Bursts of vibrant colors everywhere, the sound of glass bangles clinking away, display of gold ornaments, a dash of family drama and gossips, overflow of sweets and desserts, fresh roses and jasmines, heavy sarees, and yes, the shopping that doesn’t seem to end—this is how I would describe my first Indian wedding. And this is exactly how I would describe Pakistani weddings too, except that the sarees are simpler and most people prefer not to wear gold ornaments (security reasons).
Masood’s only brother got married a few days ago. Being the only daughter-in-law of the family, I was brought along on each shopping excursion. The air-conditioned boutiques were fun, the suffocating shops at Char Minar were not. The famous Hyderabadi biryani was fun, the summer heat was not. Cold glasses of lassi kept me alive.
Attending a family wedding without henna is a crime. For the ladies, that is. And being a bride without henna on both hands and feet is an even bigger crime warranting six months of community service and a month in jail. That’s an exaggeration, of course. What isn’t an overstatement is that henna is compulsory for ladies.
I found myself a nice lady in the neighborhood to apply my henna. She was deeply fascinated by the fact that I am from Karachi, so much so that she asked if she could keep the henna design, that I brought along with me, as a memento. I was her first Pakistani customer. It took her almost three hours to apply the designs on both my hands and feet. By the time I returned home, I already knew her entire family history; educational, marital and medical background; and information on some of her neighbors.
I took random shots of the girls’ henna designs later that evening…
Although the women in Karachi are scared to wear their gold ornaments for fear of getting robbed, the women in Hyderabad are safe to wear their precious jewelries. In fact, I noticed that it is common for women to wear all their gold jewelry they’d ever owned in a single go. Before leaving Dubai, Masood presented me a long gold necklace to wear with my saree. It is the heaviest piece of jewelry I’d ever owned, and frankly, I think I looked ridiculous wearing it. It’s just not me. I prefer delicate ornaments. But as the wife of a Hyderabadi, I needed to show my bling or else women guests might conclude that my husband isn’t earning well. Or that he doesn’t buy me anything. Or that we’ve gotten poor (specially since everyone knows how Dubai is suffering after the recession).
What I do love is the gorgeous set of Hyderbadi bangles shown below. It is adorned with stones and glitters beautifully.
Let’s not discuss the total cost incurred for the wedding; I guess the groom is still recovering from that. But the little girls (sisters of the bride) earned themselves some cash the night before the wedding, when they all came over to our house to pull the groom’s finger. Some pulled his entire hand, but that’s besides the point. We knew they were coming, so we turned off all the lights and closed the doors, but the kiddos managed to climb up the gate and enter the house. Masood tried to sweet-talk the young ones, but they were persistent and unwavering. And by 2 AM, they finally left with their cash. It’s a tradition they like to follow here. This is a common practice in Pakistan too.
It wasn’t easy and many said it was impossible, but we were able to pull off a segregated wedding reception, where there were separate male and female serving staff. We hired both a male and a female videographer. I was the only photographer. And just after the wedding documents were signed by the bride, Nikon fell off my lap and hit my toe before landing on the ground. The edge of the lens hit a blood vessel so it took sometime for the bleeding to stop, but I was grateful because otherwise the lens would’ve been broken. That is expensive; my toe healed for free.
Also, there’s the meher. The marriage contract includes a meher—a formal statement specifying the monetary amount the groom will give the bride. Both Masood and his brother gave the specified (and agreed-upon) amount then and there, immediately after signing the marriage contract, just like how it’s supposed to be. I mention this because I noticed that it has become a common practice for grooms to specify a large amount on the contract as meher, but do not actually give the cash to their wives. It’s like a show, where the groom displays his generosity to the guests by declaring that he’s giving so and so amount. But the bride does not receive it. Ever.
And then there’s the heavy garland of fresh roses and jasmines. The groom was lucky, but the bride was literally covered in flowers! In the pictures below, I was putting the garland on the poor bride, who was suffocating while the groom looks on. It’s a tradition. As the older daughter-in-law, it was my duty and obligation to smother the air out of the younger daughter-in-law’s respiratory system. It symbolizes my love for the new family member.
PS: For all those who are concerned about the new bride – she’s fine and happy, and has totally forgotten about the entire floral torture that was inflicted upon her.