food and drink of every sort, everywhere, an ostentatious stage for the requisite greeting and photography, and plenty of chairs for a small rock concert.
We ate, we drank, we talked, we took a whole lot of photographs of our own, and finally queued at the stage. Eventually we got on there, congratulated the happy couple and stood around a while while a drove of control freak people with large cameras told us how to stand. The flashes went off, and it was done. We finally had irrefutable proof that we had been at this wedding and enjoyed it – bared teeth and all. A picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words and how can anyone claim that we had enjoyed our own little escape from this thing when we had photographic evidence that showed otherwise. An air-tight alibi.
The wedding day was over, and the crowds petered off into the dark night. In the next compound some kid was having his birthday celebrated in style, and we were all sad to say he was playing better music than we had gotten today. But what we had lacked in consumption we had made up for in producing enough sound of our liking and that’s what counts.
It’s strange to now think in retrospect that of the many hours in that day, most of them were spent attending the wedding – either the actual ceremony in the morning or the reception in the evening. Yet the time that stands out the most in my mind is the hour or so when we roamed free and took in the atmosphere of that station road near sunset. Everything else pales in comparison, and perhaps that is what I feel about weddings. I might come across as slightly dismissive of the entire matrimonial state of being, but that’s not true. I think marriage is great and weddings are a touching little testament to love. But sometimes we lose the essence of these important moments of our lives in the shroud that is protocol and dogma and social norm. Think back into your own life and you will find that the moments that stick around in your memory and stand out as something special are usually the small un-assuming things. Something someone said off-hand, a look, a touch, a beautiful morning. Enjoy these moments, savour them, and try not to make everything into an event. Events are usually better at creating headlines than memories, and memories are who we are and what we can become.
It was late when we set off back home, and we were back to the drawing board on the transportation front because we couldn’t find a taxi who would take us. Finally one pulled up with a young man driving. We told him where we wanted to go. He seemed to hesitate and said it was the end of his shift and that he wasn’t looking for a long distance fare. Finally looking at us standing there with our Grandmother he seemed to make up his mind and said he would take us as far as the highway where we should be able to find another ride.
We set off, and he was a friendly chap, talking about the usual sort of things taxi drivers often talk about when making conversation. A few kilometres later he slowed down near a line of parked taxis and he cruised by deciding whom to pass us on to for the rest of the drive. Suddenly he stopped and said he knew the middle-aged man leaning against the cab we were pulling up to. He stepped out walked up to the other driver, spoke a few words and then bent down to touch his feet – a common form of respect in India, but usually reserved for family members or the very senior. We paid our helpful driver and moved to the other taxi for the long journey ahead. This driver was also talkative and he was especially so now because he had just been surprised a few minutes ago. It turns out that our helpful young driver was his nephew, and that they hadn’t met in a few years, since the young man had moved to the city from his village. And now out of the blue in the vast city, on a quiet highway in the middle of the night, they had met again.