Wednesday, March 26, 2008

coimbatore kalyanam


The wedding...

....was not very spectacular except it was 5 in the morning and I have to post about it and get Coimbatore out of my system.

(read part 1 and 2 in the previous posts)

We arrived at 4:30 a.m (I am very scared of my aunt) - my mother and I properly silk saree-ed and gold jewelery-ied. We looked silly walking in that finery at 4:30 in the morning. My mother wanted kumar anna to walk with us to the mantabam. I put my foot down and poor office going kumar anna got to sleep a little longer. However it dint reduce the amount of jewelery my mother thought was mandatory minimum (earrings, one chain, one bangle- all having some gold/silver/precious stone). So we walked alone to the mantabam in all our finery.

There was no one there. A very sleepy looking groom (my cousin) on the stage. Both sets of parents(the bride and the grooms) were up and most uncles i.e my mothers siblings were up. Not one under age 50 person was awake - besides the groom. And me.

Anyway the kasi yatra/ mapalaiayyap was in progress. In this ritual the groom makes his merry way to lead the life of the bhramachari (bachelor). The brides father follows him and advise him to live the life of the grhastri (householder) and ask him to marry his young very available daughter. The groom then returns. I have always secretly hoped that at some wedding the groom will just walk on and choosing to screw the life of grhastri. It has never happened so far.

My cousin was off - well equipped with umbrella, a fan and some reading material (the vishnu sarsnamam). His father in law followed him out. Their interaction happened - in sanskrit. So the priest has to be there too feeding them both their lines. My cousin looked most silly holding the umbrella open at 5 in the morning- no rain no sun. Having acted out the little skit we all returned to the wedding hall. All this happens with great fan fare and the preist chanting things and so on. I elaborate because when i explained this ceremony to one of my friends he wanted to know if they groom and father in law just stepped out for a smoke and a chat and walked back in. No it does not happen like that. There are garlands and umbrellas and fans and fanfare.

Next was the malai mathu. 15 minutes of pure silliness but all of us went aww oooo and chuckle indulgently like its the cutest thing next to miniature kittens(which are just creepy). The groom tries to garland the bride while she is lifted, pulled, pushed by bunch of uncles and vice versa. In any case thankfully at a sleepy 5 o clock neither were my cousins relatives nor the brides relatives very enthusiastic about hoisting these two overweight 20 somethings on their shoulders and so just let them garland each other and be done with it.

Then they were led to the oonjal(swing) where the bride and groom sit. Tuneless aged relatives croon some songs - old favorites like gowri kalyanam and alai payuthe- tunes and words i havent been able to pick up even though i have been to a 10001 weddings by now. There is some part of me that will just never learn to sing gauri kalyanam. New favorites like alai payuthe which is reflected in mani ratnam movie titles i might imbibe. Old and older aunts (married aunts) touch the feet o the bride and grrom with milk and pour sweetened milk and banana into their outstreched hands. Then they will circle rice balls and throw them. After much cursing, heaving sighing, groaning and gasping, as the old and older aunts struggled with all the bending and (fondly wishing for the happier days when the bride was 6 and the groom was 10 and their feet would conveniently stick straight out of the swing) the bride and groom were finally led to the medai. (stage)

After some homam the bride was presented with her nine yard saree (ombodudgajam) and sent off to change into it and I had to scurry behind her. Of course as the groom's sister I am supposed to help her wear it. Obviously I dont know the first thing about ombodugajam's (as was later revealed to my aunts chagrin) so a grandmother was procured. They insisted I enter the room with the bride when she changed. There is no better ice breaker for chicks other than dressing together or visiting the loo. So we chatted while she was being disrobed and robed. Awkward yes but also a good ice breaker- really. I made subtle inquiries about other young eligible marriageable Coimbatore women, as my parents had been going on and on about a particular coimbatore girl they favoured for my brother. However- no luck - its seems everybody in coimbatore does not know each other. I returned disappointed with the ombodugajam-ed bride and deposited her on the medai. 'Her ombodugajam is backwards' hissed my aunt in my ear. 'what? really? it looks fine' i stuttered. After eliciting the name of the grandmother who was in charge of saree tying my aunt made her hasty way. The brides mother intervened and said everything was just perfectly tied thank you very much and if my aunt dint have such 'critical eyes' she would notice that everything was fine too. My aunt's eyes bulged, breath caught in her throat. She could not imagine that a 'boy's mother' could be treated with such little deference.

