Hi! I’m Rishi Vohra, author of the debut mass fiction novel ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai’ releasing in bookstores soon! MissMalini invited me to share some of my experiences in Mumbai, the city that I grew up in which is also one of the main characters of my book.
Much of my formative years have been shaped through the experiences that this city has given me. There were many that were positive, but some uneventful. Among the latter was the time I used to gatecrash weddings, something I’m not very proud of when I think back.
Yes, that used to be me – the Mumbai Wedding Crasher. I was around 17 at the time, and the free food of daily wedding festivities at a nearby hall in Khar (a suburb of Mumbai), lured me into what became a habit during that few-month phase in my life.
During those days, pocket money was too less to afford a scrumptious meal at a quality restaurant. My friend Amit was in the same boat. One day, while passing this hall at Khar and getting a glimpse of the lavish buffet spread from our bicycles on the road, Amit suggested the idea.
“What if we get caught?” I asked uncertainly.
“Don’t worry,” reassured Amit. “We just need to wear blazers, do our ‘namastes’ at the entrance, carry an empty envelope (as supposed gift money to the couple) and head inside.”
It sounded easy enough. But I couldn’t help but think about the consequences. What if we got caught? For one, we would be humiliated by the couple’s parents, to be set as an example for any other disguised wedding crashers floating around. But there was also the possibility of a drunk relative ruffling us up and maybe even beating us up in full view.
“Don’t worry,” said Amit again, sensing my apprehension. “I have done this before. Piece of cake. Just don’t get into conversation with anyone. To be safe, we need to get in line to wish the bride and the groom. And as the line inches forward, we have to pretend to grow impatient and say out aloud that we’ll meet them later, when they come off the stage.”
It sounded simple. And Amit’s advice seemed to be backed by experience. So next day, we donned a blazer each – Amit wore his elder brother’s fitted blazer, while I wore one of my father’s which looked slightly oversized on me.
At the entrance, relatives wearing pink pagdis stood in position to greet guests as they walked in. Amit and I did our ‘namastes’, and passed through without suspicion. Following Amit’s cue, we hovered around the reception stage, envelope in hand, and smiled in the direction of the bride and groom. They both were busy greeting guests but returned our smiles in between, each thinking that we were guests from the side of his/her better half.
The Khar Hall was spacious and used for big occasions, so the crowd was in good numbers. It was more risky to crash a small wedding reception, which was budgeted for people and each guest was chosen after careful discussions. This reception had a good number, so we were able to blend in and eat two platefuls each of delicious wedding food. I had wanted to hit the bar first but Amit dissuaded me explaining that the bar was the most conspicuous and conducive place for conservation. So after
dinner, we made a clean exit.
My first experience was heady and akin to a tiger tasting blood. What was meant to be a one-time adventure turned into a habit, every week, but at the same venue. The food at the Hall was catered in-house, so we soon outgrew the buffet but kept going for the thrill of it.
1. Have a festive envelope (the one with glitter or embroidery) in hand while walking in. You will always be greeted warmly at the entrance.
2. Always make eye contact while greeting people. They’re on the lookout for people like us. Shifty eyes are dead giveaways!
3. Some smart-alec might come up to you and ask whether you have come from the bride or groom’s side (happens very rarely). The right answer is that the bride and your sister are college friends but your sister couldn’t make it because she’s at the hospital and presently in labour. Add in that you wanted to be with the family but your sister insisted that you represent her at the reception, which is why you need to leave quickly! But make sure you eat before leaving. After all, such a convincing performance does deserve some sort of reward!
4. Don’t go to the bar too often. You could get caught in a conversation while waiting for your drink. And people are very intrusive on such occasions and feel that it’s their right to know all about you! In fact, it’s safer to flag waiters down and get your drinks through them.
5. Dress your best. That goes without saying. If you’re going to blend into a wedding crowd, you cannot stand out!
6. If you find a member of the opposite gender cute (which is bound to happen since everyone dresses to kill), don’t lock them into a flirtatious gaze. Most eligible people look at weddings as a scouting ground (mostly the parents do) and if you catch their attention, you remain conspicuous and your movements around the venue go under their radar. If you can, wear a wedding band!
7. I know that wedding food is very attractive, but try and fill your plate up in the first helping itself. Eat and leave! You need a well chalked out plan. Point A to Point B to Point C, the last one being the exit!
8. If for some reason, you’re pushed onto the stage to meet the bride and groom (it happened to me once), maintain your calm. This is a very tricky situation and needs to be handled with tact. Hand them your flashy envelope. Everyone loves money!
Someone is bound to ask you whose side you’re from. You need to smile and say, “Now that you both are married I am from both sides!” and move ahead. They will appreciate your light humour tying in their importance and drop the subject instantly. It worked for me! And don’t worry! They will open your empty envelope only much later!
9. If for some reason you arouse suspicion (some relatives take it upon themselves to spot wedding crashers to feel like they’re doing their bit to contribute to the success of the event), spot the nearest elderly gentleman standing alone and get into conversation with him. First ask him which side he’s from, and then pit yourself on the other side. Once you’re under his wing, the scavenger(s) will back off. No one messes with an elderly guest. But ensure that it’s an elderly man, not an elderly woman. The woman will want to know all about you. The man is alone because he doesn’t really want to talk to anyone.
10. Eat and scram before the couple descends from the stage to the ‘special table’ for dinner. When that happens, all remaining guests gravitate towards the couple. That’s when the wedding crashers stand out!
This phase of mine lasted only a few months till good sense knocked into me. A wedding is a very personal event, and deserves the presence of only those invited. Food is expensive to the one who foots the bill, and gets charged to them by the plate. So even though free food is a thrill, your plate is pinching the pockets of someone else. I realized that it’s unethical to get your thrills literally at someone else’s expense. Since then, I have never crashed a wedding.
So if you ever spot me at such an event, be assured that I’m invited!!
A huge thanks to MissMalini for inviting me to once again be a part of the excitement at the place that I consider to be the most happening both in cyber land and in Mumbai – MissMalini.com! And a big thanks to all of you for dropping in!
If you’re interested in hearing more about this city or ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai,’ please visit my website www.rishivohra.com, and feel free to visit and follow my my Blog,Facebook page, Twitter account, and YouTube Channel! Look forward to seeing you!