Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Off Our Back, Finally

If one word could be used to summarise 2009 as far as Malaysia’s socio-political issues are concerned, it would be a very qualified, “shit”. On the upside, I got married, so it sort of balanced things out. Here’s my skewered take on the happenings in 2009. Some incidents are left out basically because of either space constraint or just that I have a memory of a bar stool.

In January Malaysians suffered from splurge of bad economic diarrhoea after the massive breaking of global financial wind with unemployment reaching epic proportions when Malaysian human resources minister S. Subramaniam noting that 45,000 electronic sector workers were laid off temporarily that month alone, and that they can take on training provided by the ministry on how to spend time worrying about the next job.

Anyway, on religious note, the Home Minister allowed Bahasa Malaysia in the Roman Catholic Church’s publication, The Herald. In fact, they are allowed to use any language, except that they do not allow use the word “joH'a”, which is Klingon for God.

February saw an interesting development when the entire Perak state was taken over by a swarm of bees when three state assemblymen from Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition quit the party to become independent to support Barisan National (BN). Dejected, in March, the Perak PR folks held their meeting under the very tree the bees used to reside, where they were immediately shat upon by territorial crows.

On a brighter note, the government pledged a RM60 billion economic stimulus, which were condemned by critics as merely “bail-out” exercise and should be instead used to make trees more comfortable for political meetings.

In the meantime, Samy Velu won Malaysian Indian Congress’ presidency for the record 377th term in party polls making him not only the longest, but only cadaver to hold such position in the history of the universe. He announced that this will be last term for him, and will be stepping down to make way for younger blood, leading others to speculate, and this is perhaps the surprise of the year, his son Vel Pari to take over.

April saw the country welcoming Najib as our new Prime Minister, and immediately, he launched the 1Malaysia initiative with tagline: People First, Opposition Parties Later. Immediately Najib freed 13 Internal Security Act (ISA) prisoners, including two from the outlawed HINDRAF, and others who were never tear gassed or water cannoned.

Speaking of which the federal court again said a big “NO!” to godless communist Chin Peng when he appealed on wanting to enter Malaysia on the account that he left his wallet here. Same month saw three by-elections following either death, resignation or plead of insanity by each candidates due to excessive politicking in three constituencies, each won by BN, PR candidates and a racoon named JoJo respectively.

The month May will always be despised by Malaysians no thank to 13th May incident and that bad 80s Rock Band, but now will possibly be overshadowed by the nasty proceedings during the Perak State Assembly, which included shouting, scuffling, collaring, spitting and very bad rendition of Sinatra’s “My Way” by the new state Menteri Besar. Also, Hindraf’s M. Manoharan, K. Vasantha Kumar and P. Uthayakumar were released with the later wowing to continue to fight for Malaysian Indian’s rights, and said the prison didn’t break his spirit, and instead projected a keen sense of observation when he said that he had not shaven or combed his hair and “has been wearing the same pants since entering the prison”. Add resilience to laundry to that.

Also, the month saw outbreak of swine flue increasing so much so that it met with protest from pigs all over the world whence it was decided that it should be referred to as AH1X4N%#$!!! Virus instead. Most people world over decided to cover their inability to mouth the word with masks.

Nothing much happened in June except the usually boring unemployment thingy and bitching from the opposition party opposing anything the government proposes and whining from the ruling party opposing anytime the opposition parties opposes something. Perhaps that explained why Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium’s roof decided to collapse. It was only after that incident that the RM300 mil stadium billed as pride of the Terenganu state was declared unsafe. Wow.

July should be declared as historic month when the Malaysian government took a great step backwards when it decided that the medium of instruction for Maths and Science would revert to Bahasa Malaysia from 2012 onwards. It should be noted that 2012 is known worldwide as the year the world would end.

The following month, August (as if you didn’t know) saw a collected relief of sigh from opposition party and Malaysians in general when a special task force was set up to investigate the legal and financial aspects of Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project, where it discovered about RM1 billion of the charges and claims by Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd, the main developer of PKFZ were found to be “overcharged, unsubstantiated or smells fishy, particularly the Salmon variety”.