Meanwhile the experienced priest speeded up the proceedings and lo it was time for thali! -for THE ceremony- the kanyadanam and the one in which I had a good sized role. The father sat on the chair while his daughter sat on his lap. Many an aged father has struggled to keep an overwieght daughter on his lap - another relic of the times when the bride would be no older that 6 or 7 and would probably hop out and run away if not held firmly in her fathers lap. Anyway luckily my cousin's bride was thin and her father looked suitably healthy. My cousin towered over them tall and macho tied the thali around her neck (one knot- the other two were tied by me) under a rain of rice and flowers hurled at them as blessings. And it was over. I hung around uselessly my star role over and forgotten and a lil peeved at my time on stage being taken away- when that wonderful priest called and said thali katna kaikku edhadu koodongo (give somethign to the hand that tied that thali) and i was seated and handed a saree by the brides parents. It was pretty -orange and pink. ''Check if they have included blouse piece" hissed my aunt in my ear. I was happy. Of course if i was own sister i would have got maybe gold diamond what not. But this was ok for now.

The bride and groom continued with their very many other homams and ceremonies including the groom bending to put the toe ring on the bride's foot and the the seven steps. But i was off
towards my filter coffee and a nice full breakfast of vadias and pongals and sojjis and returned home to sleep.

(i returned again to the mntapam in the afternoon for lunch and many politicking and maami talk of 'appron? ava enai sona? idu kela di.... ponnu amma yenai kudutha? and so on but no i am not blogging about that)

end of coimbatore

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

coy in coimbatore- the Nitchyadhartham

I went to Coimbatore. My cousin was getting married there. Getting to Coimbatore was something else. See previous post for full details.

This post is not about that

This post is about the wedding. The great fat tam bram wedding.
(To be honest tam bam weddings are not great or fat. Neither was this one. They are short and thin and scheduled at times so as to ensure the minimum number of guests)

Day 1 was the engagement ceremony. The engagement ceremony is short and sweet and can usually be conducted even without the bride and the groom. The parents get together, exchange gifts. i.e the girls side come bearing various things like fruits and nuts, a diamond ring or two, maybe a gold bracelet, ( these days even candy and it is arranged cutely to spell the names of the groom and the bride, maybe a heart if the parents are 'open' and not conservative - non conservative unfortunately also coincides with corny in most tam bram specimens). I am certain many other transactions take place a little less publicly. In exchange the boys side also produce some gift type items - among which is also a saree and depending on how much you liked the bride some jewelery things. Then the parents sign a contract and thats that. I have been in engagements where there is no boy and no grl, just the parents, engagements with girl and boy teleconferencing beaming happily through a laptop.

Anyway this engagement had both boy and girl.In such a situation the girl is presented with her gift type items including the saree at which point the sister of the groom is supposed to lead her away, help her tie her saree bring her back. Then she has to put sandalwood paste on her forehead and neck and so on. and usually in return for all this the sister gets a saree of her own presented by the girls parents. The idea is that the grooms sister, the brides sister in law is welcoming her into her new family. Now i was the sister in this case. I am the standard sister for most of my male cousins and have collected many sarees and know my role down pat. But alas, when the priest in the medai (stage) called out for the nathnar (sister in law) to appear - there was no sister in law, since i was in a bus or auto or taxi still making my tortuously slow way to Coimbatore. Of course a substitute sister was produced for my cousin, one of the many brides i had welcomed into the family with this routine earlier. My family and i trudged in shamelessly after the entire ceremony was over, me desperate for that cup of filter coffee denied to me after my long tiring journey to Coimbatore. (See prev post).

