A cocktail of cultures

Prerna Wahi

Our story is a Bollywood movie (Chennai Express and 2 States in reverse). I’m a Punjabi married to a Tamilian. However, unlike these movies, both sides readily agreed to our marriage.

The wedding preparations brought out stark cultural differences. My husband, a Tamilian Brahmin, said strictly no non-vegetarian food, dance or drinks on the wedding day for the sake of conservative elders in his family. They had agreed to have the ceremony in Punjabi style, which doesn’t start early in the morning like Tamilian weddings but promises to go on till the wee hours. We decided to have a 3-D’s (Dance, dinner and drinks) cocktail party before the wedding day.

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The groom’s side wanted the wedding in pleasant weather and not peak winter in Delhi, so that their relatives would be comfortable. We chose February, expecting it to be neither so cold that the Chennaites were stuck indoors, nor too hot for the Punjabis to dance. However, that year, on the cocktails day there was a stiff breeze blowing, which made it extremely cold. On one side my husband’s uncles were sitting before the heaters with shawls wrapped around their heads, drinking hot soup. On the other side my cousins were walking around in backless and halter blouses, completely unaffected by the cold.

Scotch and wine was flowing and half of the groom’s side also had a glass in their hands. They had come up with this way of beating the cold and mingling with the Punjabi ‘spirit’ of partying. In Punjabi weddings, the lyrics don’t matter; it only matters that the music is on high volume.

The DJ was playing typical Bollywood music and the groom’s side was wholly on the dance floor. My friends and family barely got a chance to get on the dance floor, but they were happily swaying to the music where they stood.

The groom’s side, inspired by Bollywood movies, had prepared elaborate performances for the Punjabi sangeet event. True to their upbringing, they had meticulously planned and prepared detailed introductions of all their family members with a song dedicated to each person. In contrast, we had just a series of dance performances by all family members where the motive was just to dance.

The next day was the wedding. Reception of Baraat was given as 7:00 pm on the wedding invites and I had told my husband to come by 7:30 pm. In Punjabi weddings Baraats are known to reach an hour or two after the given time due to last minute delays, dancing time in the procession or simply to make a grand late entry. However, in my wedding, at 6:45 pm, while my dad and uncles were checking last-minute arrangements at the venue, and my mom and aunts and cousins were on their way, the Baraat arrived! You can imagine the hustle-bustle that ensued.

One of their cars got lost on the way and they decided to wait for it; otherwise they would have been even earlier. My husband later told me that on the cocktails day they got slightly late and a family conference had been held therefore to ensure everyone ‘reported’ on time for the wedding.

The contrast in dressing styles was evident. The Punjabi side was clad in vibrant colours, as if for their own wedding, with their best polki and diamond sets, perfect hair and make-up in place. The other side was in simpler yet elegant Kanjeevaram silks with gold temple jewellery, big bindis and minimal make-up. While the Punjabi women were wearing such varied shades whose names men may not even know (coral, crimson, teal and what not), some women on the groom’s side ended up wearing the same shade of blue, almost as if they were following a dress code.

It has been almost 9 years since our marriage. I’m yet to learn how to make the perfect sambar. He looks forward to Punjabi gatherings where he can chill out.

Related reading: Does love conquer all – Marriage across religions

I still need my spoon to eat rice. He’s yet to develop a taste for makki di roti and sarson da saag. He calls the shots when we have to attend official events, but I decide the time we leave for other parties. Much like the differences in our personalities, we have very different approaches to parenting our 4-year-old son. My husband disciplines him by being strict, whereas I’m more patient, trying to explain why we aren’t letting him do something. The punch, twists and sweetness of this cocktail of differences ensures a great marriage ‘high’.

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September 25, 2017 - 9:56 am

Inter-cultural Marriages can give you varied approach to Life and make Married Life more interesting – “The punch, twists and sweetness of this cocktail of differences ensures a great marriage ‘high’ ” – the best punch line of the story !!

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