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  • Dagadu Parab's Wedding Horse
  • Jayant Kaikini (bio)
    Translated by Tejaswini Niranjana (bio)

wedding, marriage, love, horse, escape, India, missed connections

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The marriage procession turned from Mulund's Lal Bahadur Shastri Road toward the railway station, wending its way through the main bazaar. Leading the procession were the men of the brass band in their glittering outfits, followed by the boys with their shiny teenage mustaches. In the middle were the middle-aged men in their tight T-shirts, bestowing proud glances on their wives and on the bazaar shops. Next to them were a bunch of dancing drunks, their faces smeared with colored powder. Right at the end came the women's group, like the brake van at the end of a train. Amid all this, sitting on a starved-looking dark brown horse as though he was welded to its spine, was the bridegroom. The strings of jasmine flowers descending from his gold-edged turban covered his face almost completely. The feather on the turban looked as if it were about to fall. No one in the procession could remember the face of Dagadu Parab, the bridegroom.

Walking a little ahead of the horse, like a master of ceremonies, was Balachandra Parab, the bridegroom's older brother, who had arranged for the horse to make the procession more attractive. He had gone to much trouble to hire the [End Page 150] horse, and had supervised all the arrangements for the procession from their home to the bride's chawl. Now he walked ahead, looking now and then at the people thronging the bazaar and also at his younger brother on the horse. The look on his face seemed to communicate that this was the first time in their family's history that a wedding procession on a horse was taking place.

The procession was approaching the Shivaji statue. Just as they came near, an old motorbike in a garage nearby sputtered into life with a screech. This sky-shattering sound pierced through the bazaar, drawing everyone's attention. In a blink, the horse had run away, carrying the bridegroom with it.

One moment the horse had raised its front hooves and neighed. The bridegroom called out in a strange voice. It seemed as if he was trying to decide on which side of the horse to fall. As the horse vanished with the bridegroom, a cry went up. The people in the procession started diving into the nearby lanes in search of the bridegroom. Balachandra Parab tried to address the procession but his lips moved helplessly. He then rushed to the vegetable market. People were immersed in buying vegetables, in holding out their bags, handing over money. It seemed to make no difference to them that this horse had bolted. As though something had suddenly occurred to him, Balachandra rushed back to the street and returned to the Shivaji statue. He told the women and the remaining band members to stay where they were. The women moved to the side, since it was a busy street. But they ended up crowding the approach to a fruit seller's shop, and he chased them back into the street.

When this event was taking place, Balachandra's wife laughed out loud. She knew that her husband had deliberately gotten a horse for the procession to show up her family for not having done the same during their own wedding. Balachandra Parab was in a dilemma. "Dagadu … Dagadu …" he kept stammering as he went through the vegetable market and reached Goshala Road. The terrible question that confronted him was where he should search for the horse. And if he found it, would Dagadu still be on it? Or should he search for Dagadu instead? All the men from the procession who went in different directions kept looking at the side of the road to see if Dagadu had fallen down somewhere.

School students who had just been let off for the day swarmed into the street. Balachandra stopped some of them and asked if they had seen a horse going that way. He asked this question again when he saw people at...