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Touch wood

It was February 2014, and my family was all excited about my cousin’s wedding. The preparations went on for many days, reaching a frenzy with the big day approaching. My cousin and his fiancée were colleagues and were together since their college days. Though some of my relatives showed disquiet at the inter-caste marriage, the overall atmosphere was congenial and convivial.

On the wedding day, we left for Varanasi with a handful of relatives. The bride’s side was taken aback when they saw so few of us. There were no chaos, crackers and Nagin dance because of the small strength. Only the people on the bride’s side were dancing to the music. I realised that when in a group, people gather the courage to do even the strangest of acts which they would never do when left to themselves.

Everything was going joyful and peaceful. By midnight, most of the guests had left and only the family members remained. The wedding ceremony was to take place around 3 a.m. when the Muhurat was right. I was waiting eagerly to see the rituals for the first time.

There were two priests officiating in the ceremony, one from each side. They began the rituals at the respective time. The night was quiet, calm and dark, and the city was asleep. After some initial rites and chanting of mantras, the bride and groom were called. The priests explained to them the seven promises that they are supposed to make to each other. Then, the priest from the bride’s side asked the other priest to take out the wood pieces.

“Which wood pieces,” he asked.

“The ones for lighting the fire.”

“Why am I supposed to have them?”

“Because, by custom, the groom’s side brings them.”

“We do not have any such custom at our place. The kindling is arranged by the bride’s side.”

And thus, the two priests began debating about customs and who is right. We all heard the argument for a while and then felt that things were getting out of hand. The elders intervened and asked the priests to stop finding fault with each other and come up with a solution. This was extremely shocking for everybody, and some started sobbing. Everything was going on well for months and now at the final moment, the wedding was stalled over such an issue. How on earth are we supposed to find wood in a city at 3 a.m.?

A concession

After sensing the gravity of the situation, the priests said that though they preferred sandalwood for an auspicious occasion, anything that could light a fire would suffice for now. We started searching for stuff that could be lit to produce an enduring fire. Nothing could be found except for the boxes of saris made of cardboard. So we collected and brought a good number of cardboard boxes to the priests and said that it was all we could find. The priests agreed to go with the idea and instructed that somebody should ensure that the fire did not extinguish during the Saptapadi.

The groom’s sister took the job of lighting the fire and sustaining it. The bride and groom took the seven vows around the fire and the marriage was solemnised. Throughout this process, my sister was putting more cardboards into the fire as they do not burn for long. I was tearing the cardboard into small pieces to make it easier for her. After a great deal of effort put in by various people, the marriage was pronounced solemnised. This event taught me what disasters lack of communication may bring along.

The next day, we came back to Lucknow with a new member of our family. We spent a good time with the new couple for the next few days before they left for Chandigarh.

emailtoaakashbajpai@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 12:35:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/touch-wood/article34456717.ece

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