It grew louder with each passing moment. It had started as a whisper, a soft uncertain voice. Now it was a continuous chant, reverberating in my head, heard loud and clear over the din of the shlokas. “It’s a scam….it’s a huge scam,” it echoed. I was sitting in the pheras of my nephew and listening to the Pandit’s interpretation of our holy scriptures. I was trying to make sense of his instructions on how weddings should be performed. The pandit dutifully invited the entire pantheon of Gods and Goddesses to preside over the function. He greeted them with flowers, washed their feet, offered paan, urged them to partake the feast and bless the newlyweds. Of course everything was symbolic, a figment of imagination, only the dakshina was real. So we paid crisp new notes for various hypothetical expenses including a saree for Goddess Lakshmi !
It had all started pretty innocuously. My nephew had decided that he had found the girl of his dreams and we had decided to let his dreams come true. When we started planning the wedding we were practically coerced into performing the function with in the limited ‘saya ‘ period, before the ‘ tara doobna’ ( star set?). This forced us to hunt for a venue in the heavily booked shaadi season and pay much more than the usual rates. The printer of our choice was too busy to deliver the cards on time so we had to settle for someone of lesser repute, the same applied for garment makers. Flowers were more expensive, as was food. From the horse carriage to ferry the groom to the pandit to marry him to his sweetheart, everything came with a huge high season surcharge. After paying for all the rituals we chose to forgo the post wedding blessings of the neighbourhood eunuchs. At a non negotiable price of fifty one thousand we couldn’t afford them. So we risked their wrath. Sometimes you have to cut your losses and not count on blessings !
Apart from the financial aspect there were other logistical problems. We were in the middle of what is called a bhari saya in local parlance. It seemed that half the world was getting married and the other half was invited. So there were traffic snarls and gridlocks causing unheard of delays. Due to the congestion some of our guests never made it to the venue and were forced to return midway. All in all, my prudent, rational mind felt that limiting marriages to a few
‘ auspicious’ days in a year was both inconvenient and unnecessary, totally avoidable.
The same prudent, rational mind took a back seat, when on my well wishers’ insistence, I went to the temple to get my new car blessed. I stood patiently as the pandit drew a chandan satia on the steering wheel, installed a small Ganesh idol on the dash board, lit incense sticks and tied sacred red threads on the wing mirrors, all the while chanting some incomprehensible verses. I obligingly gave him dakshina and feeling suitably protected drove off. Was it a mere coincidence or were the forces above mocking me, because when I switched on my car stereo, Jagjit Singh crooned “Mere jaise ban jaoge, jab ishq tumhein ho jayega, Har baat gawaara kar loge, mannat bhi utara kar loge, tabeezein bhi bandhwaaoge, jab ishq tumhein ho jayega”
I secretly wondered if I was a hypocrite or simply scared. Why do we go along with such sham if we don’t believe in it ? Most of us have grown up ‘touching wood’ and ‘ eating dahi cheeni ‘ for good luck. Life is so uncertain and mishaps are so many that we grab on to anything that is remotely reassuring. This futile attempt at self preservation is ingrained in our DNA. We like to play it safe and save ourselves from regret, the ‘ if only we had…..’ remorse that follows any untoward incident. It is this fear of the unknown that is exploited, but it doesn’t condone our own role in the scheme of things.
So am I an educated illiterate or an average human with a reduced appetite for risk? Seems some introspection is needed…just waiting for an auspicious time to begin!
(published in my column in the Tribune on 25/5/2019)