Salman Ali 03-16-99 An Unusual Wedding Ceremony Ever been to an unusual wedding ceremony? Perhaps not, because very rarely have we been invited to a wedding ceremony that is other than a formal and a well-mannered event. Our familiarization with the wedding ceremony, however, is in sharp contrast with the traditional marriage ceremony of the Momna community, a minority group in eastern Pakistan from where I come. In this community, the marriage ceremony lasts for two days, with rituals that are not only unique, but extremely amusing, interesting, and sometimes not very serious. The first part of the ceremony, called? pithi? , is perhaps the most humorous of all. The bridegroom is lead by his mother from his room to a chair in the living room where family members, relatives, and friends of the bridegroom are gathered to take part in this ritual.

Traditionally, the father of the bridegroom does not participate in this event, so the mother, being the next head of the family, initiates the pithi, placing a small block of sugar in the groom? s mouth, furiously rubbing his face with a facial scrub, and finally completing her run by taking uncooked rice from a plate under the groom? s chair and passionately releasing it above his head. Then, the rest of the family members and relatives each go through the ritual one by one. The bridegroom? s friends add yet another dimension to the excitement of this ritual when it is their turn to participate. Instead of placing a block of sugar, the groom? s friend force a similar looking block of salt in the groom? s mouth. Instead of tossing rice in the air, they joyfully smash dozens of raw eggs on the groom? s head. Some of the groom? s friends go to unpredictable lengths to excite the guests.

For example, in a wedding ceremony that I attended last summer, the groom? s friends sprayed shaving cream on the groom? s face and tore off his T-shirt at the end of the ceremony. Page 2 Clearly then, pithi is a singularly amusing event for everyone except maybe for the bridegroom. The second main ritual in the wedding ceremony is known as? dehes? , and this event is very interesting because it brings rivalry between the groom? s and the bride? s friends as they meet for the first time at the groom? s house. As a part of this ritual, the bride? s friends, relatives, and family members all offer gifts to the bridegroom. After the gifts have been offered, the bride? s friends usually ask the bridegroom for something in return for their gifts. Most often, to tease the bride? s friends, the bridegroom is not allowed by his friends to fulfill the wish of the bride? s friends, and so denies that he has anything for them.

As a result, the bride? s friends become irritated with the bridegroom? s friends and a noisy dispute between the two arises. In my cousin? s wedding ceremony, for example, the bride? s friends became annoyed when they did not get anything in return for their gifts. One of the bride? s friends said loudly to the bridegroom and his friends, ? you people are parsimonious, and our friend (the bride) will be unhappy living amongst you after marriage. ? Even after the couples have been named husband and wife, there is no sense of seriousness between the friends of the bride and groom. When the bridegroom walks out of the wedding chapel, he finds that his shoes are missing from the place where he took them off before walking into the chapel. As the groom nervously looks about him to locate his shoes, the bride and the couples? family members and relatives laugh enthusiastically, for they know precisely why his shoes are taken away.

The groom? s friends demand the friends of the bride to return the shoes, but the bride? s friends, being very stubborn and knowing that they did not get anything in return for their gifts in dehes, order the bridegroom to give them a large sum of money before they return his shoes. Without due consideration, the bridegroom hurriedly but smilingly gives the money and the bride? s friends cheer, having won money from the groom. Page 3 Wedding ceremony in the Momna community is very unique because it? s rituals are amusing, interesting, and sometimes not very serious. This wedding ceremony is drastically different from the formal and well-mannered marriage ceremony that many of us have been to. Every ritual of the wedding ceremony in the Momna community abounds with excitement and joy.

If opportunity is offered you to observe the wedding ceremony of the Momna community, do not take it lightheartedly, for you might miss the exhilaration, the jollity, and the vigor of this community? s unique tradition. 33 d.