Delhi's weddings... a romantic tale
AH, WHERE have Naseem and Waseem gone? They used to lead a band in Old Delhi over 40 years ago. Conscious of the fact that they were both handsome they played the clarinet with their eyes up - as most do - so that they could see those on upper storeys, particularly pretty faces. Well, one couldn't blame them, for they were young and eye contact probably helped them to perform better at wedding processions those days. If you encountered one in the afternoon you could rest assured that someone in the butcher's community was getting married. And if you were among the invitees and happened to make it to the bride's place, what struck you was that soon after the arrival of the barat lunch was served. It was usually pulao-zarda and before long most of the guests had licked their fingers and were on their way home. There was a reason for this. They were in a hurry to get back to their shops for most of their business then, as now, was done in the afternoon and early evening.
Incidentally, Sikhs also used to take out their wedding procession in the afternoon, but their parties were more elaborate with people tending to linger on rather than hurrying back home. The trend has changed and the parties of these two communities are also held in the evening - one with cocktails and roasted chicken, and the other with korma, sheermal and biryani.
The evening wedding processions had their own charm. The barat did not have the dancing young men and women of the present day. The bandsmen were enough and they acquitted themselves very well indeed! Sometimes three or four different bands accompanied the procession. If they were from the armed forces, the bagpipers made a very good impression. "Pungiwale" as they were called, were the delight of children and women who ran to the doors and windows to see the barat even if it meant leaving the evening meal burning on the fire or the milk boiling over. That was the time when silly Sharifuddin tried to kiss his new Bhabhi and nearly got a thrashing for it.
One remembers a young man who came looking for a teacher's job and made a round of all the schools across the city. Not long after when a barat had reached its destination, one heard a stirring melody played on the clarinet. It was the teacher playing away to glory. Later one looked forward to marriage processions in which one could discern the clarinet note of the Master Sahib as he was known. Failing to get a teacher's job he had become a clarinetist. And what a wonderful one he was, rendering `Teri Pyari, Pyari Soorat Ko Kisi Ki Nazar Na Lage... "!
Coming back to Naseem and Waseem, if memory serves right they got married to two sisters from Ballimaran. During one barat in the locality the brothers' eye contact helped them to spot their future wives. And guess who played the clarinet at their wedding? The Master Sahib, slim and conspicuous in his white suit!
Did he ever get back to teaching? Somebody who came from Karachi the other day said he did. But one hasn't heard of Naseem and Waseem. Wherever they maybe one hopes they are still young at heart or how else would they play the clarinet? Those joyful turned when the barat arrived - and the sad ones when the tearful bride departed from her Babul's house.
Ram Singh and Dilawar are present-day clarinet players, who lead the barat through the Walled City. Sometimes they are also invited to lead wedding processions in the posh colonies of Delhi where they are paid more because of the affluence of the residents. They travel by bus to distant destinations along with their band, which means misery for other commuters. The bandsmen squeeze in somehow, along with their musical instruments and the big drum, and alight at the nearest stop to the wedding venue.
The white horses which draw the buggy or wedding chariot are generally hired from Hira Nand Sindhi who has opened branches across the Capital. Previously the name used to be Hiro Nand, but when the old man handed the business over to his sons and grandsons, Hiro became Hira in keeping with local dialect. This family was at one time resident in Dev Nagar. Now they have branched to Todapur - Das Ghara, near Inderpuri, Delhi and other areas to cover the whole city with their thoroughbred white mares.
The bandsmen wait for the buggy to arrive and then proceed to their destination. They land up before time and sit practising in a park or on the roadside while the horses nibble grass to keep themselves occupied. But just before the groom mounts the horse the women of his family feed gur and gram to it, something that the caparisoned animal seems to enjoy.
Ram Singh and Dilawar belong to a band company that has its office in the Lajpat Rai market facing the Red Fort. They are fairly good players of the clarinet but not of the class of Naseem and Waseem - and they are not so romantic either, for you don't see them making eye contact with the ladies in the balcony. That phase has gone down the passage of time along with the old tunes of the clarinet. But the bride still weeps when she departs in the gaily decorated car!
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