A week after attending my best friends wedding I am still reveling in the grandeur an authentic Punjabi wedding has to offer. I landed in the subdued town of
The invite read cocktail evening, followed by cocktail and wedding the second day. So I was assured booze is going to be on the house for the next 2 days. The evening was nippy, a distant faint music was getting louder as we drove on and I could hear the music clearly “balle balle oh balle balle… sharabi…” humming along I smiled to myself knowing this was going to be one crazy evening.
When we entered, the party was in full swing. It was only , the Baggas (the bride’s side) and the Batras (groom’s side) had already gotten their guests dancing and tipsy. After a quick round of introductions we headed to the bar and had to fight our way through burly Punjabis. My bloody mary seemed meek amidst all the double large scotch and
One had to be a Punjabi to drink like a fish and still be able to pull off a graceful balle balle on the dance floor. As the latest bollywood numbers began to reverberate in the hall, thousand rupee notes started flying all over the place. The party went on till the wee hours of the morning, punjus drank and danced relentlessly until they were forcibly asked to stop. The non punjus, well we were no competition, we passed out early on.
I am in the habit of calling my friend Neha, Bagga. When I met her on her wedding I called out to her in a rather girly high pitched voice, and had about 20 baggas turn around and look at me questioningly and then everyone knew me just like that. I loved it, punjus have a big heart and they accepted people warmly. Then all evening I had people fawning and fussing over me wanting to know if I had eaten, or if I was enjoying myself. I found food being sent to our table constantly and my glass being filled as quickly as its contents were being emptied. The buas and the mausies all hugged me and asked them to join me in their dance. In all the alcohol infused haziness guests weren’t forgotten, they made me feel a part of the family, I was truly moved.
Now punjus have an unwritten wedding rule that I unraveled during the course of the 2 days. Alcohol and dancing precedes and succeeds every little ceremony. The second morning I was surprised to find the Bagga family looking fresh as daisies despite having pelted countless double larges. We were groggy and hung over and every muscle in our bodies ached from all the dancing, while the Bagga family went around greeting us and the others chirpily. I was wondering if they were the same people who were wasted the previous night, if they were they showed no signs of it. After a hearty breakfast, I was quickly ushered next to the bride for the bangle and haldi ceremony.
These bangles are a symbol of a newly wed bride. One can spot her from miles away, the bright red colour of the bangles and its jangle always gives her away. To the red bangles the women tie a variety of golden trinkets. She later walks around clapping her hand on heads of young girls of marriageable age and when the trinkets fall on some girl’s head, it means she is going to be wed soon, similar to throwing the bouquet. We then smeared haldi on her face, arms and legs. Haldi has a lot of special properties, one of which is supposed to give the bridal glow. Later in the evening when I saw Neha ready to take her wedding vows I saw her glowing I don’t know if it was the haldi or excitement or both.
Like you guessed, after the haldi we danced again and the liquor flowed freely. This time I chose to stick to orange juice. The lunch had a huge spread and was very rich. Yes there was the butter chicken, dal makni assortment of rotis and rice but there also was the rather succulent mutton, vegetables, salad, raita, pappads and pickle. For dessert I had the yummy halwa and iceream and then decided to hit the sack for an afternoon siesta while the festivities continued. Balle balle was my lullaby that afternoon, I slept to the sound of laughter.
The evening of the wedding was the same as the previous evening, only 3 times more grand. There was a long queue of starters and snacks stalls that housed everything from pani purri to the Punjabi version of masala dosa. I obviously didn’t spare a thing, except the dosas, coming from the land of dosas I was only too happy to skip its punju version. The booze counter was bustling with activity when the groom arrived on a white horse. The dancing barath of the Batra clan were welcomed by the Baggas with garlands and host of refreshments and beverages. So you can say the drinking started at the gate only to stop at the mandap at 2.00 in the night.
The Baggas, the Batras, the Mehtas, the Chopras and the Aroras did what they knew the best, danced and drank away joyously to the music and enjoyed every moment of it. I reveled in the festivities and was left in awe for the punjabis. By the end of it I was ready to become a bagga or a chopra.
As the night wore away the crowd dwindled till only close family and friends, i.e., us, remained. In the presence of these few the bride and groom took their wedding vows - the Sath Phere and then the bride left to her new home. The Baggas were in tears, so was I to see my best friend married off.
This blog has been really long for it is not the insipid Tam Bram wedding that can be captured in lesser words, it’s a carnival, it’s the big fat Punjabi wedding.