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I might have dozed off when my parents were teaching me post-marriage Sanskaar stuff. Because this was the first time, I was hearing about this “Ji” business.
After years of trying every trick in the book, my parents finally breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got married. I tied the knot with my college friend who is working in Dubai. His parents are based in a village in Uttar Pradesh (India).
From breathing fresh air, chirping of birds, cutting fresh vegetables, milking cow, smelling cow dung… village life is totally awesome and every time you go to the countryside it leaves you with a fresh experience. But only if you are going on a short trip/vacation, not when you are planning to get married and settle there.
A quick background: I am born and brought up in a city and was really excited to experience life in a village. When I say village it’s not like the one shown in the movie Peepli Live. Farm people here are rich, handling multiple businesses. This place was a few kilometers off the road with a very less population.
The mahurat (auspicious timing) for my marriage was at midnight and after the ceremony, I was supposed to reach my in-laws’ place at around 4.00 am. So, post the ceremony, we had to rush in order to complete all rituals within the timelines given by the Pandit Ji. While leaving I had to fast-forward my crying and goodbyes too.
Half-asleep. When after my bidaai, I first reached my husband’s home in the early morning a swarm of ladies surrounded our car. They were all dancing, the Bajaa Wala’s were playing songs at full throttle.
“Saat Samundar Paar Mein Tere Piche Piche Aa Gayi”– The ladies were giving full-on dance moves on this song. The cameraman left no stone unturned, to click photos from every angle. The morning enthusiasm was very colorful and meme-worthy.
I was instructed to sit inside the car, keep my head down and wait till elder ladies arrive. I chuckled wondering what will happen if I lookup?
Hours passed before they finally arrived; till now I had noticed that the car mat needed some thorough washing, my lehenga definitely needed dry cleaning and from a certain angle my feet looked like an Ogre’s Feet.
Finally, when my MIL and other senior members arrived, I looked up and smiled at them. My MIL is a very beautiful woman, at that point seemed very tired with all the chaos and marriage stuff.
She was wearing a bright red saree and kept the traditional pallu on her head. Her mangalsutra, sindoor, bindi, bangles were more prominent than mine. Not to forget the nose ring, it was a traditional big one which covered half her face.
The rituals were done, and I was made to sit inside with a bunch of ladies who were singing folk songs. When studying in Jalandhar, I never missed any of my friends’ Punjabi family weddings. I used to say Yes even for a cousin k mama k tau k bhateje ka (cousin’s maternal uncle’s paternal uncle’s nephew’s – a really far relative) wedding, just to dance my foot off in the ‘Punjabi Geets’. Loved it!
Folk songs are just awesome – but only when you’ve had a good night’s sleep the day before and when you’re not wearing a 20 kg lehenga; and also, not food or sleep-deprived. On top of that if your migraine is threatening to kick its way in, then the beatings from the dholak and song tunes sung through the nose are not going to help.
This was an inter-caste marriage; on our side, the bride keeps a fast until the marriage rituals are over. Since we had to rush post the wedding ceremony was over, I had not eaten anything for more than 24 hours. But who cares as long as my sisters-in-law were rocking the dance floor? I was visibly invisible to them.
Time passed at a snail’s pace and I was mentally hulk smashing every single person who was sitting in that room. Finally, a wise lady spoke up and took me inside so that I could grab some sleep before the afternoon function started – a reception for the entire village.
After grabbing 3 hours of sleep, I got ready for the next big event. I chose to wear a nice designer saree; it was a daytime event so went for light make-up. The pallu was supposed to be on my head so was spared from the hairdo, just a simple bun was enough this time. I was relieved as every ounce of my scalp was painful from the bridal hairdo.
For my hair, the wedding night was extremely traumatic and painful; this is why I had decided to go bald after the celebrations were over. Matching my lehenga, a duppata had been already covering my head, but on top of that as per my in-laws’ tradition, another heavy handwoven phulkari pallu had been forced onto my hair bun with a 100 more large-sized hairpins. It was so heavy that since the midnight wedding, my head had been constantly tilted at a certain angle. My large heels and heavy bangles had disrupted my hand and leg movements – For that one night, Zombie was my other name.
Finally, the physical pain was somewhat over, now once ready, I went to my MIL for approval. She was not happy with my light make-up and added 3 coats of red lipstick on top of what I already had. She also adjusted The Pallu and brought it down till my nose – Now my rosy lips were the only part visible. The drape was heavy and now pulled down till my nose, titled my neck again to a certain angle – and again, now, with a tinge of red the zombie me was back.
