The Kolkata wedding was a landmark wedding. Primarily because the bride is one of my closest friends. But also because I was meeting ‘The wife’ after a little more than a year. It was 14 months ago that we exchanged two hopelessly embarrassing, cringe worthy, texts full of emotion before he boarded his plane on his way to University in Melbourne – or as he calls it – ‘Mellbin’.
The annoying prick picked up from where he left off. Day after day he kept reminding me of how he bought his flight ticket for Rs 3000/- cheaper than I did, even though he booked it 3 weeks after I did. “I’m getting a free meal also!”, he added.
After an uncomfortable flight, turbulent from the weather conditions and ‘the wife’s’ constant annoyances, we got into a yellow ambassador taxi on our way to the Hotel. The wife, twitchy from the lack of a cigarette, kept asking the driver stupid questions.
“Why does everything look so old?”
“Why is this place so dirty?”
“Who is the richest person in Kolkata?”
“Who is the most powerful person in Kolkata?”
“Why is this flyover only half constructed?”
The poor driver – just as soon he would get a voluptuous gutkha juice going with the blood red overflowing drop trickling down the side of his mouth, he would have to roll the window down and spit it all out to give an answer – incomprehensible owing to his pan-stained bengali accent. He had the good sense to swerve into a tiny by-lane right next to a cigarette shop.
We finally reached Hotel Hindustan International – the wedding venue – met the bride and family over a scrumptious brunch and then headed on back to our rooms to catch up on some much needed sleep. Before long, however, we were woken up for dance practice. We were to perform later in the evening and had forgotten all our steps. It was then that I met an old acquaintance from my college days. Anay – also a close friend of the bride – was a baby-faced sweet-heart of a guy who was being made fun of for his Gujarati polka dotted shirt that he had on. This former acquaintance would go on to become a very good friend by the end of the wedding.
The ring-ceremony that followed was an emotional one. Rings were exchanged – of course – followed by humourously sappy outpours from best men and bridesmaids. We danced, we ate and then we felt drained. What felt like 8 o clock was actually 6 30 pm. That was quite depressing. When it was finally 8 o clock, we headed to the pub for the party. The guys tanked up while the girls went up to change.
Anay and I noticed, on our way to the pub, a man singing to the diners of the restaurant in what looked like a Karaoke set-up. Sufficiently drunk, the both of us decided that we wanted to sing a little bit. The same man was still singing. So we stopped him mid-song and told him that he had had enough turns and now we wanted to sing. “Sir, this is not a Karaoke”, he said, “I am a professional singer”. While I turned back to head back to the pub, Anay – lawyer by profession – cajoled Majid the singer, after taking the manager’s permission, to let us have the floor. We started with ‘Knocking on heaven’s door’ (GnR). We were so good that Majid wanted to join in for the next song – Aerosmith’s I don’t want to miss a thing. After we welcomed the crowd to ‘Hotel California’, we even got a request…. for peace and quiet. But we carried on with ‘Radioactive’. It was then that Majid pleaded with us to stop. “I might lose my job guys”. We fed him some well earned whiskey and headed back to the party. Anay’s lawyering impressed me. From that point on I decided and made it clear to everyone on the dance floor that the babyfaced assassin was to be rechristened as Don Anay – who, like the rainbow coloured shots that we got drunk on that night, looked ever so innocent but had the potential to destroy you. I was quite destroyed by then and in came the girls.
We danced like maniacs and then I began an intensely philosophical conversation with a beautiful German girl. I carried on this conversation in the lobby seated next to her opposite the lift, when almost ridiculously, Bollywood ‘bad man’ Gulshan Grover came out of the lift. “Gulshan!” – I called out as if he was a long-lost friend I was seeing after years. He was nice enough to come over and have a chat. I went on to introduce him to my friend.
“He is the Kevin Spacey of Bollywood” – I said. Gulshan smiled, gave me a forearm handshake and walked away. A forearm handshake is where you apparently use the normal handshake approach but at the last minute clasp the forearm, then pause and look at the other person with big scary eyes to gauge his surprise.
