The delegation reached the outskirts of the village to find two boys with torches who had been sent ahead to usher them to the wedding house. After quick greetings, the first boy led the way and the second brought up the rear; even the moonlight rose to the occasion and bounced off the tin roofs, following them like a spotlight. They passed through a second pine forest and as they emerged, they saw in the distance a house covered in brightly lit lights and buzzing with activity and they headed in its direction.
There were hundreds of people scattered around the house and even more inside. Everyone stopped and stared at the delegation as they entered the courtyard and to make the walk less awkward, the older one started talking. She explained that weddings in the village were big affairs with the average wedding involving no fewer than a thousand guests, no matter how rich or poor the family was. The elders of the family decided on the wedding particulars and everyone in the village contributed to the wedding in someway or other whether it was through a spoon of butter or an animal, making weddings a very easy undertaking for everyone concerned.
She stopped briefly to greet some of the family members and as they continued on through the house, past hundreds of staring eyes and up the treacherous staircases, she continued on. She pointed out the cooking area, a big open space outside and the dining area, a large tent and explained that long dasterkhans (mats) were laid out on the floor of the tent and meals were served in as many shifts as it took to feed all the guests. The young one tried to concentrate but between trying to negotiate her way up the staircases and wishing she had worn her Indian attire, she barely heard the rest of what the old one was saying.
They finally reached an empty room at the far end of the third story and were escorted in and handed blankets to keep warm and every so often the door of the room would open and someone would enter to greet the delegation. Tea was served by two handsome young lads and dinner, served by the groom and a few others, followed soon after. The older one, in between spoonfuls of rice and some type of animal stew, explained that women did no work during the wedding. The males were in charge of setting up, cooking, serving, clearing up, organizing and well basically everything. And the ladies? All the ladies had to do was eat and look pretty. Definitely worth moving to the village for, the young one decided.
Dinner came to an end and the wise man, slid slowly down from his upright position until he, quite pleased with himself, was lying straight down with a blanket on top of him, ready for bed. Just as the young one contemplated following suit, the sound of music and excitement drifted up through the windows and led by the Uncle of the groom, she along with the other two, went down to investigate. Three chairs were squeezed into the already bursting-at-the-seams tent and the old one, tall one and young one stepped gingerly over heads, fingers, babies and toes to reach the chairs and the two handsome lads from earlier followed closely behind with a blanket to keep them warm.
Not much can be said about the musical ensemble who were mediocre at best. The drummer, through no fault of his own was rather frightening with his lazy eye and the only band member worth looking at was allocated a steel cup and spoon as an instrument, tragically killing his appeal. The band continued on with regular smoke breaks punctuating their performance and the young one pinched herself several times during the course of the night, not quite believing that this was real and after realizing the blatant camera phone picture taking that was going on, abandoned all tries at discreet photography and tried her best, despite the poor lighting, to capture it all.
The musical entertainment came to a temporary stop an hour or so later to allow for the formalities of the mendhi-night (in which the elders apply henna to the finger tips and feet of the groom) to be carried out. The band was relocated and the groom’s seat placed strategically near the opening of the tent, easily viewable from the upstairs window, through which his mother peered silently from the corner. The young one remembered being told that the mother was gravely ill. She had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and after the operation and continued treatments had failed to yield positive results, they had brought her home to make her last days as comfortable as possible. They had moved the wedding forward for her benefit and had done it properly in accordance with her wishes. She was so young, pale and frail and as the young one looked up, a little part of her died. It made her sad that the mother was too weak to make it down the stairs. It made her sad that the mother didn’t know that it was cancer that was killing her. It made her sad that the boy would soon be without both parents. It made her sad knowing that such tragedy existed amidst the festivities. It made her sad that such good people had to endure such hardships. But mostly it made her sad that life was so fleeting and she took so much for granted.