Sunday, June 24, 2012

To each, his/her two minutes of glory

Travelling is interesting because one experiences the not so routine. You could say the same for marriages in India. And no, I am not talking about a second marriage but of the ones we attend. So when you travel to attend a marriage - its a potporori of experiences.

Recently, I was at Balco participating in a marriage function of my cousin. It was the same old routine from welcoming of guests to arranging for their stay, food and conveniences. Gossips, bantering around and enjoying oneself on a forced break from work was relaxing at the least.

So what was worth writing a new post on my blog after close to a year. Human behaviour - often quite irrational. Marriage functions are a great time to get into the limelight, feel important and to help mess things up - yeah !! literally.

Here was our bridegroom all dressed up and ready to mount the horse. As far as I could observe there were about three key people responsible for the entire organisation of this particular marriage function, supported by a small team. But, come the time of reception, all and sundry starts behaving as if they are in charge - so everyone worth his salt had an advice for the organisors and the poor "dulha".

One commented - "what is going on - Baarat was supposed to leave at 5. (taunting the organisors) - "Kyu Bhai !! Kya hua aapke management ko? (smile)"

As it turned out everything was in place the ghodi, the band, the baarat but the lights (to go along with the procession) were not yet up and connected. Anyways, the self professed managers had no attention span for the real problem. Currently the lime light was on the "dulha". So the Dulha mounts on the horseback and the chain of customs started while the Dulha's sisters danced on the ear shattering rhythm of dhols. Meanwhile - one gentleman thrusted his young baby in the arms of the groom singing "beta Ghode pe baithega". The Dulha was by now a robot just executing instructions being thrown at him from all directions. Some enthusiastic friends of the groom started a dazzling display of fireworks.  Everything was as it happens in any Indian wedding (well most of it) and then the unthinkable happened.

One of the self professed managers of the marriage announced that it was time to go - so he ordered the ghodiwala to move immediately. The ghodiwala brought the ghodi forward, little realising that someone not far ahead was lighting a fire cracker. The colours from the cracker erupted, dazzled the ghodi  and the poor animal was taken by surprise. It ducked back and voila - for a moment an earthquake happened - the poor groom was shocked to find himself on the ground narrowly escaping the horse's foot. He was sharp enough to move away quickly and everyone around instinctively saved his/her scull and then started looking for the groom as if he was a hidden treasure.

All consultants triggered into action - in every possible direction. One went to the dulha and enquired whether he was hurt and then thanked God that he wasn't. Another went to the Ghodiwala and blasted the poor man "Tu kya kar raha tha?" Another prompted - "Lagta hai, Nai ghodi le ke aaya hai". The Ghodiwala retorted - "ye phataka (fire cracker) itna paas kyu challate ho?"

Suddenly our managers received someone else to target. "Ye kaun phatake chala raha hai". Obviously the friends of the groom were quiet and for a few seconds a sort of witch-hunt for the person who was managing the firecrackers, erupted. After a few seconds of worthless search one of them declared "Ab koi phatake nahi chalana" (no more firecrackers).

In the meanwhile the true managers of the event (no pun here) had already helped the Groom mount the horse again - while the animal was still fidgety. I felt the drama was over and I was to be utterly surprised on what followed. Another manager a saree clad lady this time arrived on the scene and announced it will not be proper for us to use the Ghodi (what if she repeats the performance) - the shaken dulha agreed. Immediately the consultants fired instructions - bring a car. 

Immediately a car with the driver was pulled into the scene - The Groom was safely lodged in the secure environs of the car. One of the real managers suggested that the fire crackers (which were now  a waste due to the diktat) be also lodged in the hood of the car as they cannot just be left on the roadside. To me, it looked like a fair idea, but as luck would have it - another saree clad - self professed - consultant offered an unsolicited - NO. I looked at her dumbfounded in utter disbelief as she explained the reason - "dikki bahut garam ho jaati jai - dulhe ki gaadi mein phatake mat rakho"  (It gets hot in the hood - lets not take the risk of keeping crackers in the same car carrying the groom). The poor friends of the groom carried the fire crackers in another car a few meters away.

