Friday roads, slightly late after 9 in the evening were relatively free as we scampered to Mohammedpur on a Uber to attend a wedding. It’s a low key, low noisy, low flashy affair. The groom’s brother welcomed us at the gate of the community centre or as wedding halls are called. Decoration lights garlanded the building but not so ornate that they were meant to frighten the night away.
The guests were flowing in but there was an air of informality in the air as my travel companion and I clamed the wide staircase to the reception room. Familiarity and differences strike us as brightly coloured ladies and mutely dressed men flit about and children find another playground to scamper around in the hall room.
Of grooms and brides from a distant neighbourhood
As always there is are rows of sofas on one side, almost huddling together for guests to sit on. A few are shifted to make room for my long legs. The groom’s mother comes forward and clasps my hand in a gesture of welcome. Her hair is dyed to hide the white ones but her dress is simple even on such a day befitting her widow status in her mind. It feels good to see her again after months, see her glowing face as one after another of her worldly obligations are fulfilled.
The groom comes forward and shakes my hand and i remember the scrawny kid grown up. His nephew, who now plays the music player I gifted with all the power in his child’s fingers shakes my hand. The bride in white sits all bedecked in jewels and flowers on the dais and I respond to her salam. I decline a personal invite to go up and make a ceremonial encounter between the lady and a murubbi.
A glance says that all those around are from the same crowd. Its not in the looks or even the dress of course but in the language. They all speak Urdu, the language of Geneva colony. I listen keenly to the the nuances of the pronunciations, the inflections, the sways and swings of a new sub-dialect evolved so far away from its natural clime.
It no longer perhaps belongs to the older stream where it was birthed. It has its own different history sharing it with people with another language but living in the same land. I pick up, words, sentences, terms, idioms the way a collector picks up words and store them away in my mind. Who knows when I will need them.
The beautician as the great equalizer
But there are faces that I meet but not entirely recognize. The ladies are split into two groups. Those who are heavily made up and those who are very heavily made up. It’s amazing how fair particularly their face has under the generous influence of various lotions and cream. When my friend’s wife approaches us and with a big smile asks, “Do remember me Bhaiya? “, I do take half a second to do so.
But she is not the only one around who has spent time at the parlour. The local beautician must be a very happy person after toiling so hard on so many faces that look so happy. The red hijab makes the contrast even more striking. Obviously the Maulvi is the most important person to officiate in such a ceremony but the make up artists are no less for without them no wedding is even possible.
I am introduced to an array of visitors including a young rights activist. We discuss his project work and after exchanging formalities with his family, they move on to the party. The other person is the area’s first anti-drugs activist. Long before the Government’s war on drugs began he campaigned against it non-violently. He cares about his people and is still at it. No drugs but no crossfire.
And now the selfie
And then I recognize the trademark of all weddings, the one element that unites all such events in Bangladesh- the selfie. Everyone is clicking, flashing, posing, smiling, grouping, clustering in a bid to look their best. The bride of today must know more about smiling at the Smartphone screen than any other skills. She sits on her bridal chair and poses with all including the babies sitting on her lap. The room has a festive environment that is gentle, pleasant and digitally preserved for all eternity.
My fellow travelled to the wedding meanwhile returns from the feasting table and remarks that the meat curry is out of the world. I mention that he has often had that at our home ferried from here to there.
And then it’s time to say good-bye. We hand over the gifts, shake hands, call a Uber and are on our way in a rancid July night.
Goodbye Mohammedpur, goodbye wedding, goodbye friends. Stay blessed.