Continued from Part I
The air-conditioned bus had a gamble involved. I had the option of going for a semi-sleeper or a full sleeper berth. Knowing that I am not very comfortable in buses, I decided on the semi-sleeper option. Now luck played its game with me. The seat in front of me was reclined more than it should, cramping my 6 feet tall frame for leg room! It became a little better when I realized that my seat also had the same defect Selfishly, I decided to use this to my advantage. The bus ride was quite cozy, and I was at my destination, Gandhidham, at 5 am. Here I must mention that the roads taken by the bus were in great shape. For 90% of the journey there were no bumps, the road was totally even! It seems that Lalu Yadav’s promise of making Bihar’s roads as smooth as the cheeks of Hema Malini is being fulfilled, albeit in a different state by a different man. I wonder what more surprises Modi land has in store for me.
Nik had come to pick me up from the bus stop early morning. Dumped into a cozy room, I pulled a blanket over me to get some shuteye. Just as soon as I had settled into a nice nap, there was a sharp knock on the door. My sleep laden eyes fell on the wall clock. It was 11 am already!! I asked the car driver waiting outside the door to wait for a bit, while I rushed through a quick shower and change of clothes. On reaching the car, I was greeted by AJ, another old friend from college. We headed off to Nik’s place for the rest of the day’s programme.
A house that plays host to a wedding is transformed from a home to an island of relatives, close ones, the distant ones and the really distant ones The plethora of hectic activity somehow seemed normal for a house where a wedding is taking place. Women decked up to the hilt in possibly all the gold on this planet & men dressed up in the finest kurtas & suits they can find. In the middle of this chaos, I managed to find Nik, who was being painted yellow. This ceremony is called the haldi ceremony, where a turmeric paste is applied to the groom by all his relatives one by one. All his relatives were enjoying plastering Nik’s faace with generous doses of turmeric. Turmeric done, the thread ceremony followed. Thread ceremony done, there was a really funny one where Nik ran out of the house, was chased down by his mamas & brought back. Had we known about this earlier, we would have picked Nik up, dumped him in a car and driven him off far…just to play a prank. Alas, we never got this chance. These ceremonies done, we moved on to have lunch, where I met TJ, another of Nik’s friends. After having lunch, I went back to the hotel to get some zzzzz.
In the evening, there was an informal gathering at Nik’s place of all his relatives. More like a family gathering, I was more than happy to be invited here. This was my chance to observe how a big family actually stays together. It was a very relaxed, casual gathering, where each relative found their best voice and sang out songs. Hindi oldies, Gujarati movie songs, devotional songs…any song you knew became the order of the day. I was actually getting intimidated, each relative who sang had a good voice, I was the ugly duckling of the pack, but these wonderful people never made me feel so.
Singing and dinner done, I sat talking with Nik. There was a lot of stuff we had to catch up, lots of things to talk about in all these years we hadn’t met. In the middle of this, Nik got a call that couple of his friends were coming over later that night. Now after the thread ceremony, the groom isn’t allowed to venture out of the house. So it was upto me to take them to the hotel where I was put up, and get them a room. At 1 am in the night, Vid & Amu arrived in a cab from Ahmedabad. We headed out to our hotel, where they were put up in a room. Sleep finally beckoned.
Today is D-Day, Nik’s wedding day. After getting up early and getting dressed, I get AJ, Vid & Amu and head out to Nik’s place. We reach just as Nik is being loaded into the car to be driven to the temple, and then the venue. Following Nik’s car, we reach the venue. Now there was a small baraat procession from the gates of the venue to the actual venue. TJ, AJ, Vid, Amu & myself, we all shake a leg as Nik sits in the car and watches us dance. All of his relatives were there, dancing away to glory. I must say that garba is an integral part of any Gujarati wedding. Even in the baraat, women were finding every possible chance to make a circle and do this wonderful dance. Once we reached the venue, Nik was welcomed by the bride’s parents & taken inside. The wedding ceremonies followed afterwards, where the bride & groom took the holy vows of being together for their lives, and seven lives after.
We looked on as the garlands were exchanged, and the couple circled the holy fire. This was a long drawn ceremony, following which the bride & groom went around meeting every single family member one by one. We friends had to wait really long, and it was already late afternoon. We met Nik & headed back to the hotel for a bit of rest, to be refreshed for the reception party in the evening.
On reaching the hotel however, we got in a mood to explore Gandhidham. Gandhidham is a port city, so we wanted to see the port. But all our plans were shelved when we came to know that the port is closed on Sunday to visitors. Undeterred, we wanted to explore a coffee joint suggested to us by TJs brother, Kush. This coffee shop was in a hotel, that was really really deserted. We were the only people in the coffee shop, and it was really spooky. The coffee’s weren’t good at all, but we were really enjoying each others’ company.
After coffee, we headed back to the hotel, freshed up and headed to the reception at the same venue. This is more of a dinner, when you just have to meet the bride and groom, congratulate them, eat dinner and head out That simple! All of us drove to the venue, met Nik & Prit, had our dinner & then it was that time. The time when you have to part ways with some really nice people you have met. So we exchanged phone numbers & mail IDs, and promised we’d stay in touch.
The journey back was much easier. I had hitched a ride to Ahmedabad with Vid & Amu, and AJ & Kush gave us company in the car. Vid generously allowed us to sleep for a couple of hours, as we had reached Ahmedabad at 6 am. I woke up at 9 am, said my thanks and goodbye to Vid, Amu & AJ, and went off to the airport to catch my flight back to Delhi.
It was a short trip, but there were a lot of amazing people I met, a lot of lessons I learnt & a lot of love I earned. Thank you Sid, AJ, TJ, Amu, Vid, Kush….you guys are awesome. The biggest thanks however, is to Nik & his family, for inviting me over, and showering me with so much love and affection. I will surely love to come back to Gandhidham and meet all of you wonderful people again.
Up next, Part III where I talk about the lessons learnt from a big family that keeps its members together.