|Weddings in Guwahati: then and now|
Pabitra Kr Chaudhuri
Blessed were the days when Guwahati was a small and friendly town and weddings in Guwahati were sober and dignified with observation of religious rites and music by the local band party. The invitation letters were generally hand-delivered with traditional pan and betel nuts. Residences not being in far-flung areas, a bicycle was good enough to deliver the invitation letters and, in many cases, just walking did suffice. Ahead of the wedding day, samiana was put up with bamboos, tarpaulin sheets and walls were created with tennis screens borrowed from Gauhati Club or India Club, if you were influential. Otherwise, the four sides were kept open or at best covered by bamboo fencing. Generally, receptions began in the afternoon and went on till the evening. Mostly luchi-bhaji and dahi-cheera were served as staple dishes for the reception. A mithaiwalla was generally commissioned to make sweets at home.
The interiors of a marriage hall in Guwahati
There was no buffet system then. Desks and benches were brought from nearby schools after the classes were over. The bridegroom was simply attired in dhoti-kurta and the bride used to wear clothes woven at home.
But today, the scene is different. Guwahati has become a big city and invitees are spread over far-flung areas. Yet it is customary that they have to be invited personally by one of the parents accompanied by a close relative. This indeed is a serious operation needing all the lessons of operational research. Yet many a time, some invitees’ addresses remain untraceable and when they come to know about the marriage later, they are offended.
Three important angles are involved in the wedding ceremony in Guwahati today. Invitations cards have to be of high standard. Most of these are printed in Delhi or Mumbai. Along with the invitations cards, even packets of sweets and dry fruits are also presented. It has been observed that many households preserve such costly cards for their future needs.
Next comes decoration. There is no end to the expenditures on this account. Any amount spent is too little. The showcasing of opulence and luxury has to compare favourably with the weddings arranged by their peers earlier. The decoration must make an inedible mark in the minds of their peers including those from the ‘kitty party, which has become quiet a vehicle for the social climbers. Along with this, the choice of a proper Marriage Hall is mandatory and it has to above the ordinary cut. The upper strata of the society have to go for expensive marriage halls like Bhabendra Aloy, Zakia’s Palace, Jonaki Kareng, etc.
The next important chore is the food, which has to be of top most quality with imported fruits and vegetables being served and, indeed, it has to be unparalleled .Today, the chef is also very important and he has to be a known name.
It is not very far off when the bridegroom will come riding on a horse back with ladies of all age groups dancing along. Such will be the future of weddings in Guwahati and the society needs to see the writing on the wall.