Why keep it in when you can scream it out?
Here I am. A preview of my death. This is what my last 2 glorious days as a free woman are going to look like. Doom, despair, the flaming pits of hell, yadda, yadda. You know the drill.
Everything I once loved, mozham after mozham of “minimum rate Rs.25 akka…pandigai season no?” (as though Hinduism can run by an uninterrupted 2 weeks without a festival thrown in the middle?) jasmine, sunny marigold, button roses, and the green environment sponsors maru and dhavanam garlands dizzying the air with the their intoxicating fragrance, luring drunk bees and flies by the hordes, plastic chairs in neon colours of red and blue, never to be replaced by the mantap contractor, bound to cause at least 1 in 20 unsuspecting guests to fall with a screech, the preening ladies draped in fashionable pattu podavai’s comparing the latest styles of the season (“Ah! The peacock border. Going for the evergreen classic eh?” “What wedding ensemble is complete without the mango saree di Saroja?” to “That Lakshmi no? She was wearing one of those loose fairy tale borders that day! How shameless! That husband of hers indulges her too much! *sniffing derisively but you know she is utterly jealous*) that slowly but surely descends into the latest scandals about everyone who is not yet a part of this peacock pie (O-oh! You didn’t hear? Her daughter ran away with *insert another religion dude here*! She couldn’t even face her in-laws’ family…high hopes of her coming today!” and finally the ever present “That next-door Pushpa you know, no? Her parents tho are clever. Found out about her secret “boyfriend” and got her leg shackled to some green card holder and packed her off to the US before someone could even breathe the “s-” of “scandal” Children these days no? Think they’re too smart!) and when that topic too becomes overkill, move their sniper worthy tongues to the next generation (“Vedant no? He is going to get into IIT for sure. He’s been going for coaching classes since sixth standard.” “Has Varada done her arangetram yet? My Meenakshi completed hers last year. She got so many professional offers after that! But we clearly told her no. A natyakari? Shiva Shiva!”) which is of course followed by the introductions of said generation to far and wide relatives (the farther the merrier): “This is your mother’s second cousin’s wife’s mother-in-law’s 2 times left brother’s grandfather’s nephew’s daughter’s husband – Somu mama. Don’t you remember him? He was there for your aandinneravu ( ceremony conducted when the baby is 12 months old)! How can you forget?” Sure, mom. He’s the only one I forgot. Everything else from that day I remember in 1280x720p clarity. After which he takes up the let’s-make-her-feel-as-awkward-as-we-can baton on continues: “Kanna! Last time I saw you, you could fit in the palm of my hand! Now look at you! I can’t even recognize you! *sigh* Why couldn’t it have remained that way? Yes, I am sorry Somu – the ubiquitous rlation derivative – mama. I am sorry I did not stick to your ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ script. Please accept my heartfelt apologies.
Then there is the “When is your Kittu/ Chinnu/ Meenu going to get married” aunties. They have this refrain: “Kaala kaalatthula kaal kattu poda vendama?” (In addition to that awesome 4 word alliteration in the beginning, that sentence quite literally means – “Shouldn’t you leg shackle her when the right time comes?” Yes. Apparently you can get away with saying anything if you’re a septuagenarian. Every eligible bachelor below the age of 30 avoids this coven like a bio-hazard container shipped from the developed countries.
The smiling Venkatachalapthy and Padmavathi or Meenakshi Kalyanam scene painted lovingly on the manamedai (the ‘wedding stage’) before which sit the corpulent bride’s side and groom’s side kurukkals on opposite ends of the flaming homa pit re-enacting what to the lay man looks like Snape and Harry’s Sectumsempra scene by trying to out-mantra the other with dharba grass wands and Sanskrit incantations, and finally, sandwiched in the middle of it all, the bright and shiny faces (with sweat; mind you, happiness is the last thing on this couple’s minds. At the moment, nirvana itself looks suspiciously like a locked room with an A/C) of the bride and the groom, too busy perspiring half their body weight by the hour to be conscious of each other’s presence, let alone the fact that, right at this moment, they are getting married. The audience slowly loses the willpower to continue looking at them and begin shifting the chairs around to form their own cozy circles of 6 – 8, reminiscing the good old days or playing hand cricket (depending on which side of the age spectrum you are) waiting for the musicians to rapidly increase the tone to the shrillest pitch – a final warning to the bride and groom and an alarm to the audience to shush and throw flowers as blessings. It signals the culmination of the wedding and it’s finally the time to start proceeding towards the wedding lunch – what everyone in the hall has really been looking forward to since, well, the wedding breakfast.
I have always loved every single aspect of the wedding that I’ve detailed above. For the longest time, they have been my idea of one of the universal truths in life i.e., wedding = flowers + peacocks + questionable relations + bio hazard aunties + and the most important of them all, food. A 3 day Tam Brahm wedding has 10 meals and every meal has its own unique combination of eatables – it’s a foodgasm in its most literal sense. So much so, that my phone Bluetooth name, my Snapchat username, and for some time (till I realized that nobody could find me) my Instagram name have been variants of “weddingfood”, “WeddingsMeanFood”, “TamBrahmFood”…you get the picture.
The flowers for the first time appear to be wilting, the bees dropping to the floor as though poisoned. The fashion aunties are especially unbearable. Somu mama looks like Kidnap Kadiresan (the childhood villain who kidnaps children who stay outside after 5:30 p.m. instead of doing their homework or didn’t eat their spinach or drink their milk only to be thwarted by Virtuous Varadarajan who used to swoop in to the rescue the minute you finish any of the aforementioned activities). The biohazard maami’s seem to be following me with their beady black eyes and I seem to be the only one who can hear their evil cackling: “Hahahaha (Mojo Jo Jo in female sotto voce) you’re next! Thought you could avoid the marriage noose? (I’d rather see Yamadharmaraja on the buffalo with his version of the noose). But the worst of them all, today morning’s utterly delicious greasy pongal served with 3 different chutneys (one was onion…how scandalous!) and pumpkin halwa joined mid-wedding by filter kaapi are churning queasily in my tummy. And I haven’t been able to take my eyes off the bride and the groom. I’ve looked around; I know I’m the only one still looking. It is somewhat like watching a papaya beign cut open – those gooey black seeds packed seemingly in hundreds – horrid can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it fascination and my ears are now beginning to ring.
I obviously know what’s going on. I could no more look at this spectacle with my usual clinical detachment and single minded appetite for food. I had grown past that stage. 25 years old with a *gulp* fiancé to boot. This was a preview of my own shindig scheduled to take place in 4 months, 6 days, 19 minutes, T – 4 seconds…