Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Very Long Engagement - Part 1

Or Scenes from another marriage

We Tams have some wonderful customs. When a man turns sixty, if his wife is still around, his kids get together and get him married off all over again. (Nowadays it is to the same woman) It is like any other wedding - whole world gets invited, kancheepuram and gold worn in copious quantities, pooja performed, thali is tied at appropriate time, and as in regular weddings, the only redeeming feature is the food[1]. Its not something you want to be a part of especially if you are home for just a week and your family isn't particularly religious. Or so I thought until a few days ago. Now I am a convert. Now I know that this 60th wedding celebration is a wonderful idea. Why, you ask? Because (belatedly but thankfully not too late) I have come to realize that this is payback time!

So I was home peacefully minding my own business (overdosing on amma's food and figuring out whether I should spend the last two days of my vacation in Sri Lanka, Coorg or Nilgiris) when people started barging in with questions.

"Great! Now that you are here, whats the plan?"

"Plan? That's what I am trying to figure out. Two days is too short for SL. Nilgiris might work depending on which trek we decide on"

"Trek? Who is going on a trek?"

"Me. And the Don. Junta turns sixty and climbs up Kailasam and all na? But what will non-religious people like the Don do to keep fit? So I figured a hike to Mukurthi Peak might be the answer"

"Nonsense. We are talking of the wedding"

"Wedding? I think all the weddings in this family are over and done with. We can't take any more"

"Silly girl. Has anyone told you what all needs to be done when your father turns sixty?"

"No, but I sort of know. We just aren't doing anything of the sort in this family. Btw, does anyone have any idea what should one do when my mother turns sixty?"

"Nothing much"

"Okay. Then I refuse to follow this sexist tradition"

"Don't be silly. Its not like your parents have anyone else to do all this for them. We know you don't have much time so let's not bother with calling everyone. Just gather all the family that's in Kerala together, call a priest, get a thali made and have a wedding. Just invite a few close friends"

"If its a question of getting people together, that's hardly an issue. Since I am around and its X'mas hols, a good part of the family is going to be at home for a couple of days anyway. Come tomorrow, there's going to be atleast twenty five people in the house. And Don's friends turn up for his birthday every year, so no need to invite them. But no one is having a wedding here. That's all"

Enter Amma.

"What wedding? What's going on here?"

"We were just telling your daughter that she should atleast get garlands and a thali for the 60th"

"Garlands? Ayyo. Please don't do drama here. All the kuttis[2] are excited, so I am going to bake a few cakes and we will get him to cut them. That's all its going to be. Nothing else"

Light bulb moment. Evil gleam. This is it.

"Hmm. Now that I think about it, I know what to do. Maama, family will be around. Just double-check with G, T and R uncles and families to make sure they turn up in the evening. I got this all figured out"

Amma turns to me in horror.

"What exactly are you planning to do?"

"You will see. Why don't you and Appa tell me what time you are free tomorrow? We need to go to Bhima (big, evil jewelry store)"

"Bhima? No no, you aren't buying jewelry"

"Let me decide that. You just come"

"I don't want any jewelry. Moreover, you are the one who doesn't believe in thali"

"But you do, and this isn't about me. Besides, who said I am going to buy you a thali? If there's going to be a wedding in this house, rest assured that it will what the Dravidian movement types call a self-respect wedding. No thali, no pooja, no priest will be involved"

"Whatever. I am not going to Bhima tomorrow"

"You will. You owe me. For all the twenty two hundred times I went with you because you wanted me to. You can't say No"

"Ayyo! What am I to do?"

Next day. Don is turning into parking lot of big, evil store.

Don: I like this. For once, you are taking your mother to Bhima and she doesn't want to be here. This is so entertaining!

Amma: You, you are the reason for all this. You are the reason why she turned out like this. Shut up now.

Don: If you say so.

Don parks car while we get out and go inside. I spot Amma's favorite sales person.

Me: We would like to look at diamond rings.

Amma nearly has a heart attack.

Me: No, male. He will be in in a minute.

