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     Volume 4 Issue 28 | January 7, 2005 |

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Neeman Sobhan

(N.B: I know, I know that in pronouncing the word 'Wednesday' the 'D' is silent, and in straining towards a visual pun, I have forced the word 'wed' to act as the link between the two words in the title. My apologies. Sometimes the transcribed word has a life of it's own, existing on paper separate from its spoken version; and I am hoping my readers normally read soundlessly, with their eyes, in which case they will 'see' the pun and not hear the error!)

It was a Wednesday. Or, was it a Tuesday? Anyway, even if I am not sure which day I'm thinking of, the one thing I am certain of is that in the week of weddings I have faced since I arrived in Dhaka, that was the one day which was wedding-free! It was a wedding-less day, a wonderful Wedless day. We checked and re-checked the social calendar. "Are you sure, there is no wedding related event either, some holud-tolud, biyer gaaner-aashor tashor?" I warily ask my pet social animal, my extrovert husband, before I sigh with relief. "It's true," he says glumly, "the calendar is absolutely unmarked. How did that happen?" While he frowns over this social error, I tie my hair up into a pony tail, drag on a pair of well worn jeans and steal off to sit on my lake-facing balcony to finally enjoy the pre-sunset glow.

The day I landed in Dhaka in the early evening hours on a much delayed Biman flight, I hit the ground running. I had been warned by my husband about the wedding/reception we were to attend that evening, so I came prepared like a quick-change artist and within an hour of my entering my apartment I had changed into my sari and baubles and been sucked into the fairy land of glamorous Dhaka weddings. I have actually arrived at the fag end of the season for serial weddings and yet I am already all wedded out!

There is no doubt that attending weddings, apart from the pleasure of witnessing the children of friends getting married, is the most efficient way to see scores of friends and family under one roof. But after the initial hugging and 'helloing' I feel that though I have sampled the buffet of human contacts, I have merely killed my appetite without satisfying fully my hunger for renewing friendships. Metaphorically and nutritionally speaking, I normally avoid snacks, preferring proper meals; in my social life too, I like the wholesome feeling of spending quality time with friends and family on a one-to-one or meaningful contexts than the encounters, which involve superficial social niceties and empty promises of 'we must get together', repeated ad nauseam in one evening.

The Winter social season is fun in some ways but not in other ways. It is great for interactions on a grand scale, but poor on individual relationships. Operating on a set with a cast of thousands requires special skills and stamina. I had them quite well honed for years, but in recent times I find them rusted. I prefer smaller productions, the home movie versions of relationships and friendships. Exhibiting oneself, displaying ones finery is enjoyable every now and then, but when it becomes a continuous parade, a daily catwalk, exhaustion sets in. I have merely been into the wedding scene for less than a week, and already dyspepsia of the spirits is showing up. I want solitude, I want a quiet evening with a few people. I want long adda sessions. I want an evening when cosmetics and high heels are exiled and one can sit cross legged on the carpet chatting.

And that is what we did on the Wedless day. A few of our friends who also found themselves relatively free came over and we ate pizza and talked around a noisy table. In the end we discussed the wedding season too. Among some of the ideas that were aired was the art of attending multiple marriage ceremonies in one day. This, obviously, seemed fine for the guests but not for the hosts. One person who had recently thrown a reception for her child's wedding was aghast that people should accept invitations and then blithely leave without staying for dinner because they had another party to attend. "But do they not realize that I am paying for every plate at the table?" It truly is inconsiderate of guests when they agree to come to a reception at a public venue like a multiple-star hotel where the charge for every seat at the dinner table is exorbitant. I believe social courtesy and consideration demands that people decide from before which invitation they will eat at before they flit to the next one, and inform their hosts so that they can include or exclude them from the food list.

Gift-giving is another topic. I maintain that in a city which is so receptive to innovative ideas especially when it comes to weddings, the American idea of leaving gift certificates for the bridal couple at some chosen stores in the city (like furniture, carpet, porcelain or appliance shops or even art galleries) where an account could be set up for the couple who could at their leisure buy items of their choice there would ease the problem for both giver and receiver. The giving of money is a provisional solution but not a graceful one. In my hesitation to using this solution, I actually am guilty of having attended many a wedding where my husband and I have not given a couple anything but our blessing and an invitation for the couple to come and spend a holiday in Rome with us! This has happened a few times and we have lavished our love and attention on our visitors in ways that money could not buy. Maybe I should slip such an invitation (of 'kind' and not 'cash') and give this to the next bridal couple!

I am amazed at the ingenuity of the present day wedding organizers. I have attended some delightful and entertaining weddings in Dhaka, with elaborate themes and exquisite decorations. The only reservation I have is that they seem to happen all at once, go on for days and that they set up a spirit of competition that can be wasteful. I am a visitor and have enjoyed witnessing the style and panache of both the glamorous weddings and the simple but elegant ones. Yet, somewhere in my heart, I pine for the understated and small family weddings of the past too. Why doesn't someone use that as a theme: a sort of Retro perspective, the 'ghoroa' wedding of the 60's and 70's? It could become popular enough to become the accepted norm once again!

Wedlessday passes too quickly. My friends have left; there are pizza crumbs and salad bits on the table; and still so much to chat about. Tomorrow I have to take my pony tail to the hairdresser. Let me linger a moment longer on my balcony. The lake shimmers, and there is a small boat with a sleeping boatman drifting on it. (Hmmm... maybe a rural wedding theme, with boats and guests wearing cotton saris and the gentlemen in colourful lungis? )

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