Speaking of bad smell, Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) party sacked its deputy president Dr. Chua Soi Lek with immediate effect after the party’s presidential council decided that he had tarnished image of the party when his sex DVD failed to win any Adult Video News awards. More nasty news surfaced when about 50 people marched from a Mosque to a 150 year old Hindu temple in Shah Alam herding a cow head, realising that they forgot the poor animal’s body. Only six were charged for indecent exposure.

September is a great month for Indonesian maids as the Home Minister announced that they should be given one day off in a week, where instead of being abused by the employer for six days, they can be abused on the street for that one day by unemployed Malaysians. The country also made another mark in the history when it secured a place in next year’s Formula One, called Lotus F1 Team, backed by 1Malaysia F1 team, led by budget airlines AirAsia’s flamboyant founder Tony Fernandes who immediately declared, “now, everyone can race”, which led to mass arrest of illegal racers.

Speaking of competition, October saw an unprecedented performance from University Malaya when it climbed 50 places from last year according to Times Higher Education – QS, World University Rankings 2009. Never mind the fact that it still has 179 other universities to beat to make it to the top. Also making the news was launch of Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party, formed by a former HINDRAF big wig, joining the ranks of, Uthayakumar’s PAHAM (Parti Hak Asasi Manusia), PPP and Gerakan in BN, BN friendly IPF, MUIP, and other parties with Malaysian Indian members like PKR and DAP in Pakatan Rakyat. As you can see Malaysian Indians are as united as usual.

The month November will be known for crisis in MCA, especially when Registrar of Societies declared Chua is the rightful deputy president, despite his setbacks as screen actor leading to bad feuds involving use of Kleenex on national TV. Speaking of setbacks, Malaysian Prime Minister wannabe and PKR advisor, Anwar Ibrahim (read my 2008 review to know more about him), was appointed as economic advisor by Selangor state government with a monthly token allowance of RM 1, though they are still disputing whether it should be paid in cheque or banked in Anwar’s overseas account.

The highlight during the month of December surprisingly has to do with the aviation industry. One, Langkawi International Maritime & Aviation show took off so well that out of the excitement came the news that two fighter jet engines worth more than RM 100 million was stolen and was traced in South America where it was used for beachside barbecue. When asked if the higher officers were involved, the police brushed it aside saying that it involved lower ranking workers including the janitors and the Mak Cik supplying the Nasi Lemak.

Eventful or not, 2009 is worse than 2008, leading us to wonder if the decade itself was horrible. I shall leave that to you to decide. In the meantime, have a Happy New year. Take it easy with the booze and remember, keep an eye on the janitors and the Nasi Lemak lady.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Creepy, Crawly Caper 2: Operation Cobra!

My article on snakes, Creepy, Crawly Caper caught one very attentive reader, Jeremy De Silva who had much to say about that subject, so much so that I did an online interview with him and came out with a sequel. Jeremy, if readers would remember, was the guy in my past blog post who wore diapers and cycled. Wait, wrong guy. No, he’s in my Cha’ah in USJ post, my schoolmate remember?

First, he caught me on Facebook and registered his surprise that I was scared of snakes. He too grew up in plantations (called “estates” here) and, here’s the best part, he catches snake for money!!! This business never existed in the estates I grew up in, and the most I could have sold is dead squirrels, but Jeremy used to earn RM15 per snake it seems. Before you start doing your accounting, let me ask Jeremy this: “Are you nuts?”. Luckily, Jeremy, also a writer, did not respond and say, “You should be asking, were you nuts?”

It seems at the age of thirteen or fourteen when he first picked up snake hunting. Yes, at the precarious age when we discover, among others, sex, our friend was busy discovering the art that kills hundreds and thousands in India each year.

“The irony of the whole episode was that my dad was actually importing cobras from neighbouring estates as a measure for rat control,” he said in an interview chat with me. “and he never knew then that his son was having easy pickings.”

