Destination: Goa. Event: Wedding on the beach. Protagonists: A strong-headed Indian girl and an equally stubborn American.
Relatives and friends from across the globe converged at a resort in north Goa. The picture-postcard pretty units here evoked memories of Mediterranean countries with waves lapping their shores.
Gleaming white terraced structures spread across a great expanse and finding one’s way to the allotted accommodation wasn’t easy. As you walked out of your building, you hoped to catch a glimpse of familiar faces whom you could follow to the nearest restaurant or meeting point.
Trying to keep the centrally located swimming pool firmly in one’s sights, one went round in circles until one spotted the gleam of water or heard splashing. The rooms surrounding the pool housed some of the movers and shakers of the event. So, if you wanted to know the correct timing of the various functions or how to get to the nearest beach, the coordination centre was the suite where the bride’s parents were staying.
Managing such large numbers required a team of messengers and managers who passed on the word regarding assembly points, departure time of buses for various venues, etc. The laggards were told firmly that tardiness wouldn’t be tolerated and if they didn’t turn up at the appointed time and place they would have to spend the rest of the evening stranded at the resort, far from the madding crowd.
One of the evenings saw full-scale rehearsals of dancing to Bollywood songs for the Sangeet ceremony. The guests were divided into groups such as cousins, aunts, friends of the bride’s mother ... The moves were choreographed by an ardent Bollywood buff, who had every step down to a T. However, her task as trainer turned out to include keeping an eye on slippery customers who would much rather be at the pool side. Each time she or one of her deputies saw a furtive movement, they would shout out, making the guilty person stop short and make an about turn.
The evening of the Sangeet was to be spent on a boat cruising the Mandovi river. Earlier in the day, the Goan custom of Roas was held to bless the couple. Of course, it soon turned into a messy affair with cousins seeming to take revenge on perceived past wrongs. Cartons of eggs were sneaked in and soon there was egg on a lot of faces. But soon the hunters became the hunted as they were told that they had to sit down with the bride and groom as the ceremony was for singletons. Trying to bluff their way out, some of them swore they had married secretly and no one knew, not even their parents! Seeing there was no way out but to receive their share of pelting, they must have regretted playing such an active role earlier,
By 5pm, the boat was boarded and the singing and dancing began. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a scorcher of a day and the groom’s parents, dressed in heavy Indian finery, must have thought longingly of their home in Denver, Colorado. Even as they wilted in the heat, their attention was soon caught by the performances of a slew of amateur artistes.
So far, the American guests had been subjected to surprise after surprise and soon it was time for the tables to be turned. Now it was the turn of the Indians to be bemused.
In Bollywood costume and dancing in perfect sync to no less than a Tamil number was the bridegroom’s best friend, a woman. The attire had been bought in the US and the dance learnt on YouTube.
A dumbstruck homespun audience watched in awe the wiggling and pouting that would have made any Tollywood heroine proud.