[This short story became SPIXer (Most popular story) on 10 Dec 2011]
‘Roti Chudana’ – these two simple words mean ‘bread’ and ‘removal’. Well, this is just a simple translation. But in Delhi lingo it carries huge weight, quite literally. Let me explain you a bit more. Two families get married (yes, in India it is always families, not just the bride and the groom who get married – borrowed from ‘Two States…’ by Chetan Bhagat). Post marriage there are vast number of ceremonies which are celebrated by both sides.
One of the ceremonies which is celebrated multiple times and across multiple homes post holy union is ‘roti chudana‘. The two families interact and get to know each other better. So the bride and groom visit each and every nearest and dearest family member’s home along with a huge group of left out nearest and dearest family members. The host prepares a lavish spread of lunch or dinner befitting the time and capacity. After heavy lunch or dinner, cash and gifts are showered on the bride and groom. In case of close relatives the gifts can also be jewelry or a thick packet of cash.
A shrewd and calculative aunt may reserve some of the amount of the gift to be given during this function rather than bestowing all the gifts during marriage ceremony. Depending on availability of dates, people pre-book the newly wed’s time and effort for their ‘roti‘. This can also be executed maybe couple years after marriage because of both parties could not find a convenient date.
Now why am I explaining this whole thing? I am a Tamilian married to a Delhi Punjabi guy. We got married in Punjabi style. I had seen many weddings in Bollywood movies and knew my cues well. For example, when I leave in a decorated car, a decoy for ‘doli’, I have to shed tears. It is another story (and I will share it some other time) that why I never got any tears at that moment. I was a starry eyed bride and we arrived with much grandeur at my husband’s home. Sorry, my new home.
After a couple of days, my mom-in-law informed me that we will be visiting the eldest aunt’s home for ‘roti‘. Okay, how big deal is a dinner at home going to be? I got slight inkling of lurking danger when everyone helped me choose what to wear, which purse to carry etc. Aunt’s home was a stone throw away from our home but all five of us in our joint family stuffed into our reliable Maruti Zen car and drove to her home. We were welcomed with cold drinks and so called ‘light’ refreshments which were ordered from a nearby sweet shop. I was requested (read ‘persuaded’) to taste all the snacks. Apart from the snacks, there was also a tray of dry fruits which was shoved in front of our noses occasionally. My each and every jewelry was appreciated for n-th time. The conversation surrounded around praising the food and each other’s clothes much to my disdain.
The light snacks had not yet travelled down my neck, the main course began. There was a very rich and lavish spread. A typical main course at Delhi Punjabi family home includes a paneer dish (and/or a non vegetarian dish), dal, aaloo-gobi (dry and spicy vegetable), raita and salad. The only dish out of all these which has less than hundred thousand calories is the salad. I could hardly breathe after merely tasting all dishes. The dishes went around the room and all of them were enjoying the luxurious dinner while I watched and wondered where humble down-to-earth ‘roti’ is in this whole business of bread removal. The desert was a couple of hot gulab jamuns and a scoop of ice cream which was again consumed by everyone with same gusto.
Post dinner, ritual of showering gifts and cash bearing envelopes started. My immediate family began the process of refusing. I was educated by my husband much later that we have to refuse when such customary gifts are given. This is considered to be a decent behavior.
We were near end of the ‘roti‘ and ready to go home. I was stuffed beyond imagination and needed a walk to clear my head. I transferred all the expensive jewelry to the showy purse and handed it over to my mom-in-law. My husband and me walked back home in the calm and serene night. In quiet and peace of the night, the realization dawned on me of my status change to a Delhi Punjabi. The acceptance of this fact has taken it own sweet time or probably yet to come in past few years. I have now enjoyed hosting many ‘roti’s at our home to get my own sweet revenge.