Gulshan Grover – of all the people. He was in town for a political programme, he said. The night had ended there. It had to. We laboured to our rooms and plonked ourselves on the bed.
We attended the wedding the next morning, completely hungover, with our shades on to protect us from the piercing sun. We had to get ourselves back in shape, however, to fulfil our final duties as friends of the bride. We had to find the groom’s shoes. We weren’t too worried, however, with Jaideep the sniffer dog on our side. Jaideep is experienced in this trade, having found many-a-shoe in the 14-odd weddings he has attended in the past year. After we caught hold of some dodgy intel from Deepti Maami of the ‘white girl in yellow’ having hidden the shoe, we found out her name, duplicated her room key from the reception and sneaked into the room. While the rest of us looked in the most obvious of places, Jaideep paused, did a quick calculated scan of surroundings and then headed straight for mini-fridge and found the shoe.
That ended the power-packed weekend and we headed back to the airport. I showed my I-card and ticket to the policeman at the security gate and entered, waiting for the wife to follow. When he proceeded to enter, the policeman stopped him. “You have missed your flight sir. This is yesterday night’s booking”, he said. We both stared at each other in shock and then at the ticket.
Sat 9 Jan 19:00 hours’
I found it too hard to hide my delight. I just dropped my bags and started celebrating, laughing loudly. He had to book a new ticket and pay double the amount that he had initially spent for a two-way trip. After he booked his ticket, I asked him. ‘Did you get a free meal this time?’
I feel bad for not writing anything meaningful in the above post, about the actual wedding. So here is a bit about my best friend – the bride – Gauri Dhawan nee Pillai.
I have known Gauri for the last 11 years now. We knew of each other in school but really got to know one another when we travelled to college every day on my old, decrepit Kinetic Honda.
She was a misfit, especially in college,with her electric red curls. Our Psychology professor refused to start the lecture until she left class. “I have a heart condition”, he said. And Gauri’s hyperactive demeanour, he claimed, involuntarily and unfailingly made his blood pressure rise. She was bad for his health.
At wedding functions she always caught the eye of old aunties. There will be one aunty in every wedding who will call her over – pull her cheeks and say “You look like Barbie”
On the streets, people always try and put on a hi-fi accent and speak to her in a very weird-sounding English, assuming undoubtedly that she is a foreigner.
To her credit, she always takes these things with a pinch of salt. That, for me, is her best quality – that she has always been comfortable in her own skin, always been the bubbly, exuberant, unignorable Gauri with a big personality and an even bigger heart. She has outlived both my relationships and suffered through all the escapades in between – all the while listening patiently to my sob stories, reading all of my emotional writings and just generally being there-always.
All mothers love Gauri. She goes beyond herself to find her way into their hearts and then they unburden all of their children’s issues on her. This is quite an advantage sometimes and I have first hand experience in this respect. When concerned mothers have called her to ask about the empty cigarette packet they found in their son’s bag, she has lied through her teeth and assured them that it didn’t belong to their son, but to a friend and it mysteriously made its way into the inner pocket of the bag.
Gauri is one of the most indecisive people I have ever met. About what to eat for dinner, where to dine, what to pick to eat… about her career-hopping from Law to Advertising to Marketing, a U-turn to Hypnotherapy, another U-turn to sales and finally settling on PR. In all these twists and turns one thing has remained steadfast – and that is her relationship with Anshul.
She has always been head-over-heels in love with him. I haven’t, unfortunately, had the chance to get to know Anshul as well, since we have lived in different cities. But Gauri through her constant love-struck chatter, has always waxed lyrical about their romance. Over the years, whenever, she speaks of Anshul, she speaks with the child-like excitement of someone having fallen in love over and over again. He is the calming influence to her constant excitement, her yin to his yang. She knew many years ago that she wanted to marry him and has been focusing all her energy to the day of their marriage.
I can’t think of two people better-suited for each other and I wish both of them all the happiness in the world.