SAPNA

I love North Indian weddings. It is full of life and energy. With the pandemic slowly ebbing, the celebrations are also on the up.

Like many who want to break free from the shackles of lockdown restrictions etc, when I got an invite to a wedding ceremony of my colleague’s son, I lapped it up.

My wife and I decided that we should attend with necessary precautions

The setting was no less than that of a movie set. As we walked around to survey what was all set up it was nothing less than grand. The discussion on the multi-cuisine spread can be left for another day!

What was striking is the setting for the bride and the groom to exchange the garlands. The bride was well hidden inside a big flower bud closed. When the groom arrived over the loud Punjabi music and dance the bud would open up and the bride would be visible in all grandeur.

As the music played on, a stream of very well dressed, pretty young dancers made way on to the podium ramp and were dancing to perfect synchronization. All of them must be barely out of their teens. The performance was amazing, I wondered how they managed and while the act was going on, I could see one more of them on the sideline dancing all alone. I soon realized that each of the dancers on the ramp was taking cue from this girl. The girl herself was supremely confident and looked very proficient and wearing a smile which was infectious.

The main event over and the guest hit the buffet counters so did we. The groom and bride were busy with the religious rituals.

But I could not take “Her” out of my mind the face seemed familiar but I could not recollect. As the guests started thinning down I could see the bevy of the girls huddled together and taking instructions from the event manager. She was there but could make out she was not in it.

As I moved around from counter to counter checking on the spread, I came face to face with her and as I pressed the recall button of my memory, it struck me I had seen her probably more than a decade and a half back. Sapna was a striking beauty even then and she was part of the dance chorus then at another wedding

We exchanged a look and I asked if she was Sapna. She was surprised and asked me how I knew her. I mentioned about the marriage and she hardly seemed to recollect. There was a melancholy in her eyes behind the façade of the make up and smiling face which I could see through and I had to ask her if all was ok

She narrated:, “ When you saw me last time I must have been around 25-26 . I grew up in a poor family, started dancing when I was barely in my teens to support our family. Having worked hard within the event management circle I was recognized by name, which in itself is an achievement. I was sought after and become a kind of star in the closed industry. My siblings went to school and I supported my family. I cannot recollect how many marriages I have seen and performed. Every performance brought in a hope that one day I would get married too and my knight in shining armor would also arrive. Pressures of the family prevented me from getting married and kept working and very soon there were no grooms my age within our community.” She took a deep breath as if to shed a part of the sorrow and continued. “ I reconciled to my fate. Today is the last performance, because my event manager feels I am too old to dance on the ramp in front of the high profile clients. I was relegated to giving cues to the dancers on the sidelines quite some time back. My family has moved on, the clients for whom I danced keep moving on. I have seen so many families set up yet I longed to have ceremony of my own which might never happen.” Amidst life there is hope and despair in equal measure. In the ocean of celebration there are islands of tales which we hardly care about. Life has to move fast forward.  I could not offer any comments and as if by co incidence, a waiter passing by tripped and dropped a glass on the floor. The sound reverberated in my ears for a long time during my drive back home after the event.  I could not help recollecting a very old hindi classic song “Sapna mera toot gaya…”

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