I was told this was a crucial event since the entire community was going to be there. So, my MIL kept me close like her shadow. We were like Batman and Robin.
It was really weird when everyone came one by one and raised my Pallu to get a glimpse of my face. Then one by one they gave their approval – “Yes she is beautiful.” The parlor where I had drained approx. 50,000 for pre-bridal, would glim with pride when they hear this.
I chuckled thinking, “This is all hoax, Aunty, wait till you see the real me.” When I visit next and they see my natural pimpled dark-toned face, God knows what remarks/certifications I would get. Really looking forward to meet each one of them in my plain clothes and no make-up.
This approval circus went on for a few hours and then I was made to sit outside in the courtyard as a display for the passer-by guests. The lunch reception had commenced, and as a trophy, I was sitting at a slightly raised platform. The only thing missing from the entire entourage of display was a song track from – The Lion King’s Circle Of Life song!! – Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba | Sithi uhm ingonyama!!
Abiding by my MIL’s instruction to not look up, I was now counting the tiles. My neck was paining like hell and I just wanted to get up and dash out of the gates.
Half-way through the counting, my bladders suddenly realized this was the best time to put pressure on me and create a scene. After spending 30 years with her, I have now come to realize that my efforts to control its pressure is meaningless if the stars are not aligned.
I am not a shy person, but all the rooms inside were jampacked with elderly ladies and there was only 1 bathroom. I was wearing a heavy saree and felt a tad bit awkward in the new environment which I was not accustomed to. My husband was nowhere to be seen; last I saw him was in the car. When everyone was busy inside, he must have grabbed the window of opportunity and had run away.
Without left with many options, I wondered how I should ask my MIL, or just go without asking? Sanskaar or No Sanskaar? And what should I call her? It was so weird.
Keeping all the doubts aside I took a mental note – Once all of this is over, I will use my Ogre Feet, travel across the oceans, hunt my husband down, and make him PAY.
Thinking about the ultimate revenge, it felt nice for a moment.
After much struggling and a few serious nudgings from my bladder, I decided to go for the Sanskaar route.
I asked “Aunt…eerr mm…Mummy, can I go to the bathroom?” As I blurted, my English teacher’s voice echoed in my inner ears “It’s NOT Can, it’s May”.
As I had looked up and spoke loudly in front of all the elderly village ladies, my MIL gasped. I could tell by her face that Robin has failed Batman miserably – now I was not worthy of the cape. Her eyes were raging with fury. At that moment I had no clue “Why”. Is going to the bathroom a taboo here? Scared, I wondered.
Face red with shame and anger, she excused herself; while leaving she touched few granny’s feet and took me inside. Sensing the tension, I kept my head down and followed her lead. Once inside a room, she closed the door and hissed in my ears, “it’s not Mummy, you have to call me Ma Ji”.
“Sorry What? MAA JI?” (“I don’t even call my mother that” ridiculed my thoughts.) I enquired “Why?”
“Ji is for respect; it is your duty as DIL to show respect to your elders at every step,” she replied with a straight angry face which strictly meant business.
“Aaaa..mmm yes I meant respect with Mummy also, full respect!” I might have dozed off when my parents were teaching me post-marriage Sanskaar stuff. Because this was the first time, I was hearing about this “Ji” business. Now, this was something for which I can’t use Google/Quora for help, I had to deal with it myself. I am a Bengali, and, in my home, we don’t use this “Ji” word for calling out our parents or elders. As a matter of fact, during our courtship, I have never heard my husband using “Ji” to call his parents or relatives. Why me? I wondered.
As I was struggling with this, my MIL opened a Pandora box of traditions and rules. Now I was supposed to touch elderly members feet whenever I leave or enter a room; touch my DIL’s feet who was studying in high school, also call her “Didi”; call my college-going brother-in-law “Bhaiya”; pallu should stay on my head at all times; speak and laugh softly in front of elders; eat after everyone has finished; go to sleep only after everyone else has gone in their respective rooms…blah….blah…blah….
Hitler, Jailor, Dictator – as she spoke, I was trying to put a name pin on her. She went on for 20 minutes, meanwhile, my bladders had geared up and were ready to show her immense respect then and there in that room.
So, without any further delay, first I quickly took a mental note to divorce my newlywed husband, then interrupted and asked her with folded hands “Respected Saasu Maa Ji, may I please go and pee now?”
Image source: shutterstock
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