Ransom Shenanigans: Familiar Wedding Traditions from Tajikistan

Realizing the abundant similarities between wedding traditions from my immigrant culture compared with those from Tajikistan

With one week left until the end of my Persian language program with the ERLP (Eurasian Regional Language Program), I begin to reflect on my weekly cultural classes and how they have utilized technology and a bit of creativity to share everything from municipality organization in Tajikistan to the treasures hidden in the National Museum of Tajikistan, a place I would otherwise not consider visiting had I traveled to the country before this program. This past cultural class spoke about a topic near and dear to us all, marriage and weddings. Coming from an Indian immigrant family, needless to say that marriages and weddings hold a very sacred and special place in our culture and heritage, more so than perhaps any other culture I have encountered thus far. I can attest to the pomp and circumstance being just as extravagant as the stories and videos make them out to be. This includes seven-day long schedules, dazzling shades of red and pink traditional wedding dresses, and enough food to feed the entire town (or neighborhood). It was therefore quite amusing to learn about the vast similarities and similar-differences seen between the Indian weddings I have been exposed to during my 27 years of life, and Tajik weddings, a culture and part of the world I have just recently been learning about. Let me share an interesting instance of overlap between the traditions and customs of Indian and Tajik weddings.

An especially interesting tradition that has similarities in both Indian and Tajik wedding is one involving asking the groom for ransom.

Indian weddings have a tradition where the bride’s side of the family hides the groom’s shoes as a prank, and hold his shoes ransom. Since wedding ceremonies within the Sikh religion originating in Northern India take place in a ‘gurudwara’ (Sikh temple) everyone is required to take off their shoes when entering, therefore allowing the bride’s side of the family, typically sisters and cousins, a prime opportunity for shoe stealing. Numerous Bollywood songs and wedding scenes have illustrated this “Juti Chupai *or* Lakayi” pretty well. The mischief continues to unfold where the groom, obviously needing his shoes at the conclusion of the religious ceremony, is met with unyielding cousins and sisters of the bride adamant in receiving a hefty ransom in exchange for the shoes. The shenanigans usually end when both parties agree on a decent enough amount. Lots of hooting, and merry-making accompany this small tradition and there is usually also a ribbon cutting ceremony to allow the groom to officially pass after much negations.

My cultural class with ERLP shared a fun video where a similar Tajik wedding tradition was over-served. The groom’s wedding procession consisting of luxury cars and limos was abruptly stopped by another car and the passengers approached the groom to ask for money in exchange for opening up their path. A few moments later another similar experience took place except this time a public bus in the city blocked the path of the wedding procession where small children came running out towards the groom’s Mercedes in hopes of satisfying ransom. Discerning such similarities and differences in the customs and traditions that I grew up seeing compared with a distant part of the world unknown to many had further proven how far reaching the effects of historical conquests and exchanges were. As I continue to improve my Persian and perhaps decide to pick up Tajik, I know I will continue to be taken aback by a number of similarly entertaining traditions and customs.

By: Nina Kaur

Program: Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP)

Term: Summer 2020

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