He has been out of Delhi so long that he has forgotten what weddings there are like. So when the invitation card says 7 pm, he arrives at 7.30. Once there, he discovers that the bride and groom and their relatives are nowhere to be found. He is the only guest over there, apart from one slightly chubby girl who is standing outside and talking on her cellphone. He has a vague suspicion that he has seen the same girl at every wedding he has ever been to, and that she is not actually a guest but a prop that all caterers carry along. Effectively, he is the only person there.
On the bright side of things, this means that Kitty Auntyji is not around. And the catering staff is on time and they are serving tandoori mushrooms and paneer tikkas.
He is slightly outraged. He has shaved on a weekend, put on uncomfortable shoes and ironed a dress shirt, and for all this effort, landed up at an empty banquet hall. It isn’t fair. So he grabs the tikkas from the passing waiters and broods.
When he used to be in Bangalore and go to his friends’ weddings there, Dig weddings would start promptly and end as promptly so that all the guests could move on to lunch. TamBram weddings would also start promptly though they would do this six hours earlier and end with breakfast instead. And moreover they did not impose these ridiculous dress requirements. He used to go in jeans, t-shirt, and stubble, and nobody bothered. He wonders what it is about Delhi weddings that encourages this tardiness.
He suddenly realises that he has already found the answer – in Bangalore, weddings are centred around breakfast or lunch, which cannot be put off. In Delhi, weddings and receptions are held at night, and dinner can be put off to midnight or even further as long as the guests are fed enough snacks uptil then so that they don’t revolt and march off. But this has started a vicious cycle of later and later dinners, and in turn has led to guests and organisers coming later and later. Now it is impossible for any wedding in Delhi to start on time. The snacks which seemed like such a good idea thirty years ago have led to the collapse of punctuality.
It is all the fault of the paneer tikkas that he is standing here out in the cold with nobody talk to. He reflects gloomily on this. And then, because he can’t help it, he has another one.