Mamas and mamis all smiles,
Dressed in silk sarees and veshtis,
The strangely familiar faces,
The familiarly strange faces,
The vadhiyars (priests) sitting in a huddle.
The catering contractor praying,
To all the 1000 gods in the heavens,
That this wedding too,
Should be a grand success.
The thathas and pattis (grandparents)
Struggling to sit steadily.
Some in wheelchairs looking,
Pale shadows of their former selves,
Some still sharp and sprightly,
Cracking jokes with the young ones,
Talking of kutcheris(concerts) in Cleveland.
Then arrives the magic moment.
The groom and his entourage,
Make a grand entrance,
The bride’s family,
Welcome the groom and party,
With flowers and rose-water.
Smiles all around,
And photographers get busy!
Then starts the room allotment,
Groom’s family rooms,
On the first floor,
Bride’s family on ground floor.
How many rooms have ACs?
Is there a lift?
Is the bathroom easily accessible for the elderly?
Amidst all this confusion,
The hall attendants will arrive-
‘Mama coffee aa tea aa’,
‘With sugar aa wihtout sugar aa’
By default someone will spill coffee or tea,
On the pristine white veshtis(dhotis)
Some comic banter will occur.
By then groom and family,
Will sit in front of,
The ceremonial fire,
At a distance the bride,
Will be seated with her family,
Hymns will be chanted,
The smell of incense,
Jasmine and rose flowers,
Will mix in the air.
In the kitchen annex,
Cooking will be in full swing,
Suddenly contractor will announce,
As bride and groom lost in hymns,
Sit through fasting,
others will devour,
Idlies, dosas and pongal,
With kesari, gulab jamuns or halwa.
Woe betide if the vadai is dry,
Or if it is not served.
God save the contractor!
Ritual after ritual,
Costume changes after each ritual,
Managing the crowds,
In between a child will come crying,
Amma kaanam or make a scene,
Asking for ice cream at 10 AM in the morning,
As the child’s parents look sheepishly,
When all efforts fail,
One gentle smack will make the child see reason.
A Dairy Milk Bar works wonders too!
Time for lunch,
More discussion on food,
Some nasty comments,
On members of folks from both sides,
The curious guest who no one recognises,
From either family.
He happily eats and leaves!
More rituals – all done!
Then the wedding reception.
The mandatory North Indian menu,
A counter with chat, pop corn and cotton candy.
Paneer, naans, grilled vegetables,
Two ice creams, four sweets,
The meetha paan and the fruit salad.
The obligatory sight-adichufying (gentle flirting)
The Amreeka project return chamathu paiyyan,
Who would be the cynosure of all eyes,
Of all mamis and mamas,
With eligible daughters for marriage.
The poor harried software engineers,
Stuck in India waiting for ‘on-site opportunities’.
No connection to all this mess,
I am not an engineer, lawyers, doctor, auditor – gumbal.
The rare minority like me,
Who look at the unfolding drama.
In this confusion, we will be searching,
For that one lady,
Someone whose eyes can ignite a spark,
Someone with whom we can discuss,
Thalaivar and Tolstoy with equal ease,
Nolan and Mani Ratnam or Spielberg and K. Balachander,
With heightened interest.
May be we may find someone :)
Otherwise we just keep trying!
The wedding day – The big day,
Another set of complex rituals,
Kashi-yatra scene – as the groom,
Prepares to run to Kashi,
He is brought back to the hall,
By the bride’s father,
With the promise of his daughter’s hand,
In holy matrimony!
All culminating in that moment,
When the groom ties the sacred ‘thaali’
Around his bride’s neck.
In that moment they are pronounced man and wife.
Lots of namaskarams and blessings later.
Smiling for the camera,
Accepting gifts – mostly money and glassware and clocks.
They finally proceed to have lunch.
At the local government office.
A quick visit to the groom,
And the bride’s house,
At an auspicious moment.
Another visit to the wedding hall,
To complete the ‘nalangu’ (fun games)
Rolling coconuts like cricket balls,
Breaking appalams on each others heads.
A bit of singing, a bit of gentle chatter.
Finally the long wait comes to an end,
The guests leave,
The payments are all settled,
Gifts all packed in bags,
Relatives who came from other cities,
Bid good bye and leave,
With thamboola pais and return gifts.
A final check to see nothing has been,
Forgotten in the hall – everyone leaves!
One marriage ends and serves,
As the foundation or meeting place,
For prospective brides and grooms,
All set for another marriage,
To be held in the same hall,
Or another hall with a similar set,
Of guests, rituals and all the usual suspects!
That my dear friends is how – ‘enga aathu kalayanam happens’!