The curious incident of the boy in the night timeWarning: may contain ingenuous stereotyping
About a month ago, I had occasion to attend a Sindhi wedding of a former colleague. If memory serves me right, this was my first North Indian wedding after my post-hOsh sambhaalanaa (someone has to invent a proper English synonym for this phrase). Previous to that I had only done the Tamil/Maharashtrian/generic ceremonies, so I couldn't help but shiver at the possibility of being placed in the midst of Hum aapke hain kaun or Monsoon Wedding. But at the apparent insistence of the groom, it was a more subdued affair, and as it happened we didn't quite participate in the hardcore religious rites.
The problem at such ceremonies that gives me the creeps is the insistence of having to dance. Martin Henderson could take some tips from me in this cross-cultural shock. It simply isn't in my blood to shed inhibition and give windmill-impersonations. I am used to sleepy & distinguished looking mamas in their silk vEshTiis and maamis discussing pa.TTu puDavais in mellow voices. We conduct weddings, in comparison to our northern brethren, in almost funereal tones. It would give me quite a shock to see a beloved aunt doing the latest disco number. But North Indian shaadis aren't so repressive, which is fine by me. As long as they leave me alone. (Side note: when invited to "northie" weddings, people like me do one of two things: (a) they, being in a place where no maami is within a 300 km radius, let their hair down and produce the most hilarious leg-shaking routines known to the animal kingdom, or (b) they try and blend into the background waiting for the dinner queues to plunge into).
But this is not about me. This is about every Sindhi mother's worst nightmare. A sort of "Rosemary's baby" for the Ramchandanis.
'Twas a pre-wedding ring ceremony. The night was clear and pleasant. Among great festivity, the rings were exchanged between the beaming groom & bride. Aha! What was this? Sections of a floor beside the stage started to light up. I don't know what the technical term for them is, but squares of light in different colours went red-green-yellow, indicating that the dance floor was open for the taking. Also my cue to make myself scarce. From a distance we observed. People were yet getting warmed up and were generally milling around. Which is when the action (or lack of it as we shall see) began.
Every other wildlife programme on Animal Planet consists of mommy birds teaching their young to fly and lionesses expounding on the art of swatting deer to attentive cubs. One lady in the party evidently had corresponding ideas. Her young heir was cajoled onto the empty floor to get some basics in the long tradition in the performing arts. She had a camcorder to record his first dance steps. What happened next would astound all of us.
You see, the kid simply refused to budge an inch. It would be fair to say that the Rock of Gibraltar ceded its #1 spot to him. Mum attributed it to a nascent stage fear that few in the khaandaan had exhibited before. The music began and soon picked up a tempo that had even my legs tapping. But our young hero moved not. He could've been method acting for a role as the Fevicol Dabbaa, that's how firmly he stood his ground. Mum shut the 'corder and came over closer. Words were said but to no avail.
An elderly relative, who had no doubt seen this rare strain of non-performance in the past, came over. Together they tried to move his little legs, but the child on his own refused to generate any self-locomotion. Mum sighed and her hanky hid her feelings. They tried a mass movement to dispel the lack of disco spell. Girls filled the floor and jived away to the latest hits. But our boy stood beside the turning deck - immovable, unyielding, with magnetic feet on iron floor. He stood like that for 15 minutes, fully concentrating on preserving his inertia, which was obviously dear to him.
Mum was a picture of stoicism. But her mind raced. O God, how could this happen to him? It must've been something on the husband's side, some latent streak that had been hushed up at the time of the marriage. How would she survive this embarrassment? As she pondered on this, all around her, balding grandads & toothless grannies along with mums & dads who'd rocked discotheques in their youth and kids of all descriptions rushed past her to display jhaTakaas & maTakaas of total enjoyment.
It isn't quite clear what happened next. I'd like to think that Mum went back to the nursing home and demanded to know if there'd been a switch. If any Tamil Iyer moms near the Agra area are puzzled by their little son's eagerness to shake a leg at the drop of a hat, they may want to get in touch with her.