I got married again, but to the same man. No I am not addicted to marriage but we wanted to be fair to each other and experience both cultures - Indian and Australian. I think they make good memories too.
Last year on June 16, I tied the knot and as with all things Indian , it was long, elaborate and had lots of people. We chose Iskon temple as the elders in my family are very closely connected to it and because I found it cheap. All I did was visit the temple twice to book and make arrangements. The temple gave us a pandit who was available on his mobile phone. And Pandit Kamlesh obliged when I requested for an English transcription of the vows or prayers, and making the ceremony short and simple.
My family were arriving a few days ahead of the marriage just as the groom. Being the independent girl who had independently chosen her spouse, I was at the helm of things. I think I managed fine. The temple venue looked resplendent in yellow and gold and all the decor on the day of the wedding. When I arrived wearing a simple red Banarasi saree, two gold bangles, my mother's earrings and necklace gifted by my sister, Pandit Kamlesh asked me, "dulhan kaha hain? (Where is the bride?)". I smiled, he apologised. Then I reminded we enter the temple for the jaymala or exchange of garlands as he had suggested. "Of course," he said and led us all. That was when my cell phone was seized because I was beginning to look like a CEO dulhan.
After the jaymala, we came to the venue outside (no wedding is held inside the temple) and we sat down for the rituals and walk around the fire. My friend Boni, who had specially flown from Chennai, commented it was the most relaxed marriage she had ever attended. I know what she means. All my life I have attended weddings where the atmosphere is sombre, the bride is crying or serious and she cannot afford to laugh for fear of being labelled shameless. On the contrary, I was busy explaining to my non-plussed husband what he had to do and that the sindoor was for him to apply on me and not ask whose turn it was to apply. My father and the husband were caught in a communication gap, each trying desperately to understand the other's accent and failing miserably.
Soon as the rituals progressed, Pandit Kamlesh and his accomplice threw my composure out of gear. Contrary to the Rs 1200 fees, they started asking us to dole out hundreds of rupees for each prayer - a 500 note with one banana, a hundred note with one coconut, another hundred for another fruit, and so on. I thought this was insane, he was duping us right under our nose. "Nahi Panditji, aisa nahi chalega (this will not work)" I found myself telling them. We were caught haggling like we were in the middle of a vegetable market amid all the cameras and an annoying TV crew that followed us. I wasn't a celebrity but I was marrying an Australian when Indians were at the receiving end of alleged racist attacks Down Under. So we were a subject of interest. Finally my friend Geeta intervened too and we settled for an amount and proceeded with the ritual.
Then came the turn for vows to be exchanged. A white piece of paper was taken out by the pandits. It was hard not to control the laughter as the men took turns to read out in English what a husband and a wife are supposed to do for the rest of their married life. I don't remember all of it but I do remember one which said of the bride that "you will take permission from your husband to go out." I didn't know whether to run or stay put. I was just glad it got over in one and a half hours of putting up with a load of crap and pandits who just recited mantras after mantras after learning it by heart and sucking money out of the occasion while munching pouches of pan parags in front of the holy fire.
After the ceremony, we headed off to the temple dining hall for our vegetarian fare for all my friends and neighbours we had invited. The next day we threw a party for all my friends and that was an evening to remember. I sang, I danced, I drank. Someone said it was a first to see a bride enjoy her own wedding so much. I wondered who, if not me, was to feel the happiest. And what was wrong in enjoying my own wedding. Alas, I did not sit on a chair, demure and weepy faced.
A year later, I was at the Old Registry building at Spring Street, Melbourne. Amid a close group of 10-12 friends, I found myself wearing a simple black dress and not worrying I had no showy jewellery on me. I entered one of the small rooms we had booked and the celebrant took us inside and rehearsed with us the ceremony. After that, she asked us our choice of music. The minute everyone was seated, she played Bach. She started with asking us whether we were both legally free to marry. Then she made us repeat simple, sweet vows in a silent room and we sealed our marriage with a kiss and exchange of rings and signing of our wedding certificate. It was over in half an hour. Legally wedded, we headed for coffee and yumcha. In the evening, amid friends we called it a day with champagne and wine toast, laughter and banter.
I enjoyed both the marriages but I think this is a country that gives you choices. A choice to remain simple, a choice to pick your spouse, a choice to live life by your own dictum.