Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wedding Chronicles1: The Mallu Wedding

Disclaimer: Much like it's subject, this post is going to be very long.

The inimitable and ever-aged Clint Eastwood once commented that "Marriages are made in heaven. But so are thunder and lightning." I myself completely affirm this view. However I am but a minuscule minority. This fact is confirmed by the fact that I had the opportunity to witness two weddings in the short span of the last two weeks and will be at another one in September. The Indian Wedding is a dazzling experience. Not just because of the blinding amounts of bling and flash photography, but also for the sheer spectacle of the whole program. Unlike the sedate and neatly packaged concept of popular weddings, the Indian Wedding-and more specifically the South Indian Wedding- is a riot of happy chaos which relies on anarchy for successful execution. Furthermore there is a marked sadistic trait within these functions that will prove curious to the budding anthropologist. The following accounts will substantiate the previous generalisation.

To follow chronology, we will start with the Malayalee Wedding. As a disclaimer I state that my presence at this spectacle was entirely my mothers fault. The Mallu wedding is perhaps the shortest variety, lasting all of ten minutes with the main attraction being the sadhya that follows. But one must keep in mind the Mallu propensity for extension (a passing glance at any Mallu serial will affirm this). After all,where's the drama in a quickie ceremony? And we Mallus love Drama. Our politics is proof enough. And so in a hasty bid to add some masala to the bland molakushyam we split this simple ceremony into three parts- the Thalikettu, the Kalyanam and the Sadhya+photo-session.The first part more or less adheres to the original scheme and consists mostly of praying in the temple of choice and tying the thali. But the fact that it is conducted in an ungodly hour on the lines of 4:30 am makes it the most painful part of the entire program. Just this small detail ensures anarchy. Imagine, if you will, the bawling of irritated woken up babies, the gurgle of reluctant taps followed by the badaboom of banged doors as time flies and delayed bathers become desperate. Added to this is the fact that females in attendance must necessarily be decked out in Saris or at the very least an incredibly itchy salwar-kameez/churidar. The donning of these are by themselves chaotic to say the least. Any sari draper will be acquainted with the Murphy's Law of Sari wearing. No matter how many there are and how many you saved, the pins are always missing. Furthermore, negotiating sari pleats when you'd much rather be dallying in dreamland only adds to the pain. And when one is as determinedly nocturnal as the author, the morning Muhurtham is nothing short of excruciating.The knowledge that all this pain is merely to catch a barely noted tying of a thali, which even an untimely sneeze would render unnoticed only makes it more frustrating. Thankfully, this time I merely had to attend the second half- the more showy Kalynanam.

This consists of four parts: 1.Escorting the Groom, 2.Escorting the Bride 3.Exchanging garlands 4.Lots of blinding photographs. All this escorting means a lot of escorters. Again it is the womenfolk who have to do all the work. Females within the age group 8-30yrs are rounded up and armed with thalams- plates carrying flowers, rice, a small lamp and other such items. The lasses are lassoed into two parallel queues flanking the escorted- probably to stop them from making a last minute bolt for freedom. All this seems very neat and orderly. Ah if only... These processions are notorious not just for the fact that it kills your feet, but also because your hair is constantly in danger of catching fire what with a plate with a lamp right behind you. It's true. It happened to me. And at the wedding that I went to it happened to my cousin. I prudently showed up only afterwards. The thalam girls carefully accompany the groom and later the bride to the dais where there is always a traffic jam. Inevitably something is knocked down and everyone is praying that it wont be a lamp.

The wedding that I attended featured a silk clad groom who looked cheerful and happy- probably because he was reminded of his reassuring comfort whenever he chanced to glance at his mate whose face one could barely make out from within the crown of jasmine and the shield of jewelery. It is my firm belief that if one were to shoot a Mallu bride in the chest her multitudinous gold chains would save her with nary a smudgy bruise to show for it. This particular bride was encased in a sheath of gold which swayed with her uncomfortable movements to reveal even more gold in the form of the zari on her Kancheepuram Sari. The poor lady literally creaked as she walked(a feat of great strength and endurance), what with all the metal she had on. But it truly is a tribute to the marriage impulse that despite such obvious difficulties she still looked very happy.

Somewhere in the time that it takes the bride to lumber up the stage and lumber down to sitting position, most of the audience rush to the dining hall.This is the scene for several almost-riots. Mallus love their Sadhya. And anyone who comes in the way is at risk of being trampled. Several jaws and joints have borne the brunt of particularly zealous eaters kept away from their mouth-watering goal. And once there, they make it a point to vocalise their demands as well as loudly declaim/proclaim the quality of the food/servers/the serving/anything remotely food related. So while the crowd mills around the dining hall the bride and groom are abandoned to exchanging their garlands in the face of an indifferent trickle of individuals who decided to wait for lunch or carry on conversations. Following the exchange of garlands the couple are subjected to a stream of relatives who feed them bananas and milk.It is a custom guaranteed to render anyone lactose intolerant. After several gulps of milk interspersed with banana morsels (... is there a metaphor here?...) the bride and groom raise themselves to stand in the glare of several camera flashes as the guests, burping and satisfied after their hard-fought lunches,make their way towards the duo to give them gifts and grin for the cameras.The groom has it better- at least he is not weighed down by his apparel. But the bride gives meaning to the phrase 'grin and bear it'. Several hours of photography later the bride and groom finally get a bite to eat. This too is monitored by the cameramen who vie with the paparazzis on the intrusion scale. So instead of eating ravenously, as they most likely would be by then, the bride and groom are forced to take delicate, pretty bites. Ah poor souls.

At long last they are released from their wedding. Breathing a sigh of relief they make a break for freedom only to be waylaid by relatives who say a million good byes over and over again without actually leaving. The last I saw as I left the venue was the tableau of the groom and bride with frozen smiles bidding the fiftieth farewell to the same aunty who had circled them two minutes ago. Ah marriage is a difficult prospect- but the wedding is the actual killer.

More on weddings at a later date.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

It has been a while, hasn't it?
My supervisor- understanding as he is- will probably go into an apoplectic fit at this blatant stalling in writing. And by now he'd have written me off as a lost cause to good writing. But I shall smile in the happy knowledge that he doesn't read my blog :D

It has been while. The hurdles of final submissions, entrance exams, doubtful admissions, interminable tension-filled waiting followed by interminable procedure are all valid justification for the inexcusable hibernation. But more than all this, the evaporation of any creative impulse is the true culprit.
In every writers career there comes a period of intense emptiness. One might find subjects to write about but never the inclination or the excitement to actually write. Everything feels fake and hollow. You peel the skin off your writing you find only a puff of fetid empty air. There have been days when I spent hours staring at an unrelenting page only to slink back defeated. So much so that I considered ending it all. After all, it is an insult to The World According to Me if I am unable to contribute anything of worth to it.

It was somewhere around this period that Friendship Day came and went. The next day was punctuated by phone calls and wishes from friends laden with remorse for having forgotten the event. This guilt was completely unnecessary considering these were comrades who have stuck by my side through thick and thin. So why does it all supposedly boil down to a single day? After all the years and the experiences that we shared, how can a tiny thimble of twenty-four hours be capable of containing all the copious times we have shared. In that cusp of pragmatism I had an epiphany. The World According to Me is not the story of a day. It has been my friend, my confidant. It has suffered through my bad phases, laughed and smiled with my good ones and always been there. The World According to Me is my friend. And I cannot give up on my friends.

Here's hoping that I can be a better friend and that this dry phase too shall pass. And while the going might get tough, I will keep trying to add more and more to The World According to Me. Because that's what friends do. :)