Sangeet, Shaadi & Shared Smiles


12 min read

While returning from the office, I noticed two missed calls from Isha. She’s a friend from the CS Department & serving in an MNC as a Software Developer.

During the college exams, she was a savior, always seated at the front or right beside me, generously sharing her notes in helping us to move through.

✨The Invitation!

What could be her reason for calling on a Wednesday, while we usually catch up on weekends? It turned out that, she was getting married and wanted to extend an invitation to Talcher, her hometown.

While I often find myself browsing through the posts of friends reuniting at weddings, this occasion marked my first occasion to camp in another city for a two-days escape from the professional duties.

Following our conversation, I scheduled a calendar reminder to give priority to this event in the upcoming months. Until one morning, I woke up to a call from Nandini, who was supposed to accompany me from Bhubaneswar.

She explained that some last moment examination and audit obligations had arisen in those event days, which she couldn't ignore due to her recent appointment at the university. Working as an assistant professor, she was a mutual friend of both me and Isha from our alma mater and they belong to the same hometown.

Somehow, after some persuasions, Nandini promised to speak to her senior and, within half an hour, called back with an approval to attend the event.

🚅On the Journey...

With the time running short and no opportunity to shop for a gift, we decided to purchase something upon reaching at destination and promptly secured our train tickets.

Moreover, Isha had set a strict dress code guidelines for her Haldi and Sangeet ceremonies, necessitating some last-minute outfit planning on my part. The train to Talcher was scheduled on a bone-chilling winter morning of December.

Fortunately, the convenience of instant cab services, the quiet streets of Bhubaneswar and a friendly driver ensured my timely arrival at the railway station. It was undergoing significant renovations at the time, causing internal navigation nearly impossible.

If there weren’t the supporting shopkeepers, it would have taken me more weights to figure out the destined platform.

With just 10 minutes in hand for the train's departure, there were still no signs of Nandini and her updates over the phone indicated she was on the way. I couldn't help but think she might miss this train and have to catch the next one later that day.

However, true to her punctual and responsible nature as a teacher who always started the class on time and covered the syllabus thoroughly, Nandini made it with 5 minutes to spare. Without wasting any more time, we boarded the train and our journey got commenced!

The journey was roughly of two & half hours, passing through a few stations with a comfortably light crowd in our reserved compartment.

🏭Welcome To Talcher: The City of Coal Mines

Upon arriving, we looked for an auto-rickshaw to take us to the neighborhood where Isha lived. As we traveled through Talcher, a city recognized for its economic importance due to its rich coal deposits, I found myself captivated by the sight of its industrial progress.

This city hosts numerous coal mines operated by central public sector enterprises with the extracted coal mainly serving thermal power production locally and nationwide.

We exchanged contact with the auto driver to secure our return trip, scheduling a pickup from the event and a drop-off at the station, to ensure a comfortable return in the early morning.

We were greeted with open arms by Isha’s family, a gesture🙏 that deeply moved us. Amidst a bustling ceremonial atmosphere, we were offered the welcome drinks and snacks and shown to a carefully arranged room in the colony for my comfort and rest.

Meanwhile, Nandini, being from the same neighborhood, made her way to her own home.

🍯The Haldi Moment!

In a humorous twist, we found ourselves be quite early amongst her friends to arrive at the Haldi ceremony, even before many relatives had made their appearance! 😆

After taking a moment to rest, I dressed for the occasion, choosing a light yellow🟡Kurta to align with the ceremony's vibrant theme.

The community center, where the festivities were set to unfold over two days, was conveniently located within a walking distance from my room.

I teamed up with some of Isha's school friends, newly acquainted but quickly befriended, and we approached the stage to take photos with the bride.

The ceremony involved applying a paste made of turmeric, sandalwood, and rose water on the bride, a tradition believed to bestow the bride with radiant skin and protect her from the negative energies.

Meanwhile, I came across another classmate Nisha, who had journeyed here with her family. As a close aide, she picked up her interactions with Isha right after the Haldi ceremony and the subsequent lunch.

I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her parents, who hailed from the same city where we all pursued our engineering degrees. It's fascinating how meeting people from various age groups allows for an exchange of diverse viewpoints.