I was subject to the usual "So you are next tee hee hee" type inquiries. These were relatively easy to field and I don't understand why they ever bothered me earlier. The sort of stuff being thrown at me now was much harder faster and well aimed. ' u next -tee hee hee' is absolutely nothing- amatuer stuff. Now there was a 'u next?' followed with a 'why not?' if that was also sidestepped it would be followed with a blunt ' is there something wrong with you- like a disease or sexual orientation?' and the even more effective technique of ignoring me completely and laying the stress and responsibility on my parents. They turn to them look past me like i dont exist and ask "arent u looking" (i.e looking and for suitable brides and grooms for me and my brother), ensuring casually that it is understood by all that you are property and not a thing to be addressed. Now my father who dint want to come to this wedding in the first place (cos it was a sunday) and who also likes to be cool and non confirmy around my mothers relatives replies - thats that not the way 'our family' does things. In our family we discuss and take into consideration the views of our children and without their consent we dont look. He smiles superciliously for effect. Un detttered relatives badger on- but surely you as a father have some responsibility they point out. He smirks and with an attempt at hilarity says 'i have obtained a 'waiver' from both of them You see my daughter is a lawyer she has advised me on how to cover myself hahahaha' Relatives unamused by attempt at hilarity, unperturbed reference to daughter marriage market damaging education, undettered by smirky nature perster on ' but surely u owe a duty to us' they say. At this point my father is ready to tell them where they should shove their notion of his responsibility to them but my mothers consternation and dont u dare use this in my family versus your family score card shuts him up.

Meanwhile i get hotter and tired-er in my silk saree and my high heels (which were lovely and caused my grandfather to exclaim 'by god! how you have grown! so tall is so few months!' he proudly announced my growth spurt to several aunts and uncles) , still looking or that filter coffee. My aunt rounded on me en route my filter coffee search and gave me a good talking to for arriving too late to perform my sister duties and reminded me that I had better be there at 5:00 a.m the next day to ensure that i did my sisterly duties through the muhurtum as well.

Sigh. For the short amount of time i spent there Coimbatore was a very long trip

Detailed wedding post coming up.

careening in coimbatore

I went to Coimbatore.

What an adventure it was.

We went there because of a wedding. My own mother's own aunt's own son. Of course all this own-ness meant we had to go but a 5:00 am muhurtum and a sunday wasted traveling suggested that maybe we werent that close anyway, despite the own-ness.

So after many 'shall we shall we nots' later (me and my father going shall not my mom going shall) we decided to go. Of course no train tickets were purchased, no air tickets too. So we would go by car. Meaning we got up at 6:30 (on a sunday) and were out of the house by 7:30. My father who likes being the planner/executor in trips (a role he believes he carries with great style; the rest of us just love him too much to tell me what he does actually carry- bags) decided we would take the 'veerappan route'. This was the scenic route, the road less traveled (with reason - earlier it was roamed by veerappan; these days its because the roads are just bad- and there is a nice navigable highway). Anyway when your car breaks down in the road less traveled you are wishing very much you had taken the road frequently traveled.

The car broke down - near sivasamudram falls. A few minutes earlier I had suggested we make a quick detour to see the falls.It was just 2 kms away. With clashes in the sort of music that could be played in the car(i wanted- senti crap with guitarists who imagine they are being soulful, father wanted - nothing, mother- the sound of her own voice), and with my father reading my book over my shoulder, and interrupting me just as i was nodding off with his 'when i was a young boy' stories i was fast getting bored of the trip and would have jumped out of that car. A get down and walk about near the falls seemed to be a good way to advertise and obtain that much needed respite.

Anyway the car broke down just as we reached the falls. Rather considerate of the car - to chose a tourist spot. If it was on the highway it might have been even more annoying. So we saw the falls ate mangoes and nellikas and ran away when we saw monkeys eyeing the said mangoes and nellikas, while father went about making alternate arrangements. (hey! he said he was the big cool planner/executor!). It transpired he managed to get a taxi to come pick us up and drop us o Konnegal- the nearest town with a bus stop. Car was abandoned near sivasamudram with driver given instructions to contact the car company who has agreed to come tow it back to bangalore.

We proceeded to Konnegal. the town with the busstop. It had a busstop but one full of busses leaving 'right now'. Now we needed to go to coimbatore. When we said that they laughed at our faces. (i dont know why really- apparently inter state buses are funny) So then we settled to go to Chamrajnagar. Of course the bus to chamrajnagar was leaving 'right now' and if we dilly dallied we would be city idiots or so the conductor implied. Tough small town folks are always hopping into busses without really caring where it goes he seemed to imply. So my mothers murmurs about maybe we should stop and have lunch and maybe we should wait a bit and check out all the busses before hopping into the 'right now' bus was ignored and we hopped in bag and all into the bus that was leaving to chamrajnagar right now, paid our fare of Rs 15 and sat in 3 different locations in the bus. I could read my book in peace. Over 8 people could now read over my shoulder- except most of them dint really want to, but being mished mashed as we were , they were forced to. Loud Kanada music about a young girl being in love with a man because ' his style was different' and 'his speed was different' blared at top volume and was objected to by no one. My dads 'when i was a young boy' stories were easily igmored and drowned under the loud music and clattering wheels and the fact that he was sitting in front of me.

