Strings of tiny lights shone around the three-story house in the dim evening light. A large canopy decorated with garlands of marigolds and jasmines stood next to it. Inside the canopy, other than the hustle –bustle that a wedding usually witnesses, there was the whispering sounds that a tussar kurta makes every time it rubs on the crisp dhuti, the vases of blooming rajnigandha, the brightness from the yards and yards of silk and dhakai draped by the guests and the sounds of the shehnai in the backdrop.
The guests trickled in slowly and then the borjatri, the procession of the groom and his family. The groom is welcomed with certain grandeur in Bengali weddings, almost royal, king like. The families on both sides then quickly scattered to introduce themselves to each other, to have a conversation about the state of politics in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and the performance of their favorite teams in the recent football match while devouring over nolen gurer sandesh, a sweet made of fresh cottage cheese and date palm jaggery that literally melts in the mouth.
The three of them sat at one of the tables with their plates overloaded with the fish fry, the pulao(pilaf), the perfectly rounded luchis, the sweetened tomato chutney, the jumbo sized prawns and the fresh off the river Hilsa in delectable curries.
The bride’s uncle stopped by them while checking on other guests and asked the customary question that he would ask to anyone he did not recognize.
“Are you from the groom’s family? I am the bride’s uncle, “ he introduced himself.
“Yes, we are the groom’s cousins,” said one of them without looking up from the food
“Very nice to meet you. Would you like something else? Let me get you some hot pantuas, our cook made them from scratch just this afternoon.”
He returned with darkened, deep-fried balls of semolina and cottage cheese, dripping of thick sugary syrup. The trio grabbed the dessert and promptly returned back to eating as if that’s all they were meant to do that evening.
“Such rude cousins of the groom. These guys are half my age and they could not even mutter a thank you or have a conversation. The groom seems to be a nice guy though,” he was overheard telling another family member.
“The groom’s family after all,” smirked the family member.
The three friends after having finished their meal, lurked around the venue for a bit as if they were bored. They then decided to go inside the house and check it out. They had hardly reached the porch when they heard someone running up to them.
“Hi, are you from the bride’s family? Can you please show me the way to the restrooms, my little boys needs to go very badly.”
“Yes. Yes. Please go inside.”
“Can you tell me where the restroom is exactly?”
“Just go inside and it is on the left.”
The lady followed their directions and went straight in the room where the bride was getting dressed up. She thought she had heard the instructions incorrectly. Someone else guided her to the restroom.
The trio returned to the crowded canopy, mingling with people, binging some more of the food and again settling down at a table. The lady too returned with her boys to the venue and sat down to feed them, seating herself with her back to the trio(unintentionally).
The groom’s uncle ignored the trio and went up to the lady, introduced himself with the same customary question. She introduced herself as the groom’s cousin. While admiring her little boys and getting them hot pantuas, the uncle happened to mention the trio sitting on the other table.
“How are you guys related? You are all cousins of the groom, “ he asked awkwardly.
She turned and looked back. Her face blanked out for a moment.
“These three guys sitting right behind me? They are not the groom’s cousins. They are not from our family, “ she said in a hushed and worried tone.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, in fact I met them at the porch of the house and they said they were from the bride’s family,” she almost whispered.
A quick confirmation with relatives on both sides made it clear that the trio did not belong to either families. Were they just trespassing? Were they here for the meal? Or was there another intent. Robbery in wedding venues was not unheard of, after all.
The bride’s uncle was designated to hold post and attend to the three special guests, ensure they were well fed while the police was summoned. The bride and groom were taken to a secured location within the house. The bride was told the venue was still getting ready and the groom was offered an earthen pot full of sweets to satiate his sweet tooth. There was absolutely no whiff of tension in the air. Those who were aware, chose to wear a comfortable mask of pretense.
The bride’s uncle while settled on table with the three young guys, made jokes and laughed away.
“The groom is such a snob. Does not even remotely seem to be as nice as his cousins.” The guys laughed hard as if it was for real.
“Yes, he has always been that way. Since his childhood,” remarked one of them.
“Really! Well, looks could after all be deceptive. Have some rosogulla,” he said, while stuffing his own mouth with the circular white spongy syrupy little ball.
The police arrived in plain clothes shortly and quietly drove the trio away. Not a peek. Not a guest aware with the exception of relatives who had been involved.
A wedding could have been stalled that night. The guests could have been terrorized, the jewelry and valuables robbed and someone could have gotten hurt. Instead, a wedding took place on the venue as planned.
It has been 41 years since. The wedding was just a preview of the life together that had many more adventures in store.
Auothred by : Piya Mukherjee Kalra. I have heard this tale in my many forms since my childhood. Since I did not have the opportunity of attending this wedding in person, this story is a fictionalized version of all the stories about the wedding that I have heard over the years, from different people who did attend the wedding including the bride and the groom.