The book “Lights! Wedding! Ludhiana!” by Jas Kohli is a satirical and humorous take on a flashy wedding in Ludhiana.
The Rahejas are different—well, at least one half of the Rahejas. Reeti Raheja is the free-spending stunner, while Kushal, her industrialist husband, is a fanatical environmentalist and a misfit in Ludhiana. The story starts with Reeti, who is preoccupied with planning her outfit and make-up in order to dazzle the invitees during a wedding celebration. However, things soon go awry when her mischievous son Lakshya uncovers a secret that sets off a series of mis-happenings and also threatens to create a big turmoil in the family.
After they reach the wedding venue, there is not a single dull moment. It’s full on Lights! Wedding! Ludhiana! Will the Rahejas be able to weather this storm? Read this book to find out.
Read an excerpt from the book below.
After reaching home Kushal goes straight to the bedroom and collapses on his bed. He doesn’t even have the energy to take off his shoes, but the fear of Reeti’s out-of-proportion reaction to the offence makes him reconsider.
After half an hour, Reeti shakes him a bit roughly to wake him up—knowing that gentleness is unmistakably unsuitable for this unique task.
‘Last call for passenger Kushal to board the flight to Timbuctoo!’ she says, sounding like ground staff at an airport.
Kushal yawns and straightens up. ‘No choice then. Must leave the couch of bliss,’ he says and gets up with a jump. He kisses Reeti on the cheek; the lip lock is ruled out because Reeti has already applied lipstick and lipliner with the finesse of a make-up artist. But his kiss is adulterated—he is imagining that he is with Diksha.
For Kushal, getting ready is no big deal. He wears whatever clothes he finds, as quickly as he can find them in the almirah; his only concern being that the onlookers shouldn’t mistake him for a beggar. Kushal spends less than a minute in front of the mirror. As a youngster, he thought of himself as average looking; presently, he doesn’t even compare his appearance to other men. He has lost the demarcation between his forehead and scalp. Jowls, horizontal forehead lines and crow’s feet are in their infancy, but have otherwise combined to effect the look of an ‘experienced person’. Kushal has thought of growing a moustache to compensate for the lack of hair on his head, but whenever he talks about this to Reeti, she purses her lips. ‘No means no!’
Then, Kushal moves downstairs towards the glass-topped dining table for breakfast. His salivary glands are feverishly pumping saliva into his mouth over the prospect of his taste buds having an encounter with aloo parathas laced with homemade butter. But Reeti is well prepared to counter the friendly onslaught of white butter.
She calmly places a single tablespoon of butter onto his plate. ‘That is all you will get.’
Reeti has been coached by her friends that strictness of the wife has a direct correlation with the patency of the blood vessels of the husband’s heart.
Kushal lodges a strong protest. ‘Darling, this is like a jewellery showroom owner giving a measured quantity of precious metal to his artisan!’
Reeti straightens, her neck arched. ‘If you had good self-control, I wouldn’t have to do all this. Anyway, reach home in time this evening; you have to visit the venue to give a symbolic helping hand to my cousin. You might have to give him some advice—impractical or not—when it comes to making arrangements. You know very well that Narinder holds grudges for long. It is as if he notes them down in a diary! If he feels like you have ignored him today, he wouldn’t cooperate when it is time for our daughter’s marriage. We might even have to borrow some money from this filthy rich fellow.’
‘But Vanya has already made up her mind,’ Kushal argues, ‘She thinks that our great country, the one that has given the world the zero, numerals, yoga and meditation, is not worth living in. Obviously, she presumes that Canada is a slice of heaven.’
This is a topic for which Reeti is always in the driver’s seat. ‘So what? Even if she settles abroad, I would prefer an Indian boy for her. Indians make better husbands than firangis. Although there is no scientific study to prove this, it is the general consensus among my friends and relatives settled abroad.’
‘Ha ha. The lesser evil theory! I think it is just a myth. I wish that she finds a firangi boy by herself so that I am spared the inevitable financial emergency at the hands of the morbidly fat Punjabi wedding,’ Kushal says with a crooked smile.
‘How selfish. What are you earning for?’
‘I was just joking,’ Kushal says, relenting. He fears that any further discussion on this topic could turn Reeti into the modern version of the hunterwali.
Kushal has finished the allotted amount of butter with his first paratha. For the second one, he will have to make do with curd and pickle.
‘Register this in your brain once and for all.’ Reeti begins, ‘I will not settle for less than five events for my Vanya, including a destination wedding!’ Reeti now imagines insanely expensive dresses, venues lit up by a million lamps, a smattering of superlatives from the guests’ mouths, and the jealousy-inducing social media posts.
‘Done,’ Kushal says. He looks as if he has just signed a surrender document.
‘Okay, don’t forget to bring the fancy envelopes from the Empress Gift Shop for putting in the shagun amount,’ Reeti says, with special emphasis on the word ‘fancy’.
The paratha isn’t tasting as good to Kushal anymore. ‘I can’t believe this—the bundle of shagun envelopes I brought last month is already finished. The approximate money spent on shagun would have been enough for a trip to at least one of the “hundred places to see before you die”.’
‘Why don’t you get an envelope from the nearby stationary shop?’ he tells Reeti.
‘They are so drab!’
‘The host will only appreciate the amount that has been put inside the envelope!’
‘Just do as I have told you to. You don’t have good taste in anything—except me!’
‘Agreed,’ Kushal says and walks away like a jackal who has been challenged by a tigress.
Although Kushal tries his best to live in the present, such talk makes him pay undue attention to the future. ‘My ruin is as certain as the sunset. I will have to sell my spare property for Vanya’s wedding. But Reeti, Mom and Dad will ensure that the budget is overshot markedly, forcing me to take a loan beyond my capacity. Soon, I will become a bank defaulter. The bank will take over my factory and I will have to go back to where I started from—as a newshound in Delhi. The alternative will be to commit suicide by drinking liquor continuously over many days. If I survive this phase somehow, I will have to work out arrangements for the silver jubilee celebrations of our own marriage anniversary. Reeti will insist on a re-enactment of our marriage, with dhoomdhaam. This will be followed by a month-long neo-honeymoon in Switzerland. That will again lead to life-long indebtedness. Even after I die, the creditors will harass me in the afterlife!’
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