21 March 2010

Scenes from a wedding

‘Mon weds Kohima’ glittered on a red velvet board outside the venue, as the sun set on their single lives. Mon wore a shining suit and tie, smoking secretly in the balcony in his changing room. He didn’t wish to get married, but this was the best catch. He was 26, educated and overpaid due to the trap called potential, his stock at its peak – it was time to sell. He wanted to roll the weed in his pocket and join his friends, who were pulling outside with religious fervor. He had also wanted to marry one of the girls pulling outside… they were new age liberated women, with opinions and second names they wouldn’t surrender to his masculine whims… “Girlfriend material… good to fuck, but cannot live with them” his best friend Dim had told him a month back when he was having second thoughts. Mon wanted a pure girl, untouched by the evil world outside, of which he was a part. He dreamed of undressing Kohima, watching her blush with the shyness of untouched purity, which tugged at his pants already. He lit another cigarette and slipped into a dream… piping hot food awaiting him every evening, freedom from household chores, obedient sex whenever he pleased… he liked dominating, and wondered if Kohima would complain to her parents if he tied her up.

Around the same time Kohima sat with Ahmed and drank vodka. Rum was her thing, but vodka didn’t smell. She guzzled her third drink and licked her bee-stung lips. Alcohol made her horny, and Ahmed sensed this and walked around her and held her throat from behind and kissed her… a farewell kiss, she thought as she felt his arms slip under her dress… he clumsily lifted her to the dressing table while she struggled to suppress her moan… things clattered, bottles fell and broke, the room was filled with the smell of perfume… in her drunken disbelief she felt him inside her, reminding her of everything she had tried washing down with the vodka… for the next few moments she lived in another world, where they were birds, free from the infinites strings of real life. The serendipity of her unwed life she now bid farewell to, as he stroked her violently. One Last Time, she thought.

Ahmed was from another religion, and didn’t have a regular job. His most regular income came from copying assignments for rich college kids… sometimes his phone would ring and he would rush off to fix someone’s broken bike or car… he ran errands for households, paid their bills and dropped their kids to school, fixed the leaking pipe and listened to wives pouring out their woes (he was their free shrink)… by night he arranged all things illegal except children and violence… he was the man who could fix things for you that you couldn’t fix yourself – because money breeds ignorance. Why do something when you can buy it off the shelf? Ahmed owned the shelf. He could get things for you that you couldn’t get yourself –because with fame and wealth comes a disease called self-respect. Like the whorehouses which you crave to visit but cannot be spotted visiting. Ahmed never said no (except for children and violence) – why say no when you can put a price on something?

But Ahmed had younger siblings whose future sat on his shoulders… running away was not an option. Their communities didn’t get along, and convincing them was impractical. Not all stories have happy endings. Some die under the weight of the one constant in our evolving race – convenience. Ahmed and Kohima decided to not fight society and its infinite strings that pull them in directions they didn’t choose.

So they made love as a farewell to their unfulfilled unspeakable love – the hazy potential of which made it more alluring. They held each other tight for a few minutes when senses of time and space were warped and flushed down the pot. The dramatic weight of the moment was knocked out by a knock on the door. Luckily, it was Simal – Kohima’s best friend and co-conspirer, who warned them of the hordes of relatives arriving to fetch her. Ahmed kissed her quickly and made a quick escape. Kohima’s eyes were (also) wet as she quickly arranged her dress and sat on the dressing table, pretending to be busy looking pretty.

Mon’s father Billu was a nervous wreck, running the most challenging management assignment since he graduated from business school three decades back. He wished education were of greater help than earning a sweet salary as he attended to the countless relatives and in-laws. His education and dedication had lifted the family to prosperity, which was under public scrutiny tonight..

Billu’s mother Mary was 75, grey-haired and wrinkled like she just walked out of a washing machine, living with the mad confidence of someone who knew 76 is unlikely to happen… she disliked her son’s wife Billi because of Billu’s limited love that they had to share. Despite the tablets, age had its benefits – respect and reverence, and the illusion of wisdom that everyone found in her words. When she fell down in the loo and broke her hip, she stayed in bed for 3 months, during which time Billi took care of her like her son couldn’t. She took leave from work and, amongst other things, helped her shit into a pan and wiped her ass clean. Still, the hatred ran deeper than the hole that Billi cleaned.

This was Mary’s last chance to get drunk on power, and she drank hard, compensating for a youth spent dancing for the pleasures of people much older and now long dead. She could barely walk, ate finely mashed food that required almost no digestion, fought a dozen ailments that cling to old age like flies on fresh shit. To her credit, during the pre-education days, she had toiled hard to raise a family with the little nothings her husband managed to earn. Her husband could’ve been mute and people might not have noticed, but he was tired after a lifetime of obeying his wife. If only feminists knew all this they’d be incredibly proud.

Mary’s husband managed to retain a name of his own – Johnny, and had his own share of old-age friends. He ate even more finely mashed food, without salt or sugar or anything that tickled the tongue or altered his blood, and pissed into a tube that ran from his penis to a bottle that proudly showed off the color of his piss. Johnny was deeply embarrassed to walk around carrying his pee, so he hid the bottle beneath the seat and crossed his legs so people couldn’t see. Through all the painful weekly trips to the hospital, a Mary who turned more Antoinette by the day, the nightly spasms in his chest, and grandchildren who mercilessly made fun of his pee… he pulled on, driven only by the urge to live on for life’s sake. There was no purpose, no hope for a better future, and certainly no happiness in life… but any pain can be weathered by the strongest force in mankind - fear of death. He could hear whispers of his eight sons forming early alliances in the fight for his wealth, and when he closed his eyes his sons morphed into vultures and hovered over him.

Sitting at the wedding, staring at the countless grandchildren that he indirectly helped spawn, he remembered his eldest grandson asking him quizzically how he had the strength to have eight of his own. He remembered his youth when there was no television or internet or movies… there was one clear vent for boredom. His grandson didn’t know that Johnny had really fathered 12 kids – 3 of whom died in child birth and one died of diarrhea at the age of 3. Yes, the next time your shit turns loose, remember that people die of it. Before you accuse Johnny of obsolete nostalgia, you may want to know that children still die of diarrhea in certain dark patches on our map – 3 per minute, if you wish precision.

Around the same time, Johnny’s fat grandchildren walked around like advertisements of the prosperity that now besotted their large family. Some of the kids were so obese that their chins ate up the neck and merged with their shoulders. They sat at the dining hall and ate like pigs (no offence to our porcine friends). Skinny men served food cooked in the huge cauldron they called kitchen. The cooks were muscular and dark and wore thin vests soaked in their sweat, which dripped into the food, adding much needed salt. The old guy stirring the soup scratched his itching armpits, freeing curly strands of white hair, which flew without a care, landing where it pleased.

While the curly hair was garnishing the soup of the day (and more elegantly – the coconut rice)… Kohima was bathed in gold that her father bought with a loan. If the chains were not made of some shiny metal she could’ve been a prisoner. She felt no different for the shine, and walked out carrying 2 kgs of metal and the self-esteem of elders. Her mother wore half a kg of shine herself, while Supong wore rings on all 10 fingers. People who shook his hand felt more cold metal than warm hand. The next-generation photographer – Humbal, who left his corporate job and now clicked colourful pictures, whose inexperience came at a discount (distrustful, they also hired the traditional guy), clicked the girl’s every move and every breath. He also spun stories around them – which gave an aura of romance to the marriage of convenience. Humbal preserved as much shine into one frame as is optically possible, and later enhanced it using photoshop, knowing it would massage the fragile egos that paid him. He knew what normal photographers didn’t – people liked bokeh and black & white. So as he clicked, you could listen to an inner voice (of Nagesh Kukunoor in Bollywood Calling?) that screamed “I wan’t more bokeh! Put more bokeh!! NOW!”

While Humbal spun a sympathy story on the poor bride’s 2 kg burden while she waited for the groom, unseen old skinny women and men carried sacks of rice and vegetables into the kitchen. Two men sat at the back slitting the throats of ducks as they quackquacked, while two others worked on the chicken. In a nearby construction site, women carried bricks and cement, while their husbands smoked beedis and built a wall. 6 year old Amu, whose father was busy chewing weed to forget the pain of building a wall – the pain of building so many walls yet never having one for his own family - had her yettobenamed 1 year old brother strapped onto her back as she foraged the waste that the wedding produced. The food that couldn’t fit into old Johnny’s fat grandchildren’s fat-chins-that-threatened-to-swallow-necks made its way to the dark pile of waste piled up outside the kitchen. Amu squatted and gathered food into a plastic cover she had picked off the road, to take back to her parents and their wall-building-cement-carrying friends. She had to fight off dogs carefully, for she couldn’t afford to get bitten. The dogs could sense her fear and inched closer. She threw picked up 3 stones and threw one at the dog, screaming in her 6 year old voice. When she turned back, the food mine had been taken over by rats – which are braver than house-rats, like Amu is braver than the fat kids who helped create the food mine. She kicked the pile violently, and one rat flew and fell on another pile of human gluttony. She watched two of them run into the kitchen, and felt envy fill her heart. She got up to leave when an older kid from the neighborhood snatched her plastic bag and ran away. She sulked in dejection, and looked around for another plastic bag and another pile. She was still happy that there was so much food to scavenge; so long as buildings were built next to wedding halls, it was a almost a dream… life’s other problems are so much simpler with a full stomach, she thought, and looked forward to each wedding with more eagerness than the Mons and Kohimas of that night.

Not far from Amu, Ahmed squatted against the wall, making oral love to the bottle of rum, as he broke into fits of crying. His customers heard no for the first time that night.

Back inside the wedding hall, flashlights went off a thousand times, wedding albums were created with people smiling fake-smiles, stories were spun and history written. Mon wed Kohima, on a red carpet that hid untold secrets, secret fears and frightening truths.Mon suppressed his eagerness to cut to the chase that night… Kohima shed tears that people mistook for joy and the pain of separation from family… Ahmed lay on the road outside, staring at the sky and choking on his own puke (he didn’t die, so no rockstar ending!)… Johnny watched his pee drip into the bottle, holding onto life nervously… Mary picked on irregularities in the ceremony and expressed her disapproval, despite which she was the most content person in the entire crowd… Amu returned home with so much food that the builders had a small party that night under the same stars they shared with Ahmed.

The next day, the wedding album came out on a CD titled “Happily Ever After – Mon & Kohima”

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your stories get deeper and more poignant every time. This one filled me with deep sadness. A happy one next time love?

wendrick said...

WOW

wendrick said...

WOW...with tears...

wendrick said...

This story has your most insightful thoughts and provokes genuine emotional responses.The visual images and feelings these words invoke makes us wonder why Bollywood hasn't already captured you. This will make the best movie yet... Forget the "Happy Endings".....This is powerful....Thank You for sharing.

Fanboy said...

Varied characters, tragic stories, an aura of melancholy . Reminds me of movies of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Sad that,I was already in an emotionally disturbed state when I read it. Couldn't appreciate it as much as it seems to deserve. Maybe it will happen when I came back later with a calmer heart and a clearer head.
P.S: Have you seen 'amores perros'?

Dino said...

Your story should be made into a movie with the feel of trainspotting or something! Very moving, very dirty and very real. It would probably flop in bollywood though; lifes tough..why choose reel life to experience it and nod in agreement, when you're getting a better than 3D feel in real life everyday!

I'm sure many men have been in Ahmed's place. I feel sorry for them. World is full of women who have this short affair with someone else before they get married, a self arranged bacholerette party. And then they get married to a 'well-settled' guy with a boring life and steady job like Mon..and embark on a mission to make his life miserable too.

Like shakespeare's seven stages, you get to be Ahmed..and you get to be Mon. Who you are depends on which stage of life you are in.

Wonderful read. Some comedy and less of 'toilet' words next time!

Sriram said...

the knack of yours to pick out what really goes on underneath and bring out is always fun :)

wishes, thoughts and actions differ so much in life for a lot of people.. well written.

Wanderer said...

thank you all!

i used to write happy stories for many years. bollywood - hahah! maybe korea will take me!

Alejandro - what a name! thanks! amores perros i really liked.. especially the dogfighting story!

dino, easy on the hate... both men & women ditch! though it helps to know full story before judgement is passed. point taken on toilet!

Anonymous said...

hey man... very well written. Superb narration... brilliant characters also. Though i would've liked a little more focus on Amu, perhaps her character apart from her deprived self.
Pleasure reading.

- Kaushal

Anonymous said...

i can't quite figure out why everyone thinks its an out n out sad story..!! i thought sadness was only the sub-stratum here.
In fact,specifically, when you conclude with the last paragraph i think the story changes its overt complexion from sadness to irony.

- kaushal

" " said...

it's such a shame you don't write more often. This story hits home at so many levels, it's not funny...
Archana aka achi baby

Deepika said...

This one is so true and is so disturbing to know how people change or circumstances force them to change as life moves on... Very well written !!!

kayasmom said...

very very impressive! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. You are very talented!

Anonymous said...

I think I know Humbal

Shahana Shafiuddin said...

many details mentioned to feel the seance...

المثالي اون لاين said...

شركة تنظيف مجالس بالجبيل