I don’t know if this is a common phenomenon, but I’m always slightly horny at weddings. Maybe this is some kind of primal thing; the whole business is, after all, about sex, about anxious parents hooking their kids up for sex, about meeting exciting new strangers to sleep with, or at least eating like a tapeworm as a substitute for sex. At Punjabi weddings they dance and drink to release some of that sexual energy, and to show potential hookups how tireless they are while performing simple rhythmic movements; why do you think the bhangra looks the way it does? At Bengali weddings, though, everyone sits and eats and talks and ogles other people doing the same thing until everyone is either horny to the point of combustion or asleep.

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And this wedding I’m attending is one that inspires horniness on a mammoth scale. A Big Fat Bong Wedding where two nice, loaded and future-society-pillar types are getting their Official Penetration Permit; all of Calcutta is here. And now, sitting at this table with old friends watching women I last met ten years ago walking around, magically metamorphosed into sexual beings, all curves and silken swaying strides and knowing smiles, the awkwardness of their college years but a distant memory, I’m beginning to feel it; people are beginning to break up into body parts, I’m beginning to regress. What can I say? It’s a wedding. You’re supposed to be horny. That’s why you’re wearing a kurta.

Around the table sits what would have been my American Pie gang, if we’d been about ten years younger and, well, American. Aniruddha, former quiz champion, now consultant or investment banker or something for one of those companies that are just some guys’ last names. Quiet, docile, very sweet, often thwarted in his sexual endeavours by the phrase ‘But I thought you were gay!’ He’s acquiring the beginnings of an American twang, and claims to have not been laid in two years. He’s bickering, as always, with Debo, one of Calcutta’s leading perverts, famous for having invented thirteen different kinds of masturbation involving traditional Bengali food. And Sandhya. Sandhya my...well, friend, I suppose, though the whole world assumes we’ve been fucking for years. We work together now, we’d been in college together, we do everything together except the one thing everyone assumes we do. Because what we have is far too important, too close, too complicated to fuck up.

At the next table, looking over at us archly and flashing her now how-have-the-mighty-fallen cleavage from time to time, sits Mrs Fernandez, our chemistry teacher from school, single-handedly responsible for the sexual awakening of our entire generation with her once-award-winning midriff, endless miles of smooth, shiny brown skin that glistened and undulated in invitation as she walked around our grotty classroom explaining the mysteries of equation balancing. Lovely woman, lovely cliché, goddess at whose altar lake-sized offerings of teenage semen had been sacrificed, had passed through Calcutta’s ancient drains and joined other goddesses of mud and muck at the bottom of the Hooghly. She’d brought us together, Debo, Ani and me, sighing in unison all those years ago as fate and Calcutta summers soaked the edges of her sleeveless blouses. As soon as we’d discovered that our respective passions waxed and waned at different times in a chemistry period (me: Dry Mrs Fernandez, Ani: Slightly Moist Mrs Fernandez, Debo: Squelchy Mrs Fernandez), we’d become friends for life. And here she is now, still sexy but a little sad, a little desperate—another awakening. Not that Debo cares; he’s going over and spiking her drinks from time to time. He gets up and does it again, leering unabashedly down her sari as he leans over her. She so knows what’s going on, but she doesn’t react. Or maybe she likes it. We’d thought he was so brave when he did the same thing in class. Time.

I look at Sandhya as she tells Ani some really disgusting joke. Some things don’t change. It’s really irrelevant that we’re at a wedding: with Sandhya and me, you can switch the background and it won’t matter, it never has. College fests, friends’ birthdays, nights out, office parties, conferences. . . I see her, things get a little blurry and edgy at the same time, that muddy concoction of love, affection, guilty desire, amusement. It’s been years, I should really be over this by now, but you know it doesn’t work that way. When we’d met we’d been attracted to each other instantly, but we’d been with other people, and we’d been young and virtuous and slightly pompous with the whole ‘But Men and Women Can Be Friends’ thing. Her boyfriend of seven years had moved on recently, telling her she was too wild for him, that he was thinking marriage and she just wasn’t right, that he’d seen someone else and known instantly she was the kind of person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. ...

... The Friend Zone. My nemesis, my constant companion. How do you tell your best friend that every time you’re on the verge of orgasm with someone you don’t know very well, clenched and shaking and wide-eyed and slightly insane, your lover of the moment suddenly turns into her? Sandhya knows, has always known, the effect she has on me. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking—she’s always been very comfortable, too comfortable, around me.

Excerpted from The Wedding Night Or, Bachelor’s Boudoir 9, from the anthology Electric Feather: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories, edited by Ruchir Joshi.

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