Marriages…. I love being at them. Perhaps because it is always good to see the end of someone’s happiness. Evil me!! In India, marriage is usually the biggest celebration in a person’s life and in the region of India to which I belong, means eastern UP and North Bihar, it is unquestionably the biggest. And since it is the biggest, its preparations are also of war level. So this one post will give you a brief tour down the marriage lane in UP and Bihar wallah ishtyle. Right from the beginning, to the end…well, not the end, you know what I mean to say.
As the they are famous (infamous) for, the people of UP and Bihar are obsessed with the caste system. They can make a good use of it in almost anything, be it politics, education, promotions, demotions, eating, pooping…yada yada. So the very first consideration regarding a boy and a girl getting married is their caste. Inter-caste marriages are summarily and absolutely out of question. And thus, our boys and girls are groomed in such a way that they don’t even think of anything even close to an inter-caste affair. For those who do, we have tractors, the good old peepal tree and the gaon ke pichhe wali nahar (okkay I am exaggerating… ). Again, No matter wherever in India you live, for getting married, you have to come back to your village, or carry the village to where you live. In most of the cases, whole families come back to their villages, stay together and this whole marriage thing becomes sort of a grand reunion….and obviously, it means a lot of fun.
As I said, most of the marriages are arranged, and the elders of the home decided the couple. Searching a groom is always a task of the Ladki wallahs (the bride side). So when does this search start? Any wild guesses…? I tell you…this search starts from the moment the girl is born. The fathers of our region are known for their love for their daughters. If you are a boy, and you have got a sister…my boy, your life is tough in this part of the country. You get into a fight with her, she beats you black and blue, and then if, even a single tear falls from her eyes , search for you starts all over the home, the village and the city. And once you are caught, you are scolded like hell, may even get beaten…no matter how many times you say, ‘” That she is crying, does not mean that I was not hurt in the fight.” So the fathers, who are this much attached with their daughters, want nothing less than the best for their daughters. So this search campaign is so much precise and immaculate that it may make the CIA jealous. The probable boys, right from their childhood, are spied upon. An eye is kept on every eligible candidate and a database is maintained in which the time line of the boy’s life is entered as a live feed. There are people who have natural talent for such endeavors….they are called the Aguas (अगुआ), or the match makers. They are usually influential personalities of the area and they maintain a database of all the boys and girls of their region, which may sometimes be as vast as that from Patna to Benaras. They know every minute detail of the boy or the girl…whether the boy drinks or not, or how much is his salary or how many times the girl has run away from home etc etc. And why do they do it..? For earning some “punya” and respect by helping a father in his “kanyadaan”. In short, they are the sole Hero of whole marriage. So when the parents, or say the elders of the family think that their daughter have reached the marriage age, generally it’s the graduation age, the Agua is approached. Now the Agua presents to the elders his ever ready list of eligible grooms. So after thoroughly discussing the surveillance data, 4 or 5 most eligible candidates are sorted out. So the first step is over now.
This was for the Ladkiwallah side. What do the Ladkawallahs do? They are busy setting the rates of their boys. It all depends how much a boy is earning, how much the boy’s father is earning, how much land they really have and how much they can exaggerate all this in public. So there are different rates for different professions, means rates of a doctor and an engineer or an Sarkaari servant are different…and according to these rates, the dowry is decided. And once it has been decided, all they have to do is to wait for the fish to approach the bait. Or the ladkiwallahs to approach them.
The Agua is usually a common man between both the families. So he know all the rates, the demands and thus using his conscience and keeping in mind the economic potential of the ladkiwallahs, he sorts out two or three approachable destinations. So, in the next step, a delegation of ladkiwallahs, the elders of the family and village approaches the ladkawallahs. Now first of all, the dowry is negotiated like the rates of fish in a fish market. This is where we can see most respectable persons of our society behave like petty merchants, fighting over the dowry amount, the older they are, the fiercer they fight. But only seldom it’s with malice. Most of the dowry is spent in the marriage celebrations, the rest are commodities which can be used, the ornaments which the girl would wear after marriage and happily, this tradition is on a decline. After rounds and rounds of negotiations, usually, a common amount is worked out and the ladkawallah always feel that they are getting less than what they deserved and are being cheated and the ladkiwallahs feel that they are spending more than the ladkawallahs deserved and are being cheated. So now, the biggest obstacle has been tackled. This all depends on the expertise of Agua. Now the only ugly and infamous part of the marriages of our region is over. The fun begins now….
Earlier, as they tell, the bride and the groom did not get to see each other until the marriage. Only the elders of the boy’s family would go and see the girl and deem her fit for their boy. But since this new morally degraded, English educated generation of boys has come up, the boys now demand to see their would be wives before marriage. The approach route is to father via mother via didi/bhabhi. The more valiant ones even demand to talk to the girl, and for something like being familiar, but usually one stern stare of their fathers is enough for them.
Now the next step is to make the boy see the girl. And this is usually a covert mission with military expertise. It has to be done in such a way that the boy gets to see the girl while the girl remains unaware that she is being watched. For this, the friend of the boy, who also happens to know the girl, is hired. The date, time and place get fixed in an underground meeting of both the families. On the predetermined date, the girl is sent to that place (usually a temple or college) with one or two of her friends. The boy, with the guy who knows the girl, already remains in position. As the girl comes within the visible range, the guy indicates the girl to the groom. Logistics are already so perfect that in only a rarity of cases there is a situation of rejection. In our region, there is nothing more disgraceful than rejecting a girl for marriage. So this covert operation becomes necessary so that even if there is a rejection, the thing remains out of public eyes and at least the girl does not feel depressed or inferior.
And now, when this stage is cleared, it’s time for the great Indian love for showoff and pomp. An official “seeing the girl” ceremony is organized and all the women and elders of the boy’s family visit the girl’s and huge gifting takes place…sarees, jewels sweets…etc etc. In bygone days, many interesting tests of the girl were taken…like she could be asked to recite poetry, or she could be asked to walk ( a check for good legs). And I have noticed that rather than seeing the girl herself, the women are more busy in watching and scrutinizing the sarees and jewels worn by the women of the other side. One look at the saree and they get to know the status, life history and near future of the one who is wearing it. I bow to this mysterious ability of Indian women. Sherlock Holmes…..are you reading this..?
So, now….the marriage is confirmed and this news is made public.
But lot more fun follows…read in the next part….and the next part is going to be real nostalgic…don’t miss it!!