Whenever I think of a wedding and the little big intricacies that make it happen, I am reminded of the story “The missing mail” from Malgudi days. The story encompasses the pleasure and pain of bringing the observance together, surviving joy, hard work and crisis. And not so long ago, it was my turn to be in this rigmarole of a marriage, much unlike the era that Narayanan was describing and much like the beguiling ambience he had portrayed.
N and I come from backgrounds that are thankfully one-third alike; ‘thankfully’ since it makes the ritual a lot less complicated. But sometimes it is the other two-thirds bit that can make your wedding a little special and strenuous at the same time. May be that explains how we had squeezed time for me to adorn a madisar but carry a ceremony, as per N’s family tradition, that sans fire.
It had begun on a Saturday with a subtle pooja to the elephant god before dawn. As I prayed and chanted, it was appa’s sleepless night, playing host to the myriad of guests and finding them the respectable hotel accommodation all night long, which gnawed me. And somehow I had not understood until then that there is no such thing as a well planned wedding and if it were without consternations, it wouldn’t be a wedding at all.
The day had broken and spent with the many friends and cousins, welcoming and talking, all blending into that gregarious atmosphere, which was to linger for the next two days. The fulsome feasts had begun and the pedestals were laid for believing that something bigger was in the making. Before I knew, it was time for engagement ceremony in the evening and I was ushered to the bridal room for that first perfect look.
Our engagement was completed by the maternal mamas, who had thoroughly enjoyed the turban tying, garland exchanging and some pot belly hitting hugs that ensued. And with every little function, somehow the families, who had begun the journey with the two-thirds uncommon, were closing in on them. As for N and me, the blinding video lights and the gamut of pictures with constantly plastered smiles were only a warning of what we might be facing hence.
The wedding Sunday was deemed immensely auspicious and it seemed to me the entire town of Madurai was geared to wed. I was circumscribed to a saree only dress code from dawn to dusk, not that I minded, for that bridal touch. As my disoriented step cut hair was deftly braided into a knee touching length, I had mastered the skill to hold a heavy extension to my head. By the time I was worn the muhoortha pattu and jewelry I had spent hours and days designing and selecting, I was running a high temperature and the heavy drumming and gaggle of well wishers outside didn’t help my nervousness.
As I entered the decked pedestal, assuming an unbending namaskaram, the wafting redolence of my huge rose garlands, the olfactory of agarbathi, sandalwood and ornate jasmines gripped me. I was carefully whispered to walk like a bride and I had smiled inertly to my incorrigible clumsiness even in this heavy attire. If not for appa’s reassuring smile and N’s uneasy grin, I am sure I would have effectuated a ‘runaway bride’ scene. But I, in all my panicked calm, espoused the seat next to the pattu veshti festooned groom without further ado.
The ceremony was my first, of course for partaking, but attending as well. As a few words were being spoken by elders, I was but scanning the packed hall, for smiling at familiar faces much unlike a shy bride. Thanks to my humongous garlands and complementing hairdo, I couldn’t turn my neck to peek a word with N or appa. Soon, the gattimelam was sounded and I watched our fathers exchange garlands, followed by our mothers. And with that we had transcended into an ironic arranged marriage mode.
As if rising from my reprieve, we rose to a ritual, I never knew existed in Hindu marriages. With my hand in his, we repeated prose in wholesome Tamil, of words that sounded beautiful, but meaning unknown. Yet, we had in all proclivities agreed to marry the other through that lexis with a thousand odd people watching us.
The next few moments were lifetimes apart and if I were to recall, the only thing that stopped me from sobbing was N’s characteristic “it’s ok” nod, holding the wieldy chain of gold in his hands. No sooner had he given the nod; in the deafening noise and showers of well wishes, the taali had entwined my already crammed neck. And thus in the blink of the eye, we had accomplished the most defining moment of the entire wedding and managed to keep my eye liner intact!
With all anxiety weaned off, little did I know that, the groom and bride were to take a joy ride on the legendary kudirai vandi of Madurai? And to have a cousin hold an umbrella over you, as the horse made its way on the sunbathed streets, was indeed an unusual treat. What followed were a zillion wishes, a million photographs and the aftermath of many a magical moments. And somehow, everything post the crux is never as stirring, but the rituals never cease to end.
For many, it seemed like the new chapter to our lives had begun that day; but for me, it was one of the rarest days of my life when my whole family was together after many many years. Periappa, periamma, mama, mami, athai, athan, cousins and everyone bubbling away and am I glad that they could make it to this little town which they have never visited before.
That wedding night, as I prepared to leave my family to enter a new home, I had done something, I would have found cheesy as a third person. Having spent two days lolling with my entire family, all I wanted to do was stay back. And like a little child, draining my heavy makeup of the evening, I had cried my gut out hugging and refusing to let go of appa and in the bargain making everyone around me teary-eyed.
As I drove away, I was glad for I was married; not because I love N any better now, but for the blissful once in a lifetime episode, which had taught me the love for family again. For – if marriage is sheer optimism; it doesn’t get better than being given away into one.