Funny how time flies! The Month of Abstinence is long over so much so that it is as if it never was there at all. It was just like a 'short break' and here we are back again in the season of marriages as if someone had said 'Let us meet after a short break'. Only in this case it would be 'Let's eat after a short break'!
It was on Sunday after the Eid, that I had an opportunity to attend a marriage feast – that too I was to be part of the retinue that would accompany the bridegroom to the bride's place. Any connoisseur or for that matter even a commoner knows what that portends! We assembled at the bridegroom's place. I did all I could to keep my mind off food. So did all the others – brave attempts indeed! We tried to converse about mundane things like the weather, unannounced power cuts, etc. We essayed loftier discussions like the Kashmir issue, human rights and the like. We talked about everything under the sun, except what was on everybody's mind – food, and when it would served! As is to be expected the conversations invariably petered out, giving way to an expectant and then increasingly impatient and somewhat sullen silence. Everybody now seemed to be concentrating on the geometric patterns of the carpet we were sitting upon, breaking this meditation every now and then by glancing surreptitiously at their wrist watches. Finally somebody came and signaled that it was time to leave. The assembly of men emerged from its state of suspended animation and everybody got up with alacrity. There was a rush and a scramble for our respective vehicles and soon we had formed a confused cavalcade to tail the bridegroom. A Good Samaritan started flashing his car indicator lights and we all took up this gesture, which gave a comforting sense of belonging and would ensure that we don't lose track in the inky darkness (and get lost and miss the feast!).
After a couple or so of false starts, counting and recounting of guests, the rally was finally on its way to the bride's place. We reached our destination after about half an hour and were subjected to the ceremonial welcome, the smiles and handshakes, floating rose petals and the usual stuff… After ensuring a suitable hiding place for my shoes and memorizing the surrounding landmarks as reference for their future retrieval, I entered the palatial tent – shamyana – the venue of the feast.
People settled down in circles with their favourite companions-of-the-platter. I was having a difficult time keeping my mouth shut to prevent it from drooling in an unseemly manner, as my salivary glands went into an anticipatory overdrive. However it turned out that the anticipation was a bit premature. There was a crackle of static as strategically placed speakers came alive and somebody informed us that the Nikah ceremony is to be performed first! Now this was a bit of a surprise as mostly, though not always, the Nikah ceremony is performed in advance, earlier in the day or even a day earlier.
"That's nice!" said one of my companions-of-the-platter, his hands unaccountably balled into fists.
"… and somewhat different," said another with a smile pasted over clenched teeth.
"Rather quaint, isn't it?!" I said somewhat wistfully.
The Nikah ceremony was performed and we sat through it patiently making the appropriate sanctimonious noises whenever required. Subsequent to the Nikah ceremony the Moulvi Saheb delivered a very emotional sermon exhorting all present to follow a path of piety and simplicity, the Siratul Mustaqeem or the Straight Path.
Listening to this heady sermon I must have gone into a sort of spiritual trance and so did not notice the food being served. My friends tapped me on the leg and I came awake. The huge platter was heaped with the usual, plus quite a few additional, varieties of delicacies, completely hiding the mounds of rice beneath! The glaring contradiction between the Sermon and the Served-fare was duly discussed and condemned. It would have generated quite a debate had not the necessity of keeping pace with the circulating chefs (waazas), ladling out delicious reinforcements, kept our mouths busy. Besides somebody pointed towards the Maulvi Saheb who was dismembering the chicken with such fervor that it appeared that he was battling Satan himself.
In case you are wondering what happened to my appetite, well like always it did not fail me. The moral indignation lasted for a brief moment and casting aside any fears of moral indigestion, I fell upon the food with real gusto! I don't know how much of the Maulvi Sahib's exhortations towards following the 'Siratul Mustaqeem' or the 'Straight Path' I absorbed and assimilated, but the delicious food provided by our host was duly shoveled by me into my mouth and it had no difficulty in following the 'Siratul Mustaqeem' that is the Straight Path to my stomach.
(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at email@example.com)