Monday, September 21, 2015

The Great Menon Wedding: Post Script

It's been almost a year and a half now since I entered into couple-hood. And while the biggest relief of being married is that no one asks you when you are getting married anymore, there are certain other enlightenments that have come with the married state. Here are a few observations on the subject.

1. The language barrier can be a barrier. Mostly because he can't get the jokes you are cracking at his expense. Besides, there are only so many times you can say "walking in the moonlight" and not get the right response. On a mushier note, there is also the downside that any attempt at romance involving, say, a sweet malayalam/tamil song hummed as you smile softly at him,  is met with a dodo-stare or or worse a polite request to keep it down while he tries to concentrate on something else. Hmph.

That said,

2. Guys can be Super Romantic. And the capitals are warranted. So when they go out of their way to buy you that academic book you happened to request on a Fb sound-out, or send you flowers from the middle of nowhere, or turn your birthday into a fancy production with a five star hotel stay thrown in just for kicks, and are determined to take you to a hill station on your first anniversary, let them. And enjoy it. I've heard it doesn't last.

3. Girls can be jerks. True, this is not a singular thought, but it is the variety in the jerkness that astounds.
The problem is we women are working with an archival disadvantage.Accounts of feminine assishness are,less accurately documented and are largely constituted of  patently unhelpful exaggerations. Sure there are loads of sexist jokes that paint women as evil incarnate (but if anyone believes that bullcrap, they deserve all the pain they get) , or accounts of some obviously happily married guy dissing his unfortunate wife(Guyish assery is a given anyway). But they all miss the fact that women can be all kinds of disaster just trying to be nice.
In the quest to be as comfortable a companion as possible we women tend to inadvertently squash our  spouse's fragile feelings. The lady regularly plants her both her feet in her admittedly big mouth and finds herself treading softly, for she treads upon eggshells. Someone ought to write a manual on avoiding everyday female dodo-hood.

 On the other hand,

5.Guys are dense. He may be the most intelligent person in the world but he's still not going to be able to read between the lines. Guys suffer from a natural emotional glaucoma-- they are chromosomally handicapped when it comes to figuring whether to probe or leave alone and consequently are guaranteed to do both in inopportune moments. It's frustrating, but they can't get it and will only get upset and upsetting if you attempted to explain things. I have been told that deep in the fantasy land of Xanadu, beneath Kubla Khan's pleasure dome, exist Men who have this skill. But they, like the phoenix, centaur or Yeti, remain elusive.So take a deep breath and cultivate girl friends.

6. A sense of humor is a WONDERFUL thing.  After the first hundred times you over think and mess up, you sort of realise that you ought to take a chill pill.  So, instead of freaking out every time something doesn't seem right, when in doubt, laugh it off. Keep a copy of 3rd Rock From the Sun, Dharma and Greg, Friends or a Telugu movie close at click. And get him to watch it with you so that you're both in on the joke.


7. Sometimes laughter can be a very bad idea. 'Nuf said. (This can be cross referenced with point #3.)

8. Food can fix most things. My grandmother used to say the key to a good marriage is to always have food ready when your spouse walks in. And a shared interest in street food or dubious Chinese fare further smoothens the marriage path. While every partner hopes to fill the void in the other, it's not possible to be everything a person needs at every point in time. Sometimes you need to rely on the good old-fashioned comfort of a hot meal and let it be. And if food doesn't do it, hand over the remote.

 9. Cricket matches are sacred. Period.

And finally,

10. There is no right answer. But, the good news is, there is no wrong one either. Marriage is like writing an examination in the Humanities discipline. There is no solid answer to the question of human companionship. There are only hypotheses, occasionally a couple of arguments, and a guiding principle.  Regardless of your best intentions, things may go awry. Contrarily, sometimes your worst fears lead to the best conclusions. You are the two lost souls swimming in the fish bowl, but it's better to be lost together.  And, to misquote the great Gandalf, not all those who are lost wander. You are both on the right path, and you'll get wherever you want to get. The journey may throw you off course, but if you remember the destination you will inevitably get there. Or so I have been told.

Let's see what life brings us.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ten Things that Ought to be Appropriate on a C.V

I completed my Ph.D! Yay!
And now I am unemployed.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the joke is always on you.
But cynical self-pity aside, the end of student mode presents a new set of challenges. The stipend, however legume-like, was something. And unless you wish to continue the ignominy of parental support into your 28th year, it's time to make changes. Consequently, you scrape up the remains of your self-worth and attempt to create the ticket to a paycheck-- your C.V.
But, apparently all the things that really matter, don't mean squat on that document.  All it wants to know is what paper you wrote or how many organisations you worked in-- basically stuff that anyone could do.
Such gross homogenising makes one wonder how anyone became someone.

In light of this glaring lacuna in the C.V ethos, the Author proposes ten items that should feature in her alternate biodata.

