It was a happy gathering of around six hundred people. All of them are not too close to Mathur family. Vikram Mathur, the head of the family took utmost care to invite his relatives and neighbours along with some acquaintances in workplace. Inviting this many people was neither necessity nor need, but he had to. There was no other way he could convince his family members. Every time he decided to drop one or two names, he remembered the last time he had attended a wedding or any other family occasions at their place and refrained from dropping those names from invitee list. Being the father of the bride, he had the responsibility to orchestrate such an event beyond his financial reach. He was happy, even though his subconscious mind reminded him intermittently of the hefty sum he needed to pay the money lenders every month henceforth. However, it was his only daughter’s marriage and he could not represent himself as a miser although his financial conditions lately was not unknown to his relatives and friends. For him, it was a night like no other. His only daughter was to be married off soon. Within an hour or two, he would be called out for Kanyadan.
Pammi Mathur, the late wife of Vikram Mathur looked happy on her life sized wall photograph in the living room. It always bore an impression of how beautiful she was in her twenties, and every guests who had come for the first time in the living room, have had enquired about her just looking at the picture once. Once they knew who it was, the striking age difference between Mr and Mrs Mathur was not a remote possibility to come to their mind. Although most of them did not mind. Pammi died after giving birth to Puja, in the labour room. It was not a very complicated birth but, those kind of misfortunes were not uncommon in their village. Everyone blamed on the poor rural healthcare system and moved on with their life. Upper middle class families like Mathur family were of no exception in this regard.
A clique of over excited women, highly ornamented and dolled up, escorted the bride from the make up room to the living room and then mindfully stopped in front of the life sized photograph on the wall. It seemed that Pammi looked straight from the photograph, smiling at her daughter Pooja Mathur who was standing in front and seeking blessings.
Pooja was guided by her aunts and cousin sisters. She could not remember when she met most of them earlier. She did not have any first cousins to accompany her. Her only paternal aunt, Lajjo, did not attend the ceremony. Lajjo was a widow staying alone in the city. She lost her husband at a very early age. She was an educated woman and wanted Puja to come to her place and complete higher studies. Her intentions were truest of kind, although, it did not get approval from the old and conservative brother of hers’ and she could not do anything to change the fate of her niece.
Pooja started moving towards the ground outside her house accompanied by the ladies. Her steps were slowed down by the heavy burden of jewelleries and saree. She looked at least five years older than her current age on that attire with heavy make up. Her eyes, swollen by the continuous weeping for last couple of days, looked a bit puffy but less reddened by make up foundation. She was having difficulties with flickering due to false eye lash decorated with heavy touch of mascara on her eyelid. It made her eyes look a bit smaller. Gold tiara fitted perfectly on top her wig. She was unwilling to put on the wig but the make up artist insisted for it to add more volume to her hair. It was required for the final look of her, that others wished to achieve. The heavy saree contributed some volume to her overall appearance and gave an impression entirely opposite of her thin stature. It reminded her of the dolls she used to drape with left over worn out cloth and did not mind extra last two or three rolls without wasting any cloth.
She walked slowly towards the centre of the ground overlooking guests sitting on both of her sides. Some one from the crowd said “Look, does not she look like her mother? I was there on the wedding day. She looks exactly like her mother”. Pooja felt like laughing loud but restrained herself as it would look child like. She had seen the photographs of her parents wedding. She remembered her mother , much prettier on wedding dress but she also remembered a hint of fear on her mother’s expressions on the contrary to her father’s calm and composed look. She wished if she could have a tête-à-tête with her mother to inquire the reason. She feared that she also resembled same look which was visible to all the guests and soon would be captured on the polaroid papers.
Once she reached the central stage where the entire marriage ceremony would be taking place, some of her cousin sisters helped her to sit opposite the groom. They were separated by the holy kindle lit to perform other rituals. The fire was set on top of a four legged brass container with help of dry wood and ghee. The Brahmin recited verses for the ceremony to start. Pooja had a look at the groom. She had seen his photograph once before. Now he was sitting in front of her, smiling underneath of his thick moustache. It seemed to her that he had prepared his moustache to conceal the coy smile underneath. A fruitful hard work meticulously sown to reap the fruit of reticence.
Vikram Mathur was receiving guests and trying to appease the groom’s family members. Although he was aware of what other things were going on elsewhere. He had always prided himself of orchestrating big events alone and it was evident that he would not give much importance to his distant relatives whatsoever in this grand occasion. He saw the head of the village coming with his family. He put on a big ear to ear smile and went ahead to welcome them. The village chief, a man in his seventies greeted Vikram and congratulated him to have put on such a big arrangement. He said looking at the central wedding stage “It’s a nice wedding stage Vikram. I can see the marriage has started already”.
“It only started minutes ago. You have come in exact time I must say” said Vikram with a loud and fake laugh.
“Your only daughter’s wedding. Such a lovely day. You will be done with most of your responsibilities if not all after tonight” said the chief with grinning face.
The village chief was one of the money lenders who has helped Vikram to put up such a big show. The Brahmin from the central stage called Vikram and it saved him some irrelevant talks that he had to have otherwise with the village chief. He was relieved and after asking one of his distant relatives to take care of the chief, he moved toward the central stage.
Vikram came forward and sat facing the fire. On her left, he could see the groom smiling without any reason other than to put on a smiling face on the photograph. He smiled back to maintain chivalry. On his right, he could see his daughter staring at the fire lit in front of her. Her gaze was fixed on the fire. Her facial expression suggested crude ignorance to outer world.
The Brahmin told Vikram “Now, as a father it is your one of the biggest duty to perform kanyadan on this auspicious occasion. You have to recite after me the verses to perform this ritual. By this, you are presenting the most precious gift to the groom. Now, it is the groom’s responsibility to take care of her as a gift from God. He will have to consider her as the form of dharma, artha, kama and moksha”.
Vikram listened to the Brahmin. He listened to nothing new. He is well aware of the significance of this ritual and honours regarding this in his sect. He looked at his daughter again. She was still gazing at the fire without even flickering. It was a very special day in his life as a father, so he thought.
The Brahmin started reciting verses and Vikram kept on repeating. The Brahmin took small pauses in between and explained the meaning of what he has just completed reciting in simple language.
One part of Vikram’s attention was still at Pooja, who was calm and composed without expressions. Vikram understood what his daughter was going through. She need not to listen all these Sanskrit verses or their meanings. A thirteen years old girl is not supposed to understand all these. However Vikram hoped that Pooja would comply and adapt just like her mother did at her age.