The Wedding ‘Ring’

Excerpt: I am the would-be brother-in-law of these awful people with whom my dearest crazy sister Vidya has chosen to tie the knot of lifetime. (Reads: 2,265)

 

Creative Writing Competition 2012 India
CODE 561
SETTING Forest
OBJECT Cell Phone
THEME Big Fat Indian Wedding

Editor’s ChoiceHilarious Short Story – The Wedding ‘Ring’

Hilarious-Short-Story-hands-with-marriage-ring

The Wedding ‘Ring’ – Hilarious Short Story
Photo credit: earl53 from morguefile.com

“Damn it man! I’ll go crazy” shouted Jaggi.

I wanted to scream louder, “Boy, it’s not you who would go crazy. It’s us who’ll go nuts and that’s precisely because of you and your fat mother who doesn’t seem to know how to reduce her volume and your pagri-clad Mama who addresses everybody in this world as “kaake” and your godforsaken Chacha who drinks and stinks like hell and your endless list of aunties each of which is a mobile minivan of make up and gaudy saree no matter whether she is thirty or seventy.”

But I couldn’t. I am the would-be brother-in-law of these awful people with whom my dearest crazy sister Vidya has chosen to tie the knot of lifetime.

I dreaded about this day for the last five years ever since Vidya called me from her JNU hostel phone and announced elatedly “Vishy, I am in Love”.

My first reaction was being happy with the thought of spectacled, polite and sombre next-door-boy whose mom sends avial and kalaan for dinner every now and then, Murali, as my aliyan (brother-in-law). But Vidya’s next sentence made me tense, “His name is Jaggi.”

Never came across a respectable Malayalam family naming their son Jaggi; though we modernized fellas often shorten our names like Vishy, Naru, Muthu but still those names have a “Southy” flavour.

Vidya cleared it all, “Jaggi is from Jalandhar. Imagine your mallu sis getting married to a Punjabi munda. Isn’t that cool?”

Sure, how cooler could it possibly be! I already felt the chill in my underbelly because like every other occasion since childhood, I was sure this time also it would be my job to persuade mom and dad; that’s the unspoken agreement between me and my li’l sis.

And finally five years of coaxing, cajoling, crying and blackmailing became fruitful – Vidya and Jaggi aka Jagjit Singh Sandhu are getting married this Sunday.

Mehendi lagake rakhna….. I jolted back to reality. How can someone keep an eighteen year old song as ringtone! That’s Gogi mama, the hero still hovering around last millennium.

Jaggi’s family is no less than a circus troupe – Gogi, Kukki, Param, Pammi, Ballu; an endless list of four lettered nicknames.

Saaj-dhaj ke fashion mein rehna… as if taking cue from Gogi mama’s ringtone, answered Kukki aunty’s Samsung mobile which keeps changing her dress from pink to yellow to white every three hours, just like her owner. True, you ought to keep up with the changing fashion, Gogi uncle; especially when it comes to cellphone ringtones!

Mauja hi mauja…..announced Param chacha that he is not behind either and thoroughly enjoying the free of cost trip down south.

Tune ghori kinne charaya bhootnike…, jee karda bhai jee karda… two other ringtones belonging to the same hindi movie proudly announced their blood connection.

I felt dizzy. My father always made it a rule that we shouldn’t keep film songs as ringtones. “It disturbs everyone around.” Good that he is not present here; he would have called off the wedding by now, just for these pathetic filmy ringtones.

Think of the devil and…..you know what.

“Mrs. Sandhu, I agree to the fact that it was our idea to put you up in this houseboat but please don’t forget that it was you who called me last month and gave this brilliant idea of having the wedding in an actual forest. Haven’t I arranged everything as per your choice?”

My father was at his politest, being the father of the bride.

Mrs. Paramjit Sandhu and her namesake brother-in-law (imagine what would it be like Sita and Lakshman to have the same name in Ramayana!) were still grumpy as her wish to have a rum party at the houseboat was politely refused by the houseboat owner-cum-anchor Mr. D. Raja.

