(written in honour of Katpadi Katsa’s upcoming nuptials)
Kitty Aunty has always enjoyed weddings. But in the past few years they have been incredibly important to her. Now that her children have left the house and she no longer teaches junior school, being the centre of all weddings is how she occupies herself. Kitty Aunty has heard of the notion that a wedding is the bride’s special day, but thinks that this is a lie spread by Hollywood movies and American sitcoms. She knows that a wedding is a beast with a life of its own, which will devour the bride and groom if they’re not careful, and that only she can tame it.
And so it is Kitty Aunty who runs the weddings of her extended family behind the scenes. She knows how to negotiate a discount on the bride’s designer lehnga, and where to get equally good dresses at less obscene prices for the mothers and sisters. She knows the caterer who provides the best paneer tikkas. And the ladies who have evening tea at the Gymkhana Club still speak in awed tones of the time Kitty Aunty bargained over the groom’s juttis with a group of young and ruthless saalis, and convinced them to settle for a chaat party.
But the money and the catering and the dresses are just side businesses for Kitty Aunty. The really important job for her is information gathering and networking. For the past many years, she is the one who goes and meets the in-laws and their extended families, discusses how the wedding should be held, and finds out everything about them. The in-laws are always slightly perplexed that they are meeting Kitty Aunty rather than parents. They are also perplexed about whether she is a tai or a masi or a bua or a chachi or just a plain auntyji but they adjust.
And all this meeting in-laws and gupshup over chai leads to the whole point of the wedding. At the reception, if Gungun Mausi wants to know who that boy in the cream sherwani or the girl in the green choli is, only Kitty Aunty will be able to tell her. She will be the only person who will be able to tell Gungun Mausi their names, what they’re doing, any scandals centred around them or their families, and if they’re single and looking to get married. Kitty Aunty never does anything as crude as matchmake. But without her, matchmakers would never be able to operate. She knows this, and takes her function very seriously.
But she is not enjoying tonight’s wedding. The boy and girl have had a love marriage, which is fine by her. And the boy is not Punjabi but that is fine by her too. After all she is liberal and these days it’s better if children do things on their own. But the guest list is driving her crazy.
The bride and groom had gone to college together, and most of the guests are their batchmates and juniors and seniors. Not only do they outnumber the relatives, but very few relatives beyond immediate family have even been invited. Almost three fourths of the guests are the couple’s friends. Worse, they are all each others’ friends. Nobody is asking Kitty Aunty who anybody else is, because everyone knows already. She feels useless and exasperated. She had grown accustomed to being at the centre of all information. Now she is at the periphery. She has to ask guests who other guests are.
It’s fine if a girl and boy who get married don’t have the same caste or background, she reflects. But she draws the line at them having the same friends.