In the midst of this, I made sure to video call our other classmates who couldn't attend due to previous work obligations.

🎁 Quest For The Present!

It was already the afternoon of the first day and we hadn't yet purchased any gifts, which, despite being planned with Nandini, were delayed. The next day was set for the marriage ceremony and we were already half way through the event!

Nandini and I were able to borrow a scooter with a promise to return it within half an hour, without disclosing our true intention of fetching a gift from the market.

Shortly after setting off, we noticed the scooter was low on fuel, risking additional complications during the festive season, which we aimed to avoid.

Given the town's small setup, fuel stations were scarce, and one nearby was even closed for the day. Without hesitation, we rushed to another station and successfully refueled.

After traveling a significant distance from our base, donned in the Haldi ceremony attire, we found ourselves with limited time before the Sangeet ceremony and few options for gift shopping.

We stopped the scooter outside an electronics store. Amid a wide array of gadgets, we initially chose a hair dryer only to discover it was defective during a pre-purchase test. Shifting our focus, we settled on an egg boiler hoping it would serve as a suitable gift given our constrained time in hand.

We finalized the purchase and hurried back to return the scooter to its owner. Halfway there, we realized we hadn't wrapped the gift, which added another 15 minutes to our itinerary.

Somehow, my family had prepared a Saree and another classmate, Jhanvi from Howrah, had sent a gift hamper through me! I joked that if we couldn't arrange anything, then we'd settle with these two😁& take credits for that!

🎧🎸Go Green🟢...For Sangeet!

While parking the scooty, I encountered Gurleen from our batch who also resided in the same neighborhood as Isha, choreographing the vibes of the ceremony.

She extended an invitation for me to join the dance practice for the Sangeet. It's moments like these when I find myself at a crossroads, with my reserved nature prevailing over my eagerness to participate.

Despite my polite refusal, I couldn't help but admire how effortlessly everyone else overcame their apprehensions about being judged & quickly synchronizing their steps in front of the strangers. After capturing a few reels for the social media, the group disbanded to get ready for the evening's festivities.

As seen in trends, the theme for the Sangeet ceremony was a green🟢, setting a vibrant mood for the evening. As I made my way from the room to the community center, the melodies of the celebration began to envelop me, allowing me to gradually immerse myself in the festive spirit.

Isha, as the older of two sisters, took charge of the event's operations, a role she naturally fit into due to her slightly dominant personality. Meanwhile, her parents attended the guests.

She made her entrance at the venue with a sense of eagerly anticipated magnificence, clad in dance attire, accompanied by her cousins.

The stage was set with radiant lights and the music crew was busy curating a playlist that spanned languages around the nation. For those of us who were more reserved on the dance floor, we found joy in the rhythm of the music and watching others dance.😄

I would call it Nach Baliye💃🏻🕺🏽, an occasion where people of all ages are given a moment in the spotlight to showcase their dancing talents. In India, the preparations for such a once-in-a-lifetime event can span even months to ensure every detail is flawless.

With the level of efforts Isha had put in, it wouldn't be surprising to see her ranked as the top dancer, securing either first or second place, despite the stage being filled with distant relatives, friends, and guests.

Rajesh, a school friend of Isha's, truly deserved a special mention for his adaptability to dance to any song, adding significantly to the crowd's enjoyment.

The event wrapped up with eagerly anticipated performances from the elders of both families, culminating in a lavish dinner.

🌳Strolling Alone!

On the second day, the wedding rituals were parked for the evening. So, I found myself with some leisure hours in the morning. I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood for some relaxation.

Stepping outside the residential area quickly became overwhelming due to the coal dust in the air, its odor and the grime settling on my clothes. It was a stark reminder of the cost locals bear, living amidst the industrial growth that fuels their economy.

The residential areas are thoughtfully designed amidst lush surroundings, complete with essential amenities such as schools, banks, postal services, and places of worship, all connected by well-planned roads and safeguarded by security measures. This creates an appealing environment for the residents.

