I have had those dreams. Yes, I am a conservative Gujarati male, Software Engineer, 26 YO, owner of a white Suzuki Swift. And I have had those dreams for some years now. Not unlike the rest of my friends, who are all, conservative Gujarati males, software engineers also 26 year olds and owners of their own white Suzuki Swifts.
I have also seen it happen… No…. I mean not in real life you pervert, on TV. The cable operator’s son was a school friend and we knew the time and day he would broadcast it. Though, honestly, I have never seen Indian porn. No….it seemed disrespectful you see. But then, in hindsight, that would have helped today. I was never going to get laid by a Mexican or Egyptian lady anyways. Well whatever! No point in fretting about it on my wedding night, in a 3-star hotel suite, with a bed decorated with rose-petals and a bottle of cheap champagne in the freezer….who put it there anyways? Another joke I guess. I am a teetotaler. Yes, I don’t drink alcohol, never have, never will. Programmed that way, years of family values and moralistic brain washing.
So, here I am, white and red sherwani clad, turban dawning, scared to shit, newly wed sitting on a rose-petalled bed, waiting. I mean, this is all wrong. After all, in Bollywood, isn’t it the other way round? Isn’t the bride, all decked up, sitting on the bed in a pool of her one-year salary worth ghagra, behind a face hiding long ghoonghat, with a glass of hot milk and sensuous apprehension? And the groom strolls in, confident, know-it-all, demanding and ready to jump on the prey?
But no, this is my life, me, a living example of accidents and mishaps. I Jignesh Chamanlal Patel, am married today, and have never seen my wife. They said that is how marriages happen. Mom liked her, found her to be appropriately domestic. Dad liked her, found her father to be appropriately loaded. And a distant cousin had found her sufficiently hot and modern for me. So here I was, sweating in anticipation of doing it with a stranger on the first night of being married.
Yes, I have watched Game of Thrones. I did my research, rather thoroughly I must say. All eight seasons, repeat of all the censored scenes. But let me tell you, the costumes of their women are very very simple. Just a string and bam goes the robe! Real life is very different my friend. Do you know what all accessories and layers of garments form a traditional Gujarati bride’s attire? I mean, where does one even begin to start?
I wonder, why doesn’t anyone make a flowchart? That would help right? Atleast that would help inexperienced first time grooms like me, tensed, jittery, clumsy and all. Wait… I need that champagne. But No! what if she is religious…. I can’t screw this up. Champagne smells. Or doesn’t it. No risk. Let me get my phone. I can do with some honest text book sex education. Yes, I know, I know, 12 years late. But still….
Is the bed fine, let me jump and test. Yes, yes, bouncy enough. Where is the mirror, the expression, that expression, fix it…FIX IT! Why isn’t she here yet. Has she changed her mind? No no no no…this is classic J C Patel overthinking. What if I pretend to be asleep, will she let it go? Why are my eyes red. Or is the room red? Hell, guys have done it before and survived. How bad can it be? Just six hours of the night left. Just six. She is just a girl. But what if she isn’t? What nonsense. What else can she be. I will live to see a tomorrow, or will I?
The knob started turning, slowly. I should be on the bed. No, that is discourteous. I should stand near the door. No, that could be creepy. The mirror. Yes the mirror is fine. I will stand near the mirror. No. I will sit. No stand. The door is opening, creaking, shrieking, the way old haveli doors are meant to shriek. But wait! I am not in a haveli. I am in a 3-star hotel suite. I am so going to write them a bad review. The shriek-creaking stops, the door is wide open now. A posse of pretty giggling girls stares at me from the threshold, pushes my maroon & gold clad wife in, giggles again and shuts the door behind her. Now there’s silence. Pin drop silence. Till there isn’t.
Clank, swish, clank, swish, clank…. Her anklets jingle in rhythm with her ghagra sweeping the floor as she floats towards me. Maroon and golden. Face beneath a pulled ghoonghat, white arms and a tender waist, floating. Towards me. I look into the mirror again. No Hrithik Roshan, no Tarak Mehta either, maybe a Hritesh Deshmukh. The Hritesh Deshmukhs of the world aren’t bad. They’re a compromise between looks and success. And marriage is a compromise. Someone would have told her that. I adjust my smile. Yes, it is exactly as you are imagining in your head. Fake and white toothed. I turn towards her. Or rather her ghoonghat and time freezes as we both stand clueless for a moment. Then mustering all the courage that Sunil Shetty had while walking across the border in “Border”, carrying a bomb to the tanker…….
No…no….no…you hot headed feminists…stop throwing saucers at me. I am NOT calling my newly found love a tanker. It was just a misplaced metaphor.
And while I, J C Patel was engrossed in a maze of nonsense, standing rather awkwardly with a colgate smile on, a surreal, jangling voice spoke. “Everything good Ji?” That did it, startled the hell out of me. I reacted, widened my already creepy smile and pushed a hand out. Hi, this is Jignesh, Jignesh C Patel. That is when I realized, I was talking to a ghoonghat. She put her hand in mine. Wow, what a hand. White, slender, long, covered in an intricate design of henna. She could surely be a hand model for Titan or Tanishq. I took her dry soft hand in my sweaty clammy one. And instantly regretted it. The hand was cold. Like ice cold. I let go. Rookie mistake.
I suddenly get this urge to want to see her. Not unusual you see. After all, we were going to be spending the rest of our lives together. And just as this thought crosses my mind, a faint buzzing begins from some layers down in the bed. That startles me, again. She is still stone cold. Standing, hand outstretched, white slender waist and all. I realize my phone is ringing. Must be mom. Indian men’s Indian moms are a specimen we can talk about some other day. It would be a rather interesting and charged talk about evolution’s mistakes.
Whatever, a song starts to play, just from the wrong stanza. It is my favorite, Amit ji’s “kabhi kabhi mere dil me…”. The lights start flickering. A window pane that I had never noticed before started to bang…. I ignore all the drastic changes in the ambience and concentrate on the act of pulling the ghoonghat up to see my wife for the first time.
I hold her shoulders and pull her towards me, heartbeat rising. She stands there, the words of the song filling the room. “…Suhaag raat hai…ghoonghat utha raha hu mai….” My hands move with the words and I tug at the ghoonghat….raise it…I see the neck, white…like the slender waist and the gorgeous hands….decked in heavy gold…and I raise it further….and ….. I raise it futher…..the song continues….the flickering continues…the banging window continues….but the neck….
Nothing….there is nothing beneath the ghoonghat. I am on autopilot and I am freaked out beyond words. Maybe it’s the J C Patel overthinking, maybe they spiked my milk. I try once again. I raise a little more and flip the ghoonghat over where the head should be. And still nothing. I turn to the mirror to see and I see myself, the perfectly average Gujarati groom standing next to a headless bride. And my heart beat goes all Daler Mehndi and my sweat glands pour like the niargra falls and my mind is racing like a Tesla on steroids, as the song continues,….” Tujhe zameen pe…bulaya gaya hai mere liye”….