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My Big Fat Indian Wedding

Vanitha Kumar

“Why would someone need a month to get married?” asked my colleague in irritation, when we found out we were losing a key IT resource, in the middle of a ‘deploy’ on a month long vacation to India. “I bet, he’s getting married in a day and going on a month long honeymoon” she added angrily.

“Are you kidding me?  Wedding for a month and honeymoon for a day would be more like it.”  I corrected her.

She of course wouldn’t believe so I described “My Big Fat Indian Wedding”, 20 years ago, to her…

It all started with the simple task of picking out wedding invitations.  My dad brought a few samples for us to choose from.  My sister and I picked a simple but elegant card that said, “Mrs. and Mr. K. cordially invite you to the wedding of their daughter” and so on…

My grandfather took one look at it and exclaimed to my dad, “But not all my friends know you! I need my own cards saying I’M inviting them to MY granddaughter’s wedding…”

My dad sighed and asked his father “How many would you need?”  Pat came the response, “200”.

“200! 200! You mean there are going to be 200 old people at my wedding?” I screamed nearly in tears.  

To which, my grandfather very quietly replied, “200 old couples”.

“Where is the groom in all this?” you ask.  Who cares about the groom?

Then came the many rituals and ceremonies, before the actual wedding itself…   Like most Indians, my grandmother too thought of the less fortunate in our time of celebration. “We need to have a soup-kitchen at our home, for a day,” she declared to my quiet and subservient mother.   So began the many trips to the grocery store to gather all the necessary ingredients, to make a soupy porridge that would be served to the hungry.  The event was well advertised by word-of-mouth, the soup made and the wait began…  Seconds turned into minutes and minutes turned into hours with no sighting of the much awaited guests!  After a family meeting on why a well-publicized event did not evoke the necessary response, it was concluded that it could be because my parents lived in an affluent part of the city.  But the very assertive matriarch would not give up.  She asked a few of my uncles and the family driver to take the big vat of soup to the other side of town, find some hungry folks and serve it to them.

By the way, did I tell you that I am the first grandchild, of a family of 9 children and 28 grandchildren ruled by my grandmother with an iron fist?

Then began, the many thanksgiving family prayers to Gods and memorial services to our ancestors who made this all possible…  This lasted I think a week or two…

Then there was the wedding itself… My soon to be mother-in-law decided that the wedding should be held, not in the city where we all lived and where arrangements could be conveniently made,  but in a small temple town up on a large mountain, where organizing anything was like pulling teeth.

Did I tell you that my husband is the last grandchild of a family of 8 children with very many grandchildren and that his mother ruled their family with an iron fist?

My wedding day was like hmmm let's just say, “The Clash of the Titans”.  If my grandmother wanted something a certain way, my mother-in-law wanted it quite the opposite.

“But what did the bride want?” you ask.  Bride… Schmide… who cares about the bride?

The wedding was finally over; the blushing bride and handsome groom packed in a chauffeur-driven car and sent down the mountain.   After tackling the many hair-pin bends the car came to a screeching halt.   “Flat tire, sir”, said the chauffeur, in a voice of doom. We look around; all we see is the vast expanse of the rolling hills, beautiful green valleys with no auto shop in sight.  Our very resourceful driver with the help of some locals eventually gets the tire fixed and we return to civilization in the wee hours of the morning.

In a day or two my husband and I say our good-byes to our families amidst many hugs and tears and return to our home in the United States after a month long vacation in India.

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