1. Wrote and completed a ph.d thesis while actively planning her wedding. (And carried off both tasks pretty well, though I say so myself)
2. Did not die of depression despite the terrible nature of her thesis topic.
3.Focussed on writing the Research Methodology paper even as India was raising the World Cup at Wankhede. (See--real dedication!)
4.Got an O grade in Rajiv Krishnan's course. (That's the equivalent of the Padmasree, Nobel Prize and the Booker Prize combined.  May be throw in a Purple Heart for the bruises-- both on pride and arms/wrists.)
5a.Was vegetarian for two years while living in Hyderabad-- the Land of Biriyani--  and travelling to a middle-eastern country.
   b. Stuck to a diet for three weeks while in Kuwait. With my mother's cooking around. (Imagine the tenacity and strength of will involved!)
6. Learnt to cook in Hostel. When Maggi was NOT banned.
7. Can swear fluently and viciously in three different languages, not including mother tongue.
8. Excels in spontaneous yarn spinning,  short notice dance choreography, script writing, and party planning.
9. Have played a cat, a dragon, a monster and a man. (How's that for versatile!)
10. Has an excellent sense of humour and is eternally optimistic.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Great Menon Wedding IV: Lights, Camera and a lot of Action

An Indian wedding is incomplete without its modest million megawatt worth of lighting.

The author comes from a tasteful stock. 'Tasteful' can be a problem,however, when it involves one fastidious father with big plans and a mother who was discovering her finicky side. Dismissing the offers of the multiple wedding event managers who had begun slinking around the place since the hall -booking, the Pater decided on a customised home-decoration program. In the year of 2011, when the house was officially warmed, we had incorporated the moulding and baking skills of the local potter and created three tiered terracota lamps in the style of the indigenous thooku vilakku. The aesthetic success of this innovation was only marred by the practical impossibility of actually lighting the lamps (oil-spillage, spilled-oil slippage, chances of fire,the occasional burnt hair-do). The Pater envisioned a rectification of that loss via the magic of wire and low-maintenance bulbs. The situation was furthered by the presence of two able henchmen: the Amazing Viju Chetan-Jenson Chetan duo. Originally drivers by trade, their repetoire of skills is diversified by their extensive network of contacts. You want something done, they know some one who can do it. Enter: the electrically talented Shailesh.

An acquisition of the intrepid Viju Chetan (whose exploits and efficiency require another post for proper examination), Shailesh is the kind of guy whose brain works in terms of circuits. Anything that can conduct electricity is his cup of tea. In fact it is his penchant for cups/glasses/tumblers of Teachers that brought him into contact with Viju Chetan who moonlighted as a beverage corporation employee. It is the possibility of an extra pint that lured Shailesh into the land of work. The problem was that his affinity towards circuitry ran alongside a very short fuse. A little pressure ( can be anything- the weather, Lalettan's new movie bombing, the shape of the parippu vada he had that morning, you get the idea) was enough to have him go off in a huff to nurse a comforting pint in the loving arms of the local And if it wasn't something that got his dander up, it would be simple commitment-phobia. Too much familiarity with a certain task makes our man feel antsy, resulting in the hero disappearing with nary a "it's not you, it's me." Viju Chetan, having seen our flighty bird through many a drunken ramble, was aware of these failings in an otherwise brilliant mind. Consequently, Shailesh's employment also saw the advent of the Relay Vigilance Commission. At no point of time was Shailesh left unsupervised and the supervisor usually sat in front of the exit braiding wires to further impede escape plans.Thus Shailesh was secured, grumpy or otherwise.

The unforeseen consequence of all this constant vigilance was that the invigilators tended to get too involved in their charge's charges. While Viju chetan was still able to keep his head in the face of such electric snares, and Achan was able to tear himself away occasionally, Jenson Chetan succumbed to it's charms like plastic near static-charged fabric. He would stay on long beyond his prescribed duties, way past his home curfew,  all for the excitement of seeing the lights come to life. His family was not pleased.

Neither was the Mater.
While she had given the project her blessings in the beginning, its never-ending nature, the constant tea-service and, most importantly, father dearest's growing obsession with the lighting story to the exclusion of all else, began to tarnish her view significantly. Furthermore, all the circuits and wires were not helping with turning 'humble home' into something suitably wedding-like. To give credit where it's due, the house by itself was lovely enough. But 'enough' is never enough. Also, the winds of  change had spawned disarray. The newly minted cupboards had unleashed a revolution of forgotten bric-a-brac, which now emerged from their camouflaged corners demanding space. The freshly delivered Dakshina mundus and mundum veshtis vied with the new saris for wardrobe space. The changed curtains left behind old shades which hung around and got in everybody's way. Thankfully the  books fit into the new bookshelf. Sort of.

