Kolkata Wedding Diary

Veena Kumar



I am a green lantern on this humid april night, draped in

gold-threaded banarasi, folds pressed into my abdomen.

I carry my pleats like a bag of groceries, in and out

of a tata sumo, up and down the stairs of the wedding hall.


Guests eat meat on sticks and slurp cold drinks, chatting

and laughing outside. I laugh with them, pretending to understand.

A woman with big bindi passes and smiles, with red lips, round face

and kohl eyes. I notice she holds no sword, possesses only two arms.


Photographers crawl their way through the rituals, big backpacks

in the corner, as the air fills with smoke from a sacred fire.

Babies gurgle and girls take selfies. I sit quietly and watch,

green and gold as a lantern on a dark night.



Downstairs the house is carpeted with sleeping bodies, upstairs

relatives are still talking and waving away mosquitoes. In our room

a net has magically appeared.


The bride, saying goodnight, calls me didi and hugs me tight.

Sister-in-law, I’ve never had one before. I hug her back

in a language that is also mine.


I am woken early and led to a pond, needed for my gender

in a final ritual. A neighbour hikes her sari and crouches,

waves a hand in the water creating ripples and ripples.


Touching the arm of a woman who touches the arm of a woman

we release a lit lamp into the water, agarbatti stuck into its banks,

planted firmly in the earth like I can only long to be.


We take the cobbled path back through the fresh new morning.

The mosquito net is still up. I crawl back into bed and slip into

a spectral sleep: inchoate, shapeshifting…


as if on the edge of becoming

ancient & complete.