Our story is straight out of the Bollywood movies – “Chennai express” and “2 States” (though in the reverse). I am a Punjabi girl married to a Tamilian boy. However, unlike these movies, convincing our families was not a hard task and both sides readily agreed to go ahead with our alliance.
The wedding preparations brought out stark cultural differences. My husband, hailing from Tamilian Brahmin roots, strictly said no for non-vegetarian food, dance and drinks on the wedding day for the sake of conservative elders in his family. They had agreed to have the wedding ceremony in Punjabi style. Many in his family were looking forward to the great Punjabi wedding which does not start early in the morning like Tamilian weddings but promises to go on till the wee hours of dawn. Any true Punjabi can spontaneously dance and they just need an excuse to party. Weddings provide a perfect opportunity to celebrate. So we had already decided to have a 3-D’s (Dance, dinner and drinks) Cocktail party before the wedding day.
The groom’s side had requested for the wedding in pleasant weather and not peak winter time in Delhi, so that their relatives would be comfortable. Hence we fixed our wedding for February expecting it to be neither too cold that the Chennaites are stuck indoors, nor too hot the Punjabi brethren can’t enjoy their dancing. However, that year, especially on our Cocktail day there was a chilly breeze blowing which made it extremely cold. On one side my husband’s uncles were sitting before the heaters with shawls wrapped around their heads, drinking hot soup to keep them warm. While on the other side my cousins were walking around in backless and halter blouses with their saris, completely unaffected by the cold.
The cocktail scene was completely unexpected. Scotch and wine was pouring out and half of the groom’s side also had a glass in their hands. They had come up with this way of beating the cold and mingling with the Punjabi “spirit” of partying. The DJ was playing typical Bollywood music (Om shanti Om and Jab we met tracks were popular then) and whole of groom’s side was on the dance floor. In Punjabi weddings, it doesn’t matter what the lyrics of songs are; it only matters that the music is on high volume. But the Tamilians, fans of melodious Carnatic music, were all swooning away to these loud tracks. My husband himself was surprised to see that his family liked to dance but was not given such an opportunity before. My friends and family barely got a chance to get on the dance floor, but well, they were happily swaying to the music wherever they were standing.
The groom’s side, inspired by Bollywood movies (the likes of Hum saath saath hai), had prepared elaborate performances for the Punjabi sangeet event. True to their upbringing, they had meticulously planned and prepared detailed introductions of all their family members with a song dedicated to each person. In contrast, we had just prepared a series of dance performances by all family members where the motive was just to dance. In fact, my cousins warned us earlier, that we will come on stage when we called them for their turn but leave the stage only when they want to.
The next day was the wedding. Reception of Baraat was given as 7pm on the wedding invites and I had told my husband to come by 7:30pm. In Punjabi weddings Baraats are known to reach an hour or two after the given time due to last minute delays, dancing time in the procession or simply to make a grand late entry. However, on my wedding, at 6:45pm, while my dad and uncles were looking at last minute arrangements at the venue, my mom and aunts and cousins were on the way to reach the venue, the Baraat arrived!!! You can imagine the hustle-bustle that ensued with the Baraat arriving for a Punjabi wedding, not just on time, but before time. One of their cars had got lost on the way and they decided to wait for it and come together otherwise, they would have been even earlier. My husband later told me that, on the preceding day of the cocktail, they had got slightly late and a family conference had been held therefore to ensure everyone “reported” on time for the wedding day.
The contrast in dressing styles was evident. Punjabi side clad in pretty vibrant colours in different shades, dressed up as if it’s their own wedding, adorning their best polki and diamond sets, with perfect hair and make-up in place. Other side in simpler yet elegant kanjeevaram silks with gold temple jewellery, big bindis and minimal make-up. Infact, while Punjabi women were wearing such varied shades that men may not even know names of (coral, crimson, teal and what not), some women on the groom’s side ended up wearing the same shade of blue saris almost seeming as if they were following a pre-decided dress code for the wedding.
It has been almost 9 years since our marriage and our caste differences have rarely come in the way of bliss. I am yet to learn how to make the perfect sambhar. He looks forward to Punjabi gatherings where he can chill out. I still need my spoon to eat rice. He is yet to develop a taste for makki di roti and sarsaon da saag. He calls the shots when we have to attend official events, but I decide the time to go for other parties. Much like the differences in our personalities, we have very different approaches to parenting our 4 year old son. My husband disciplines him by being stricter, whereas I am more patient trying to explain why we were not letting him do something. The punch, twists and sweetness of this cocktail of differences ensures a “great marriage high”.
This article was first published on Bonobology.