Premankur Biswas, Amruta Lakhe, Garima Mishra
Ululating is not for the faint-hearted. A high-pitched sound that trills through the still air with the velocity of a boomerang and the ferocity of a war cry, it is used sparingly, on special occasions such as Durga Puja and a wedding. In this case, the wedding of a Bengali woman and her north Indian groom in Siliguri, West Bengal. “The ceremony was a mix of UP and Bengali rituals, but it was mostly dominated by theirs. My aunts couldn’t resist the opportunity to showcase our culture,” says Nibedita Adhikary, a 29-year-old PhD scholar from Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi. Nothing could have prepared the Yadav family of Balia district, Uttar Pradesh, for that moment in February this year when the women of Adhikary’s family took a deep breath and began to ululate. The poor northerners jumped at the bhootiya sound. So much for auspicious beginnings, thought Adhikary, as she prepared herself for a lifetime of combating differences and presumptions, adjusting wardrobes and palates, and hoping that eventually, it will all pan out. “The things we do for love,” she says with a smile.
When 2 States released in theatres three weeks ago, Divya Singh took her mother-in-law along to the cinema hall. The film, based on Chetan Bhagat’s mostly-autobiographical novel of the same name, has struck a chord with audiences across the country and especially with those who, like their onscreen counterparts Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, have had to overcome many cultural odds for their happily-ever-after. As a Kannadiga woman who married a Rajput from Uttar Pradesh four years ago, Singh, 30, knew only too well the endless battles the young couple in the film would have to face. “My mother-in-law and I laughed together and said that this is exactly what happened. She said, ‘We didn’t tell you, but this is how we felt too’,” says Singh.
In a country with 29 states, over a 100 recognised languages, and diverse religious practices, it should come as no surprise if people from different states, castes and communities met and fell in love and got married. But it is also a truth nationally acknowledged that marriage here is not just between a man and a woman — it is between families. And nothing rattles the parivar more than a son or a daughter marrying outside their communities. “Indian continued…