#21 Turquoise tanchoi tantalizer
While she liked to believe she was familiar with all the ‘ways’ of Punjabis, the Bengali bride would never have guessed what she would encounter on arriving in Delhi, the city her new family called their home. She was in love, deeply and madly, and the feeling can be heady for one so young. It can make you feel ready to take on the world. Invincible almost.
She was brought up to embrace ‘new’ experiences and accept and respect differences of culture, traditions and customs. Deep-seated Indian values remain the same all over our gorgeous, enigmatic country, she knew. Only their manifestations were different.
Reminding herself of this, she tried desperately to quell the tremulousness of her errant heart, as the train pulled in to New Delhi railway station. She alighted from it, dressed in her bridal finery (yes!), accompanied by her new in-laws, and clutching tightly onto her husband’s arm. She was immediately engulfed in a crowd of ecstatic, raucous, foot tapping, lustily singing cousins, aunts and uncles who had come to welcome her! Their joy was boundless, infectious. After all, a much loved nephew /cousin was bringing his bride home! They’d never met her before and their warmth and effusiveness literally blew her away. They awaited her with garlands, hugs, laddoos and blessings as many feet were hastily touched, obeisances paid and hasty introductions made (none of which she could recall an hour later). The icing on the cake was a flashily uniformed, deafening brass band, standing around the happy group in a ring, merrily playing Bollywood shaadi numbers, as was their wont!
Oh, what fanfare and fantasy come to life this was!! It was as if she was transported inside a film. Never in her wildest dreams could she have ever imagined that she would be the cynosure of all eyes, that too in such circumstances! She looked around tentatively, totally overwhelmed by this show of love and unrestrained happiness, trying to gather herself. She realized the passersby were not in the least bit intrigued or inconvenienced by all this ‘action’ on the platform. This was ‘routine’ it seemed. They’d simply walk past, slowing down just a wee bit, smiling to themselves.
That was the start of weeklong, giddy celebrations in Delhi for their wedding. Such a far cry from the solemn and quiet Bengali traditions carried out back home in Calcutta! One evening a cocktail party was hosted by the family. Her mother in law requested her to don this turquoise tanchoi tantalizer. Which she willingly and happily did. Champagne bottles were uncorked, the bride and groom drank to themselves, and the family to their future. More energetic dancing, good food and drink, camaraderie and cocktails followed, accompanied by the beautiful strains of traditional wedding songs and the staccato rhythmic beats of the “dholki”– all sung and played by enthusiastic family members at times in unison, at others, taking turns. Nothing can beat the genuineness and warmth of that. So different from the organized and strategically planned sangeets and celebrations at today’s weddings.
I wore it last week, after many years again, to a friend’s son’s wedding. Another wedding, another time. This one, thirty years later, where the bride was a Bengali too, dressed in a ruby red Benarasi silk (as is tradition), looking radiant and happy. So many memories came flooding back for me. Another young girl embarking on her own journey of mutual love, respect and shared lives. God bless them and ‘badhaaiyaan ho ji!” (congratulations) as my Punjabi family would say!