Saturday, February 4, 2012

BASANT - The Big Fat ISM Wedding

ISM-Dhanbad during Basant

“You know about Basant? The whole college is decked up like a dulhan to welcome the alumni.” These were the first words I heard about Basant when I had entered ISM as a fresher when there was a sordid attempt to woo the only “Bengali Sardar” to their side during the hay days of POLY. The stakes were high, for I had two parallel identities that no side wanted to give up on. But let me get back on the analogy of Basant and Dulhan (or rather Marriage) that the senior drew.

Decked up ISM
Yes, Basant is the Big Fat Indian Wedding of ISM, replete with all dance, drama, get-together, bonhomie and of course, food. Like any “shaadi-byaah”, decoration of the college is of prime importance. Every nook and corner of the campus (only the main site, not the jharia one) will be covered with lights. Each new building that comes up in the area around the main building provides a new opportunity for the decorators. Yes, the “baraatis” need to feel welcomed, and spending lakhs on decorations at least gives you the impression that something important is happening in the campus and someone cared to launder all this money for you. After all, who likes a dulhan on her wedding day without the make-up and jewelry she adorns? Only in this case, this marriage happens every year.

An Indian marriage is more about the congregation of people (known or unknown) than the actual marriage itself, and Basant holds true to this fact. You have alumni pouring in. For many it is that one family occasion where you meet all your old friends, try to recognize others as some distant relative (read some junior or senior) and form your own small group to move around with. An exact replica of an Indian wedding, where your near and distant relatives meet after a long time, and their kids probably for the first time; and soon enough, groups are formed based on various interests. While the alumni are the baaratis, current ISM students and organizers form the bride’s side and family. It is upon the ladkiwaale to make sure the baraatis are well entertained. But like most weddings, expect some or the other hiccup that only the closed ones (read organizers) of the family would know.

If in an actual Indian wedding the saalis steal shoes and demand the money from the groom, the ritual gets slightly changed in case of ISM. Money does switch hands, but in exchange for roses and not shoes. So, a Rs 5 rose gets sold for anywhere between Rs 100 – Rs 500 and there is little that the baraati alumni can do. But it is just not the baraatis paying, boys from the ladkiwale side don’t hesitate either. The roses also play an important role in getting the story of the heart across to a girl, another important aspect of Indian marriages, where many future nuptials also take shape.

Performance during Basant
Like a Bollywood movie shaadi, naach-gaana forms an integral part of this ISM wedding. So, you will have a singer or a performer called in to entertain everyone that some will go gaga over, while others will find problems with and rue how they could have done a better job had they been “in power”. In the end, no wedding is well-organised and a memorable one unless you have a big feast to gorge upon. Food can make or break an Indian wedding, and people judge a good wedding based on it. After all, many do come in for free and good food. It is that day when no one in the student community has to “contribute” in  any form upfront, and so even the most matiyao of ISMite would turn up during dinner time. 

With the hum-drum over, everyone heads to their own previous state of inertia. Notes are made about the mistakes not to be repeated for the next wedding, on how the caterer and decorator went back on their words. Some praise for having organized a well-planned wedding to some criticism of the goof-ups. Everything is soon forgotten and flushed down the toilet along with the food eaten the last night. As for the bride, who cares about her state as long as the wedding was a show of pomp and everyone had their own share of pie to eat.

This post was written for Mailer Daemon, the college newsletter of ISM and published in MD's Vol VIII, Issue 3.

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