Some family friends have invited us to their daughter’s wedding. It’s a big affair. Swanky hotel, outskirts of London. My style for the occasion is a three-piece suit. Light brown with stripes, like an ash coloured worktop. A silk maroon tie sits neatly behind the waistcoat.
On arrival we are requested to take a family picture. The photographer’s first duty it seems is to capture who has attended. I put my best side on, it’s not the digital camera age yet.
This is a new era of weddings. We don’t all need to rush to the banqueting suite straight away. Instead we are welcomed with canapes on the roof terrace right next to the swimming pool.
The area is swarming with guests. I’m separated from my mother and two younger siblings. Carefully sipping a glass of coke and minding my own business, an older gentleman heads in my direction.
I try not to focus on the figure heading towards me. He looks sharp, prim and proper. Talking beard and turban then he’s neat and tight. His steps are slow and assured. He comes to a standstill in front of me. His beard is tucked behind a thick string. My beard is curly and still growing. I take note for future purposes; mine will grow and I need some options, I have no intention of cutting it.
We both smile at each other. I nod first because it’s respectful, especially if your audience is older then you. He swings his hand from right to left. I’m fearful the liquid in his glass will spill, but he’s done this before.
What’s your name he asks. Apinder I tell him.
He pauses for a moment. There’s an awkward silence.
Apinder Sahni I add on.
The man clicks back into action.
My name is Surinder Singh Kurana he tells me. That’s a nice name I tell him. I was in the army old boy he tells me.
Wow that’s great I respond to his approval. So what do you do he asks me. I’m studying at University I tell him.
Good good he says.
And with that response he walks off. My glass still has three quarters coke in it. The canapes are very nice. There are lamb kebabs on sticks; crispy prawns; small triangular samosas and spring rolls. Small chunks of chicken marinated in a spicy sauce are a particular favourite. I’ve had at least four attempts at each canape, the waiters are now avoiding me.
A master of ceremonies informs us it’s time to make our way to the banqueting suite.
That’s posh I say to my mum.
Expect nothing less she comments.
There are large boards with names on them. Above the names are table numbers. Moving from one board to another I spot our table. We’re sharing it with another two families. Their names are not familiar.
We take our places on table thirty-one. There’s a family of three to my left and an elderly couple sitting opposite.
The consistency and quality of food continues. A sumptuous variety of starters delight my belly. A diligent DJ lowers the volume of the music, mindful of the need for people to engage in conversation. The girl of the family to my left gets up and leaves.
Enjoying the food beta (son) asks the man to my left.
Yes thank you I respond.
What’s your good name he asks.
Apinder Sahni I tell him, remembering to mention my surname.
Sahni or Saini he questions.
It’s Sahni but short for Sawhney I tell him. My grandfather shortened it when he emigrated from Iran to India, I enlighten him.
The man adjusts the velvet bowtie around his neck. My mum peers over but seems disinterested.
What do you do he asks.
Final year at university I tell him.
And you’re studying he counter questions.
Computing I respond.
What are your plans afterwards he asks with a raised eyebrow.
Get a job in computing in London I tell him.
The man’s wife interjects like a lion smelling a potential kill.
Our daughter prefers someone who is in business she comments.
My face is a scrunch of confusion. Now my mum is focusing on the developing dialog. The man remains quiet.
Don’t see what my job has got to do with your daughter I say.
She is only interested in boys with business aspirations she continues.
At this point I am not sure if this auntie is on autopilot with the same comment flowing from her mouth.
I can’t believe we’re having this conversation I tell her.
The growing awkwardness is cut short as the daughter comes back to the table. The music is still low, adding to an eerie silence. I seize my moment.
Your mum was thinking of fixing us up I tell the daughter.
She looks confused. My comment forces her to shake her head. I don’t push the point any further forward. She’s been here before it seems.
The main meal doesn’t fail to deliver, which is a good distraction now. Only half of the table are engaged in conversation. I don’t fancy a dessert and make for the exit, but not before congratulating the hosts, bride and groom.
A few weeks later we get our family picture from the wedding in the post. At the time I was wearing one of those two tone glasses. When outdoors the lens turns dark like shades. When inside the lens turns clear. At the time of taking the photo my glasses hadn’t turned to clear lens quick enough. “What pillock wears sunglasses indoors” the photographer must have thought.