Jeremy the Cobra Hunter’s technique was simple. All needed as tool was a PVC pipe, the ones used for plumbing, and a long length of electrical wire, creating a loop outside of the one end of the pipe, while both ends of the wire will be at the opposite end of the pipe. Operating with his pal, Ramesh, both take turn to distract the cobra and get it to raise its head while the other have the loop to go around the head and pull both ends the wire and “voila! Captured!”

That was how Jeremy the Cobra Catcher did it and he usually gets about three to five snakes a day and in the meantime De Silva senior is thinking how come those damn rats are still hanging around about despite the cobra imports. Have the snake gone soft!

But how do you locate these snakes? As mentioned they are everywhere, but usually they are slithering about scaring young plantation kids like yours truly, but where do find the spot to catch them red-handed….wait snakes got no hand.

“Well,” said Jeremy the Cobra Head Looper, “if you remember in the oil palm estates they would prune the palms and stack them in between the rows of trees? That's where the snakes are, man!”

Eventually one of them would lift the stacks of these dried branches and they would either throw a firecracker and just poke it with the pipe to drive the snakes out. “Not every stack housed a snake,” he reminded. I know, Jeremy the Cobra Poker, they also house millipede, centipede, meterpede…oh wait, those are monitor lizards.

But I countered with the fact that they might strike as soon as you lift those damned branches. They, meaning the cobras, not Jeremy the Cobra Botherer and his pal, though the distinction between these two groups is beginning to blur.

“No, No, No!” he protested. “Cobra never strikes without warning!”

Rakesh: What? They say “Freeze” or something?

Jeremy: No. They will hiss at least 3 times before striking

Rakesh: Well, probably it means "freeze" in their hiss language.

Jeremy: It means "f*ck off if you wanna live!”.

Jeremy the Cobra Terminator added that some cobras would not even try to attack you; they see you and start slithering for their life. Not where I lived, most of the time. I must add that though we went to the same school, we lived in different estates. If people like Jeremy were to live in the plantations that I lived in, I am sure cobras would have packed up their pots and pans and all and left to greener pastures like…err the next estate. Bloody hell, Jeremy’s estates was sort of next to mine! No wonder!

“But,” interjected Jeremy the Snake Chaser, “if the cobra is nesting, then we bolt as fast as we can coz they actually chase you.” There he admitted himself. In fact, he said he was chased twice, once by a cobra that was about 8 feet long.

“That was a little scary but I had my trusty catapult (Lastik) in hand so I shot it dead,” he said, asking if I used Lastik before, a tool that he describes accurately as “every estate kid's ultimate weapon”, though I would also add “supply of rotten fruits” to that list.

So yeah, we had Lastiks too, but ours was mostly used to shooting squirrels which has been stealing our fruit (mango, guava, etc). But the buggers were too fast for aiming and shooting, so most of the time I end up shooting the fruits which sort of defeated the purpose.

And so, where do these captured cobras go, if you are curious to know. Well, Jeremy the Cobra Annihilator said they were sold to some contractors (outsiders who provide workforce on contract basis) who would…and ye city folks better be ready for this…drink its blood for health purposes. Or more likely to increase energy for certain nocturnal activities (there were no email spam then).

“They believe that the fresh blood of the cobra has the properties to heal all kinds of ailments,” said Jeremy The Cobra Blood Supplier, “Silly people. But what did I care, I wanted the cash.”

These days Jeremy the (Retired) Cobra Seeker’s life is basically sitting back, having left behind the serpent hunting business, and is now heading his own advertisement agency called Sapiens Adwork, where instead of Cobras, he hunts for clients. Frankly I think he would be better off to call his business Cobra Adwork, but then he might go back to his old ways and use PVC pipe and wires to hunt for clients.

More reptile capers:

Creepy Crawly Capers 1

Creepy Crawly Capers 3

Avatar (3D)

In a superb article, A Whiter Shade of Guile, Joe Queenan articulated about how in films Americans, especially whites, are always portrayed as the saviours, representing the minorities, the underprivileged, purveyor of the streets and those endowed with lesser technologies usually involving sharp implements. Hell, even king of the Jungle was Tarzan dethroning the cat with awesome mane back to a level the where it took Disney to put it back to limelight with Jeremy Iron’s voice.

