Purnendu Bikash Sarkar (second from left) with son-in-law Leon and daughter Shayoni (in a sari). (Sayantan Ghosh)
Purnendu Bikash Sarkar, known to the township as the man behind Salt Lake Eye Foundation in IA Block, and to Tagore aficionados as the man who compiled recordings of Tagore songs digitally in an interactive disc, married off his daughter this winter. But he must have been thankful that he didn’t need to travel to the groom’s place for the customary reception. In Wales, from where his son-in-law hails, the mercury is hovering around the 2°C mark in the evenings.
Shayoni, who travelled back to Cardiff with her husband Leon Lynn Davis, on December 29, is reconciled to a life of biting cold winters. “The first winter I was there in 2010, Britain was colder than Siberia. At -23°C, I had seven layers on — jeans, longjohns, leggings...— and I was still shivering. But I think I have acclimatised well. This year in early December, I was going around in a top and a jumper.”
Shayoni and Leon already have had their marriage registered at Cardiff City Hall in May. There was no church wedding as Leon is atheist. “We threw a party at a pub,” recalls Shayoni. With his mother suffering from deep vein thrombosis, Leon’s parents could not attend. So the two went over to Clydach where they live. “It’s a place in the mountains in Mon-mouthshire. The whole village came together to cook for us. It was one big outdoor party with drinks and food laid out under canopies. There were flags of India and Wales flying together,” says Shayoni.
The two had met through mutual friends in Cardiff, where Shayoni had gone for her Masters. And when Leon phoned her the first time, they spoke for an hour-and-a-half till her phone battery died. “We met for three consecutive evenings and by the third date, we knew we were exclusive,” she says. Leon’s will not be the first cross-cultural match in his family. “A cousin married into a Turkish family. Another cousin is seeing someone from Africa,” he says.
Leon made his first Calcutta trip during Puja 2011. Back for the wedding now and with Shayoni’s relatives buzzing about in their Purbachal home, he smiles: “This time the house is more crowded and the streets less so.”
Though they are legally man and wife, Shayoni said the Hindu wedding which took place on December 16, was important as it acquainted Leon with her larger family and made her appreciate her own culture more. Dressed in a red silk sari and with Leon by her side in a violet kurta and white pyjama, the two looked a cosy couple. The 29-year-old used to work in oil rigs, travelling frequently to Africa. He has settled down with an administrative job to spend more time with his wife. Shayoni has completed her Masters in journalism and undertakes writing projects.
How does it feel to get a Welsh son-in-law? “He is very adjustable and does everything he is told to do,” said Shayoni’s mother Barnali. She does not mind her daughter going so far away. “She has been away from home since 1986.”
Shayoni does crave for a few things from home. “My eating habits have changed, so I could not risk having phuchka last year. This time, my favourite phuchkawallah was called from his usual post in front of St. Francis Xavier School and made to serve us mineral water chutney in plastic gloves.”
Some of the couple’s friends flew in for the wedding. While Jessica Gardner and Lyn Thomas came from Cardiff, Jessica McBride came from Australia. All three bought saris and with help from a dresser, looked splendid on the wedding night. But the star of the evening was seven-year-old Korinna, in a stitched white sari with red border. “She is loving the attention,” said her mother Lyn as cellphones of guests went click click.
While Shayoni has picked up words in Welsh like cwtch (a cuddle) and cara’ch (I love you), so has Leon. “He called us from Goa where they went for honeymoon and said: ‘Ami bhalo achhi. Kono oshubidha nei’,” said the delighted father-in-law.
In a loving gesture, the two have decided to take each other’s surnames.