Guest poem sent in by Arvind Natarajan
(Poem #1570) Jewish Wedding in Bombay
Her mother shed a tear or two but wasn't really crying. It was the thing to do, so she did it enjoying every moment. The bride laughed when I sympathized, and said don't be silly. Her brothrs had a shoe of mine and made me pay to get it back. The game delighted all the neighbours' children, who never stopped staring at me, the reluctant bridegroom of the day. There was no dowry because they knew I was 'modern' and claimed to be modern too. Her father asked me how much jewellery I expected him to give away with his daughter. When I said I did't know, he laughed it off. There was no brass band outside the synagogue but I remember a chanting procession or two, some rituals, lots of skull-caps, felt hats, decorated shawls and grape juice from a common glass for bride and bridegroom. I remember the breaking of the glass and the congregation clapping which signified that we were well and truly married according to the Mosaic Law. Well that's about all. I don't think there was much that struck me as solemn or beautiful. Mostly, we were amused, and so were the others. Who knows how much belief we had? Even the most orthodox it was said ate beef because it was cheaper, and some even risked their souls by relishing pork. The Sabbath was for betting and swearing and drinking. Nothing extravagant, mind you, all in a low key and very decently kept in check. My father used to say, these orthodox chaps certainly know how to draw the line in their own crude way. He himself had drifted into the liberal creed but without much conviction, taking us all with him. My mother was very proud of being 'progressive'. Anyway as I was saying, there was that clapping and later we went to the photographic studio of Lobo and Fernandes, world-famous specialists in wedding portraits. Still later, we lay on a floor-matress in the kitchen of my wife's family apartment and though it was part midnight she kept saying let's do it darling let's do it darling so we did it. More than ten years passed before she told me that she remembered being very disappointed. Is that all there is to it? She had wondered. Back from London eighteen months earlier, I was horribly out of practice. During our first serious marriage quarrel she said Why did you take my virginity from me? I would gladly have returned it, but not one of the books I had read instructed me how.
The poem starts with the setting of an Indian jewish wedding, then drifts into the community's ways of living (how Indianised it has become) and finally ends with looking back in life. Asked once how he could have written this poem, Ezekiel retorted with, "Who is the 'we' in the poem?" I liked Ezekiel's poking humor, "some even risked their souls by relishing pork", "the photographic studio of Lobo and Fernandes, world-famous specialists in wedding portraits" in particular. Ezekiel is a legend and is considered the father of modern Indian poetry. Found the above one in the Sahitya Akademi's journal which published an article and some of his poems in rememberance of his death. Arvind