The night before Christmas, all the kutti pisasus made a huge deal of sleeping downstairs. Usually they take over one of the upstairs ka bedrooms (A/C being the magic word) but not that night. Then for a couple of hours they locked themselves up in the formal dining room, and at the stroke of midnight created such a big ruckus that the whole neighborhood woke up. Also polished off all the cakes that were baked, so me being this nice person had to promise to bake more cakes first thing in the morning. The next morning, the sky gave up trying to con me that this is really London, and the clouds cleared. The sun after (well, if you discount the three weeks in Chicago and one in Morocco) nearly eight months. Yes! I went downstairs and promptly tripped over a couple of the pisasus still sleeping in the living room. Also, looked like more people had landed in the morning. Just the people I needed actually. Don's nephew (A) and Amma's neice (B) had run away from college for the occasion. The right people to discuss terms and conditions of the marriage. I filled them in and they agreed to do the needful.
Don went missing for a while in the morning and some interesting rumors were flying around but turned out to be all wrong. Poor Don had just shut himself up in one of the Sangam rooms and was trying to write poetry for some upcoming kavi thing. Amma chilled the entire day. This is why she likes having people around - they take care of all housework and she gets to chill and do nothing. The one time she tried walking out in the sun, I was sure to tell her that no, the bride should not be seen out like that. She should make sure that she wears enough jewelry and one proper pattu sari. Needless to say, she wasn't amused.
By mid afternoon, all junta turned up. A couple of hours before the event, things started heating up.
A: Hey B, we haven't really discussed the terms of the wedding
B: What are you talking about? The engagement is in less than 2 hours
A: So? I have always been available.
B: Ok ok, what are you expectations?
The Brigand (A's dad, Don's kid brother) jumps in.
"We have no expectations. If you want to do something for the daughter of your house, you are welcome to it. But we have no expectations"
A didn't seem too happy to hear this.
"Appa, which side are you on anyway? There's a reason people don't take you to these bride-seeing things"
"But we have no expectations, right?"
"Appa, you need to shut up. Can't you see important people are in discussions here? This is no place for people like you to talk"
"Ok pa. I won't say anything. Mariyadhai kettudum"
"So B, what were we talking about?"
"I was going to ask you about your expectations but I realise that that's unnecessary"
"Why is that?"
"Because this is not the wedding, just the engagement"
"So as per the custom, we from the bride's side don't do anything for the engagement"
"That is our custom as far as I know. You people have to do things for the bride. From our side, we will be happy if you give our ponnu a full set of diamonds - necklace, earrings and bangles"
"Yes, the bride doesn't like wearing too much gold. She prefers diamonds"
"I see. But this engagement means the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. We need to make sure that you send the bride off with all that she deserves"
"What does she deserve?"
"Hmm. You don't want the daughter of your house traveling in ordinary cars, do you know? But at the same time, the Merc might be a little too much for you. We will be happy with a Hondo Accord"
"In whose name should this be?"
"Bride's of course. This is what you are giving her. Nothing to do with us"
"Nothing. And just so that you understand, after the wedding she will be part of your household. There will be no family inheritance coming her way"
Amma couldn't take this betrayal.
"B kannu, you don't have to advertise to everyone that you have already forged my signature on document which says that I want no part of inheritance"
"Athai! How dare you? I asked you before I signed!"
This is the first Don and I hearing these family secrets.
"What is this? Veena, someone's cheating you of your rightful inheritance?"
"I know. I demand to see all land deeds immediately. We need to decide who gets which piece of land"
B: "Akka, sorry but you don't get anything. We don't give property to women"
"Under which law?"
"This is not any law. That's how things are. My dad, your mom's brother gets everything"
"I see. You do realise by this same logic, you don't get anything? Last time I checked, you had a brother"
"Oh shoot. I forgot. Different customs from this generation to reflect current realities. I get half"
"We shall see about that. No one's cheating me of anything. We will see what happens in court!"
A: Excuse me, but I think we are moving away from the point. We need to get these two people engaged off in sometime. We can't do that without finalizing terms. They want diamond necklace, it seems
B: Don't forget earrings and bangles!
A: Here's the deal - we will get them when we see the car parked in front of this house!
B: That's not a big deal...VJ...
A: Wait..and in the bride's name!
B: In that case, we can't promise anything esp when there's a trial period
A: What trial period?
B: From what I understand, this is only an engagement. They have the next three years to see whether this can be converted into a long term relationship or not. If everything works out alright, we will give the car during the wedding
A: Alright then. The diamond will be given during the wedding too.
B: No, you should give something for the engagement. Otherwise the bride will refuse to get engaged.
A: That isn't fair.
B: Who said this is about being fair? Do you want the engagement to happen or not?
A: This is blackmail!
Don decides that this has gone for far too long. He talks to another of my cousins who is visiting.
"Hey D, looks like this isn't going to work out. Come, lets get engaged to each other"
"Mama, you are nice and all but to tell you the truth, I am angling for your son-in-law. Akka and I have a deal worked out already"
Amma: Ayyo! What are you saying?
Moi: Well, Amma, its not bad or anything. She keeps refering to Bill as "our mapillai". So I told her she can have him and give him back to me if he ever makes money. It is all cool.
Amma: I have had enough. Get me engaged or married or whatever you want. You will all drive me mad otherwise. What all I have to hear!
So there. The start of a long engagement. In three years, will post about the wedding.
PS: I have such a cool family, no?