When you are a single child in a nuclear family, a lot of things are different and some you don’t realise until much later in life. The foremost thing is, you are in the company of adults way more than other kids around you. And that also means you are privy to a lot of adult conversations much earlier on.
Now don’t quote me here, because i clearly have no idea what it means to grow up with a sibling; and in my head, I imagine my parents might have likely said “D, go play with your sister” instead of letting me sit with the uncles and aunts, on all those balmy evenings in the backyard, when anecdotes and yesteryear stories would pour to lots of laughter, way into the night. It was by being a wallflower to many such wonderful conversations that I learnt about my utilitarian grand uncle who was a freedom fighter, of my aunt who had had enough of cops inquiring and declared her husband missing, my mama who blasted a man asking for directions at the tajamahal for being a guide; and of exactly many such absurd tales of yonder, i still quote and laugh with my parents, recalling them.
The stories flowed even when we didn’t have guests. And by the time I was in my early teens, i had heard and reheard, so much about my parents lives, it was comforting and discomfiting. Because now you start having opinions and they would prefer that you don’t.
Of one such is the tale of their wedding, which was dubbed “Paara-kalyanam” ( rock-wedding) in the family circles. I remember my mother saying it with a tinge of regret, but as the years rolled, it gave way to pride. To explain what it meant — my parents were married in Kanyakumari ( hence the paara meaning rock literally ). But it was added to figuratively mean “of no value”, jocularly.
Their wedding was expected to be a grandiose event, with every ritual followed to the T. And hence relatives had flown in all the way from America, entire families with kids ( In the 70s, i am sure this was a bigger deal ), to watch it unfold. But thanks to my dad, who had floored his father-in-law with his principles of keeping it simple; the wedding had been a very short affair, lasting about an hour and my mother didn’t even get to wear the ‘madisaar’ ( traditional 9 yard saree ). Since their handful of black and white pictures dont give away much, that even as i type this, I imagine everyone perched on a Rock in the sweltering heat, wondering why they had taken a 24 hour flight for something that lasted an hour! Or atleast that’s how the story was retold to me.
It was a source of inspiration for me, I must admit and I often declared to nobody in particular that I would only agree to a register marriage ( because kids must always one-up their parents , right? ), if I ever married that is. Well, life had other plans ( you can read about it here) and to put it lightly – I realised, I wasnt as verbose as my dad when it came to convincing the partner’s parents and didn’t belong to the right gender, when it came to having strong opinions that were readily heard. And hence it was a grand affair nonetheless; as if an antidote to my parents’.
My inlaws had planned and executed the wedding completely on their own, yet keeping in mind how to make every event well represented, so that the bride and groom’s sides were equally happy to participate; and it had turned out to the scale of something my side of the family had never witnessed before ( almost 2000 people, live streaming TVs, 4 days of grand feasts ). And just like that the “paara-kalyanam” had retreated into oblivion. My dad, being the eternal optimist, I may never really find out if he felt he was cornered to betray his “keeping it simple” principle!
These tales and events had come flooding back to me, over the last few weeks, when I was forced to close my twitter feeds for days, to stay away from celebrity wedding news, that had overwhelmed me and disinterested me to no end. Not that I care what they do with their money, I was just recoiled into the hard realization that, the more India opened up to accepting cultures and religions to blend into nuptials, the grander the weddings have gotten. My own wedding being a case in point. Or probably, just my ignorance that this has been steadily happening forever! And also may be, because, I had not given up the Utopian idea of that “alaipayuthe” style “register marriage”, in the presence of parents.
As we almost near the 11 year mark, and nearly 13 years of knowing each other; my MIL still quips and tears up at the same time, remembering it as the first day her son held my hand during the “love-but-mostly-arranged” wedding. My reactions have changed over the years from eye-roll to awkward smiles to now scheming if I should add those perfect oxymoron lines as the ending, if and when I narrate our tales to my kids!!