Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Father of the Bride ---- 2

As first steps, I sat down to make a list of “to do” items…… seemed to be endless. There are so many things that a marriage involves…..Indian weddings, especially traditional weddings can really test your nerves….

A visit to the venue of wedding set the ball rolling. Our Ashram at Markal is about 30 kms odd away from Pune city…..not so bad on paper. But when you actually travel to the place & cross half the distance, its already a rustic Indian village…..winding roads…err sorry, serpentine lanes, & the last 4kms is completely open fields….no roads……no lanes……just a sketch of pebbles, dust & some rocks…..all though sudden rough ups & downs…… in the middle of nowhere, one feels like trekking lessons could actually be useful. An occasional truck or a bullock cart, trudging along laboriously, as if doing an endurance test…..thats all you get for company. At this time of the year, even the green of the grass is missing…..all that meets your eyes is dust, pebbles, chunks of hard barren surface, with protruding rocks & more of it. I said a silent prayer, while others in the car moaned with concern……how on earth are so many people going to overcome this journey to reach the venue?????
The Ashram is on the banks of Indrayani river, with a dam on one side…..instantaneously soothing the eye & the soul……its so quiet & peaceful & green……once you reach such a place you don’t want to leave soon….. despite a lot of construction work underway, the stillness & silence of the area is simply breathtaking…… (will describe the Ashram with pics later…maybe)

The next big thing I suppose was the invitation card & the list of invitees…….along with the arrangements for visitor’s stay at the Ashram & their transportation. Just book rooms, call for a bus, print the card & send out the invites……So very simple !!!!....thats how I approached the topic, not knowing the stumbles & the challenges……hehehehe……each step had its beautiful issues, each asking for minute attention & planning. Shuttling between work at Mumbai & preparations at Pune was indeed something I had not bargained for. For each situation or demand at the preparation, I would have something to counter at work, which was equally important in the context.

On 21st Feb, we organised a proper Puja & Havan (rituals to invoke God) so that the marriage takes place without any hitch. It was like a traditional Puja with fire lit & offerings made through Brahmins. As in tradition, we invoked our ancestors, Devi, Devtas, & took their blessings. Amidst sacred Vedic chanting, I looked at my angel setting beside me, eyes closed, hands folded in attention to the instructions given by the pundits…… I was ritualistically being given the responsibility to do the Kanyadaan on the wedding day………..I felt my world becoming so full & complete.

On 25th evening, I left from my work early to drive to Pune & managed to beat the traffic to reach just in time to see her finish with the rituals of Mehandi. She was looking so pretty.......the prettiest angel ever…… Putting her to sleep, that night, I could just sing slowly in her ears….."ghar ke ujiyare so jaa re, daddy tere jaage tu so jaa re…."

I reached Markal Ashram by the afternoon on 26th, ahead of others, only to see that almost no arrangements had been made till then. The rooms were not ready & allotted, the mandap was not ready, the organizers were nowhere in sight. My Art of Living course points were taking shape. I had only two hours to myself before Pallavi would arrive along with our people. Ashish, the Groom, along with his family & Baarati were scheduled to arrive immediately after. And in between I had to pick up my friend from the airport……... I had to receive Ashish at the Markal village & then bring them all along. I was in the middle of a huge chaos. All I could do was to smile & say “accept people & situations as they are”.

What followed was pure comedy & cacophony, each instance straight from a comic strip. The Baarati had decided to stop over on their way at a temple for some Puja & got delayed by a couple of hours. They reached the foothills of the Markal village after sundown & since there are no roads, they were just lost. My car, earlier decorated with flowers, was now smeared with dust & looked awful. A bus full of people, a few cars, made a convoy behind my car, & we started trudging towards the Ashram……the bus driver, clueless without a proper road in front of him, was nervous in dark, and others drivers added to the utter chaos that followed. In sheer confusion, some people got down from the vehicles & started walking, only to be met by dust & darkness……various people in various levels of anxiety & irritation, accompanied with various levels of decibels to vent out their complains….. I did not know how to handle them all……..I was at my wits end!!! We were already running late on schedule.
As the father of the bride, I was accepting all snide remarks, all comments, all suggestions with a straight face, with a smile, but boiling from within. So what if they had decided to take a detour to a temple on their way; so what if they were late by more than two hours in reaching; so what if they reached after sundown, so what if the bus driver was nervous, so what if I had very limited resources at my disposal. I am the father of the bride, & hence have to accept all of this with a polite smile & apologize for all inconvenience caused!!!!!.......hmmmmm…….”Present moment is inevitable” & “do not be a football of other people’s opinion”. …….So much of learning….and unlearning indeed.

