The following year we headed to Kampala for another wedding. Mum’s brother Zahir had gone off to study engineering in England and returned home to work for the family business. His brothers saw him at the drive-in theater on a date with Farah, an Indian girl, and teased him mercilessly. They made an odd couple; Farah petite in trendy miniskirts with a burly six-foot Zahir towering over her.
Zulie, Ma, and I took the overnight train together to attend the wedding in the bride and groom’s hometown of Kampala.
“Come and eat, Shaza,” Ma said. She handed me some spicy fish and rotla, a flatbread made of millet flour. “I don’t like that English food they have in the dining room, it has no taste,” she said as we sat on the floor of our train cabin and ate off enamel plates.
We all slept in the basement room of Mum’s Kampala home. There were so many of us; the groom’s side had set up mattresses on the floor. Indian weddings last several days. The bride or laadi is supposed to be modest and look down, and she is usually nervous as the groom’s side is scrutinizing her looks and her behavior. In an arranged or semi-arranged marriage, she doesn’t know how the boy’s family will treat her or even how well she will get along with her husband to be.
On the last day of the wedding on Sunday, the laadi hugged everyone goodbye during the goothari ceremony signifying her departure from her parents’ household. Farah, her hair covered by the traditional green sari, looked sadder and sadder. Then her father came, the last from the line to kiss his daughter in farewell. At that, Farah broke down totally and started sobbing as she sat down on a stool. Her father had tears in her eyes as he moved away. She kept crying for half an hour, while everyone else had tea, and they got the couple’s getaway car ready. She was only moving across town.
“Why is Farah crying so much?” I asked Ma.
“She is going to leave her house and go to her husband’s house, it will be a very different life for her,” Ma said. Marriage must be terrible if laadis cried so bitterly, I thought.
Despite the bride’s despair, Ma had a wonderful time at the wedding. Now all her children were married off, and she could relax and enjoy the grandchildren. She sat contentedly in a new, blue dress and matching patchedi draped around her shoulders. It was the last Uganda wedding.
The weekend of the wedding Idi Amin Dada, a tall, heavyset colonel in the Ugandan army, was in Kampala on leave and drinking in a bar. He drank beer after beer, letting someone else pick up the tab. He left with a young prostitute and went to her hut for the rest of the night. The legend was that the woman was exhausted and bloodied when he left the next morning. He refused to pay her even a shilling, and something in his haraami bloodshot eyes terrified her, so she let him go. His presence in Kampala at such a happy moment for the family was an evil omen, foreshadowing the terrors he would unleash in Uganda.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish