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Tariq Latif, from The Punjabi Weddings

The Punjabi Weddings

The cars parked outside the reception hall
range from recent
models of BMW to old Vauxhalls.
Inside, the marriage rites for the decent
groom and bride takes place in separate rooms.
The bride is adorned in a crimson and
gold sari. A dupata hides her face.
Surrounded by women, she thinks the groom's
quarters will be less animated, bland
with dull suits and quieter. The men's pace

is leisurely as they chat and sip Coke
while the molbee
tells the new extended family folk
in both fluent English and Punjabi
that marriage is sacred and not to be
taken lightly. He then utters the vows
in Arabic which the groom repeats word
for musical word. Allah be praised, he
declares and shakes the groom's hand. The groom bows.
The men clap. The groom's dad waits to be heard

and then he invites family and friends
to wish the groom
well and the whole business drags and then ends
with the groom leading the men from the room
to the large dining hall. Basmati rice
from the Punjab is served at weddings in
Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Gravesend
where the adults eat the food rich with spice
as children run round tables in Berlin,
Paris, Rome; speaking Punjabi that sends

hope to the future generations; and
the time has come
for the newly wedded to leave the band
of well-wishers and take the long road home.
The relatives and friends and the in-laws
clear the tables and bin the left-overs;
half-eaten chicken pieces, rice, curry
sauce; a feast for the night creatures with jaws
that will tug at bones. The secret lovers,
fearful of being found, leave in a hurry.

No-one speaks of the indelible stains
of dishonour.
Instead the family goes to great pains
to track them down or pretend the flower
of their lives never existed. The grooms and
brides take off their clothes and work out how to
live their new lives. Their mothers and fathers
sink into chairs and talk of the homeland.
They hope their grand-children arrive on cue.
The girls work the soap that shrinks and lathers.

Note: molbee is an Islamic priest and a dupata is a head-covering worn by some Asian women.