I've consistently hated the idea of weddings/ social functions/ gatherings all my life. Mostly attending them, partly the extravagance they constitute.
The reasons varied with age ...
As a gawky adolescent,
I was the ugliest 13 year old I'd set my eyes on (Yes, ALL 13 year old girls feel that way about themselves). For this precise reason I'd hate going to weddings. I'd look like the ugly duckling amidst the pretty swans that seemed to get prettier as I only got uglier with every passing social event.
Add to that, I unwittingly had the worst taste in clothes back then, and didn't really know how to smile for the camera (Really, it's an art form to find ones 'photoface' - I didn't find mine until 24!)
Between the ages of 13 and 21,
I discovered a new weapon that would serve as my excuse, no questions asked - "I have studies to do/ A test coming up/ Exams in a month's time/ Classes for XYZ" and so on. Needless to say, in my tam bram family that invariably treats academic credentials with unwavering awe and respect, this was one excuse no one could turn down - EVER.
The only hitch was that my logical yet untactful approach had amma subject to questions such as "Is she the ONLY one studying? Aren't there other kids in the family who study? Aren't they here? What's so special about her eh?" and she'd come back home to replay them to me hoping I'd at least share some of her discomfort if not assuage it.
"Poor amma", I decided. Not fair to be putting her through this. Not to say I decided to change my non attending ways, I just decided to give her something unique to "excuse" her daughter with no lame questions to be fielded. I studied even harder, tried to compensate for what I lacked by way of personality and social grace with my marks.
I spent 14 hour days studying for the board exams (really, I did, no exaggeration meant), and consequently my mom was armed with a series of "merit list" labels and school/ city ranks to take back to the extended family. This seemed to put everyone at rest, coz finally this girl who skipped functions seemed to have something to show for it.
Of course, the flip side was when I did decide to attend a function every once in a rare while, the only way I now got introduced was "Hey isn't this is that Unpredictable girl who was Nth in the merit list in Class X, Pth in the Merit list in class 12, now studying in (insert name of top engineering college in city)? smart girl this. My son/ daughter is preparing for the boards. Can he/she call you for tips?"
It did get pretty tiring sometimes, but was a blessing compared to the "Oh, you're so tall, how will we find you a boy to marry" / "So how long before you get married" questions the other girls seemed to have coming their way". So I played the part of "gyaan guru" the best I could. After all, if there was only so long my academics could distract them, might as well make the best of it no?
In my 20's
I moved out of home to another city to experience b school life. By this time, people had pretty much stopped asking about me, assuming my nose was buried in my books, this time in a new city. My mum was relieved too, and seemed calmer about the idea of me having disappeared off the radar. Her pride had always been genuine, only now, it wasn't mixed with the anxiety of "OMG, if she doesn't attend anyone's wedding, who will attend hers". Happily enough, she evolved with her kids, putting inane fears behind her and not just letting us be, but also enjoying her share of social gatherings without letting the awareness of our absence bother her.
Living through b school, however, did something rather unexpected to me. It brought along a renewed interest in the festivals and traditions of my country and specifically my state, thanks to the many many festivals we seemed to celebrate on campus. Somehow, when the knowledge came without the pressure of "you NEED to know this cause it's our culture", it sounded more captivating than anything amma had ever tried to teach me.
Every time I called mum to tell her something new I'd learned about a wedding ritual or a festival, she'd be pleasantly surprised. I even started to try and keep track of weddings in the family and promised I'd attend as many "happy" occasions as possible.
What I hadn't counted on as having the ability to put me off them all over again, was everyone's inability to enjoy these social events, without letting the need for perfection and weird sense of competition getting to them. You know what I mean? It's shameful to say, but we even encountered relatives who had petty cribs like "You didn't seem to appreciate the arrangements at my son's wedding, how come you're being so appreciative at her daugther's? *sulk, pout, sulk*". Yeah, I know!!!
I was off weddings again.
Until Mogambo invited me to hers.
I visited her family last weekend as she landed in Chennai. Unknown to her, I was already there on work, and simply extended my stay to the weekend to ensure I had 2 days with her. Apart from the slight abberation where she screamed bloody murder at the airport on seeing me (cause, emm, she didn't know I would even be in the country) and made her in-laws to be gape in shock at the devil their DIL was turning out to be, the trip was the most awesome prelude to a wedding I've ever encountered. :-) (Oh yeah, the wedding's only next week!)
Her family exudes joy and cheer, the likes of which I haven't encountered in a long time!!! They're there for each other, they make each other laugh through the pressure and they have the camaraderie of childhood friends - backslapping and making jokes whether or not the occasion presents itself. And this isn't just her parents, this is her extended family, aunt's, uncles and the lovely cousins :-)
For the first time ever, I feel terrible not being part of pre wedding prep for more than 2 days :(
I miss being around them, and cannot wait to be there for the wedding. What's even cooler, is they ask about me and every time I call to speak to Mogambo, there's atleast 2 other people I end up speaking with - an aunt, her mom, a cousin - always someone - always telling me how much they're waiting to have me back there. :D
For the 1st time ever, I'm looking forward to a wedding when it has so little to do with me :) Despite my looming work deadlines. Despite the crazy confusion of my own personal life. Despite the fact that it has no reunions with my own parents or brother involved.
Really, close knit families that inspire so much in a cynic like me ought to be something. :D Here's counting the days to Wednesday ...