Anyway, that is roughly the plotline of James Cameron’s most anticipated (yes everyone says that, and I didn’t realise that it was most anticipated until earlier this year) Avatar. Great white American told to infiltrate a group of native tribe, learn their language and ways, and instead of working with the evil mighty American in turning against them, he likes them, especially the main chick who happens to be, wait for it, the tribe leader’s daughter. Yeah, you know the drill. They fall in love, he learns the ways from her, then he realises that he is part of them, he defends them from the evil goons led by stereotypical general straight out of Austin Powers movie who had been watching Full Metal Jacket.

The thing is, that’s the plotline Cameron used to actually amaze us with a visual spectacle that last awed me back in 1993 when Spielberg unleashed a horde of dinosaurs, half of them were actually Computer Graphics Imagery (CGI) which was a novelty then, like nanotechnology or cell phone pornography now. There are allegations of copyrights infringement, claiming Cameron took the story from sources uncredited, especially so by Indians who are wetting their pants because Avatar is an exclusive Indian word for reincarnation, and says the plot has to be from ancient Hindu myth. No, it’s simpler plot that Hollywood has used to death to the point where Kevin Costner won multiple Oscars for doing that particular kind of movie, where dancing with wolves made him so popular and rich enough to make mega stinkeroos like Waterworld and The Postman. Happy?

Anyway, Cameron transfers the plotline outer space involving greedy corporate raiders (we even have the return of that Scumbag from Cameron’s Aliens, but not played by Paul Reiser though the actor eerily looks like that unfunny man), bunch of marines (Aliens shadow again, huh?) and a good marine (not played by Michael Biehn) who later becomes the saviour of nature loving tribe of people called Na’vi residing in Planet Pandora. But that is not the point.

It’s the visual splendour that blew me away. There was drama too which moved my tender hearted wife to tears, but again, it’s the sheer imagination, the beauty of a world that is beyond my semi-literate imagination that puts this film high above the pedestal to the point that I declared that it is probably the best film of the decade…probably.

The Pandora of Cameron’s imagination is no different from the best part of his own The Abyss. In fact, he took the best part expanded it in a larger canvass and used the best CGI solution to give one of the most realistic digital creations ever since those darned dinosaurs. I never bought the Lord of The Rings trilogy and was never fascinated with the CGI stuff in it. But Avatar changed all that, it made me to actually believe that what I brushed off as “another CGI shit” when I saw the Na’vi avatar at the beginning of the film. As the film progressed I completely forgot that they are all nothing but digital (of course, there were actors behind it do help with the motion capture thingy).

Cameron’s imagined Pandora is better than the worlds in all the three prequels of Star Wars combined, it’s a beautiful world, where it does not take one lots of effort to be an environmentalist. We have hard time taking care of the nature here, let alone dealing with the side effects of survival namely fangs, claws, poisons and bad breath and these are avoided in Pandora’s glorious forests, beautiful creatures, and breathtaking view from any corner. Adding the 3-D effects just enhances it. This film has to be seen in 3D.

But it’s not a tourism flick as other filmmakers with cool CGI solutions would aspire to shoot. Despite the familiar plotline, Cameron did skew the script make us care about the conflict, and most importantly, really care about Pandora and its inhabitants, namely the chick mentioned, Neytiri, whom, I believe, is lot better loved as CGI character than an actual annoying actress on screen. The final battle scene puts action back to the pre-“cut every two seconds” dizzying shit that we got from the Bourne and the latest Bond film. Its takes us back to the time when great battles scenes were meant to be shown clearly and it was truly, and I hate this clichéd response but let me say it anyway, “mind-blowing”.

My nit-pick about mighty Whitey/Yankie plot apart (man with just few months crash course on Na’vi suddenly becoming the rider of a badass beast???), this film is about, yes I am going to say that “e” word, Experience. To hell with Lord of The Rings, and Harry Potter can show the broom up where it doesn’t shines, I am now a big fan of Cameron’s Pandora. Now, I have not even talked about the awesome machineries and mean arsenals of the future, that will take another 900 words. Blast it, Cameron could just be King of the World.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Creepy, Crawly Capers

A news feed appeared in my email and immediately sent me back into my childhood which was filled with peril, traumatic & venomous moments. No, I was not molested by my Math’s teacher, you dirty brained readers! I meant actual perilous situation involving dangerous, venomous animals in the plantation my family and I grew up in, though I suspect the Mathematics teacher was a reptile too.

