Baraat

In an Indian wedding, the sisters of the bride traditionally make a lot of trouble for the groom. I like Gautam. We have enough rapport that I already know he’ll be game — so I’m all in.

My understanding is, the parents are negotiating the wedding, the bride’s brothers are making sure he’s able to provide, but the sisters — they’re making him pay for taking the bride away from them.

Literally, according to my informants.

Throughout the wedding events, I’ve been dancing, meeting new relatives, generally joining in. When they find out I’m the sister of the bride, cousins and aunts pull me aside:

“Do you know, you are supposed to steal the shoes.”

There are official roles for the bride’s sister — tying together the scarves of the bride and groom at the altar, for example — but it’s clear that this is the role everybody is excited about.

The way it works is, the groom processes up the street — the Baraat — to the entrance of the bride’s home (or in this case, the hotel). The sisters block the way with a ribbon until he pays an extortionate sum. Then he meets the bride — she has her own procession — and they go up to the Pheras. They have to take their shoes off to enter the sacred space and get officially married (there is a priest, and a fire, and involvement from both sides’ parents and siblings). But by the time the ceremony ends, the groom’s shoes are missing, and he has to haggle down another extortionate price to get them back.

Now, we’re interpreting everything a bit liberally. I’m one of the “brothers”, for example, holding up one of the four posts of the canopy Dana processes under. Jack and Andre also join Ryan in that brother role; she only has the one brother. “Sisters” is going to be even more liberal. Cousins, friends, sister in law — we’ll need all the help we can get.

But asking the groom for money isn’t interesting. What’s interesting is making Gautam sweat a bit.

There’s a schedule printed on the wedding program, but all the times are incorrect. Nobody knows where to be, when, so the Baraat is fast-approaching the entrance while Eileen and I are just getting to the head of the line for hairdos.

We rush down to the entryway, Andre and Jack helping to try and figure out who should be where. Kari and I can buy time by blocking the doorway with a symbolic yellow ribbon, but Eileen has to be there too to give him a blessing once we let him in.

It’s a scramble, but the Baraat fits in several extra dance numbers, Gautam at the center of all of them.

At last, Gautam approaches the entrance. I turn to Kari.

“What do you think, should we let him in?”

“I think he has to prove himself,” she replies.

This is preplanned; she has ribbon-cutting scissors hidden behind her back.

“I think he needs to show that he loves my sister enough,” I rejoin.

The groom’s family is ready; I’m seeing bills being pulled out. They know the drill. But I’m armed with the perfect alternative suggestion from his friends: “I think he’s going to have to sing a song.”

“Really?” Gautam’s eyes are big. He looks at his brother, who just smile back, in on my plans to change things up. The rest of the groom’s family is intrigued.

“Yeah. You have to prove your love by singing a sappy love song, loud enough that Dana can hear it. Do you all agree?”

The groom’s side fully sells him out, roaring agreement immediately.

Gautam tries to stall, but it’s clear he’s not getting out of this, so he launches in:

“You fill up my senses…”

Kari and I motion: “louder!”

He belts. “Like night in a forest…”

We didn’t prepare him at all for this, so he doesn’t have all the lyrics. But I know this song, so I help him out.

Dana, unseen, is hiding on a balcony above, enjoying our torture of her beloved.

We let him off easy with just one verse; the crowd wants to make it to the pheras while the light is still good for photos. But Kari, proffering the scissors, can’t resist: “You want these?”

He reaches. She lifts them out of his grasp. “Whoops, too slow!”

But we let him in. We know there’s more to come.

To be continued…

Previous: Haldi | Next: Pheras

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Kelsey Breseman

Kelsey Breseman

An adventurer, woodland creature, and engineer. Currently working on data ownership models, environmental accountability, and intentional community.