It’s an Indian wedding and more importantly a South Indian wedding. The groom and the bride stand on a stage, behind them two gaudy thrones, on which no one’s been seated for the whole evening. Gaudy thrones, gaudy couple and we the minion guests who mill around in an endless queue to wish the couple good luck and get on with the evening. Where did this peculiar practice start? Stand in a queue to shake hands with the groom and bride one hardly knows, exchange forced smiles from pursed lips and mumble something inaudible, face the camera, flash! and the photographer gestures you to move on, if you linger awhile to probably tell the groom that his cheap off-the-shelf suit looks like a gunny sack, the photographer gets impatient and tells you to get the hell off the stage. I didn’t get shooed off, I kept it short, went straight to the groom, shook hands, pushed the envelope containing a hundred bucks, contribution for the meal am going to eat, smile at the camera and walk away to the dining hall. Yet another queue at the buffet.It’s gonna be a long sultry evening.
The dinner buffet is a mess, the children at each other’s throat for the ice cream and the adults making a killing of the fruit salad. We live in flourishing times, no famine in the recent past, the trees full of fruit, boatload of fish, fields of sheep and goats to be devoured. The plates always full and no guilty pangs when half of the food finds its way to the dump. So, it’s difficult to assess the rush, hard to imagine the beeline and shoving for a measly looking papaya and overcooked paneer.
I don’t want to be here, but I need to. Friendly obligations from a long past, it is required that all don’t find out what a rogue of a son the gentleman had. True, am not my father’s reflection of being the most humble, respected person the town had seen, I try to be, but it’s a hard job to fill into my father’s boots and it is harder not to be quirky and slapstick to certain individuals. There was a gentleman once, a close friend and an aid of my father’s. He didn’t see it unusual to pick on a kid 30 years his junior and call me funny names just because I was real tall and lanky. There were comparisons to a tall Indian actor, lampposts, ladders, all the gentleman could conjure up were comparisons, so much for being 30 years older. No imagination. It wasn’t that I was sharp-witted, but I grew up among classmates who called each other flies, flies buzzing over a rotting corpse or a big fat house fly on a pile of dung. They went further and back-slapped each other when they referenced the stain on a toilet bowl to someone’s face. Full marks for the imagination there. So, being called a lamppost felt silly, I was too thick-skinned by now. That didn’t mean I didn’t sledge this guy, but calling him a pile-of-dung-with-a-fly just didn’t cut it. He never understood. I saw my game of calling him interesting nicknames fall flat on its face. So I had to stoop down to his level and give him a beating without my father extending the same courtesy to me.