Jul 11, 2010
Soon after my masters my parents were behind me coaxing me to get married as every Mangi parents do, with the note “girls should get married in time". Well, the elders say “Marriages are made in heaven" and things happen according to that. So once the proposal is set, parent’s next worry is to fix the date of marriage. Well, finally we (my fiancé and me) both decided to step ahead.
There were many commitments to fulfill that came along with the decision namely, resigning the job and serving the notice period, then the visa procedures to move to the new country and in between coping up with parent's and others excitement.
So finally I came to India, to Mangalore, when there was just a month left for the engagement. My family was kind of excited as it was the first wedding in our family. It was the first engagement programme for me which I was going to witness and yes, I had no clue how it was supposed to be. Dad had to guide all three (me and my 2 brothers) of us, on how to go about the entire event. We had a meeting on that evening which we can be named as "Engagement phase 1 meeting". Dad explained the procedures and made a list of the invitees. These meetings went on every night at home after dinner.
We had started counting the list of people from different places, like from Arva to Urva, Attur to Puttur, B C Road to Kasargod, then from Bangalore to Mangalore. I was shocked to see the number of relatives we have and was even more perturbed by the fact that we kids had no clue about at least half of the relatives included in the list. Now, the point was how to invite them! I had heard about “Vovly sangche” and if my grandfather was alive, he would have explained to us what it was and I would have loved to have this as its part of our Konkani culture. Then my brother came up with an idea of invitations which means our job was made easy. The hall was already booked with no discount as it was the engagement of NRI's. T here were many other things to be taken care as well and so dad took up the responsibility of inviting priests, arranging MC, DJ, photographer, caterers, transport etc.
Well, after that the discussion started on whom to call as MC. My friend Roshan was supposed to come from Sharjah as MC but he expressed his inability to come and I had to look for someone else. We started enquiring people around about a good MC in Mangalore. Bannu uncle said " Ricchha is the best MC, go for him".
Then Rony uncle said "No not Richcha, he is just okay, you can think of going for Peter, he does well". Then Selly aunty chipped in saying “Not Peter, go for Silvy, she does a great job”. Then my other uncle Leo said “Oh no, not ladies. Go for Lawrence". It really confused me and I had no idea what to do.
In between, a friend of mine gave me a contact of a MC and I called him over the phone to say I needed his services for the engagement " before I could say 'Its just a simple engagement programme', he started shooting questions after questions and his first question was - "Is it the posh party, who is going to arrive for the engagement?"
Then I said - “It is only the human beings who are going to come for this program". “Oh you joke well, by the way where your fiancé is from and what does he do?" he asked me. This question drove me crazy as I felt he was asking unnecessary questions but I managed to answer ignoring his half question. I said “he is from the US”, and he was very happy to hear it and immediately he wasted no time in raising his fee. “Do you want the program to be in Konkani or in English?" he asked. "Well, in both the languages as Konkani is my mother tongue and I am proud of it and also to be in English as I would have few relatives who do not understand Konkani, and I don't want them to get bored… so "
"Well, that's wonderful, so when is the wedding? and make sure you are going to call me as the MC for the wedding as well and I will make it real good. You can pay us the advance for that as well now."I was stunned for a while as he was talking more than what was required and I had no choice but listen to him and then I said “well, since the wedding is not here, you cant master the wedding ceremony"
“Oh then we can make your engagement program like wedding you know, it would just charge Seven thousand rupees only", he muttered. My head started reeling, I had no word to say thinking instead of me working outside the country, I would have taken this as my profession.
He continued "On this account you can also go for a life insurance policy which is specially made for couples. I can suggest you a good investment package". I thought its too much and I wanted to stop him talking further, I said " Let me get back to you after I check with my dad and if I need you, I will call you back" and hit the disconnect button with a bang.
I was already half mad searching for a MC. I immediately dialed Roshan’s number and said - “Hey Roshan, I am helpless, you have to arrange a MC for my engagement. I have no idea who could master this ceremony. If I call my gurkar (leader of the ward) he would not be able to converse in English. Do something man". I explained to him about what had transpired between the M C and me.
He said “Don’t worry I will train my niece Cassey who can do this job. She is young and it would be the first programme for her but she would do well". After speaking to Casey I must say I was relaxed a bit.
Now, I had to choose the photographer. I had someone in my mind and when I said this to my friends while talking they came up with different photographer's names like Willy, Alwy, Melwy, Rikku and and I didn't want to take trouble. I went and booked whom I wanted to.
My brother was worried about DJ and few old uncles of mine said “What is DJ?" Get Pasku's brass band". We were confused. Looked at him and asked “Have you ever heard anyone using brass band for the engagement?” “No, we can do something different for Americans (in a funny way)". I just didn’t want anything to be 'something different', and later hear nasty comments about it. But in between I had to convince all. My brother finally found a DJ who could do the job. .
Catering was one more pain where we had to choose the menu and that had to be liked by all. Finally, we decided to cook by ourselves. So my brothers got his friends and it was done more perfectly than catering food with taste and service.
In between my worry was to look for a beautician to be dressed up as the bride to be. People whoever I knew were a kind of scissors on my pocket by charging me double or triple than what they charge normally for their services. They try to sell things like Diamond facial, though I wanted to do fruit facials. Just to keep them happy I said okay with whatever they used to say as they flattered me with their sweet talks. It was a bitter experience for me as every time I ended up paying triple than what others could pay for the same service, just because I was a NRI.
So, for the engagement I decided not to get trapped as I had to maintain my budget. Couple of beauticians whom I knew in my place started calling me as soon as I landed Mangalore, “Hey this is Allie Baie, Sellie baie from so and so beauty parlor, heard you are in India and that your engagement is fixed and all that. Just wanted to know when you are able to come for the facial and other things?" Their calls used to surprise me and used to think - Gosh, how did these ladies come to know about my arrival and engagement and they talk as if they are offering me a free service". Suggestions like “You have to start doing things at least before 15 days of your engagement, so that you look gorgeous " etc., started pouring in.
I had to be smarter this time not to fall for these sweet talks and get a hole in my pocket. So I decided to go to some other town to get someone to help me with this. Until the last day of engagement I started getting calls from these beauticians like the follow up tele-marketing calls in the US every now and then, and I used to say “well, have not thought of anything as I am quite busy. Will let you know”. Still people didn't stop calling until the previous day of my engagement and on that day I managed to say
“Well, I have my relative who is going to dress me up and she is going to take care of everything". I know it hurt the sentiments of many of my beautician friends. But I had no option even though I didn't want to hurt them.
Well, I went to the nearest town to approach a beautician and prepare myself by dressing as simple as possible, and was extra careful by asking the price of each and everything whatever I wanted to do before she would open her mouth to sell me her products because of the experiences I went through.
On the engagement day, looking at the crowd and the programme this beautician had left a bill with my cousin with triple the charges agreed upon . It really surprised me as we had agreed upon the rates. But she had her own explanations like, we charge different for different category of people and I didn't know you were a NRI and all that stuff. It is really surprising that charges of MC, DJ, . Catering etc., are based on what your status is and not for the services rendered. I felt if they find you are a NRI then you are screwed to the highest. However, at the end, when the engagement was over, my over all expense was 50% more than what I had anticipated.
I had to take a long breath and say - No wonder why our elders used to say "Perform marriage and see, build a house and see". This quote very well applies to all especially the NRIs.
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