Before that here’s the news headline: “WORLD'S FIRST VENOMOUS ANIMALS IDENTIFIED”

Ha! What has that got to do with my childhood you ask, unless of course, I am over 200 million years old. Why? Read on:

A paleobiologist has identified conodonts—a large group of tiny extinct marine animals that lived up to 500 million years ago—as likely being the world's first venomous animals.

These animals, which lived until about 200 million years ago, are considered to have been jawless vertebrates. Most of their fossilized remains are teeth

Pretty funny name for an animal. I can imagine the innuendoes and the puns the dinosaurs then would kid with the conodonts, “Hey conodonts, how are you guys feeling today? Rubbery? Hahahaha!” Now, you know how they got extinct. Bad jokes and venom don’t mix.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the animals we lived with back in the plantation. Various reptiles including snake, monitor lizard, a kind of supposedly poisonous gecko lizard, domestic but still poisonous lizards and the Lizard King himself, one Mr. Jim Morrison.

Okay, kidding abut the last one though some suspicious characters hanging around, doing nothing, looking dazed and spouting gibberish were staple characters in plantation life, so it could have been him, except he got tanned.

Now, let me get started on the most annoying, and unfortunately deadliest of them all: Jim Morrison. Haha, kidding again. I meant snake. Not just any snake. Cobra. Yeah, you read me correctly, the very name that strikes fear in many plantation dwellers heart. The name that sends shivers down Indiana Jones sturdy spine. The very name that was used for one of the stupidest cop movie made in Hollywood starring Stallone!*

Cobras were everywhere those days. Not unlike email spams earnestly offering assistance to enhance certain nocturnal activity. Many times I recall us kids standing on chairs with mom chasing away the black bugger using mere broom. Usually they are not killed, it is deemed to be sinful to kill a snake unless, of course, they have bitten you. Though there had been cases of snake bite, all of our family members made it through without close encounter of the nastiest kind.

The closest, though, could be one with my younger brother Shubash. Remember the infamous scene of Harrison Ford and the Cobra in Raiders of Last Ark. Yeah, Shubash had similar encounter once except it was closer. I am not sure how he got away, but I suspect it may have involved him not brushing his teeth that morning. My brother, I mean.

The closest brush I had was once when my friends and I decided to take short cut through the plantation to go to the temple for some celebration taking place there. My friends, about three or four of them, suddenly started fleeing away from me. None of them said why, and I was sure I brushed my teeth that morning. It turned out there was a slim, dark, cobra, about a feet and a half long, slithering about half a metre away from me (You don’t use metric systems on Cobra, they are not civilised, same when you say “politicians who have a fluid ounce of brain”). Needless to say, despite the head-up on my friend’s part, I was the first to reach the temple and was furiously theistic that day.

Forget about Cobra. Let’s go one step higher than that! King Cobra!

I have never met one so far. Sure, if I were to meet one, I’d be asking, “Is it true your scientific name is Ophiophagus Hannah?” I know that will be the last time you see me, but give me a break! You give a name from Woody Allen’s movie** to one of the most deadly reptile since that last dinosaur that made a condom joke? But that’s true.

I may have not seen one, but my dad has on many occasions. One of the most scariest was fortunately behind the windshield of a plantation lorry and this big mother actually rose up and stared dad in the eyes, before shuffling off, maybe because my dad has one of the biggest mustache in these part of the hemisphere. Kidding. Though my dad never mentioned it, I feel the King was probably under the lorry about few seconds after the encounter. Other than that, I only heard encounters related by uncles, dad’s colleagues and some wise old men who had imbibed one too many cheap liquor.

