Nepali Times
Pre-monsoon weddings


You hear the band on the street, the trumpets crooning a Bollywood hit, the drums beating faster and faster. The traffic grinds to a halt, the garland-bedecked rented car moves through the narrow alley. It is the pre-monsoon wedding season and another round of endless parties.

There are already a dozen or so wedding invitations on my desk, some from people I don't even know. Several of them are for different parties of the same couple. And these wedding invitations are getting gaudier and brighter: one of them is tabloid size and folds like an accordion. Size seems to matter in Kathmandu weddings these days.

So there I go, round and round in circles inside the Ring Road attending five parties in one day. A European acquaintance I run into admits he doesn't know why he was invited. "I only met the groom once," he tells me. Same here. In the grand five-star ballroom, the nation's movers and shakers are all there: political leaders, media people, industrialists, celebrities, diplomats and socialites. The length of the guest list seems to matter in Kathmandu weddings these days.

Some of these people I had already run into at parties earlier in the day. As we make eye contact, familiar faces look away with that knowing smirk: "So you're here again, too?"

By the end of the day, driving around Kathmandu's traffic has worn me out. Why do all Nepalis marry at the same time? Is it because pre-marital sex is taboo and we have our own mating season? Or is it because the positions of the planets determine when we tie the knot? Whatever.

The next reception is under a tent. Out of sheer boredom I move with like-minded colleagues to the buffet. The queue snakes right across the shamiana and people are lined up plates in hand like refugees waiting to be fed. Some look fed up already. Others who got their food are stabbing at chunks of goat with the unique multi-tasking cutlery that one only sees at wedding palaces-the one that's not a spoon, not yet a knife nor a fork but somehow serves as all three. Paper napkins litter the sad grass, plates are stacked under the chairs, people are tripping over empty soft drink bottles all over the place.

The next wedding is classier. A soft Narayan Gopal gazal envelops the evening and guests are nursing scotches on the rocks wrapped in white napkins. The discussion drifts to the pros and cons of February First and no one had any extreme views either way. This is a civilised wedding in which the invitees are least bothered about the wedding itself.

Suddenly, Narayan Gopal is replaced by an announcement. A ladies' handbag had gone missing and guests were requested not to leave their belongings unattended. Silence. Over made-up and under-dressed women look over their bare shoulders. Looks like on top of being bored stiff, we risk being robbed at wedding parties these days. Was the thief in question one of the invitees? Didn't stay long enough to find out. I went over to the stage to congratulate the bride and groom. They apologised for not being able to give me time. I said I understood, how could they when they had invited 1,500 other people?

Now that the wedding season is finally over, I am looking forward to the peace and quiet of a Kathmandu monsoon during which I hope no one decides to get married.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)