It was the perfect pass. And we had won it, quite easily.
What I am referring to is the shoes war between the two sides, the ladkewaale and the ladkiwaale. For the ignorant lot who have somehow missed or forgotten HAHK ( it was not such a good movie, but well it was a hit one), the bride's sisters (nowadays, it actually is the entire family) have to take and hide away the groom's shoes, and get money in return. It is the responsibility of the groom's side to ensure that a) the shoes are not taken, and b) if they are, then they are returned to the groom before the bride side can demand money. Now, the important thing is it is just a game, and whether any side succeeds or not, the transfer of money is mandatory.
Statistically, it has been proved that the best time to take the shoes away from the groom is when he sits on the mandap. He has to open his shoes to sit near the ceremonial fire , and then the ladkiwaale strike. As it happens, the groom has to sit on mandap twice, once without the bride (for some initial ceremony), and the other time for the saat phere. In between, is the part where the varmala takes place. This background is necessary to understand what happened next.
As soon as we went inside the marriage hall, accompanied by the light and sound of the firecrackers, my brother was taken away by the pundit; removed his shoes near a chair and sat in the mandap. I was then entrusted by my family, to go and take the shoes, which I accomplished pretty smoothly, except that the other side saw me doing it. We then discretely divided the pair, and kept them with two of my cousins: one hidden under my cousin's chunni, while the other went into the cardboard container with the firecrackers . And when my brother went for the varmala, one of my other cousins volunteered to offer his own shoes. Coming back, from the dais after photographs and all, the process repeated itself: my brother opened his shoes and sat again in the mandap. This time however, my bhabhi's side did manage to take away the shoes before we could even react. (Remember: these are my cousin's shoes, and not the real shoes).
So well now my brother was without shoes, and one of my cousins was without shoes. We started getting frustrated, and asked the bride's side to return the wrong pair of shoes. They refused point blankly. Their opinion was that shoes were shoes, and they did not care whose shoes did they have, as long they had something. We, however, felt that only groom's shoes count, and this caused a lot of fight between the two families. Finally, however, my cousins' persuasive skills won over, and we got back my cousin's shoes.
This whole episode, however, had created a lot of tension between the two families. To diffuse it, one aunty from my bhabhi's family, came to talk to us about the entire incident. We explained how we had managed to sneak the real shoes from right under their nose, hearing which, she slapped her 12 year old son for being incompetent (Oh, what fun that was, the poor boy almost started crying!). And then, being gracious, we decided to give them other chance, and told them to find the shoes, which were somewhere within the wedding lawns themselves. As soon as she got up, she realized that there was something under the chair she was sitting on. And she came back to explore. However, my cousin who had hidden it there, was fast enough for her, and carrying the shoe in his hand, ran all through the lawn, with 4-5 children following him. What followed next was pure magic. My cousin, somehow managed to throw the shoe in some random direction, and it fell in the place to which I was closest. But I had to still run to stave off those children, and I found myself surrounded by these children, and then delivered the perfect quarterback pass. To my other cousin, whose only job was to go and place the shoe under my brother's foot, who was just getting up from the mandap. And to coordinate with my other cousin, who had the other shoe under her chunni all this while. So well, as you see, we won it, but my brother decided to give the money to my bhabhi's sisters anyways. That too a stately amount of Rs. 5100.
Among other things at the wedding, there was alcohol of course, Black Dog whiskey. All my friends left pretty early, though, and could not catch a live demonstration of my American Football skills. (which is sad, in a way). So, well, by the time the marriage ended it was almost 3:00 a.m. in the morning, and everyone was dead tired. However, the best fun of the night was still left (not just for my brother, you perverts, I am talking about myself here).
Me and a lot of my cousins decided to go upstairs (his room is opposite mine) and make the bed. We decorated it with flowers in the shape of an arrow with the heart, and then left a note saying that, "Please don't disturb this arrangement. Lots of hard work gone into it. Inspection to be made at 8:00 a.m. morning." (Cheesy, huh!). And while we were doing this stuff, we had all sort of jokes flying about. It was great bonding with my cousins after a really really long time. So then well, we came down, and didn't allow him to enter the house until he parted with some of the money. He paid the bride's side for doing nothing, we said, and he ought to pay us for taking all that pain, going barefoot and all. So, at the end of it, we, as a whole, were richer by Rs. 2500 + 1100 HKD. But the night had not ended there. We managed to tease my brother even more, by calling him from downstairs, and when he stood on the porch, asking him about such silly things as if he wanted tea or water. And once, even asking him for time. It was so much fun!
The next day started around 10, and it was raining pretty heavily, putting all plans of Dham (It is an Himachali system of community food, in which people sit in rows and are served various Himachali curries and rice), on hold. However, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped, and the Dham went pretty well. But before that, there was more fun (money) for me. According to some Punjabi system, the devar is supposed to sit on the newly married couple's lap and ask for something. (I finally had some advantage of getting fat, and I was going to use it to the maximum). And I did. They already had a suit ready for me, but I was not going to give in so easily. I asked them to sponsor my trip to France, which they had to agree, to get me off them.
My five friends from Delhi were leaving, and had quite a fight among themselves, regarding the time of their departure. For once, I think Sammy was right. Jha and Shreyas had kind of spoiled the trip. They wanted to leave asap, but my mother persuaded them to taste Himachali food, which they liked a lot. And so the entire day was spent meeting people who had come for the dham, mainly family friends from Dharamsala. And the night, well it was easily the most awesome night of all.
The DJ was back, and as he belted popular numbers, my entire mother's family, (most of my father's side family had left during the day) right from five year olds to my bauji (my nana) , who is 92, danced. How they fit in one small floor is a wonder, but I guess when you have spaces in your heart, it does not really matter. It was a perfect mixture of alcohol and dance, and I loved it a lot. And no, no more Lindsay Lohan stories told. I even managed to dance with my bhabhi, and in fact with every female in the big household.
My two male cousins, the ones involved with me in the American Football triumph, were then sent with a bottle of Teachers to my brother's bedroom and were locked inside, and when my brother entered with my bhabhi late in the night, they managed to sponsor their own trip to Hong Kong on my brother's expense, as a price for getting out. What else do you want!
It was dance, it was alcohol, it was money, but no, the greatest fun of the wedding was the bonding with my family members. Sometimes, despite all your differences, you can really be one, and I really loved that spirit. It was, to use IIMC lingo, too much!!!