Back To The Roots: A Wedding Photo Documentary Part 1

An intimate documentary style wedding photography, which not only has the wedding photos but also tells the story of the wedding, like a writer would.

The bride’s father was born in Jessore district of Bangladesh and grew up in Jalpaiguri where his father migrated during the time of India-Pakistan partition. Her mother was born in Kolkata but her ancestry on both her maternal and paternal sides goes back to Chittagong in Bangladesh. The bride and her elder sister grew up in Delhi a city they have called home for over 30 years now.

She was a Delhi girl but when it came to deciding a venue for her wedding the bride wanted to be as close to her roots as possible. It was decided that her grand father’s house in Jalpaiguri would be the wedding venue.

It was a love marriage and the bridegroom is a self made man from a small village in Bihar. Both of them have studied foreign language from Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University and took up jobs as Assistant Professors in Doon University, where they met and fell in love.

The bride to be on the way from Delhi to Jalpaiguri, June 2012

The father of the bride had moved out of Jalpaiguri when he was just eighteen year old and took up a job in Kolkata after a very brief stint at Jalpaiguri District Court. From the Income Tax Tribunal in Kolkata he was deputed to Customs and Excise Tribunal in Delhi from where after forty two years of service he retired in 2005.

It would have been more dramatic to say that he was going back to his roots with his wife and children after thirty years. But that’s not the case. The family have been frequent visitors to Jalpaiguri parents house during summer vacations and Durga Pujas. But visiting a house and making that a venue for your daughter’s wedding, a day you have perhaps prepared for from the day she was born, a day you want to be perfect in all possible ways, is not the same thing.

The ancestral home in Jalpaiguri

For one, the house have been old and dilapidated. It is a huge building with even bigger marshlands and unkempt garden surrounding  the building covering a total of over 50,000 sq feet of area. At the time of wedding only two of my ageing uncles (last two of my grandfather’s five sons) lived there with their families while my Jethu, (grand father’s eldest son, my father being second) moved to Kolkata, dad to Delhi and my Sejo Kaku (third son) expired in his youth and his widow moved out of the joint family unit.

Maintaining such a big house was not only inconvenient for my two uncles but was also heavy on their pockets both being men of meager resources. None of the daughters-in-law of this family have been working women except my Sejo Kaku’s widow.

But it didn’t matter to my sister. She didn’t want a fancy banquet hall with AC rooms. She was happy to be close to the home where both our grand parents had breathed their last.

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The sacred Tulsi Tala (Basil plant) where my grandfather was laid, as is customary, moments before his last breath

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These haunted and crumbling doors open to the rooms which used to be my mum and dad’s bed room before the second floor of the house was built. I remember spending nights in this room in unspeakable horror as I had spotted spiders and cockroaches under the bed.

From childhood I have noticed that people in this house peacefully co-exist with spiders and cockroaches, something that I could never come to terms with, I used to still be haunted by the sight of those insects even after I went back to Delhi after each vacation here. So when it was decided that this would be the wedding venue, the first thing I told my uncles that before we come down, please call a pest control and get the house rid of the roaches and spiders.

They laughed at me, “Pet’s control? What is that? We love our pets, these are pets.” Anyway, after we reached I picked up a few mosquito and roach killers and kept them handy always.

A walk down the memory lane by the river Teesta

Soon after reaching Jalpaiguri the bride took a trip to the iconic river Teesta with her dad and choto kaku (youngest uncle). Teesta is a fierce river that has been an icon of Jalpaiguri and North Bengal. Her father’s school, the Jalpaiguri Zila School was (still is) situated on the banks of Teesta as were most colonial buildings and important offices, until the devastating floods washed them away.

The Mighty River Teesta

The mighty Teesta

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The dad taking a walk down the muddy path by Teesta leading to Jalpaiguri District Courts, where he had his first job.

Jalpaiguri District Court

Jalpaiguri District Court

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Few days before the wedding, budget and logistics are being discussed between parents and uncles of the bride. With all the planning done by the uncles it was suggested that they could start a wedding planner service of their own.

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The local all rounder entrepreneur, who was a toddler when he first visited this home, the people of this family have been his patron, mentor and customer for numerous occasions. He manages pretty much every aspect of the event, tent, catering, decoration.

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The courtyard at the center of the house became the center stage for most of the wedding related activities though the ceremony took place in a small wedding hall in Jalpaiguri. In this courtyard wedding of all her uncles were solemnized, and both grand parent’s last rites were performed. And during off season, they use it for drying potatoes.

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Men at work, putting up tent at the courtyard, the brides looks on. Small town aesthetics is not much to write home about, but she was happy.

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The mother the bride ready with Tatto decoration.

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Father of the bride, worried with budget. Not really, he is just always worried.

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Suddenly somebody enters with mouth watering Rasogollas

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One day prior to wedding the day of Airburobhat. Ladies of the house put their hands togethr to make the customary Ananda Naru. You gotta make it perfect.

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Over 70 year old aunt, a woman of true grit, the official Alpona maker in all events in this family.

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Father’s blessings of Aiburobhat.

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The gift of Bhagwat Geeta from her mother’s aunt

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With elder sister, who doesn’t believe in marriage yet taking care of photography, finances and logistics. Her father’s right hand.

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Closest friends who came all the way from Dehradun

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Same evening is the Mehendi. Yes, even Bengalis have mehendi now, traditionally we only had Alta.

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She never looked this beautiful before. We all know the mystery behind this look. Love.

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While the bride gets her mehendi done, over enthusiastic aunts are busy getting facial done. She is her mother’s cousin sister. She has a story of her own, worth a movie.

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Another aunt decorates the barondala, to be used to welcome the groom when he comes tomorrow from Singhia, Bihar. Big day tomorrow, she’d have to walke up at 5 am for Dodhimongol.

End of part I. See Part II


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sanjukta says:

    Reblogged this on This Is My Truth and commented:

    My Huffington Post article on Candid Wedding Photography in India, and the lack of wedding documentary photography has angered all the eminent wedding photographers of India. On a Facebook group of wedding photographer’s group they are saying some downright ugly things. For what its worth, when I said wedding documentary photography work is not much there, this is the kind of work I meant. Here’s how a wedding photo documentary would is like, and I maintain my position that we don’t have much of this kind of work in India. Please read on my photography website.


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