The Evolution of WMDs

"Blessings only" is the blessing that has been the best blessing in the blessed season of WMDs—Weddings and Marriages of December. As an engineer I am black and white—at the wedding venue I queue up with all the others who have disregarded the last line of the invitation card. My turn comes and the person receiving gifts looks at me expectantly. I close my eyes, murmur a prayer under my breath and blow a little air ("foo dewa") towards the dais where the bride and groom are sitting. I am sure the person murmurs something under his breath, the content of which are not fit for print.

It's not that I'm a cheap skate. It's just that I believe in a warranty period. I do give the gift, but after the first born or the fifth wedding anniversary of the wedded couple, whichever comes first. For that is somewhat of an assurance that the matrimony will not be seeking alimony. I vividly remember racing to the airport to give the newly-weds cash dollars as gift as they leave for their new lives in the US, only to later discover that the marriage lasted three months.

Coming back to the invitation card. There is now a small baby card accompanying the main wedding card (which is sometimes more than a card—a box, a stick, a bazooka….). "Apologies for not delivering the card in person." About time! Given Dhaka traffic and the current volume of guests in today's WMDs, delivering the invitation card in person at every guest's house would require starting the process when the bride/groom is in diapers.

The practicality of today's WMDs don't end here. Gone are the Haji Muhammad Mohsin Chaan Mia Decorator's folding wooden chairs. Those who are old enough to remember, also remembers with agony that these chairs come with a set of fangs, for there is no one who has not been pinched on the behind by these chairs. And statistically, there was at least one at every one of those weddings of yester-years—the ear piercing dhopash! One of the chairs would always give in—breaking down with its payload landing on the ground, followed by expletives from the victim you would never have otherwise expected.

As a nation tuned to forming associations for every conceivable reason, I am sure there was the VODCA—Victims Of Decorator Chairs Association, which successfully mandated the introduction of 3rd generation chairs with no moving parts—plastic if on budget or fancy ones with cushions.

But no matter what, 20 percent of these 3G chairs are not lucky enough to get the warmth of that part of the human body where the sun does not shine. For the fancily decorated round table has ten chairs occupied by Mr and Mrs Omar, Mr and Mrs Akbar, Mr and Mrs Anthony, a handkerchief, a set of keys, a bag and a mobile phone. The last occupant is closely guarded by the owner as phones at weddings tend to grow legs and walk away. As I sheepishly come to this table to satiate my hunger, I humbly ask: "Is there anyone sitting here?" I am met with a series of non-verbal responses:

"Not you again! You cheap…not bringing gifts! You were right in front us of at the gift queue!"

"Can't you see the chairs are 'occupied'?"

As the adamant me still sticks around, the response from the settlers takes a verbal (and stern) shape:

"These seats are taken."

No "sorry". Interestingly, many a times, those four chairs remain occupied by Mr Key, Ms Hanky, Ms Bag and Mr Mobile who happily share their chicken roasts with the Omars, Akbars and Anthonies.

The roasts are consumed not by hand, but with forks and knives. Having kachchee biriyani with silverware is like taking a shower with your rain-coat on. But gotta go with the times—can't really pour water on our plates to rinse them and then dispose the water off under the table as the evolution of WMDs have replaced soil with cement. And thank goodness for that, for heaven knows how many weddings I had come home from with drenched shoes. And what I also don't miss is the traumatic exercise of washing my hand after dinner where a small army of well-dressed men (the hand washing ritual is gender-separated) are literally engaged in hand-to-hand combat to take possession of that precious quarter of a Nirala Ball Shaban (soap) as we all stand in front of the idol called a drum full of water and a basin that is merely one step larger than a tea cup. And the cup-basin somehow always has constipation, for the basin is now three quarters full of water with barely enough space in between the pond and the tap to fit a hand. And the flotsam of the pond containing kachchee fat, pieces of mutton bones and spit (contributed by the few fortunate to have been able to get their heads within proximity of the basin) puts the waters of Buriganga to shame.

Amidst the fray, the soap gets no chance to take a breather to clean itself in the water flow from the tap while changing hands. By the time I get the soap, I get as a bonus the remnants from the hands of 15 others. Disgusted that we, the well dressed and groomed, couldn't simply form a line, I add a small step between handing the soap over to the next fittest who has survived the battle—I "accidentally" drop the soap into the pool of oily-boney-fatty water. "Oops! Sorry!!" For once, I am a remorseless liar…

I have run out of my 1,000 word-limit. The evolution of WMDs continues. Meanwhile, go catch some kachchee with "blessings only"…

Naveed Mahbub is an engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA and CEO of IBM & Nokia Siemens Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla's The Naveed Mahbub Show and the founder of Naveed's Comedy Club. E-mail: [email protected]

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