[ Karyir Riba ]
There is so much hype and talk about big fat Indian weddings, even on international grounds. If we look closely, our very own tribal nyidas are neither small nor slim by any means. The number of animals sacrificed and the traditional valuables exchanged during these nyidas can amount to crores of rupees. Gifts for every attendee can’t be ignored, either.
Nyidas are also the time when all your relatives get together to bless the bride and the groom. In simple words, this is the time you get to meet a horde of people who are shocked to see you so grown up since the last time they had seen you, some 20 years earlier or, going by their hand gestures, when you were like 2-3 feet tall.
So, this story is from the time when my youngest sister decided to get married. Don’t ask me. Even god is trying to find out till today why this girl wanted to get married so young. As for our parents, I guess they jumped on board because their other two children had fallen in love with people from other tribes, not giving them the pleasure of conducting a purely traditional Galo nyida.
As the nyida ritual goes, following a grand celebration at the bride’s home, the entire ‘village’ proceeds towards the groom’s village for more ritualistic celebration, and spends a couple of days there, where relatives of the groom host the relatives of the bride in their homes.
Also, during this course, a few houses invite the bride’s family and relatives for a little wining, dining and merrymaking. Give or take, it could be possible that you visit at least 4-5 houses a day, and with all the delicious poka (Galo alcoholic beverage) you couldn’t resist in all these houses, you might end up a little tipsy and lose contact with your brain cells.
So, with an entourage of about 60-70 cars and three buses, we reached the groom’s village. The first day was all about the ritualistic performances solemnizing the marriage and an evening of cultural performances by both the bride’s and the groom’s families. The next two days would involve us hopping from one house to another, drinking poka. This custom is aimed mainly at getting better acquainted with the groom’s relatives, and drinking poka.
Before going any further, let me give you a little peek into how my dear mother is. Well, she is that overtly scrupulous neat lady with perfectly painted nails and all her hair in place. Only my youngest, stylish sister meets her expectations of how her daughters should upkeep themselves, while I, a boxer shorts-and-T-shirt girl, am always on the verge of getting disowned by her.
Otherwise she is a fun-loving person. So my mother being my mother had every little detail arranged for her three daughters and her one and only daughter-in-law to be worn on different days of the whole nyida: designer gales (traditional wraparound), tops to match, heels to match, and so on. I realize only now how left-out and unloved my brother must have felt. Or maybe he was relieved to have all of my mother’s attention away from him.
On the first day, we all wore comfy sneakers with our gales because there was a lot of walking involved. Next morning, all four of us, including the bride, were getting ready for the long day ahead of us. This was the first time that any of us was experiencing a nyida, and so our excitement knew no bounds. My mother wanted us all perfectly dressed, and the only thing our dear father wanted from us was for us to be on time. Although we have the coolest father there can be, we also have an overtly punctual one.
Everything was going smoothly, and with everything in its proper place, the last thing to complete my look was to put on my heels, and I was so sure my mother would be so happy to see me look pretty for a change. Little did I know that something else was in store for me.
I looked and relooked, but my heels were nowhere to be found. I started panicking and sweating even in the harsh winter month. The three of them were standing there in front of me, all ready to step out of the room and make our mother proud, and there I was, on the brink of losing my mind. I am a very organised person, so it was even harder for me to believe that I had really forgotten to pack my heels.
My sisters empathized with my situation but couldn’t do much to help me because the bride’s spare heels were too high for me to be able to even stand on them; my sister-in-law’s shoe size was way smaller than mine; and my middle sister had brought only one pair of heels, which obviously she had to wear.
I tried on my sneakers from the previous day’s look, and it was looking too odd with what I was wearing on that day. Plus, its white colour had somehow turned grey from all the dirt.
Now the only option I was left with was my pair of chappals. My sisters assured me it was looking much better than the dirty sneakers. Coming from these three girls, it gave me the confidence to finally come out of the room wearing the chappals.
There I was, in my designer gale, tops, expensive tadoks (traditional ornaments), makeup and hair neatly done, and my chappals. The glare my chappals received from my mother was so so daunting that I instantly knew that this unknown far-off place where I had come for the first time the day before was going to be the place where my mother was ultimately going to disown me. After all, I had managed to do the unthinkable, and that too in front of, basically, my whole maternal and paternal gene pool.
Two sets of professional photographers, hired by the groom’s side and our side, roaming around us for photos, were only adding fuel to the fire.
I managed to explain my situation to my mother, and she understood. A heavy boulder was lifted from my shoulder, or maybe that’s what I was thinking.
The first house visit went fine, and the poka was delicious. In the second house too, everything was going well until they decided to start a karaoke and the singers they had in that family started showing off their skills. Not to be outnumbered by the groom’s side of the family, my mother turned to me and asked me to go to the front, where the singing was happening, and dance. I couldn’t risk reminding her of my chappals, so I chose branding myself as the ‘over-smart’ older sister of the bride. To this day, I feel grateful to the poka that gave me the strength to get there in front of all those people and dance away.
Bless my uncle, who joined me a little later. He either genuinely wanted to dance or was only trying to cover up what I was doing. Either way, he made me feel less awkward.
The real game-changer was going to come in the third house and beyond. While the first two houses had arranged the seating on their lawns, the third one required us to get inside, meaning removing our footwear. Getting inside was fine, but the way out was a different story.
My mother and I were getting out together, and there were my black chappals with red flower prints, ‘Rs 149’ proudly displayed on them. My mother looked at them, and then at me, and I gave her a nervous smile. My three sisters had a hearty laugh at my situation while putting on their own heels. They couldn’t stop laughing and joking about my chappals, especially at this one house where the footwear were visible from the sitting area. My middle sister was the worst one at poking fun at me and my chappals.
It was a relief to come back home after the overbusy celebration. We were all putting back our things in place when I heard this very hysterical laugh coming from where we store our footwear at our family home. It was my middle sister. She was almost losing her breath from laughing so hard, and was holding two similar looking heels in her hand, one of which was the one which I was so sure I had packed to be worn with my fancy designer Galo gales. Turned out that I had indeed packed my heels and it was my middle sister who had left hers behind!
This girl was proudly trudging around in my heels, making our mother proud, while I, the rightfully entitled daughter, was living in dreaded fear, dancing around at every house we visited in this new place, in front of unknown people, standing awkwardly, trying to hide my feet under my gale. And to think that this girl was the one who had the most fun laughing at my misery and at my chappals!
A little disclaimer: I didn’t hurt (read kill) my sister. All of us, including our dear mother, had a great laugh at the great story to always remember the nyida by.