So, now you will understand when you say, “hey let’s visit some snakes at the zoo” and I respond with snarling, “Snakes! I hate snakes!!” just like brave and bold Indiana Jones. Truth be told, I was traumatised enough that I can even look at them on TV screen at times. Alright, I can get away by saying that I have “ophidiophobia”, meaning fear of snakes, like Arachnophobia (fear of spider) or Arak-no-phobia (no fear of liquor), if only I can pronounce that damned word.

*at least not as bad being the abbreviation of Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Not kidding, it exists.

** Hannah & Her Sisters. Won couple of Oscars. Could also be a National Geographic series, though.

Reptile follow-up

Creepy Crawler Capers 2

Creepy Crawler Capers 3

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Legally Binded Pt. 3: A New Hope.

The third part of the marriage process is now over. Finally. For those who have been following this blog subject, they are probably relieved that I can finally stop writing about the marriages and go on writing about cycling in diapers or coffee bean poos.

Aside: The sub-heading A New Hope is nothing new. It was initially used by George Lucas when the film Star Wars was re-released after the sequels, to differentiate it from say, Star Wars Episode 5: Empire Strikes Back, or Episode 6: Let’s Kill Ewoks. I used it, having liberated myself from bachelorhood. Now is that a good thing? End of aside.

It started when I dumped my wife back to her parents place, poor girl kicking and screaming wanting to be with me and I had to turn her in in the name of tradition, which would be three days of not seeing her till the traditional Indian/ Hindu/ Malayalam styled wedding practised here in Malaysia and by the Hindu members of my family and relative.

The wedding day started inconspicuously enough with me, the groom, helping my mom to wash the porch. Yup, I did. Already with questionable housekeeping skills, all our previous similar occasions have led to our cousin sisters doing the deeds, only most of them have submitted themselves to motherhood and the cousin dudes are nowhere to be seen in the morning. My brothers, Balan & Shubash, had other outside chores to take care of, and there I was, in my shorts, spraying water all over the place ferociously like the Federal Reserve Unit dealing with peaceful demonstrators.

There was nothing much to do after that except watch TV and they showed Gunfight at O.K. Coral, a dreary affair in another occasion turned to be a delight when other channels were showing what would have been a turgid affair in other occasion. Chow time beckoned followed by minor preparations to be made, and I managed to snatch few minutes for nap, so that I will not do the same when the priest mutters the incomprehensible later in the evening.

At about 5.30pm, I was dressed and ready with my brother arriving with his car decked out beautifully by a local florist. Lots of photo session out there on the porch (I washed it, remember?), we were off to the wedding hall, situated in Jalan Renggam. There were very few visitors when we arrived, and Chitambaram, old friend and now a family member, whisked me to the groom’s room upstairs as he was supposed to help me to wear the Vheshti or Dhothi.

A few words about this apparel. It is usually worn by South Indian male, usually of cotton variety it is a form of white sarong that are flexible and provide, I assume, plenty of air. The one that groom’s wear are made from what I think is reinforced mosquito net, contains heat enough to boil eggs (don’t get no pictures, you hear) and are about as flexible as chicken wire. It took Chitam loots of sweat and blood to get that damned thing tied around my waist (“it’s either too short in length or you belly got bigger”, Chitam complained), and when it was done, I felt I could walk faster in a sack race.

Then, I was left alone waiting…and waiting…and it was not until around 6.50pm that I was called, apparently there was a bit of a screw-up down there and the priest was late. I was ushered to the reception where Mappilai Tozhan (roughly Best Man), also my young cousin brother, according to the custom, washed my feet, applied wet sandalwood powder and kungkumam on it and in return I presented a ring for it. Not bad, eh? Considering that he was only twelve years old, in a totally different perspective, it would have been translated as an act of child labour.

We were led by two musicians; one who blew Nadaswaran, a wind instrument which I found out later is touted as the “loudest non-brass acoustic instrument”. It was accompanied by a guy playing Melam, a slung-over-shoulder percussion instrument which too does not require amplifier and can be heard not only by the last person in a mega stadium but also the cause for many complain by those not getting their sleep in neighbouring galaxy. And we get condemned for listening to Metal music loud, sheesh.

