The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘S’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 52-year-old Punjabi mother, born and raised in North India. ‘Joota Chori’ essentially means stealing shoes.
I: So, we have many wedding rituals and games, and practical jokes are part of that. Could you describe one?
S: Yeah, this is during the wedding ceremony, or you could say through and post it, but somewhere during the wedding ceremony, when the — both the groom and the bride have to remove their footwear to get onto the… the podium for the phere (Seven circumambulations performed by the bride and groom during Indian weddings), the sacred… the holy ritual, the seven rounds we take. So, at that point in time, the girl’s sisters and friends, they get together and hide the groom’s shoes. Basically, to seek ransom in return, at some point, and make some money, some cash. And the boy’s brothers and friends are attempting to manage to make sure they don’t manage that, and if they do manage it, they’re attempting to kind of… look for the shoes and find them to save that money. It becomes a major, a big thing, good fun thing, and mostly the girl’s sisters and friends make money. The guy comes practically prepared for it [she laughs], that x amount will mostly have to be given.
I: So, would you say it’s kind of like a rite of passage, in that sense?
S: Rite of passage, introducing each other to the families, the families and friends, yeah. Testing them and joking around, getting familiar.
Weddings are often known to involve the liminal space, the transition period where one person is moving from a certain identity (the family they were born into), to another one (the family they are marrying into). This liminal space is between the stages of departure from the initial and arrival and acceptance into the latter, and therefore, practical jokes and rituals are part of the experience, even in Indian weddings. Here, the practical joke is, as my informant states, a rite of passage, a welcoming of both parties into their counterpart families and communities, and they also have the auxiliary purpose of acquainting both families and friend-groups with each other in a lighthearted, fun way. This wedding game, a practical joke, signifies the introduction of the two families at the wedding, as well as the initiation of the bride and groom into these families, since the people being ‘pranked’ are not exactly entirely moved away from their previous community, and neither are they fully integrated into the new one.