Short stories

A shaadi is not a wedding

Little girls in America are taught to dream about their perfect wedding day. The big white dress celebrates purity. Their favorite girlfriends in perfectly matching dresses, with perfectly paired groomsmen, stand in a cul-de-sac around the couple, eerily patterning the false perfection of our suburban childhoods.

I never seriously thought to daydream about my own wedding. Mom and dad have a mental guest list of all the aunties and uncles who invited us to their kid’s weddings and I suppose are waiting for their invitation. A mountain of  paperwork is waiting for us at the consulate so family from India can finally visit Am-ree-kah.

With a tired voice I explained to my girlfriends, Indian brides wore red and weddings are more like the chaos of sound, color, and lights of Indian traffic and less like a cooling stroll through Taj Mahal.

If I do it right, my wedding would probably be hosted in a suburban hotel that has room for a white horse in a parking lot. We could host the dinner at India House, a once grocery store, now Indian ballroom, perfectly tucked in a strip mall with endless parking and curbside drop off for women in saris.

They have the lucrative monopoly on the Indian wedding parties in the Chicagoland Area. Who else can do pure veg samosas and a chocolate fountain on the same bill? All I can hope for is an open bar, so some Indian kids with uni-brows and hairy arms can have their first drink before college.

I started answering the wedding daydream question a little differently when I got to college. “I’m not really sure. It kind of depends on who I marry,” which seemed like a perfectly logical answer if a wedding was about partnership.

My girlfriend’s eyes light up. I can see the idea of bright gems and colorful patterns swirling in their head. “You have to get married so I can go to an Indian wedding!” This is their only chance to experience a real live Indian wedding that will be soooooooo fun. I have to get married.  I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave to get married. I have to get married so they can come. Does Crate and Barrel’s wedding registry have a checkbox for down payment of a house?

“I hope it’s small. Or maybe I won’t have one.” which disappointed my friends. My ideal guest list got shorter and shorter as I got better at boundaries with my mom.

But I give her a lot of credit. As I got older, she realize my wedding might not happen in Chicago, where she lives. “We’ll have to get a tour bus so everyone can see San Francisco.”

My temperature shoots to 100 and I think steam must be blowing out of my ears like a Looney Toons character. What everyone? What wedding? What groom? What city? Who’s we? What if his family has their own wedding traditions? And a coach bus? The backpacker in me dies a little.  None of this is a factor.

“Sure,” I respond. It’s finally my mom’s chance to daydream about her daughter’s marriage. The idea of a virginal bride at an Indian wedding is kind of silly. What else would she be?

Nina Mehta is an Indian American writer and product designer in San Francisco. She started writing online in the 90s and first worked in news near sweet home Chicago. She has since lived in Berlin, London, and Tokyo as a designer.

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