Some people are good at taking decisions. I am not one of them. Some people fall asleep quickly at night. I am not one of them either. It is 3 in the morning. I have tossed and turned in bed for two hours. I am to get married in fifteen hours. We have two hundred guests in the hotel, here to attend my grand destination wedding in Goa. I brought them here. Everyone is excited. It is the first destination wedding in the Mehta family.
I am the bride. I should get my beauty sleep. I can’t. The last thing I care about right now is beauty. The only thing I care about is how to get out of this mess. Because, like what often happens to me, here I am in a situation where I don’t know what the fuck is going on.
“What do you mean not enough rooms?” I said to Arijit Banerjee, the lobby manager of the Goa Marriott.
“See, what I am trying to explain is…” Arijit began in his modulated, courteous voice when mom cut him off.
“It’s my daughter’s wedding. Are you going to shame us?” she said, her volume loud enough to startle the rest of the reception staff.
“No, ma’am. Just a shortage of twenty rooms. You booked a hundred. We promised eighty then. We hoped to give more but the chief minister had a function and…”
“What do we tell our guests who have come all the way from America?” Mom said.
“If I may suggest, there is another hotel two kilometers away,” Arijit said.
“We have to be together. You are going to ruin my daughter’s wedding for some sarkaari function?” my mother said, bosom high, breath heavy – classic warning signs of an upcoming storm.
“Mom, go sit with Dad, please. I will sort this out,” I said. Mom glared at me. How could I, the bride, be doing all this in the first place? I should be worried about my facials, not room allocations.
“The boy’s side arrives in less than three hours. I can’t believe this,” she muttered, walking to the sofa at the center of the lobby. My father sat there along with Kamla bua, his elder sister. Other uncles and aunts occupied the remaining couches in the lobby – in a Mehta takeover of the Marriott. My mother looked at my father, a level two glare. It signified: ‘Will you ever take initiative in life?’
My father shifted in his seat. I re-focused on the lobby manager.
“What can be done now, Arijit?” I said. “My family is all here.”
We had come on the morning flight from Delhi. The Gulatis, or the boy’s side, would take off from Mumbai at three p.m. and land in Goa at four p.m. Twenty hired Innovas would bring them to the hotel by five. I checked the time. 2:30 p.m.
“See, ma’am, we have set up a special desk for the Mehta-Gulati wedding,” Arijit said. “We are doing the check-ins for your family now.”
He pointed to a makeshift counter at the far corner of the lobby where three female Marriott employees with permanent smiles sat. They welcomed everyone with folded hands. Each guest received a shell necklace, a set of key cards for the room, a map of the Marriott Goa property and a ‘wedding information booklet’. The booklet contained the entire programme for the week, including the time, venue and other details of the ceremonies.
“My side will take fifty rooms. The Gulatis need fifty too,” I said.
“If you take fifty, ma’am, we will have only thirty left for them,” Arijit said.
“Where is Suraj?” I said. ‘We will manage last minute’ is what he told me. Suraj was the owner of Moonshine Events, the event manager we had appointed for the wedding.
“At the airport,” Arijit said.
My father ambled up to the reception desk. “Everything okay, beta?”
I explained the situation to him.
“Thirty rooms! Gulatis have a hundred and twenty guests,” my father said.
“Exactly.” I threw my hands in the air.
Mom and Kamla bua came to the reception as well. “I told Sudarshan also, why all this Goa business? Delhi has so many nice banquet halls and farmhouses. Seems like you have money to throw,” Kamla bua said.
I wanted to retort but my mother gave me the Mother Look.
They are our guests, I reminded myself. I let out a huge breath.
“How many from our side?” my mother said.
“Mehta family has a hundred and seventeen guests, ma’am,” Arijit said, counting from his reservation sheets.
“If we only have eighty, that is forty rooms for each side,” I said. “Let’s reallocate. Stop the check-ins for the Mehtas right now.”
Arijit signaled to the smiling ladies at the counter. They stopped the smiles and the check-ins and kept the shell necklaces back in the drawer.
“How can we reduce the rooms for the boy’s side?” my mother said in a shocked voice.