Then the bus took a curious route. I knew from the map that there was highway type road to Chamrajnagar but we dint seem to be on it. Nevermind we would be eventually I thought. Except we stopped in nowhere and were told we should get into another bus which was also going right now to Chamrajnagar. Of course once again my mothers murmurs of lets see if autos/taxis will go to Chamrajnagar were ignored and we hopped into another bus. This time hopping was a little difficult because people were pouring out of every open portion of the bus. While we were enthusiastic to hop where do we hop. We settled for the last step. My mothers murmurs had raised in both pitch and volume and pretty soon the entire bus was aware of my planner/executor father's planning and executing abilities and someone out of pity (im not sure pity for who father or for mother- id like to thinkit was out of pity for me) offered my mother a seat.

We arrived at Chamrajnagar. Chamrajnagar is a small-ish town, but of course inquiries as to the various means to get out of that town cannot be made in one location. There is the Chamrajnagar private bus stop, the Chamrajnagar interstate bus stop, the Chamrajnagar taxi stand, the Chamrajnagar circle (for general idling and shopping u know... what shopping? u ask...u can shop anywhere is what i say). We arrive at the most uiseless of the locations- the Chamrajnagar private bus stop. So we take an auto- first to the taxi stand where we would try to procure a car to ferry us to Coimbatore. If we failed in this venture we planned to head on to the interstate bust stand. We did get a car. An ambassdor with a most uncommunicative driver who would drop us at coimbatore for a 1500 Rupees. Well , still we are not spending some 9000 rupees which would have if we had decided to fly from Bangalore feeling virtuous and not knowing that the car company was gleefully drawing up an estimate of 30-40 thousand for repairs.

So we proceeded- to coimbatore. grubby and dirty and fielding calls from my aunt whose own son was getting engaged and did not have me i.e his own(no no cousin i hastily pointed out and sharply rebuked for) sister there to welcome girl/bride into family. I was suppoused to do the welcoming by applying sandalwood paste to her forehead neck palms and feet along with kumkum (only forehead) and then leading her away to help her change into sari that would be gifted to her by my aunt and uncle. I felt she would feel the same amount of welcome whether i played my role or not.
(anyway i plan to put up another detailed post on the wedding)
So we proceeded, we reached Coimbatore after one pitstop at Sathyamangalam for some much delayed lunch. My mother despite her sharp insistence on lunch and her near breakdown(s) when it was denied to her in our bus hopping sprees- showed little interest in it now. Though I fell on my parotta with glee (parotta in Tamilnadu u say. well its not like paratha it is a very tamil interpretation of the same and is very good also). We approached Coimbatore and our driver proceeded to suddenly go insane. (and very annoying). We then realized having never been in a town bigger that Sathyamangalam, Coimbatore was baffling him. He kept thinking they were several towns lumped together, since we wanted to go to Ramnagar in Coimbatore. So then he insisted we had misled him by telling him we wanted to go to Coimbatore when we were infact going to Ramnagar. Then the main roads began to frighten him and he wondered how he would get back. Then the fact that we dint know where exactly we wanted to go in coimbatore perturbed him some more. Then the fact that it began to rain drove him ballistic.

Meanwhile i was dying. I just wanted to get to my uncles house and be greeted with some nice hot filter coffee. I dreamt of this fliter coffee, I saw it I smelt it in my mind . We reached my uncles house, paid our driver who was still mumbling and muttering, trudged up two storeys, settled ourselves in the sofas. My uncle said 'of course i told the boy (they have a man who runs their house and makes coffee besides other things) that there was no need to keep any coffee since we shd leave for the engagement immidiately being so late as it is.'


Detailed wedding post coming up.

PS: All in all it was great fun. Really.