The allocation of housing and amenities laid bare the class distinctions, with additional privileges accorded based on the organizational hierarchy. Nevertheless, the peaceful environment and absence of traffic contributed to a relaxing experience, offering a moment of reflection.

👰+🤵D-Day: The Wedding Ceremony

The wedding festivities for the Isha, actually began near five hours before the scheduled time.

She was attended by a professional makeup artist, along with Nisha, to ensure all makeup preparations were meticulously handled.

The bride's spectacular entrance took place around 8 PM to the Mandap, arriving in the car of Navdeep, a fellow resident of the neighborhood from a Sikh community who had been Isha's schoolmate since their batch days.

Despite not having a brother, Isha had always felt a sense of belonging and kinship with Navdeep, who stood by her protectively and whose family embraced her as their own daughter.

The event kicked off as guests from various parts of the state started arriving. It was there that I reconnected with Sunita, who had originally planned to travel from Bhubaneswar alongside me and Nandini but was unable to do so because of work obligations.

She arrived with her parents, who captivated us with their tales and extended a warm invitation to visit their hometown. Regrettably, due to time constraints, we had to decline their kind offers.

🙋‍♂️Introduce Yourself, Once More!

If you notice around, you'll typically find the younger crowd engrossed in enjoying their meals, those in middle age wandering with their partners and the elders often reminiscing about their past achievements, comparing their social standings or on the lookout for a suitable match for their children.

Amidst all this, I found myself introducing my work to so many attendees that it felt akin to delivering pitches at a business conference, though with a much different vibe and possibly conversion rates!😋

💃🏽Saiyaan Superstar!

As the groom arrived, the crowd shifted their attention to welcome him. The ceremony was marked by a spectacular moment as Isha had her grand entry to the vibrant beats of Saiyaan Superstar despite it being 2 AM at night and her having fasted all day in adherence to ritual.

Witnessing Navdeep, embodying the role of a brother in the ritual of Isha's wedding, underscored the beauty of diverse cultural traditions merging.

His participation made my experience deeply fulfilling and let me witness cultural acceptance. The event, filled with rich traditions, continued until the early hours of the morning, leaving a lasting impression of harmony.

💼And, It's a Pack Up!

But we had our train scheduled, so we had to leave for the railway station. Before packing our bags for the exit, we stepped in for a final group picture.

It was the time to dial to the auto driver with whom we had exchanged number to pick us as early as 5 AM to drop us at the station. Despite a reminder earlier in the evening and attempting to call him four times, there was no response, which heightened my anxiety about missing the train.

At that moment, Rajesh, the dancing star of the Sangeet ceremony, noticed our distress and offered to drop us through his car by driving us the 20 kilometers through the quiet, dark streets to the station. I was overwhelmed by his generosity, especially considering we had only met him a day before, and he was going out of his way for two people he might never see again.

I could hardly express my gratitude beyond a heartfelt thank you, reflecting on the unexpected kindness. Just then, as if by a stroke of divine intervention, my phone rang with the auto driver on the other end, calling back to confirm he would be arriving shortly to pick us up.

We started on our journey back home, leaving behind our best wishes for Isha as she began her new life. The trip to the railway station felt longer than usual, with Talcher city's biting cold and deserted streets.

Fortunately, the train's delay gave us a bit of extra time at the platform. We quickly browsed through the wedding photos, updated our social media handles and joined in the outpouring waves of well-wishes for Isha.

💡The Reflections!

In the seriousness of life, each journey makes us a better human being, especially when you encounter the generosity of strangers.

Despite not sharing a common past with many of the guests, our shared involvement in the IT sector and their welcoming nature bridged the gap. Occasionally, I found myself getting cut off from their inside jokes and references for them having a long mutual past, but I was keen to blend into the laughter and camaraderie.

Whether it was the auto driver answering an early morning call or the hospitality from the newly met people or the cultural exchanges which made those two days memorable.

This realization inspired me to write this blog, even before setting off for the home to share the unexpected joy that define our journey!

P.S: When I met Isha recently, life has changed a lil bit, for sure! 😄

Note: This narrative is inspired by a series of true events, with all names and identities are intentionally fictionalized to protect privacy.