A Condensed Version Please!

I would hereby like to thank James Band and the Nadaswaram party for the sore throat they have gifted me with – One that reminds me of the thumping music at the wedding every waking moment. Any attempts at ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ sound like ‘Bray Bray Black ..’ almost a month after the proceedings.

The wedding hall was filled with people – small talk filled the halls, and James Band and the nadaswaram were playing at full pitch whenever they got the opportunity to perform. People had to shout to make themselves heard to the person sitting right next to them. One would have thought that the effort would have kept people quiet. But it takes sterner stuff to get South Indians to keep quiet. As the sound of the talk increased, the nadaswaram crew made the band sound louder. Apparently, the duty of the band was to drown out the cacophony or any unceremonious sound.

Fact: The band itself may be construed for cacophony was evidently not thought about when the tradition was “made”.

I have already mentioned about how the south indian wedding is high on the ritual factor – read, boring. Essentially, the average guest is left with the option of staring open mouthed at the wedding proceedings in Sanskrit, while the sastrigal & groom pound at the rituals. The groom mostly looks ready to flee given the slightest chance, while the priest is holding him back with an almost sadistic pleasure and gloats over the power he exercises over the couple.
It goes like this:

Om . blah blah blah blah blah blah-yae namaha
Om . blah blah blah blah blah blah-yae namaha
*Pour ghee into fire*

Om . blah blah blah blah blah blah-yae namaha
Om . blah blah blah blah blah blah-yae namaha
*Wash your fingers*

Om . blah blah blah blah blah blah-yae namaha
Om . blah blah blah blah blah blah-yae namaha
*Pour ghee into fire*

For 6 hours.
Not to mention the fierce fire we have going, in front of which the bride and groom sit. No fans are allowed for obvious reasons near the fire. Probably, that is the reason the groom sits with his chest bared and his transparent dhoti. But it beats me why the bride is seated near the same fire with the stuffiest of silks. These traditions had no mean point I tell you – either it was a bare-all or a wrap-all.

Malai Maatral
Description:The groom and bride, in those early days, were barely teenagers when they got married. The couple were carried by the maternal uncles to exchange garlands at one point. This was a chance for people to know who the maternal uncles were and the children probably enjoyed the break by throwing garlands at each other perched on their uncles shoulders.
Fact: This should probably be done away with, considering the couple is now in the prime of their youth, with glowing muscles and a couple of hours each day at the gym/dining table as the case may be, and the uncles are complaining more often about arthritis and moaning muscles themselves.

Description:The laddoo throwing is another part of the proceeedings that could be done away with. The purpose was originally intended to introduce the important lady-folk of the family. With 20 directly-related aunts and 35 indirectly-related aunts and 45 indirectly-direct-related aunts and 55 directly-indirect-related aunts, it was important to show who was who.
Fact: Now, this is no more than a laddoo squishing, bad bowling experience, not to mention the mess created by stamping one of the infernal things and spreading the joy.

Bullock-cart symbolism:
Sometime in the 6 hours on stage, one encounters a point when something like a stick is placed over the groom’s head and the bride’s head. What this symbolizes is this: just like a bullock cart can only be pulled when both the animals contribute equally, so too is marriage. Both the groom and the bride must shoulder their reponsibilities to carry on a smooth life.

The point being this: There are so many rituals, and non-stop chanting, that the symbolic ones, or the ones that bear meaning are either missed or glossed over. The “getti melam” could be used to identify the significant ones, if they didn’t keep asking for a getti melam every 2 minutes.

Kattu Saadam:
Those days, restaurants were rare and almost non-existent between villages, and carrying food for the journey was important.
Fact: No offense to the food really – but this tradition is an absolute must to be done away with. Who wants to eat dried up idlis when you can stop at Saravana Bhavan for a steaming meal instead?! Why can’t we wrap up the proceedings the previous day and get back to our lives?
Interesting aside:
We stopped for eating at a restaurant (since we needed to drink coffee and use the restrooms anyway!), and the younger generation was absolutely thrilled to find that in the melee of leaving, we had left the idlis & the rice behind – yippee! The fathers were privately happy too, but refrained from saying anything inappropriate, lest the mothers construed it as an offense to their own cooking! The looks thrown by the mothers to the children was clearly not one to mess with.

“What is wrong with idlis?” they demanded.
We chuckled saying – “Nothing, just glad they aren’t here!”

We tucked into naan, paneer curry and 8 different types of Dosas at a suave restaurant, and left quite happily.

After so many weddings, there wasn’t one person who was able to cogently explain the symbolism and meaning behind all the rituals. The ones who did attempt invariably love their voices too much and refuse to stop explaining! Soon, one’s curiosity to understand the proceedings is fast overtaken by an urge to strangle the person “explaining”. Finally, my mother told me to look it up on the Internet – which I did, and found a whole world of satirical writings on the South Indian Wedding. (But this link gave a brief explanation) http://www.sawnet.org/weddings/tamil_vedic.html

Since, each tradition has morphed into a status symbol, the unnecessary expenditure has increased manifold. If we were to tabulate the necessary vs unnecessary expenditure, the unnecessary far outweighs the necessary. 3 day weddings are the norm – even though it is not a village where the families use this as a chance to make merry for a week.

By the way, what do we say to the colleague who asked: “So, you guys exchange vows is it?!”

Happy New Year!

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