It is a truth universally known that the highlight of any Pakistani event is the food. People, no matter where they come from or who they are- rich or poor, fat or skinny, karachiite or lahori- love few things in this world as much as they love free food. Many a times the call ‘khana khul gaya hai‘ is greeted with the same joy as the siren announcing iftari after an entire day of fasting. Kuch aur ho na ho function main, bus khana hona chahiye. Especially in shaadis, where how good the food is, is directly related to the social status of the families involved and the future happiness of the bride and groom. The list of things discussed immediately after a wedding are in the order:

1: Dulhan ka makeup

2: Dulhay ki height

3: Khanay ki miqdaar

This is a truth I am well versed in, having attended multiple weddings for my larger than life family that is more traditional than the entire cast of hum saath saath hain put together. Yet what I experienced at a recent wedding exceeded even my wildest expectations. The story starts with me standing in line behind an aunty at an upscale wedding in one of the better marquees in Lahore. The menu was lavish, the buffet adequate. And the aunty in front of me apparently very, very hungry. Usually I stand to the side and let people take whatever food they want because I eat enough in everyday life to not be a willing participant in a desi version of the hunger games, fighting for leg pieces. Said aunty after carefully scouring the dish, didn’t find any pieces to her liking. Sneakily noticing the cameraman who was catching everything happening at the buffet table (presumably so the hosts can keep track of who ate how much and give them taanas for life), she just took one spoonful and walked away. Taking it as a sign that she was done, I added a bit of the biryani to my plate- luckily somehow catching a leg piece left undetected by scavenging in the process. No sooner had I put it in my plate than the aunty reappeared and held out her hand for the spoon.

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Being the respectful children we are raised to be, I let her have it and watched as she resumed her hunt for the perfect boti. A waiter was called and the dish demanded to be refilled- he refused by saying it was close to 9:30, and the hall would be closing soon; we would have to make do with what we could. Loud arguing ensued, during which I silently tried to escape back to my table with my meager tablespoon full of rice.

What happened next nearly made me drop my plate- the aunty having had enough of the waiter’s insolence, took the entire dish out and dumped the rest of the rice on her plate just to spite all of the other guests standing in line. Ignoring his aghast expression she triumphantly made her way to my table- and ignoring my visible cowering- dug into her food with great gusto. Intimidated but hurrying because the lights were started to get turned off, I hastily resumed eating as well. Only to be interrupted by her after not even two bites, asking ,to get us both drinks. Off I went and when I returned, I suddenly found that somehow taking advantage of the temporary darkness, she had managed to snitch the boti right off my plate- and she sat there as innocently as a baby rabbit munching on its first carrot while she thanked me for her drink. Utterly horrified, I was not sure whether to laugh or cry- or even more crazily, accuse her of something as impossible as stealing food off my plate. Not wanting to make a scene, I just left the rest of the food (god knows how much she touched it) and walked away, though I could swear I saw her sneaking some naans wrapped in tissue paper into her purse as I left fifteen minutes later.

Since then I make it a point to not eat at weddings, and even more to avoid any biryani in the general vicinity- the carcass of a poor chicken wielded with relish by a chubby warrior still haunting me.