The rituals of 26th evening & then the dinner extended beyond midnight. One of our very senior AOL teacher, Rishi Nityapragya ji (better known as Nitin Bhaiya), was present at the Ashram for a course & was leaving for another destination. So before he left, I got him to bless Pallavi & Ashish after the rituals. He is a charismatic character, & his presence did help soothe some rough edges & emotions. While hugging me, he laughed & said, “whatever you resist, persists”….so true, in the context. We had a hearty laugh.
The groom’s side had more people turning up than expected, throwing the lodging issues into another set of mess. At the Markal Ashram, as of now there are limited capacities, & for a radius of 5 kms, there is not even a hut to ask for help. Somehow we managed to house them all with a lot of last minute arrangements. After everyone had settled down & got a place to rest, I decided to take stock of the situation & proactively be ready for the next morning. By the time I had put some system & order in place, it was almost 3.30am in the morning……time to catch forty winks as they say. Sleep can be so enjoyable……….

27th Feb, the marriage day, started for me at 4.30am. Groggy eyed, I quickly finishing with the morning essentials, I rushed to ensure that the guests were being provided with their bed tea & hot water for bath. Inspite of repeated reminders & assurances, the mandap was still not ready, & flowers & decoration materials still not arrived. With hardly any time left now, I managed to gather a few volunteers & set up the place. “expectation reduces joy”……… more learnings.

By 10.00am people started streaming in & the whole ashram looked like celebrating. Live Shehnai (a musical instrument used in marriages & considered to be auspiscious), along with drum beats, added to the mood. Pallavi & Ashish were in time at the hastily done up mandap for the rituals. Pallu was looking so beautiful in the traditional saree. (she had to change into a new dress about five or six times). As the father of the bride, I went through the very emotional process of Kanyadaan, as instructed by the pundits. The wedding went off smoothly & there were happy faces all around. The frowns & complains of the previous evening had given way to the celebrative mood around. My angel looked so happy & pretty…… I felt a sense of pride sweeping me, while holding her & giving her away to the Groom & his parents. From now she becomes an integral part of their family. Cameras clicking from all directions, vedic mantras being chanted, people showering the newly wedded couple with flower petals & rice……it was all so fulfilling & beautiful. My daughter, my angel, my Pallu, has now embarked on a new journey…… Lunch was served in time & abundance…….the Sattvic food was very tasty & people loved it.

Pallu’s mother, Pallu’s elder sister & her husband, Pallu’s maternal uncles, my friend Partho from Delhi, some close AOL colleagues & friends, all of us together had managed to complete the wedding…..all of us were exhausted physically, & drained emotionally, …….. but no one was complaining. For all of us, it was, “All well, that ends well”.
The parting as usual became very emotional, & seeing Pallu cry, wrenched my heart, but I had to put up a brave front…..smiling as usual….. "Babul ki duayen leti ja, ja tujhko sukhi sansar mile, mayke ki kabhi na yaad aaye, sasuraal mein itna pyaar mile……".almost everyone had tears in their eyes. I held both Pallu & Ashish close to me & wished them all the happiness.

My angel has begun a new journey…..a new life……..a new environment…….newer challenges…. & I am sure she will do well……she will take on her responsibilities & spread happiness all around her new home………….she will make me the proudest father of the bride. Sitting quietly in front of the huge picture of Guruji at the meditation hall, a silent prayer crossed my lips..... pls take care of her as usual & as always!!!