Mr. Raja aka dad bought this houseboat after retirement from his Govt. job at the income tax department. As economical as he has always been, he decided to drive it on his own; to save the excess cost of a full-time anchor. Our eldest sister Vijaya was just starting her nursing career at Birmingham that year. She was dead against this idea as she feared tourists wouldn’t know the stature of the boat anchor and may misbehave. I too objected echoing the concern. But dad was nonchalant. He achieved his life-long dream, so it was difficult to stop the high-flying man.

Vidya didn’t care either because Sandhu family had three tractors. So basically we still fell short in terms of possession of vehicles. Thankfully Punjabis are quite indifferent to the stature of the vehicle, in fact bigger the better for them.

It was obvious that dad would want to flaunt his beautiful houseboat in front of the groom’ family; so with the slightest enticing from Vidya, he became ready to welcome the baraatis at his houseboat.

But little did he know that a hurricane is approaching onboard the Jalandhar-Kochi Himsagar Express. Being extra polite dad even offered to buy flight tickets for the entire family. Initial count came to be only four hundred sixty one! When Vidya and Jaggi started fighting over the numbers and was on the verge of breaking up, negotiated count came down to three fifty five. It was still very huge and dad couldn’t afford it. Finally upon my intervention one fifty was final and only train tickets were offered. Vidya cribbed that Jaggi called us kanjoos (miser); but we ignored her.

“Look, look, elephant!” screamed little Ballu, the nine year old bonsai from the Param chacha-Daljit aunty nursery.

Amidst incessant whistles, our houseboat arrived at Thekkady Reserve Forest. Not sure if it was Jaggi’s idea or Vidya suggested it; since childhood she wanted an ‘adventurous’ and ‘dangerous’ wedding. Hope her craving for ‘adventure’ and ‘danger’ doesn’t end up claiming hundreds of lives. This reserve forest has plenty of wild animals who would relish the greasy and buttery North Indian meat.

One elephant was standing under the portico; getting ready for the Sunday drama. Jaggi gave us a heart-attack when he demanded to ride an elephant instead of the standard mare in North Indian custom. Vidya also took his side and started persuading us. We had no choice but to arrange it. After all, it was the easiest task among the lot to arrange an elephant ride in a Keralian reserve forest.

Jaggi walked past the elephant with a cautious glance, even tried to smile a bit probably to invoke a Haathi Mere Saathi or Safed Haathi style friendship. The elephant simply preferred to concentrate on her banana leaves than smiling back at the gaudily dressed dulha (groom).

We booked the entire forest lodge with its forty plus rooms for a whole week and hired a professional wedding planner from Bangalore. The team were about to arrive in a couple of hours. Hopefully we will be freed from any hustle and bustle thereafter. Dad’s friend Nair uncle recommended this wedding planner; apparently they handled Anitha’s wedding so perfectly that Nair uncle gave them an extra bonus. My family skipped Anitha’s wedding because we just couldn’t stand the sight of our family-favorite boy-next-door Murali getting married to some other girl, especially when we were struggling hard to negotiate the dowry amount. Anitha saved Nair uncle a good ten lakh in cash and kind, why shouldn’t he pay bonus to the wedding planners. Wish Vidya was as wise as Anitha!

Kukki aunty was the first to scream upon arrival.

“My phone is not working”.

I was bargaining hard with the Mahaut over initial payment for the elephant when I heard the scream. I looked up; the second floor balcony seemed to be falling down over our head with the huge weight of Kukki aunty. She was screaming bursting her lungs out. First I thought she must have been bitten by a snake; so started climbing two steps at-a-time to save her life (and the wedding, too).

Huffing and puffing I reached second floor like an expert Olympian just to find Kukki aunty weeping like a schoolgirl with the yellow phone (which was pink until few minutes back) dangling from her arm like a suicide victim’s body. It is not catching any signal! I thanked God for having me saved from the dreadful ringtones. But God smiled back at my ignorance.

I had to retrace the Olympic track of spiral staircases, this time downward and hence faster, as Gogi mama almost fainted because his Raja-rani ringtone got muted by the silence of the forest.