So you thought its time to get over with the procession - no, our electrician (actually the original reason for the delay) was not yet up with his task. And all possible kind of managers now were in charge. Every minute one of them travelled to the Electrician ranting about the delay, his lack of professionalism, asking how much time more will it take and then concluding that he was incompetent. (Thanks !!). Seven people went through this drill in 5 minutes and by the time 8th arrived - the electrician went off the hook and told me (don't know why) "Babuji mujhe dus minute chain se kaam karne do - Abhi light chaloo ho jaayegi". I smiled helplessly and encouraged him to continue. But by then - someone had trigged the angry old man inside the groom's father - he arrived on the scene - went through the unavoidable drill of inspection, investigation and then became emotional. He almost took his shoe in his hands and wanted to hit the electrician. The real managers decided  that it was time for the procession to leave - lights be damned. I decided that things cannot get more comical than this. And to my fantabulously utter amusement - I was wrong.

The procession must have moved a 25 odd meters when one of the well meaning -  enthusiastic friend of the groom stopped the car. He noticed that because of a last minute change from Horse to the Car - there was no decoration on the car. He went and brought along with him a flower decorator and they started decorating the car. I was genuinely pleased to notice the friend's initiative and was soon horrified to realise that the enthu friend did not notify anyone of his plans. As a result the first half of the procession moved another 10-15 meters before they realised that the "crux of the matter" is not following them.

All hell broke loose - all managers travelled back the entire 15 meters to the car and in sequence blasted the poor friend decorating the car. He looked at me helplessly and I smiled back equally helplessly. In one of the communication skills session - I was told empathetic listening was the most important skill in life. At that moment I wondered - did he go through such a situation to realise such a profound concept, or the lack of it actually.

The MBA in me turned in its grave and I addressed the problem with some ruthless efficiency. I ordered the driver "Drive" - The car started moving. I gestured the driver to go very slow. He was experienced - he understood. All managers looked at me with an air of "I was about to say the same thing - who are you?" but then their stress melted and they also started walking (they could not walk slow and that helped). The groom's friend was puzzled but smiled as I ordered his entire team to join him in the decorating while the car kept moving at the same lazy pace.

Now I turned to the set of (self appointed) managers - it looked like if they were not given occupation they might actually start managing things around everywhere. I requested one of them to take the parents of the groom to the reception place as the procession was getting late and many guests might have already arrived. He looked at me - probably deciding whether to accept orders from me - I quickly added, "you see, uncle aunty ko aap hi mana sakte hai". He smiled immediately. He took off with an air of definiteness.

I moved to a second one - "sirji aapko ek bahut Important kaam dena hai". He looked at me with an air of a mentor - "haan Bolo". I said - "Please ensure that the Baraat reaches on time - so please allow these dancing friends just half an hour. No more". I was feeling ridiculous as I utttered these words. The baraat was already an hour late going by the schedule. And I was waiting for him to explode with anger. But to my utter surprise he responded - "Sure thing. Don't worry. Leave that to me." I patted the MBA inside me - you are not yet dead.

I reached out to a third one - far more confident this time. "My dear you got to stick to the Dulha. Whatever happens - don't leave him. See he has already had this accident with the ghodi. Now its your responsibility that nothing goes wrong with him." As expected, he felt proud that he was chosen for the job. He started briskly towards the car.

By now, I was automatically in charge (!!!). A few said - "Kuch kaam ho to bolo - I shall handle it" Frayed nerves cooled down and the procession was on its way. We reached the venue approx two hours late by schedule (which, I realised later, was the right time. The real managers had created the schedule to account for people's tendency to get late. LOLss). The event went well (accept for the unexpecetd rains - which I guess God decided that He shall also pull a leg or two) and later everyone congratulated everyone else that despite so many problems they helped the event to be concluded well.

As I was travelling back to Indore - with my family members in deep sleep - I wondered. Why are human beings this way?? Whether be it family, profession, society, governance - we complicate matters ourselves by weaving an intricate web of insecurities, logic, alternatives and uninformed fears. While we believe in teamwork, our behaviours are actually quite opposite to its tenets in general. But then where would comedy be - if this does not happen.