FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL

“Not another wedding!” Shen groaned. Quick glance around the room confirmed that ‘She who must be obeyed’ was not within the earshot.

Two souls tied together – for ever and forever. Till death does them apart. For next seven lives – together! Hokum, hohum, and hogwash…

Attending one wedding in six months – he could handle. Two weddings in the same month – thorough torture. Meditation and Mantra should help!

“Another wedding reception to attend? Really?” The cynic in Shen screamed. Though he was happily married – forty odd years of ‘almost total’ bliss – he was very, very skeptical and sarcastic about the wedding bells. ‘The wedding bells –  the bong of the gong says it all! Death and calamity!”

He had seen the ‘happiest’ couple laughing at the ‘silly disputes’ of others. “We are not LIKE THEM! Never.”  And then, within couple of years (in most cases, sooner) – the fire of discontentment  smoldered and then erupted. It did not matter what the issue was – whether Minor or Major. Even the act of squeezing the toothpaste from the middle (rather than the end) became a prequel to a baby battle!

Shen remembered recent weddings he had witnessed:

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The priest intones in a very serious high-pitched voice; and the rest of the audience (except may be the groom and the bride) pretend not to be bored. The couple does not have to pretend. The expressions say it all. Let’s get this nonsense out of the way; and then be together in peace. But that isn’t the case. The priest has a duty to perform; and the audience wants its money’s worth.

The ceremony over at last; and everyone makes a bee-line for the newly wed couple. Just attending the wedding is not enough. One is dressed up for the occasion; and needs to flaunt the same. Pictures with the couple is the best way to sneak into the album, the Instagram, the Facebook, the Twitter – and the memories – forever!

Not in the distant past, Shen used to avoid the homes of relatives and friends who had a wedding in the recent past. In good old days, out came the fat albums of photographs; and the commentators running commentary on each picture. ‘The one on the right is my sister-in-law’s first cousin’s second husband – he is in USA – you know; and the person next to him is …’ You get the thread? Requesting for a glass of water or whatever, the commentator would rush to kitchen to get it – when surreptitiously, Shen would flip forward about hundred folios or so. And no one would be wiser – except Shen would miss couple of Canadians or South Africans in the family.

With the advent of videos – this strategy proved very difficult. The easy way out was to forget his glasses at home while visiting such families. But not always fool-proof. At few homes, the proud host offered him his own glasses – “they are universal; don’t worry. Use them.” On one occasion, he had terrible migraine for the whole week after using them. And on another – ‘sore-eyes’ syndrome or conjunctivitis. Either from overload of pictures or the videos.

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He now preferred the current trend. No bulky albums, videos, or DVDs. Just straight update on the social media. Browsing through the uploads, just click few likes, OMGs and Smileys – and you are done. He was eternally grateful to the advent of social media – at least for this convenience.

Back to the Wedding Venue  – as soon as the wedding rites are rightly concluded, the audience stands in the line to deluge the couple with blessings, followed by trickle of gifts; and then the pictures for the social media. This done, the crowd repairs its way to yet another line – much longer than the first – for the buffet lunch or dinner. Gone were the days when in a typical Indian wedding, one would sit down; and people would come and serve. Yet another good thing gone… How he missed marriages and celebrations of the past. And how he hated attending weddings – then or now! Meditation and Mantra should help!

And traditionally, the marriages usually resulted in children. More often, more than one.

Since early years of the wedded life, Shen loved children; yes he really did. As long as they were far away from him – somewhere in the continent of Africa; South or North Pole! And did not curdle his blood with their blood-thirsty bawling.

He remembered how he used to hate when his drink or dinner with family and friends at a favourite restaurant was interrupted (and ruined) by someone’s misbehaved child raising the hell in otherwise heaven.

“Why can’t they leave the children at home, and let us drink peacefully?”

He knew he couldn’t do anything – and complaining would surely raise more eyebrows (and Saanvi’s temper).  As usual, he had to contend himself by gulping down his favourite rum and grump.

However, all this changed once Gyan was born, followed by Anju. The proud parents were too busy with changing times (and diapers) to be worried about visiting their favourite restaurants and pubs. After abstaining for few months, both wanted a change of scene; and off they went to their favourite restaurant.

“The Turning Point” staff welcomed the family (yes, Gyan and Anju too), and fussed over them. They had hardly settled down with starters, when the scuffle broke between the two kids – resulting in the ‘match the cry’ session. Saanvi tried to sooth the small tempers, egos and what not – while Shen continued to sip his rum, nonchalantly, philosophically, stoically. He stared into his glass.

And he meditated: “I do not belong to the group of cacophonous children. I am just a tranquil detached soul,  No cries or tears affected me. Total unattached, unaffected.”

Meditation and Mantra should help! And he continued to chant:

All tragedies end with death.

All comedies end with marriage.

And all fun at the restaurants end with children.

1 Comment

  1. vinay

    Yes, Yes, and Yes. Atulanand, Finally, you delivered it. We were waiting for a while to read a classic story and you penned it to our satisfaction. Thanks. Can you not add a comment -inspired by a true to true story- just in case someone decides to make a documentary movie or something ? Vinay Chaskar

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