When I reached the ground floor, approximately one hundred voices bashed my eardrums in unison; none of the cellphones are working. Supposedly businesses worth crores were getting lost every second due to lack of signal.

Was amazed to learn so many utilities a cellphone can provide which were indeed discoveries to me – online share trading, long-distance instructions to the farmers, distant crash-course in English (probably to communicate better with us), beauty tips (for the wedding I guess) from the local beautician, cars and truck rentals over phone, and God knows what!  Everyone went mad after me, totally forgetting that it was the groom’s mom’s idea to have the wedding in the wilderness. But in absence of the head of the family, I was the easy target. For a moment, I feared to be beaten to death by this crazy mob!

Dad was not seen anywhere; has he left the arena to let me die in the hands of these frantic baraatis? No, there he is. Marching gracefully like a war-returned hero with the uniformed wedding planner team behind him; each carrying a Bluetooth-enabled-cellphone in his hand!

I thanked my far-sightedness  literally; and thought to leave the battleground well in advance before the planners discover the uselessness of their mighty communication device and their whole co-ordination fall apart.

***

The forest looms large in the night. The soft humming of the crickets, the flickers of the glow-worms, occasional chirping of few half-awake birds and the hoots of the owls reminds of our bare existence away from the cozy comfort of civilization.

The battlefield inside the bungalow is having a nightly ceasefire. Vidya slept with tears still rolling down her cheeks. Mom has arrived to comfort Vidya even though she vowed not to have any relation with ‘uneducated North Indians’; guess she forgot that she never completed her Bachelor’s degree due to lack of money while Mrs. Sandhu is a graduate from Punjab university. Vijaya arrived straight from the airport and within minutes of her arrival got involved in a nasty cat fight with Pammi aunty. She was reminded of being an English nurse, so typical for the Keralians while she lashed back at the globally famous Punjabi taxi drivers. I felt sorry for missing the last part of the fight due to a payment discussion with the wedding planner; not sure who was the final winner.

Actually ever since I saw the wedding planners arrive at the scene beaming at their previous success of smooth co-ordination achieved by means of wireless communication, I gauged the utter chaos that’s going to engulf us and like a wise captain, I left the immersing ship.

Whole day I befriended the Mahaut and got a free ride on the elephant marked for the groom. From the distance I watched the wedding planners running from pillars to post like the musicians of an uncoordinated orchestra and shouting and abusing one another. The leader was a woman in her forties, who probably started her business taking inspiration from a recent Bollywood film. I itched to advise her that neither she is young and pretty as the film’s heroine nor she has a handsome male partner. But better she gets her lesson first hand through this failed assignment. Alas, how pathetic of me! This is after all, my sister’s wedding and I shouldn’t wish it a failure.

Don’t know whether guilt or hunger or darkness brought me back to the scene.

When I returned, everyone was more or less fatigued by the day-long exposure to tension and worry for having no contact with the outside world.  The whole family (except Jaggi) looked like stranded passengers of a hijacked plane and my family members were the flight crews who had no clue on how to fix the issue but had to portray a bold look to save their jobs. Jaggi looked more tensed for the upcoming elephant ride than concerned for having no network.

I felt sorry for Vidya. All arrangements seemed to be half-baked. We spent so much of money in booking the tickets, arranging the bungalow and the elephant, recruiting the planner; but a small electronic device mocked at our gigantic arrangements.

How ironic could it be, we wanted to have the wedding in the lap of Mother Nature but couldn’t stay natural, devoid of human inventions, even for a single day!

***

I was dead asleep but the roars of thunder woke me up. It was amazing to experience the fury of nature right from its centre. Planner guys were crazily trying to remove the wedding tent that was put up in the bungalow yard. The leading lady was shouting frantically at her men failing to fight nature’s rage.

Suddenly a loud thump claimed our attention. Mrs. Sandhu was lying by the staircase writhing in pain; perhaps she was coming downstairs to witness the mess.

For a brief moment, we all froze.

It was midnight, the nearest hospital was miles away and there was no way to call the ambulance from our dead cellphones. We felt as if the ground started sliding beneath us.

