Mona says

08/15/05 – Manja / Mayoon

I’d already been in India 10 days now and, one tragedy later and four days to go to the wedding, I was a nervous wreck. I’d just settled on my wedding dress. I already had my jewelry and when everyone was asleep, I’d lie awake, imagining my wedding day. I hoped and prayed that I’d look my best. Because of the stress I already had a few zits and you know the more you worry, the more you fuss, the worse they get, so I pretty much left them alone. And tried not to worry about it all too much. 

The morning started off, as normal as could be, so normal that I don’t remember it at all. I had an appointment with the salon, Lakme early afternoon and I was preoccupied with that. I returned from the salon, having decided on how my hair and make up would be done and confirming my appointment, to find the house one big flurry of activity. Everyone including the kids was occupied with something or the other. I went into the main room to find my mom, 3 aunts and a cousin – all married, mind you, on a red mat, with a red string around their hands linking them together, grinding turmeric into powder. They were singing these old folk tunes, which I couldn’t remember now, even at gunpoint. The kids joined in with the bits they knew and the general atmosphere was jolly – other aunts not in the circle sat around singing, clapping in time to the songs. In another room, the kids were blowing balloons, decorating the room where I was to be house-arrested for the next four days.  

Once the turmeric powder was ready, the women each had to recite a little sher or poetry using their husband’s names. A typical one would go something like this,

Four plus five equals nine

(insert hubby’s name here) is mine and only mine. 

This was hilarious, because as you know, very few women of the older generation actually address their husbands by their given names. There were a lot of protests and giggles and teasing and finally we were ready to start the manja / mayoon festivities. 

I was then asked to change into my haldi suit, a pretty yellow and green shalwar kameez, my mom wore for her haldi. A relic from the old times – I was seated in the centre of the room and every female member of the house fed me some dessert (laddoos, gulab jamuns or pedas) before applying some of the turmeric paste on my face, hands and neck. Once everyone got done, started the real fun – armed with turmeric paste, people smeared anyone and everyone around. There was so much laughter, screaming and fun! 

I was taken away half way by the same women who ground the turmeric for my ritual bath, after being scrubbed all over with the paste. I was taken into the bathroom, and asked to clean up. I showered and was asked to wrap around a towel, keep my eyes shut and open the door. The happily married women or suhagans poured a mug of water each on me. Here I am, nude with only a towel around me, eyes shut, worried that someone was taking pictures of me like that. My mom was the last to go and I was supposed to see her first as I opened my eyes.  

This was the end of the family-members-only rituals.

Somebody slipped in a cassette of really old hindi wedding songs into the cassette player and kids joined in where they knew bits. 

I was dressed in my gold-orange manja / mayoon outfit and made to wear flowers in my hair, on my hands… sweet-scented jasmines everywhere.

Traditionally, green is a color reserved for the mehendi and the yellow for the haldi, so everyone was dressed in yellow and everything was yellow! I was also instructed to not step out of the designated room alone. This is because of an age-old belief that girls in their manja / mayoon stage are more vulnerable to evil spirits. 

The whole sweet, haldi paste thing happened again, only this time with everyone else and I even ended up getting some pre-wedding gifts. Got a gold ring, some pretty silver anklets and some cash. This ceremony is the official beginning of the house arrest.

After this particular ceremony, I wasn’t allowed to leave the house at all, for anything. 

Later that evening, family, paternal and paternal came to visit with me. My last few days of singledom, in my mom’s house. So many thoughts and emotions – it was a whirlwind of the two.

I was really enjoying being the very centre of attention.

Just as the day began winding down, and I was ready to crash for the night, my uncles’ arrived with the nikah (marriage contract) papers to be signed. I had no idea this would be done a few days before the actual event would take place in the mosque where my husband would put his signature on the document and we would officially be married.

To this day, I tease Z, that I married him three days before he married me. Technically, I did get married on the 15th.

Anyways, seeing the actual document, feeling it in my hands just made the wedding so real. Until now, it was a fairy-tale thing, I was enjoying the attention, the love, the events and this brought home the fact this isn’t about just the wedding, but about the marriage.

About spending my life with this one person, for the rest of my life. It seemed insanse to be taking this decision by just putting my signature on a piece of paper that made no sense to me (it was in urdu). I took a few minutes to remember why I was marrying Z, the conversations we’d had during our engagement and everything I knew about him.

My uncle acting as my legal representative asked me if this was what I wanted and he made me do it it thrice, the typically filmi way. I couldn’t stop laughing, it was all to surreal.

That done, I said, bismillah, put my faith in Allah SWT and signed the paper.

Whatever tiredness and doubt I was feeling evaporated and part of the night was spent in eager conversation with my parents and sister.

I lay thinking about the next few days to come as my family went to bed.

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