For reasons best known to the Maharashtra government, you have to go through the Slum Rehabilitation wing of the MHADA building to reach the Registrar of Marriage. Or maybe that’s because my friend and I, in an effort to find parking, ended up walking in through the wrong gate. My friend’s the one who got married, by the way. I was the responsible, dependable citizen who would be one of his three witnesses. But these are unimportant details. Here’s what you need to know about the office of the Registrar of Marriage. Its ceiling is decorated with paper decorations. The walls are a bright, blinding pink. You enter matrimony by sitting at a desk and signing a form while listening to the tinny strains of a shehnai. Yes, the Registrar of Marriage has a tape of shehnai music playing in his office. Because what’s a wedding without a little music?
For anyone who would like to get married to the sound of a faintly wailing shehnai in a pink room with framed photographs of Shivaji, it’s Rs. 2,500 for the fixer who will do everything from getting you the appointment to photocopying necessary documents and handing over to you the certificate that proves you’re married. He can get you professional witnesses too, though that would be an additional expenditure. (We witnesses didn’t come for free either; my friend had to bribe us with rummy hot chocolate.) It’s a good idea to be accompanied with someone who knows Marathi if you don’t. My friend thought his excellent Hindi would help him wing any Marathi that might be thrown at him, with the result that he thought the government officer was asking him to provide proof that he’d lived with his fiancée for a month before they got married. He was getting quite excited about how liberal the Indian government is until it was pointed out to him that what the man actually wanted was a proof of residence in Mumbai.
The government office charges Rs. 150 for the certificate that proves you are man and wife. Photography is forbidden within the premises but the kinder bureaucrat will let you take photos of the happy couple. Garlands are optional but highly recommended because it’s delightful to see how ridiculous they make the beaming couple look as they come out of a concrete square, past people in office-going attire (possibly on their way to the Slum Rehabilitation wing).