Vijaya was first to recover from the shock. The nurse inside her quickly brought her into action. There was already a small pool of blood around Mrs. Sandhu. Jaggi ran screaming towards his mother. Like puppets tied to the strings, we started moving as instructed by Vijaya; bringing scissors, knives, cloths and paper towels and not knowing how bad the injury really was.

The infuriated nature continued to lash its whips in full force. Elephants’ trumpets and owls’ hooting were almost deafening now. It felt as though a herd of wild animals were approaching our bungalow, in search of food and shelter.

We were clueless on our chances to survive, especially with a bleeding patient on our back. All enmity, mockery and pride fell short in front of the naked need for survival. For the first time in life, money seemed worthless.

***

Three wild cats and a deer arrived first and took refuge at the front porch of the bungalow. Kukki aunty screamed at the sight of four pairs of glowing eyes when she peeped outside to take a stock of the torrential rain. But none of us was in a mental state to pay attention to her.

All the one hundred and fifty baraatis, fifteen wedding planners and five of us flocked at the bungalow’s large dining hall. Every face looked similar, engraved with the single question “shall we survive until tomorrow?”

Mrs. Sandhu lied unconscious on a dining table; Vijaya has only been able to stop the bleeding but wasn’t sure of any internal injuries. Jaggi was sitting beside his mother holding her hand. Vidya sat next to him. Surprisingly my mom, forgetting all her hatred towards the North Indians, was holding the other hand and mumbling prayers (or was she apologizing to the dying woman for her earlier discourtesy?). Dad was loitering frantically fidgeting on his white lungi and taking solace from Gogi Mama and Param Chacha on his sides, as if they were his dearest childhood friends.

More glowing eyes started arriving. But we became so indifferent by now that it little occurred to us if the eyes belonged to any ferocious animal. In the face of a calamity, as if all living beings started sharing an uncanny brotherhood.

***

A phone rang.

Few seconds past, we thought we were hallucinating. But can two hundred odd people hallucinate concurrently? We gave blank stares to each other to reconfirm what we have just heard.

The phone continued to ring. No fancy mobile ringtone, just plain and simple bicycle bell coming from a land line telephone.

Now it was to be searched at. Dad and I leaped to action, with Gogi mama, Param Chacha, Jasbinder et al behind us.

There it was, at the corner of the caretaker-cum-receptionist’s room. Bungalow officials offered us the service of a caretaker but my economical father declined it to save us both from an excess cost of the caretaker’s daily wage and wasting another room for the Mahaut. Whole day the phone was sitting right below our noses but we never realised it. The poor Mahaut and his elephant had little to do with the telephone and they cared less for our lack of connectivity with the outside world. We were so much into our fancy mobile devices and their tantrums; it never occurred to us that a government forest lodge ought to have a telephone connection!

Nature taught us the lessons of simplicity and importance of life in the face of death in one single blow.

***

The marriage registrar left after wishing the couple. Both the families decided against the big fat Indian wedding and had it in the simplest possible way. Hundred-plus non-related baraatis returned in the next morning flight; dad happily bought their tickets as lot of money was saved from other arrangements.  Surprisingly no one looked unhappy to go back without attending the wedding; the nocturnal adventure was too much for them! None of us were unhappy either; Sandhu family never appeared to be missing the glamour and glitz of usual North Indian weddings. Vidya and Jaggi seemed to have enjoyed the blessings of a simple priest and the dear ones more than the thousand invitees with luxurious gifts. Though Vidya will always crib about her mother-in-law watching the wedding in a laptop-webcam from the hospital bed and the absence of an elephant-rider dulha, but she is a perennial cribber nevertheless.

__END__

Creative Writing Competition 2012 India
The Wedding ‘Ring’
CRITERION MAX SCORE
Relevancy of chosen setting 20 18
Relevancy of chosen object 20 17
Significance of chosen theme 20 20
Selection and development of characters 10 8
Selection of time frame, description of place and environment 10 9
Plot of short story 10 9
Conflicts in short story 10 8
Total 100 89

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