The wedding and the navjote season (thread ceremony to induct Parsi children into the Zoroastrianism faith) is upon us, so last Sunday was another wedding ceremony that I had to attend. This must be the third invitation that I must have accepted this season, another one on 1 March and then the last one in April. Parsis often complain amongst a deluge of such invitations, "baap re ketli saes nikli jayeech aaj kaal..", but I am not saying anything. Though the season typically ends by February, some weddings take place even after that. Mother India did not come with me this time, so I decided to go with my neighbours, the ever-entertaining Vesunas, and another common colony friend.
There are three main venues for Parsi weddings in South Bombay. We Parsees hold our functions in an open-air facility. So the Cama Baug at Khetwadi is the most economical (when double-decker buses were plying in Khetwadi, people sitting on the upper deck could see right into the festivities inside the Baug). A slightly more expensive and a bigger venue is the nearby located Albless Baug at Charni Road (good venue; my navjote took place here). Considered to be the most upscale venue is the Jamshetji Jeejeebhoy (J.J.) Agiary ground at Afghan Church, Coloba, also supposed to be the most expensive.
Other venues, such as the Jade Garden Rooftop at the Nehru Centre at Worli and Saher Aagiary (one of the smallest of the venues) at Breach Candy are also there. I love the atmosphere of the Saher Agiary; the ground looks very pretty amidst lots of greenery and a residential area. That way, even Malcolm Baug (a quaint Parsi colony in Jogeshwari) also has a large ground, but only a few suburbanites hold their functions there. Like my cousins Boyce, Patel and Parikh families. They have life membership there. When we go there, we South Bombayites behave as if we've come into another town altogether; we keep cribbing about the horrendous peak-hour traffic; you aren't a Bombayite, if you do not complain about traffic.
Anyways, my latest outing was at the J.J.Agiary, Coloba, since the party was a business family. All their family lagans and navjotes happen at this venue, all marriages in this family are love marriages and all guys from this family are either shippie captains or pilots! Or so I am told. We decided to leave at around 7.30 pm. Mother India does not like this; she likes to go early, see the actual ceremony, watch people coming in, hear the music, talk and chat with guests who we know and bump into....I do not like all that. I like to enter late.
There is an unspoken rule in the Parsi community; the later you arrive at these functions, more upscale you are perceived to be. Higher the strata of the society you are perceived to belong to. I do not know why. I tried to figure out why, but I couldn't, so I gave up. Better, I have decided to do the same thing. I think there is a high that people get when they, sort of, enter a full jam-packed venue, and people turn their heads and see you enter. So that everyone knows you've arrived. To be late, is to be 'in'. You see, if you enter early, there will be no one to notice your entry. Except the hosts. And who cares about the host. So long as you are 'spotted' at the venue, isn't it? Besides some of the late-comers could also think that the early birds had nothing else to do.
So my gang and I deliberately left late and reached at the venue at 8.20 pm. Perfect. Since we did not have our cars and all guests at this particular function were expected to come by cars, we left our taxi at a distance. "So that if anyone asks us, we will tell them that oh we parked our car at a distance, we couldn't find parking nearby, and so chose to walk the remaining distance", joked one of us. Since most of us, except me, were professional drinkers, and since it was already very 'late', we headed straight towards the bar. I was impressed by the bar, usually Parsi weddings have the standard fare; an Old Monk rum, some Port Wine and some standard whiskey, besdies your usual Soda, Pepsi, Coke, 7-Up, etc. But this bar seemed to have some more variety, it had a nice Red wine to add to the variety and I could also notice a few other drinks. The bartender blurted the name some 2-3 times - as is customary before professionally serving any liquor - but in all the commotion, I did not get it. But it turned out nice. After grabbing some starters - very oily but the vej ones were good - we headed for the terrace of the main building on the ground.
This terrace is typically a boys-club. It is very strategically located. It is just above the main entrance and has a commanding view of the main gate. You can see everyone entering. Guys usually stand here, with drinks in their hands, keep an eye on all bare-back PYTs (you get to see a lot of those at Parsi weddings) or minis enter the venue. At Albless Baug, such a spot is the place inside the building, diagonally opposite to the stage area, again very near to the bar. I am not saying there is a connection between the two, I am not even trying to make a point.
There was a big crowd at this wedding. We got to sit in the third sitting; there was a fourth sitting after that, and perhaps the last one for the hosts and family. Every sitting is announced on the mike, in a very traditional fashion. Food was standard fare. Finally, we left the place a little after 10, and I was shocked to still see people coming in. I wonder what kind of a statement they were trying to make.