My nephew Kumail, my sister Sabeera Somji’s son, born in Canada, living in Dubai, gets married to Sameena Amershi, born in London of Asian African parents, now living in Sanford, FL. Why would you care an ant’s ass about Kumail and Sabeena’s nuptials, you ask? Well, the following yarn might interest you. Perhaps.
Guests begin arriving in Sanford a couple of weeks before the wedding and Sajjad Mukhi’s massive rented house becomes like a frenzied mini fish market in Mumbai. There are people from Canada, the UAE, England and Tanzania. And other parts of the USA, of course. There is constant mayhem; hyper kids run around, harassed womenfolk feed or clean up, and gossip, of course.
The men, they sit by the pool and smoke like a chimney on a Canadian winter morning, full of baraaza talk. They too, gossip. The smoking gets so bad, it mentions a rebuke from Dr. Shabbir Alibhai, our good doctor from Canada. Literally appalled at all the noxious fumes the Khojas of Sanford can pack in, rightly gives it prominent mention his speech on wedding day. Not that it does any good; smoke curling up from Husseini Islamic Center from baraazas before and after events could give any fire marshal heartburn. Dr. Alibhai, Allah bless him, throws up his hands to the heavens in despair. You should get to know his very kind and generous Mum in Toronto, a rare breed, who still makes meethaee the old fashioned way – with a lot of labor and love.
This is a one in a decade event perhaps, with relatives who have not seen each other getting the first opportunity. I meet cousins, and nephews and nieces and their children. And their children! What a fusion of a clan, like the UN almost! We have Salma, brother Shabbir’s daughter married to an Iranian, Mussarat, brother Marhoom Mohammedreza’s daughter married to an Iraqi and cousin Hyder Somji’s daughter, Fatema married to a Chinese; losing our beautiful womenfolk’s to ‘foreigners’. Hmmm, losing our Khoja identity, I see...
The amount of food we put away is incredible this wedding; the (elchi free, of course) laddoos flown in specially from Dubai; meal invitations to extended family and friends homes here in Sanford takes an uncomfortable toll on my running schedule and waistline. I must special mention caterer Shameena’s Hyderabaadi biryani at Iqbaal Somji’s house; OMA! Is it divine, or is it divine! Talk about gorging oneself.
I am sure the humble coconut must have a litany of complaints against Khoja weddings on the Day of Judgment, perhaps against the whole of India even. We seem to be smashing this innocent fruit for every imaginable excuse under the sky, from warding off evil to offerings at religious events, to warding off perceived (irrational) doom; all Hindu India acquired customs, certainly. Other Hindu developed rituals follow of course; Kumail sits with an apprehensive look on his mug as fair hands flail over his head. He is more worried about dousing of various concoctions waiting for him by the pool, as the ‘opposition’ waits impatiently; he gets a drubbing as teenagers wrestle to dunk each other into the pool.
On wedding day, we Khoja’s predictably, fashionably, show up thirty plus minutes late at HIC while invited guests (most non Khojas) are bang on time, waiting, fidgeting, clearly uncomfortable in their fine attire under a merciless sun. A White man is aghast when advised he has to part with his partner at the entrance, hugs her as if this is last he’ll see her, looks apprehensive as she is enveloped by an all female group entering the center, then sulks at having to sit through the rites alone; perhaps the excellent Biryani afterwards compensates?
The Big Fat Khoja Wedding finally ends with a grand picnic over Azeems’s barbeque, the happy couple leaving for honeymoon, guests departing for home and my house getting super, eerily quiet. For me, it was wonderful meeting so many friends and family and the many baraazas.