Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Great Menon Wedding II:Roots and (Photo) Shoots aka How to Get into The Wedding Spirit.

The problem of stepping into a wedding that you were never planning to have, is that you aren't really prepared for the choices you will have to make.

     Following the tremulous 'yes', my parents had slid into a comfortable bonhomie reminiscent of the iceberg after it sunk the Titanic. However, I had been grossly blinded by the parents' appearance of chilled out equilibrium. While I was aware of my parents' burning urge for a marriage in the family, I began to realise that the heat of their matrimonial ambitions could sear rhinoceros hide! The Pater, who is given to exaggeration, blithely aired plans of a thousand strong wedding guest list and expeditions to unknown corners of Kerala and the Deccan Plateau to run the invitation gauntlet. But my amused smile shriveled into an incredulous 'huh?' when the mild Mater began to pull out bulging folders labelled 'invitation card options', 'wedding favors', 'decor', 'bridal hairstyles' (and I thought she had made her peace with my maenad hair'blouse patterns' (!). Ostensible research.Oh dear...

     Sensing peril, I began to observe their routines more closely. Where Achan would once shun the telephone like hostel chutney, he now spent valuable minutes on the line collecting phone numbers to dial in still more phones. Besides conferring with various cronies regarding infrastructural cornerstones like the catering and transport, housing and lighting, Achan was also willingly venturing outside and visiting acquaintances-- both highly allergenic tasks for the subject. Amma who used to spend her online time on progressive pursuits like this, now spent her days watching videos like this (nice song, though). Where we once had stimulating intellectual conversations on poetry, politics, books and family gossip, talk now inevitably veered towards sari colours, thalam arrangements flowers and inevitably the groom (the last item usually some advice prefixed with a "please don't"). And when we weren't talking about wedding planning, my economically conscientious mother would disappear into the bowels of Mysore Silk Emporium and return laden with booty with nary  a wince at the bill. It was when my father and I got into an argument regarding the hypothetical wedding jewelry that I knew for certain that as a responsible adult it was my duty to lead them back to their sane and sensible selves. Some one needed to step in and pick up those slackened reins!

     Which was exactly what I had planned to do... but...well... We have a way of getting swept away in the flow of things-- especially if it is less 'flow' and more 'tsunami waves'. Besides, if I was going to get married, I was damned well gonna have a say in the freaking thing. And I was never in a thousand years going let myself become this kind of a bride! (there were dangerous thoughts in this direction) Consequently, I got involved in my own wedding. A decision I was sure I would never make. Ah hell, I wasn't planning on getting married to begin with, it was about time I got with the program.

     Having become the unwilling protagonist of this wedding saga, I was now called upon to make several decisions for which I was ill prepared. For example: What colour wedding sari do you want? Er...
     Spare me your calumny you mocking mockers! It is apparently the most crucial piece of knowledge for a prospective bride. The wedding shade is the one colour to rule them all-- the jewelry, saris to be given as gifts, even the stage settings were subject to the Great Pigment. Seriously- it's a big deal! Yeah, I didn't know either; much to the frustration of all interested (which waseveryone I knew, irrespective of age or gender) Other subjects of infinite importance in the wedding scheme included possible blouse tailors, the best options for d-day beautician and what kind of shoes. Besides this, the bride has to make her peace with certain truths:
(a) She will have to put  off reading the complete works of Haruki Murakami or even one small little novel in favour of socialising.
(b)She will have to sit still and smiling for looooong stretches of time.
(c) She must be well dressed full time. (mostly because her mother is revisiting her daughter's pre-cognitive days where she got to try every look she fancied on unsuspecting, compliant baby)
(d) She will be called upon to pose for innumerable photos, in ridiculous poses*. And she must do so graciously. (The wedding phase also saw the return of the Mater's favorite phrase from my childhood: "Don't make a fuss")

     Needless to say I was much happier to take care of transport coordination, room list tallies and invitation printing and inviting. The last, only when permitted-- it is apparently bad form to invite people for your wedding yourself. Which makes some circuitous sense since your wedding is mostly your parents' project, whether or not you try to make it otherwise. The guest list is like the Humanities discipline, it is flexible and ever growing. In fact, as evidenced in a cousin's wedding,  it continues to  expand right up to the wedding day. While I can't generalise, most South Indian wedding guest lists do not work on the overly simplified notion of inviting only close family and friends. Oh no. Anyone on the family tree with a valid address was a candidate. I remember in my naive past my observations on weddings were marked by incredulity at the logic of inviting people one barely knew to  ones own wedding. The fact is. that's how you get to know them. I had the opportunity of meeting such lovely people while running the invitation gauntlet it made the wedding worth it. Of course, there were those I won't recognise ever again as well, but the fact remains the wedding was an affirmation of roots and the far off shoots sprung from these forgotten ties.You see, the rhetoric of parental duty has deep roots in a very simple urge-- communal bonding.

     Forget all the middle-class morality discourse about marriage being a social obligation. What it really is, is a chance for parents, family and friends old and new to get together, call everyone they can think of  and throw a really big party. It is a chance to open doors, renew bonds, make memories of every kind and generally have a whale of a time. And the easiest way to appreciate this, I discovered, was to stop thinking of the wedding as your wedding. Rather, think of it as the one opportunity to show them how it's done and do it right. The minute the perspective changes, you are suddenly free of the self consciousness and what we Mallus call chammal** and challupu***  of being the center of so much unwanted and unprecedented attention. Your attention shifts from their attention and you finally see things for what they are-- a chance for your family to cut loose. A time for you to hang out with your friends, giving them a venue to reanimate friendships. An opportunity to be happy and make happy.And I was determined to be the one bride in history to have fun at her own wedding. And this wedding would definitely go down in history.

Next up, the getting the wheels running for the Big Knot


* The photographer we finally settled upon was that rare breed of clickers-- polite, efficient and likable. A large reason for this was because he smiled so apologetically every time he requested a certain pose, and that the final album was quite lovely. To his credit, viewing the shots later proved that the poor man had had to use all his skill to make the bride look passably nomal-- the subject had failed spectacularly at point (b).

** Roughly translated as embarrassment.

***Another form of extreme embarrassment and shame. Use the retroflex 'l'-- All you linguists out there, you know what to do.