8May, 1979, 8 pm.
All of a sudden she realizes something is missing, but cannot place what is that.
The marriage reception is in peak. Invitees are being served Dalda fried luchi, mixed vegetable, sweet chutney, curd and sweets. She is sitting in front of the ‘morol’ decorated with a beautiful butterfly ‘rangoli’ with one long mirror at the back and four plantain saplings at its four corners . The previous day the boys worked till midnight to make it. And what luck! They had not even reached their own houses when there was a violent storm. It was difficult to save the ‘rabha’ from damage as tin sheets were flying away from the roof and the heavy shower was creating water pools here and there. But the ‘maral’ was spared from nature’s rage as someone quickly covered it with a big bamboo basket. And now sitting in front of it, tired of smiling at each guest, she is wondering when all this will be over and she can straighten her back. The ladies sitting on floor mats near her are chatting and laughing, children running around playing their own games and she can see her busy family members moving in and out taking care so that everything went smoothly. Her friends, some of them coming from her home town Dibrugarh traveling six hours by bus and three hours by ferry, are surrounding her. The previous evening while bathing her in the ‘bei’ they sang ‘biya naam’ teasing not only her but all her siblings and sisters-in-law. She has three brothers and one sister, two sisters-in-law. This is her third brother’s house. They are holding the marriage here in Tezpur because the groom stays in the same town.
The matchmaking was by her colleague Bela ‘baideo’ one year ago. This one year they had written letters to each other regularly. She has taken the bundle carefully along with the other things she is taking to her new home. How will the new home be? Will she be able to make it a happy home?
“Ena, will you have a glass of milk?” Ma is there to look after her as always. Looking at her mother she feels a pang in her heart. After tonight she won’t belong to the ‘Bhuyan’ family anymore. Only memories… With the word memory, she has a sudden flash of what she’s missing. She had asked her “Majuda” to arrange for a photographer. But there is no sign of him. She sends for her brother. After ten minutes he comes. “Where is the photographer? I asked you specially to arrange for one.” Majuda says that the photographer was supposed to come. “I don’t know what is wrong” he says. “Please do something” she pleads. She knows that this brother of hers cannot say ‘no’ to her. He has always tried his best to make her happy.
Majuda is in a paramilitary service and has to attend different training courses in different places. Wherever he goes he brings things for her. Last month he went to Indore and from there he brought a shining set of stainless steel utensils, her name engraved in each piece. Her friend Mainu got two pairs of embroidered ‘mekhela sador’ from Calcutta. Her sister has gifted her a sewing machine. Juthika baideo has crocheted a beautiful shawl for her. She bought her main set from Guwahati. She felt very happy that day when she went for shopping in Guwahati, with her ‘Mami’.
Yesterday throughout ‘Jurun’ she continued weeping and Phulu bou’s cousin who dressed her up was continually whispering in her ear not to cry lest the kajal would be smudged. She does not understand even now why she had cried so much. She should be happy.
She is missing her father. He could not come so far because of his illness. She had always had long discussions and debate with him. She thinks of how he had helped her in preparing speeches. When will she be able to talk to him next?
Mou bou takes her inside. There are very few guests left. It is time for the groom to come. Just now someone coming from groom’s place said they are getting ready to come. So the ‘rabha’ has to be rearranged for the marriage ceremony. Her friends are making her ready for the marriage. Majuda enters the room triumphantly announcing he has brought a photographer. She gets excited. Thank God her wishes will be fulfilled! But what is this? Majuda is explaining to the people in the room that today in Tezpur there are more than twenty five marriages; no photographer is free; and the one he has somehow motivated to come has only three snaps left in his camera reel; and he cannot wait till the groom comes.
She has only three black and white photos of her marriage. That too without her husband.
7th, October 2011, 10 pm
The grand hall is almost empty, except for a few groups of people, huddled up chatting and killing time till the groom arrives. She forgets for a while she is the bride. Her friends and juniors from the university surround her and they are all having a good laugh. Someone hands her a red rose that had fallen off from her bouquet. She takes the stem between her teeth and strikes a dramatic pose for one of the boys fiddling with his camera phone. “Ooh Sam, what are you trying to do here?” one of them giggles.
She suddenly sees her mother across the hall. Mamma looks tired, and worried. She wonders if her mother’s had any food and then remembers that because she is in a fast and so is her father, her mother had decided to go without food the whole day as well. She listens to one of her brothers sing paeans of the wedding buffet. “I had dinner thrice, mind you! The duck was awesome, and so was the chicken, the prawns and mutton” He rubs his belly to emphasize. She wonders how big a dent this whole dinner must have made in her Deuta’s pocket. She had told him it was maybe a little too much, but Deuta had insisted. This is the last wedding in the family after all.
She notices a few men dressed in traditional Assamese dhoti and kurta, each with a turban on their hand, and she wonders what they are doing here. She looks at her mother smiling mysteriously from far away and beckons Mamma near her with her eyes. “You know what these men are here for?” Mamma asks. She shakes her head, and Mamma replies, “This is a Gayon-Bayon group. They are here to welcome the groom party from the Mahabhairab Mandir to the wedding hall”. Her eyes widen in surprise. While the previous night, her parents had arranged for a “Likiri Ojah” team brought in from Mangaldoi and a local Bihu team to perform in her “Sangeet”, the Gayon-Bayon group is the icing on top of the already massive cake. She looks at her mother and in that one look, tries to convey just how grateful she is for everything.
Her father has changed into pator Punjabi and dhoti and has also wrapped a pator seleng, to perform the ritual of kanyadaan. She had always thought her father looked so dignified in that dress. Mamma suddenly says, “It’s time. Go get changed to your bridal dress” eliciting another “Oooo…” from her friends. Her Bou accompanies her inside and she changes into the gorgeous set of white and golden pator mekhela sador that her mother-in-law had gifted to her previously during the Jurun. Before she is done sticking the big red bindi on her forehead she hears someone saying “They’re here!”
She rushes outside her room to catch a glimpse of the groom party from the top of the building. They’ve brought fireworks from Barpeta that light up the balmy October sky. Ah, their names are burning in the sky now, she smiles. She finally sees her “dora” and realizes that photographers from both the groom side and the bride’s side are shoving each other to get better photos of the groom and everything that’s happening. Her Bou finally pulls her inside the room to get her ready.
A week later, around midnight at her husband’s home, the doorbell rings and her husband invites two men inside. These men hand over two sets of DVDs and two huge albums of the wedding photographs to her husband. He calls her to take a look at them. Aah, there they are. Their whole wedding, captured in 800 snapshots and four hours of video photography. She already has two sets of DVDs from her side, and another such album is lying at her parent’s house.
“How do I choose the best ones to upload on Facebook?” she wails.
Two generations. Two weddings. Thirty two years in between. Little did the bride in 1979 know she would be reliving her daughter’s marriage in 2011, again and again, laughing and crying each time she watched her daughter’s wedding video. And those three photographs? Scanned and stored forever in her laptop. One of these days she might just upload one of them to her Facebook timeline herself.
A joint write- up by the Mother Daughter Duo – Sankhya Samhita and Lipika Saharia
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