During my travels, I come across several quirky traditions practised by different communities. Thought of starting off with one that that I have noticed in my very own Bengali community.
Bengali women have always been known for their fiery quality…. think Ma Durga, her highness Mamta Banerjee, fair and lovely Kajol, queen of seduction Bipasha Basu or controversy’s child Arundhati Roy. They are the only known competition to the prime time rants of Arnab Goswami, the political and social mockery co sponsored by Pranab Mukherje and his extremely well behaved son and the ‘heavy metal’ look of Bappi Lahiri.
Kalighat Painting, Calcutta, India. 1875
So, little wonder then that at the time of two Bengalis tying the knot, it is very important to ascertain who is going to wear the pants (or the ‘pajamas’ in this case) in the relationship. So, once the bride is done with the customary procedure of appearing to be shy by peering at her husband from behind ‘paan’ leaves as four men carry her around on a stool, the real power game starts.
Once the guests have chewed off the last fish head and licked off the last drop of ‘payesh’ from their ‘kola pata’ (banana leaf), both bride and groom are asked to drop their rings in a pot of water. Once the rings are submerged completely, they are asked to churn up the water vigorously. It then remains to be seen which ring follows the other. If the groom’s ring follows that of the bride, it means that the wife will dominate the marriage. If the bride’s ring follows the groom’s ring that means the bride will be subservient and obedient (which is a myth in any case in most Bengali marriages).
Another way this power game is played is that the rings are dropped in a bowl of milk and the couple has to search for their respective rings. Whoever finds their ring first wins the game and gets the upper hand in the marriage too.
Maybe this is the only little window the poor Bengali groom is given at any chance of superiority in a relationship with the spirited Bengali woman, because he knows it well as does his dominating mother, that only the bravest (and poetic) of them all can conquer the heart of the raging Royal Bengal Tigress.