‘बरही 32’ read the milestone. The solitary car whizzed past the tall trees in the darkness, moonlight shining bright above, illuminating the thicket beyond the edge of its headlights. The forests of Tala looked ghostly in the dark, the tyndall hopping playfully on the bed of fallen crisp-dry spring leaves. Not a single gust of wind stirred the jungle except for the passing of the lonely vehicle. The car on the straight asphalt road sliced through the forest like a saw slicing through a thick log of wood, or a bullet pricking through the flesh.

Another milestone. A lonely hut in the distance. Few signboards. A couple of deers crossing the road. Wait, what? WHAT?! WHAT THE FURS ARE THOSE REAL DEERS? YES YES, THEY ARE! WOAH MAN!

And that is how my first sighting of deers roaming free in the wild was. A couple of young deers with tiny horns, one on each end of the road were trying to cross when we approached and they fled into the darkness of the jungle. The view lasted only a few seconds but it is still registered in my visual memory with such clear and vivid details, I can draw a picture of the whole scene. And I know it will stay there for as long as possible.

The Baraat had left Garhi around 4:45 pm for Umariya district situated 130 kilometers from Satna and ours was one of the first few vehicles to leave. The marriage bands were playing, youngsters were dancing, women were singing and performing arti-pujan while men waited for signals for the departure of the Baraat. As the cars began leaving one-by-one, there was an hour of daylight left and still more than a couple of hours for us to reach the jungles around the Bandhavgarh national park, through which we were supposed to reach Umariya. Everyone was excited at the thought of it, to watch wild animals while crossing through the park. I was a little sad, though, because I knew that when we reach the park, the available light won’t allow my phone camera to click any good pictures, if in case we get lucky. But when I finally got to see them, I was glad I didn’t bother taking out my camera.

We reached the cute little town of Umariya, took our refreshments and the Baraat began getting ready. Heavy suits, chunri-print Saafas, the grandeur of Rajputana attire – all packed in a procession accompanied by road lights, loud baraati-dance music and fireworks headed towards the place of the  greatest significance of all the hustle. Now I would like to mention one thing, here, that all the Rajput marriages that I have been to (most of them in my family) the record for the Baraat to reach the ‘Dwarchaar’ is still around 12:00 AM. And the record was maintained here, as well. Haha!

So, we all danced our way from the ‘Janwaas’ to the marriage garden and reached around 12:30, which was followed by the ‘Dwarchaar’, dinner and ‘Jaymaala’. Only a few hundred people were left, including the family on both sides, because it was already quite late and the invitees had had their dinner and went back home. My left knee had been troubling me again for the past few days because of all the exertion all of us had subjected ourselves to in the excitement of the wedding, this night to be precise. And when it was finally here, I was limping in front of the band party with the elderly men instead of dancing with the young ones of my generation. Ugh!

Everything was over by 2:30 AM and we went back to our hotels to get some rest and prepare for the main wedding rituals which are performed at night. I fell down on the bed exhausted around 3:30 and experienced a fragmented sleep until 4:30, when we got up again, got ready and began for Bhabhi sahab’s house for the main occasion. When we reached the house, the function area on the first floor terrace, Atul dada was already there, his shoes already looted by his ‘Saalis’. The time between 5:00 AM and 9:30 AM flew away in several cups of tea, wedding rituals, women of Bhabhi sahab’s family singing wedding songs, hundreds of photos and numerous jokes.

Followed by ‘Joota Churaai’, ‘Dwaar Chhekaai’, ‘Kaleba Khabaai’ and a few other things. It was all so happy-happy and colorful,  I forgot I was sleepy. Until the ‘Bidaai’ ceremony began. And it went on.
And on. And on, and on. And it kept on getting boring and hot due to the overhead sun and I didn’t realize when I fell asleep sitting in my chair. So I shifted between chairs and dozed off. And I shifted my glance and dozed off. Then comfort zones from shade to sunlight, from sitting to standing. Then finally, we started off.

The journey back home is half a blur in episodes of black and white and half in episodes of heavy head and baggy eyes. Except for the travel through the Bandhavgarh national park, from check post to check post, the wide road of the buffer zone and the narrow one-way of the core area, the winding lines of asphalt which looked extremely different in broad daylight. 

I was aware that all the zeal and excitement was finally coming to an end, and within few hours people will start heading back to their boring monotonous lives, away from all the celebration and festivities we felt during these few days. And in such realizations, the ache of the heart is more severe than the aching muscles. So with weeping hearts and invisible tears, we’ll say goodbyes to our loved ones and the colorful and happy atmosphere will again be just episodes of black and white weekdays.

But it’s okay, the special things in life are to be preserved for special occasions. Like those wedding songs, the bike rides on the village roads, the chit-chats over chai, the innocence of unaware people in candid pictures and the sudden bursts of laughter. Because it’s not everyday that we get so much money just for blocking doors & stealing shoes, and not everyday that we catch deers in our headlights. 

Until next time! 🙂

[P.S. प्रिंसू दादा, तइयार रहब। ब्वौकरा चाही]

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