To add to this chaos, the pater had also envisioned the recreation of a childhood curiosity to liven up the house. The courtyard to be more specific. In his multiple treks to Sabarimala, that beloved pilgrimage centre that inspires so many  faithful hearts and swamps so many railway charts, my father had seen devotees commence their journey by building miniature temples out of tender banana stems. These creations, he said, were bonsai versions of the actual sanctum sanctorum of the temple, mingling delicacy with detail and creating an ivory toned delight of perfect symmetry. Yes, he could be persuasive. The idea of a little shrine at the foot of the mango tree did carry a sweet rural appeal and the project was approved with mild smiles.
Apparently, as we discovered later, the Pater  was giving the truth a little makeover when he said 'little'. When the thing rose in the middle of the lawn... let's just say it was no midget. Plus the refuse from the  construction work flooded the yard removing any vestige of decor or decorum. It was a fraught moment when mother dearest came upon the scene. She had a knife in her hand, you see.

Caught up in suppressing these unruly uprisings and dragging father dearest back from circuits and plans for miniature temples, the mater had to admit that house and hall decoration will have to be outsourced. It is in this vulnerable interval that the parents make the acquaintance of  Pavanai and Co. from Atham  Wedding Planners. (Note: Don''t. Go.There.)
Well, the parenthetical aside kinda says it all.
Lulling us with glib talk of superlative flower arrangements, accurate replicas of the invite motif, and correcting us on the right kind of jasmine to be used for decking the bride(Coimbatore, if you are interested), the Atham sharks gave us every impression of efficiency-- an illusion if there ever was one, as events proved. We live and learn. As brides go, I was a rather easy going type and only had two requests from the duo. 1. A light and slender garland unlike the generic type. 2. A bouquet that did not look like a cauliflower. Pavanai and Partner were not impressed. Piece of cake! We'll even take up the Mehendi program just to show you how awesome we are. When the Mehendi lady turned up an hour late, and rushing to go, and not doing such a great job, it ought to have given us a clue. After all the swagger, on the wedding day I was presented with standard issue garland that any idiot bride could have carried and a bouquet that went out of its way to look like a cauliflower. As for jasmine, not only did we not get the 'right' variety, we got them so late that for a while we were facing the possibility of a deflowered bride. They did deliver on the motif replica, though. A perfect copy. Only it was bright, bubblegum pink. The final assessment was this.

While we may have miscalculated on certain aspects, we struck gold in the photographer category. And anyone who's ever been in a wedding knows what a coup that is. Ani from Vijaya Studios brought the best of clicking and courtesy to the wedding quickly turning into a crowd favourite. Besides his natural amiability, and admirable competency, he also carried the added charm of nostalgic sentiment since his father, the Vijayan of Vijaya studios, was the photographer for the parents' wedding.

Two days before the arrival of our first guests, the lights finally came to life, much to the relief of all parties. All said and done, they looked gorgeous! We didn't even notice Shailesh making a run for it. Following quickly in the heels of the lighting flash, the white temple grew on our front-yard, while Viju chetan, the Pater and I made detailed pick-up and drop schedules. The guests started coming in and the grooms-side became more tangible presence-- occasionally in rather inopportune moments like the unavoidable bridal photoshoot. This pre-event period saw certain exciting developments like the arrival of 100+ wedding favour fans which needed to be knotted (a task that was assigned to the girlfriends-- they were given fair warning.) and a particular set from the groomside walking off without waiting for, or informing, the hapless pick-up person who then began a set of desperate to calls to every available number imaging the worst that can happen to non-mallus in Kerala. They were located eventually, safe and unrepentant. $@*^! By the time the Mehendi day dawned, the entire 'team'-- that favourite collective noun of the Trichur natives-- was so pumped we could have run a marathon, and won. Combine the best of a roller-coaster ride and chocolate and you get the wedding high.
While I started out the wedding saga determined to be the one bride in the history of weddings to have fun at her own wedding, I realised that, if you are involved in your wedding there is no way you can not have fun at your wedding. Yes, no one is paying attention to the couple. And no, you don't get any rest. And yes, you will definitely face things you didn't plan for. And yes, you have fun anyway. There is so much positive energy, so many sincere good wishes, such sweet memories made, it makes everything worth it. Surrounded by family and friends who go out of their way to make your wedding spectacular, whether it's in the form of a spirited antakshari competition, or song and dance performances put together in the span of an evening, or skits created through online back and forths between overworked aunts and uncles, you are reminded that you are not alone in the effort and there is so much love in the universe that we are just trying to transmit to each other.  At some point of time, you forget to think of things in terms of what they are worth and instead in what they mean to you. And there is a difference between the two.

At the end of all the wedding prep, the author has come to the conclusion that, if there were more wedding themed parties, there would be fewer weddings ( And, consequently, fewer divorces, if you think about it.)  But a wedding is so much more than a party. The whole wedding shabang is structured to teach, in small doses, the skills necessary to handle what is essentially an unchartered journey with a virtual stranger. The clarity to know what you can  expect, the drive to see it through, the patience to sit out the difficult parts. And most importantly, it is to teach the two inadvertent parties to this madness-- the bride and the groom-- how to love. The enormous effort that goes into the making of such an event can only be pulled off if there is enough love to smooth the way. Love is a verb-- it needs action. The act of a wedding defines the parameters of the marriage it inaugurates. It sets the tone for the music you can make together -- it may not be what you were expecting, but it will be something extraordinary,  sharps, flats and all.