“What else to do?” I said.
“How many rooms are they expecting?” she said.
“Fifty,” I said. “Call them now. They will readjust their allocations on the way here.”
“How can you ask the boy’s side to adjust?” Kamla bua said. “Aparna, are you serious?”
My mother looked at Kamla bua and me.
“But how can we manage in only thirty rooms?” I said and turned to my father, “Dad, Call them.”
“Sudarshan, don’t insult them before they even arrive,” Kamla bua said. “We will manage in thirty. It’s okay. Some of us will sleep on the floor.”
“Nobody needs to sleep on the floor, bua,” I said. “I am sorry this screw-up happened. But if we have forty rooms each, it is three to a room. With so many kids anyway, it should be fine.”
“We can manage in thirty,” my mother said.
“Mom? That’s four to a room. While the Gulatis will have so much space. Let’s tell them.”
“No,” my mother said. “We can’t do that.”
“They are the boy’s side. Little bit also you don’t understand?”
I didn’t want to lose it at my own wedding, definitely not in the first hour of arrival. I turned to my father. “Dad, it is no big deal. His family will understand. We are here for six nights. It will get too tight for us,” I said.
Dad, of course, would not listen. These two women, his wife and sister, controlled his remote. For once, these women were on the same page as well.
“Beta, these are norms. You don’t understand. We have to keep them comfortable. Girl’s side is expected to adjust,” he said.
I argued for five more minutes. It didn’t work. I had to relent. And do what the girl’s side needs to do – adjust.
“You and Aditi take a room,” my mother said, referring to my sister.
“Let her be with her husband. What will jiju think?” I said.
“Anil will adjust with other gents,” Kamla bua said.
Over the next twenty minutes the two women sorted out the extended Mehta family comprising of a hundred and seventeen people to thirty rooms. They used a complex algorithm with criteria like the people sharing the room should not hate each other (warring relatives kept in different rooms) or be potentially attracted to each other (mixed gender rooms were avoided, even if it involved people aged eighty plus). Kids were packed five to a room, often with a grandparent. Kamla bua, herself a widow, dramatically offered to sleep on the floor in my parents’ room, causing my father to offer his own bed and sleep on the floor instead. Of course, Arijit kept saying they will put extra beds in the room. But how can you compare sleeping on an extra Marriott bed versus the Punjabi bua’s eternal sacrifice of sleeping on the floor?
“I am happy with roti and achaar,” Kamla bua said.
“It’s the Marriott. There is enough food, bua,” I said.
“I am just saying.”
“Can you please focus on the reallocations? We need to be all checked in before the Gulatis arrive,” I said.
In the middle of this chaos, I forgot what I had come here for. I had come to change my life forever. I had come to do something I never believed in my whole life. I had come to do something I never thought I would do. I had come to have an arranged marriage.
Here I am, lost in logistics, guest arrangements and bua tantrums. I took a moment to reflect.
I will marry in a week. To a guy I hardly know. This guy and I are to share a bed, home and life for the rest of my life.
Why isn’t it sinking in? Why am I fighting with Suraj on chat instead?
Me: Major screw-up on rooms, Suraj. Not cool.
Suraj: Sorry. Really sorry. Political reasons. Tried. Really.
Me: You said it will be OK.
Suraj: I did. CM of Goa wanted rooms. Marriott can’t refuse.
Me: What else is going to get screwed up?
Suraj: Nothing. Indigo from Mumbai just landed. We are ready to receive guests. See you soon.
I went to the Mehta-Gulati check-in desk. All my family guests had checked in. Some did grumble about sharing a room with three others but most seemed fine. Mom said the grumblers were the jealous types, the relatives who can’t stand we have reached a level that we can do a destination wedding in Goa. The supportive ones, according to mom, are those who understand what it is like to be the girl’s side.
“Do not use this girl’s side and boy’s side with me again. I don’t like it,” I said. Mom and I sat in the lobby, ensuring that the staff readied the special check-in desk for the Gulatis.
“Can you stop waving your feminism flag for a week? This is a wedding, not an NGO activist venue,” my mother said.