Flashback: An elaborate affair
A wedding contract is supposed to be a solemn affair, but wedding proceedings themselves are never meant to be. Times change, styles alter, but the fun, laughter and excitement associated with a wedding in the family doesn’t lose its sheen. The year may be 1966, or it could be 1988, or even as recent as 2010, one can never tire of the joys that this event heralds.
Mrs Zahra Jamal Siddiqi, belonging to a Lucknow family, has seen it all. With four daughters and a grand daughter married in a span of 22 years, she sits at a vintage position to draw comparison of how much has changed in terms of wedding preparations.
“When I got married in the 1960s, there was no concept of boutiques and tailors; it was unheard of,” she recalls, “The preparations took place at home, and began much in advance. The bride was made to sit for mayun a month or so before the wedding day and wasn’t allowed much movement after that. In Lucknow, brides wore pink for the occasion. She would be generously massaged with ubtan, and her cousins and friends kept her company. Maheena tou lagta hai, dulhan par roop charhta hai,” she says. In most houses, segregation was strictly observed and, especially in mayun, men were just not involved. More importantly, guests used to reach on time for the ceremonies.
As was the custom in those days, the wedding dresses were stitched at home. Wide, flamboyant ghararas were in fashion. The brides in Lucknow used to wear a special gharara, known as bara paincha, stitched out of nine to 12 yards of cloth. Chatta patti was also quite popular.
“The embellishment and embroidery done on the ghararas was of real gold and silver,” says Mrs Siddiqi, “Premium quality cloth, especially silk, was used. The ghararas were made out of poth and zarbaq as well as satin, with lachka and gota work on it, and the wedding joras were mostly red in colour. In fact, the brides themselves used to work on their jahez, and stitch everything from clothes to bed linen. Even the mehndi put on the bride’s hands was prepared at home, with leaves crushed on sil batta, and a number of ingredients were mixed to it to enhance the colour. In those days, there was no concept of design, and applying mehndi simply meant smearing the bride’s palms and feet with the green paste.
“Since gold came cheap in those days and was of good quality, we got a lot of jewellery, both pure gold, and with jewels; we were made to wear almost all the jewellery we got! I got so much jewellery that I was able to distribute it generously among my four daughters,” she smiles.
Music was as much an integral part of the wedding scene back then as it is now, but with a difference: it was not the girls of the family who did the singing. Meeraasans were called for this, and every evening, the house would reverberate with melodious shadi songs and sound of dholak, an essential part of any Asian wedding.
“Back in those days, the bride’s role was to keep her head bowed low and other people would hold her hand and show her the way when she had to walk,” reminisces Mrs Siddiqi, “Unlike today, the brides were supposed to be shy and very coy.”
A lot has changed since then. Prior to her marriage, Mrs Siddiqi and her husband had never met each other. She was visiting Lucknow where her paternal uncle arranged the match. This was in stark contrast to her daughter’s engagement, who first met her prospective alliance before she agreed to the marriage.
“When my eldest daughter Samina got married in 1988, it was a different scenario altogether,” remarks Mrs Siddiqi. “Obviously, she
designed her entire trousseau according to her liking, did her own shopping and selected everything as she saw fit, including her furniture.
The clothes were sent to the tailor for stitching.”
Mehndi functions had become popular by then, and the receptions were hosted in shadi halls instead of at home.
“For my daughter’s mehndi we made arrangements at home and pitched a tent in front of the house,” says Mrs Siddiqi, “But the event was not such an elaborate affair as it is today; just a few candles and the mehndi itself which the girls carried, and very few decorations. Things were not so commercial back then, and everything was kept under limit and within certain decorum. If the young girls wanted to sing songs designed to tease the sasuraal walahs, we discouraged them, so that no one got offended.
“The food was also catered as opposed to being prepared at home, as it was in my case. It was traditional, but the menu was limited. Videos of the wedding proceedings were also shot — a stark contrast from my wedding where even the photographs were black and white,” she smiles.
Mrs Siddiqi feels that one of the biggest differences between then and now is that when she was young, the parents arranged the match and it was the girl and her family values that mattered. Today, the focus is more on where the girl lives, her looks, her qualifications and her social status, etc. “People also want to know what they’ll get in dowry. This wasn’t the case some 50 years ago. People gave whatever they could afford, and it was accepted,” she comments.
“The concept of marriage itself was very different back then,” continues Mrs Siddiqi, “We knew we had to get married and we were taught
to adjust and compromise according to situations. We were told to be tolerant, which is why there were, unlike today, few separations and divorces. We were also educated, but today’s generation is far less tolerant, and values have shifted to materialism.”
By the time Mrs Siddiqi’s granddaughter, Amber, got married recently, the scenario had completely changed. Amber was studying in England and the prospective groom was living in the US. “Initially, when she started getting proposals, she said she would only marry someone whose ideas match hers,” says Mrs Siddiqi, “So before she gave the nod, both met and took some time to get to know each other better. And, of course, it goes without saying that she had her say in every aspect of the wedding which spanned over four functions,” concludes Mrs Siddiqi.