The bride remained carefully covered under a heavy veil, as per the tradition she strongly believed in, which I had mentioned in the previous post; it felt slightly awkward speaking to her that way. She could see us, but we saw only the movement of her head as she spoke.
The bride’s family, along with 30 other women, finally arrived. Three hours late.
They brought a basket of flowers, and lots of candles with them.
They were heavily made up.
The sisters came in the room first. Friend’s wife and I stood to greet them with a salaam – which they totally ignored – and walked past us towards the bride. They didn’t really care who we were. No introductions.
But one of the bride’s aunt was sweet enough to ask us how we were related to the groom. “He’s a good friend of my husband,” I told her. She smiled a lot; I liked her.
The girls were still busy with their clothes, hair and makeup. When they found some time in between those tasks, they busied themselves taking pictures of the veiled bride.
I sat in the corner with friend’s wife, bored and hungry.
I heard that the guys were having dinner in the other room. Lucky people.
I finally asked, “How do we get this party started?” The women looked at each other. The bride’s sister replied, “We will bring the bride to the living room, and have the groom sit besides her. We will apply ubtan paste on the groom’s hands and face, and the ladies from his side will apply the paste on the bride.”
“The groom and the bride will sit together?” asked the surprised mother-of-the-groom, “In Hyderabad, we don’t let them see each other until the nikah is done.”
“But that’s how we do it in Pakistan,” the bride’s sister insisted.
“But we don’t do it that way in India,” the groom’s mom insisted.
The bride’s aunt gestured to the bride’s sister to quiet down, and said, “Let’s do it the way the groom’s mom wants it done.”
That’s when groom’s mom realized that someone was missing from the crowd, “Where’s the bride’s mother? Didn’t she come with you all?”
That’s when the girls giggled. One of them said, “She’s sitting right next to the bride!”
The groom’s mother apologized, “Oh! I didn’t recognize you because of the makeup, sorry.”
“Should we have dinner first?” asked groom’s mother.
But the bride’s family weren’t hungry yet, “We will eat after the rasam.”
Groom’s mom looked at me and friend’s wife, “Let’s have dinner then. They can eat later.”
Finally, we had dinner! And it was a peaceful one too. The food was yummy: home-cooked chicken qorma.
Meanwhile, the ladies played loud music in the other room.
When friend’s wife and I joined the ladies after our dinner, we found the bride’s sisters and cousins dance to some Hindi song. I looked around for groom’s mom, found her in the kitchen, and asked whether there was anything I could do to help. I felt it was time they started the rasam, or whatever it was they intended to do that night (or early morning).
Groom’s mom brought out the bowl of ubtan paste, and entered the room where the ladies were still jumping dancing to the songs. “How about we start now?” she asked the bride’s mom.
“How about we have dinner first? I’m sure the girls are starving.” And the girls happily agreed.
I wanted to hit something.
Friend’s wife and I helped groom’s mom with the gifts she brought for her new daughter-in-law. Three suit-cases full of colorful, glittering sarees. They all looked so pretty! I love Indian sarees. We arranged them carefully on the bed, then paired each one with matching sandals and glass bangles. It was fun!
We were also shown the gorgeous bridal dress from India; it was a blue and pink sharara.
I went in the other room to check on whether we could get the rasam started, and found the ladies sitting in groups, chatting and laughing. The bride sat on the sofa, all covered up, texting away on her cellphone. The children were running all over the place.
Obviously, nobody was in a hurry to return home.
I called Masood to pick me up.
I bid farewell to Aunty (the groom’s mom), explaining to her that it was too late already. She asked me to stay a little longer; I apologized for having to leave early. We hugged, and she reminded me to attend the wedding.
On my way out, I found the bride’s mom. “Acha main chalti houn, it was nice meeting you.” She smiled and said, “Okay, Allah hafiz.”
And that’s how the exciting pre-wedding party came to an end – for me.