The other day, at a Goan wedding reception at Byculla Mechanics. I was invited to raise the toast to the just-married couple. Since I know how to drink but not how to raise a toast, I made enquiries with some Goan friends.
I was told, I had to give bio-datas of the bride and groom, say some complimentary things about each of them, then crack some jokes about bachelor life and married life and how the former is superior to the latter. The speech should last about five minutes, though Mr. George Menezes, the distiguished humorist, had the week before spoken for 40 minutes, but then he is a professional toast-raiser.
I was instructed to be at Byculla Mechanics at 7.30. p.m. sharp, since immediately the newlyweds arrived, the toast had to be raised. If I was late, the whole proceedings would be delayed.
Since I did not want to delay the proceedings, I arrived at 7.25 p.m., suitably dressed for a Catholic wedding in a jacket and tie. Apart from the band players (Fame, I think, th eband was called, and it was very good though a trifle loud), who were tuning their instruments, and the waiters of Tip-Top caterers, who were arranging bread-rolls and half slices of boiled eggs in plates, there was nobody there.
The master of ceremonies arrived at 8.15 a.m., checked his watch, and said: “Good, you are in time.” The first guests started arriveing around 9 p.m., the bridal couple at 9.30 p.m., the bride in a long white wedding dress, looking like Princess Diana, the long trail of her dress dragging on the Byculla Mechanics’ dusty floor.
The waiters got up from their sleep and started distributing little glasses of sweet wine and slices of plum cakes to the guests. I was given the wine in a special goblet… to raise the toast in. and my slice of cake was wrapped in a paper napkin. I suppose, when Mr. George Menezes raises toasts, he is also provided with this special treatment.
The master of ceremonies then introuduced the toast-master, meaning myself, describing me as an international writer. That was all right. Then the band played and I was escorted to the centre of the floor to raise the toast.
I do not know what exactly I said, I remembered the bride’s name, but forgot the bridgegroom’s. I recall at the end of minute or so, raising my glass, sayaing “cheers”, and downing the wine in one gulp. All the men, who were standing, and the ladies, who were sitting, raised their glasses and sipped their wines.
Later, everybody said I was very, very good. I think, they were being polite.