A usual, comfortable-yet-chilly spring evening on the suburbs of the city of Satna, two young men in their mid-twenties are riding a customized Royal Enfield on the main-RCC village road. The driver is a well-built Rajput guy over six feet in height and having thick moustache and beard. They ride for a while before they reach a blockade where a truck is stuck diagonally on the narrow road because of a Mahindra Scorpio parked on the left side of the road and the drainage system which has been recently dug up, the debris piled on the right.

The rider of the bike reaches closest to the truck and shouts something in the local dialect to the truck driver, and within moments, the truck straightens itself and moves forward. The Royal Enfield begins again, crosses the Scorpio parked beside the road and the two goon-like men standing in front of it, who wave at the bike rider, smile and shout in their local dialect, to which he responds as he prepares to overtake the truck from the narrow patch of road on the left of it.

He pulls the throttle, but another bike from the opposite side comes in the way and he has to brake. Then he pulls again and a cow comes in this time. Meanwhile, the truck is slowly moving forward, oozing out dust clouds on the faces of the several bike riders who have collected behind it and are now trying to get ahead of it somehow. The rider of the Royal Enfield notices a narrow spot on the road ahead before anyone else, a very little space between a parked bike and the approaching truck. He pulls the throttle.

The Royal Enfield roars.

He pulls again, this time the bike roaring just beside the truck, covered in the cloud of dust. It reaches the rear tyres of the truck, crosses a parked bike and being perfectly maneuvered, narrowly escapes colliding into the massive tyres inches away, and the next second, they are zooming past all the vehicles and the clear road beyond the truck. 

The pillion is me.

We reach a shop a minute later and then another to find a bundle of jute rope. The second shop, whose owner says he has some rope which could work as an alternative, is situated at a spot from where a very magnificent panoramic view of the three factories – BIRLA, Satna Cement and Cable works glowing with all their colorful tiny dots in the night sky, is visible. We take a small bundle of thin nylon rope and ride back home.

On our way back, with the wind wiping my face, I look at all the progress and development work in the village, my head filled with ideas about the renovation of our own ancestral home – the two hundred plus years old Bardadeeh Garhi. I look at the man driving the Royal Enfield. Anu Dada. Anu Dada’s elder brother is Atul Dada, who is the bridegroom-to-be.

As we reach Garhi, I look at the huge field in front of it and all the parked vehicles – several cars and dozens of bikes. Closer to the main door under a huge tree, there’s a bonfire and all the elderly of the family, the neighbors and some other relatives, men in their thirties to those in their seventies are sitting in chairs circling the fire and chatting over chai. Someone talks loudly and a sudden burst of laughter is heard among them. I get down the bike and Anu Dada asks me to deliver the rope inside, while he begins talking to two other young men of the family who are standing away from the group of elders.

I reach the big courtyard, climbing a couple of flights of stairs, walking past storming kids & notorious cousins and beautiful sisters & aunts who are preparing for a little ceremony from the many millions, probably billions of traditional things done before a Rajput marriage. Several ladies of the house are sitting in a group, playing Dholak-Manjeera and singing wedding songs. Another group of women is sitting on chairs, chatting and supervising the ‘mandap’ construction.

Weddings are such nice things, aren’t they? They bring together the entire family and everyone is happy. Or maybe I feel so because I find myself a bit more closer to my family, my extended family, the reason them being my closest friends as my upbringing and my schooling done in a different city have left me with not many friends in my hometown. So I have another reason to cherish these days while I still can.

Now let me begin again, this time from the beginning for anyone who isn’t well aware of the things I am telling. The Garhi Bardadeeh Parivaar is a very reputed and wealthy Rajput family in the city of Satna, a strictly endogamous community and a pure bloodline of Rajputs since generations. Almost all of the relatives are from local villages within the district where the men of the family have been married over the years. So the men sitting around the fire are Parihars, Chauhans, Gaharwars, and other Rajputs, but mostly Baghels – the title of my family.

Little do I know about the history of my great grandfathers and there isn’t much documentation available, but before I begin investigating, I have already analyzed from what I’ve heard and observed around, that my ancestors came from Gujarat and settled here centuries ago. They had migrated during the Mughal times, came here, fought and won over the local leaders, or obtained and divided several villages among brothers and cousins because of which a lot of villages even today have a particular Rajput clan as the majority. The ‘Ilaakas’ and the ‘Ilaakedars’.

Our family values and ethos have made us able to remain close together, several uncles, aunts, cousins and grand parents. Because of the dozens of youngsters this current mix of two generations has, so many of us that it is almost impossible to get everyone together at the same time and in the same frame, we witness a couple of marriages every year on average. This time, it’s Atul dada, first.

The head count of the Tilak ceremony, which was organized only a day before today, reached well beyond 5000. An orchestra played on stage several old and new classics, while the Tilak ceremony was performed by the family Purohit and many other Brahmin Pundits within the traditional boundaries. Post-Tilak, while everyone was having dinner, vehicles were lined outside the function area in a dense and closely packed jam. Already hundreds of vehicles in parking and thousands of people having dinner, the family went on the dance floor as the dj began to spin (or simply play in this case). We all danced until 2:30 AM before going home in sweat drenched jackets, coats and sweaters.

But even after so many preparations since days, the usual discrepancies occurred. But then again, that’s the essence of every function; a problem in which all the brothers and the young men of the family stand shoulder-to-shoulder to defend the honor and pride of the family name, ladies work days and nights with little or almost no sleep, disrupted diet and body-breaking physical and mental work besides supervising a massive work force of labourers, decorators and cooks on several levels. Everyone is happy to have come together once again, leaving their jobs and their far-off settlements for a while to just lunch & dine together, crack jokes and make memories and be with their kin and kind.

Don’t we need such reasons to be happy every once in a while? Because a few things will always be beyond reason. And for me, my family is one of them. I just hope everyone chooses to be happy in each other’s presence and clear all the differences.

The Baarat leaves in a couple of days for Umariya district, and more is still to come.