Amma: Ha ha! And he thinks its for me! Come come, lets select a few styles. Here, we are here. Guess who we are buying ring for? You, its for you! Ha!

Don: Me? Why me?

Amma: Because its your birthday.

Don: Makes sense. I won't say No to gifts.

Amma: Shameless man. Why do you need a ring now?

Don: Because she wants to buy it for me.

Amma: Yeah yeah.

Me: Amma, chill. Once we are done with that, we are going to buy one for you too

Amma: Why me? I don't want anything, I don't want anything. You are just being silly

Me: I am, aren't I? Now you know how it feels.

Amma: So that's what this is about. Okay, you have made your point. We will just buy for your dad now.

Me: No, we won't. We need two rings anyway

Amma: For what?

Me: Well, you are getting engaged to each other

Don: After being married for 33 years?

Me: Yeah. And then there will be trial period that will last three years which is the year Amma turns sixty. If you guys are happy, we will get you married off then

Amma: Mad child! How much nonsense you speak!

Me: I don't care if its nonsense. Its still going to happen. If I were to do this right, I would ask you stay in separate rooms until you get married. But I am not that evil also

Amma: Ayyo! Look at her talk. Aren't you ashamed of her?

Don: Why would I be ashamed of her? If she wants an engagement, let her have one. If you don't want to get engaged, maybe I can con someone else.

Amma: Asai!

(To be continued. "Expectations" and "agreements" between families coming up in Part 2)

[1] Well, okay, the food and perhaps one family photograph. There's one photo that I particularly like. It was taken (a few years before I was born) during my thatha's 60th. It has these benches arranged in steps in front of the ancestral home back in Chola land, and has kadukkan-clad thatha and patti standing in the middle with everyone in the family around them.

[2] Kutti pisasus (kutti = small, pisasu = devil) - moi's nephews and neices


nmouse said...

Hi, Happy New Year to you. I've been reading your stories here for the past year ever since I stumbled upon a tobedabong post (long story involving trv airport). Reading them made the procrastination worthwhile. Anyway, I was wondering whether you could explain a Tamil custom to me. There is a gesture by the womenfolk who look as if they are accelerating a motorbike using imaginary handle bars on either side of the head. From what I've seen in movies, it's performed as a greeting, good-bye and looks like a blessing.

rads said...

rofl :) Nice! So typical of ammas no?

Happy new Year :)

Cynic in Wonderland said...

Heheh..brilliant! I wish one could do it for all the interfering relatives who periodically try and get one hitched and have MANY points of view on everything

btw i just traipsed into your brideblues blog ..and i WISH i had discovered it last year..same place, same harrowing-clueless-headbanging-and often hilarious hassles. i shall come back and go thru it at leisure now.

Veena said...

nmouse: I really have no idea what this gesture means. I can't recollect anyone I know doing it! I will ask around and see if it makes sense to anyone else.

Rads: Happy New Year to you too.

Cynic in Wonderland: Hmm..yeah, but I don't particularly want to spend my hard earned money on these interfering relatives! And glad to know you like the bride blog.

Ravages/CC said...

The last Asai. Brilliant.

I think nmouse is referring to the old "dhrishti" routine. You know, collect all dhristis from the person opposite and crush it against your head.

Falstaff said...

veena: Not to rain on your parent's engagement or anything, but you realize that starting a more-traditional-than-thou contest with your parents is something you can't win at. In the best case, all you'll achieve is MAJB (Mutually Assured Jewelry Buying). More likely, though, now that you've declared yourself willing and interested in keeping up the old traditions, your parents will retaliate with some obscure and devious ritual of their own. Remember it's easier for them to come up with some newfangled torture and claim it's 'traditional'.

Veena said...

Ravages: Oh yes, the drishti. My grandmother does it all the time to ward off evil eyes or something.

Falstaff: Na, its alright. All further traditions revolve around the "logical next step" - pregnant daughter. As long as thats not happening, no reason to worry.

Jam said...

Hey there,

Couldn't stop laughing all the way through this post.

Do let me know whether Don and Amma are engaged yet, and more importantly, do let us know how the 'courtship' period goes??

He he he..........Jam