Aside 2: Despite my bitching, one of the reasons for the loud instruments, according to the great late poet and translator of ancient Indian rites, Poet Laureate Kannadhasan, was to drown any negative wibes, and especially bitching from the members of the audience. I felt it would have been easier if we just had burly bouncers with good hearing. End of aside 2.

Anyway, I had my “entourage”, aunties carrying trays containing flowers, fruits, sweets and pair of handcuff in case I change my mind. Haha, kidding about the last one, who needs those if you have aunties who had been bugging about you getting married for more than a decade now.

We walked towards the Manavarai, or is it Manapanthal…well it’s basically a place where the groom sits, where the priest conducts the wedding with fire burning in the centre with enough heat to make the bride and the groom look like they have attended spa from hell. Well, you know what I am talking about.

Sitting on the floor with folded legs is not an arduous thing to do. Not when you are six years old, but when you are thirty six and out of practice, it's akin to attempting contortion. Luckily there was a half foot high platform, which still didn’t improve the situation, especially so when I heard that my wife had swollen ankle that day. Great.

The rituals for the groom was pretty fast, the same entourage then went back to accompany my wife and her parents. Now, this is not normal, as the bride would have her own entourage which often features uncles who should have been the bouncers ready to react if the groom decides “to go to the little boy’s room” at the crucial moment. My wife’s relatives have all attended the previous event (see Legally Binded Pt. 2), so only the close few came along for this one. Her bridesmaid or Pen Tozhi was my cousin sister, Karthika, sweet girl who earlier also helped to make rice-based Ranggoli that she took about same time as the entire Ben Hur flick to finish. And it looked just as epic!

My wife was fine with the rituals that she was totally a stranger too, plus it’s a deeply scaled down version as the Indians of Malayalee extract tend to do here and are usually known for the speed the whole thing is over. You might be on time, greeting you pals and before you are able to ask, “Where’s the buffet”, the wedding would be over. So, naturally me being on the stage has no business in asking where the buffet counter is, so before I can say, “Err…do I have to?” the priest handed me the gold chain with Thalee (sacred pendant symbol for wedded couple).

Usually in the old Tamizh films, this was where the bad guys would walk in and “Niruttungga Kalyanatta” or roughly translated, “stop the wedding” because the scriptwriter, who at that point of time was past trying to commit suicide by overdosing on betel leaf, need a new twist to the plot. Fight would ensue with the groom beating the crap out of the bad guy and then the cops would come, the inspector blessing the couple, the wedding then proceeds and the gigantic Vanakkam (The End) would emerge blocking the happy couple, family and everyone as some sort of eerie message about the lead pair’s individual life.

Sorry, got carried away. No such thing happened, the moment came for me to tie the Thalee…actually it was simple hook job. The Nadaswaram and the Melam’s sounds escalated to the point where it would have shocked bands like Slipknot, and have them to pack up and become mime artistes. Rains of yellow rice assaulted us as I hooked the chain around her neck and yes I did make sure it was her neck.

And so it was over. Scores of relatives came over, wishing us, blessing us, shoving money packets onto my hand (she got hers after the Church wedding remember?), taking pictures, and generally making sure that we don’t get to finish our dinner. But it was fun, it was great seeing my side of relatives making it to the wedding, many of whom have been hanging on to the money packets and wedding gifts intended for me since the Tun Razak administration.

But most importantly, my parents and aunt Sarojini, who really toiled over the entire event, despite mom’s poor health and my aunt’s advancing age, and it was their love that made the whole event go smoothly. I am no believer in religious/ cultural rites and rituals, but this is how I show respect to those who believe in it, and the day was a tribute to these people’s love. I was the last in my family to tie the knot, whether or not I believe in an institution called marriage, I know for fact that that very institution gave birth to a family that made who I am today. It hopefully will spawn similarly loving, affectionate family members sans my goofiness.

Note: To know what my brothers and relatives were bitching about during this wedding, click here

Note 2: Special thanks to avid reader of this blog and good pal, Vino and her hubby Murali, for driving down for this event, despite already making appearance in Part 2.