Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
The Islamic ceremony, or nikkah, did not happen exactly according to tradition, but then again, we were hardly a traditional couple in any sense of the word. Rather than go through the weeks-long revelries and family gatherings, we did most of this over the course of two days.
On Thursday the 3rd of August Dana had a mehndhi party, which is an evening where the bride-to-be is honored by her impending female in-laws (which is to say they are impending in-laws, not impending females). Songs are sung, food is consumed, and the women decorate each other’s hands and feet with intricate henna designs. The men sit in the room nearby and talk about the Big Important Things in between stating wry asides and scary stories about marriage.
On the 4th, there were two separate events. The first, which took place in the early afternoon in my parents’ living room, was a sort of sermon on the nature of commitment and love in the view of Islam. It was attended by my and Dana’s immediate family, as well as by members of our bridal party. Afterwards there was a small tea and luncheon, at which the families were allowed to meet and get to know one another. This was pretty huge, since due to both distance and varying degrees of previous social discomfort, most of our respective families had never met the other; indeed, our sets of parents never even shared a meal together until after we got engaged.
In the evening was the reception, or valima, for which we wore the outfits shown in the photo above. In contrast to the earlier event, this was gigantic–a little over 200 people, total–and included a large cross-section of the suburban Muslim community from which I hail, as well as a number of our closest friends and Dana’s family. My aunt Noreen did the decorating, which is something she does for a living. We had very little to do, ourselves, besides enter the room and then sit on the stage looking pretty, waiting for people to come up and take photos with us or simply introduce themselves. Speeches were made–my brother delivered a speech that subtly became a sort of roast. There was much food and mango lassi. Dana did very well, including a crowd-pleasing moment where she thanked the room in Urdu.
I get nervous in moments of pageantry. Also, unfortunately, the headgear I’m sporting in the photo was a few sizes too small, which meant that about halfway through the evening I had to take it off, because I was developing a migraine. I don’t know how my mom felt about that, because she’s been quietly disappointed for the entirety of the time I’ve been shaving my head.
I doubt it was a big deal. She was having a wonderful time. For as much as the wedding is ostensibly supposed to be for the married couple, the valima, especially, was also for her, and I’m happy that it went as well as she hoped.
Our DJ was also a sort of classical Bollywood singer, who traveled around the room with his microphone and delighted the aunts and uncles who occasionally were given the microphone to sing along. I was just fine with the guy until the very end of the evening, when he handed me the microphone and told me that “I heard you were an actor. Act something.”
Any comedian or somebody who cares for one knows that about the most uncomfortable thing you can say to them is “The Holocaust never happened.” (Because that should be uncomfortable for anybody.) But the second most uncomfortable thing you can say is “You’re a comedian? Say something funny!”
It was like that. I stood there with the microphone trying very nicely to tell the man that I wasn’t going to do it. He insisted. We were locked in this battle of wills for about five minutes, at which point I recited the first four lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII and then handed him the mike back. And from that moment on, all that came out of my eyes were daggers.
But that’s a small blemish on an otherwise fantastic evening. I wasn’t sure how we were going to go through another one eight days later. But we did.