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.

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