A small, big wedding

Text and Pictures : Radhika Agarwal

 

It's very easy to get carried away when it comes to a wedding.

Since leaving a full-time job recently, I found myself in a household high on planning induced euphoria. It was my wedding. Over the six month run-up to it, we explored a wonderful middle path I like to call “a small, big wedding”.

While thinking of a plan for myself, I scrambled to look for some inspiration. I soon realized that there was a massive project brewing right under my nose. It was one that aligned my wish for a small and intimate ceremony, with my family’s plan to put together an experience, which was big on the colourful and cultural elements, to make our celebrations more meaningful. Together, we picked out symbolic rituals we liked and tried incorporating them into our wedding festivities.

The process left me surprised at how sensitive our loved ones have been towards our beliefs, and how such a big part of this turned out to be upcycled, handmade, and environment-friendly. It brought about a shift in perspective for many of us.

 

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If there’s a bigger household de-junking exercise than Diwali cleaning, it’s the one that takes place before a wedding in the family.

Ma, the chief hoarder in ours, found an old pencil box stuffed with over a dozen decade-old Suzy hand blender merchandise— keychains. "They’re special!" Ma exclaimed, before anyone could point out that they served absolutely no purpose. “When you were little, your Baba was a dealer for Suzy mixer-grinders. He used to give these keychains as gifts to his customers," she said. "Now you tell me, how could I get rid of these?"

Being a hoarder myself, I couldn’t argue with that. 

Since all roads were leading to the wedding, Ma decided to turn these keychains into little dolls which would go on to become our Gaur Parivaar (goddess Parvati’s family)— the central characters for our pre-wedding Gangaur puja.

It was a delight to turn these miniature hand-blender memorabilia into cute, Lego-like deities.

 

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First, we made dough with regular flour and glue to give them faces, ears, and hair pulled back into a bun for the ladies. “We must add earrings before their ears dry up,” Ma instructed.

  Miniature hand blender keychains found in decades worth of hoarded material, with which we made dolls for  Gangaur .

Miniature hand blender keychains found in decades worth of hoarded material, with which we made dolls for Gangaur.

After several failed attempts, we finally managed to give them ears that stuck, with long, dangling earrings made with scraps of wire and ornate beads.

Boxes full of old rakhis, collected over many years to serve as loving reminders of our brothers and sisters, were finally brought out to make pretty outfits for the deities.

  Once a base made of bread and glue was in place, we rummaged through old  rakhis  to make pretty little outfits.

Once a base made of bread and glue was in place, we rummaged through old rakhis to make pretty little outfits.

Once all of this was in place, our little deities got a smear of bright paint on their faces, and were finished off with painted-on features.

  Our Lego-like deities got a smear of bright paint.

Our Lego-like deities got a smear of bright paint.

  Finally, we added facial features and some ornate jewellery.

Finally, we added facial features and some ornate jewellery.

Until their big day, they sat in old, inverted tennis ball tumblers that were lying around the house. 

  Inverted tennis ball tumblers for individual showcases

Inverted tennis ball tumblers for individual showcases

After months of such upcycling experiments, we kicked off my wedding festivities with Gangaur puja. We sang at the top of our voices, listened to fun stories woven around Shiva-Parvati’s family (which reminded us of the relationships within our own), and laughed through all of it. 

  Shiva, Parvati, and their family, all set for the festivities.

Shiva, Parvati, and their family, all set for the festivities.

  The set-up for our pre-wedding  Gangaur puja.

The set-up for our pre-wedding Gangaur puja.

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After the puja, I handed over the dolls to my 'new family'. Ma said they were symbolic of a happy family, and her good wishes for a new beginning.

At first, it felt strange to part with the dolls. They reminded me of the time I’d spent with my mother, and I thought of them as our little secret. But when I saw the dolls being carefully placed on a display shelf in my husband's home, I realised that little acts of acceptance can make the beginning of something new feel just as special as the comfort of what is familiar. 

 

Radhika Agarwal is a sari-clad juggler with a camera, a garden spade, and a spoon at the circus which unfolds around her everywhere. More from her small, big wedding can be seen on her blog.