Procrastination has yet again taken its toll, but I would not call it too late; finally got some time and mood to pen down one of the most crucial and by far, the most difficult phase of my bachelor life. My fellow buddies call it “the golden period” for all those, who never had a girl friend in their whole life and this blog-note is the result of thoughts acquired during the pre-engagement stage and after-wards, spending an average of 1hr-15min-26sec everyday on the phone for the past 61 days with a huge variance ranging from a minimum of 3 minutes to a maximum of 132 minutes with someone who is stated to spend the rest of her lifetime with me (and that’s a huge bet from her side, I would say).
The metamorphosis stage has been very significant with both of us starting our initial conversations with lot of anxiety (that’s a nice word to use for your subdued fears) as complete strangers grown-up in entirely different family backgrounds, not knowing what to expect, not knowing what to talk, unshared expectations, unknown likes and dislikes and minutes of unspoken dialogues to where we stand today - future plans, promises to keep, habits to change and a long wish list for the eternal life to be spent together. The toil involved in the process like the communication voids, projected boasting of thyself and complete misunderstandings due to lack of face-to-face encounters are better untold. To have it all in one, let me start from the beginning of the story.
Once a boy completes his studies and gets into a pretty decent job, harassing of all sorts starts upon slowly. The farther you are away from your home, lesser the problems (lucky me). The first thing is about getting a nod from the boy, which has now-a-days become pretty easy with the all our so-called IT guys and engineering professionals becoming a easy trap with reasons ranging from living away from their parents, eating outside, the untold miseries of bachelor life and peer pressure from colleagues and seniors. In another two to three years of work life with building-up stress issues and the easily acquired financial security (thanks to the growing Indian economy), marriage becomes obvious.
The process starts with the ‘pen thedum padalam’ a.k.a. ‘looking for a girl’. A specification sheet / requirement analysis is made, choices listed down – the word of the mouth spreads all over. With more nuclear families in scattered locations across the globe, some non-profit organizations, marriage brokers and matrimony portals do the job, more effectively. Exchange of horoscopes and bio-data takes place mutually between the prospective alliances within the same community; then comes the astrologer, who cites the stars to predict the lives of the poor boy with some ‘so and so’ girl who would be in her own world of dreams. The horoscope matching is in itself, so quizzical, that the rules and intricacies involved does not let any lesser mortal like me, understand even the basics. Anyway, all that one should know is that it’s a ‘YES’ when you get a score of 6 out of 10 or more. It is important to note that the boy is kept unaware of, till the horoscopes are matched for a prosperous life. Once the clearance from the astrological authority is received, the intelligence service takes over. The process of finding out the behavioral, financial, physiological, psychological, historical and geographical characteristics of the prospective groom starts through sources that are assumed to be invariably close to the boy, which in most of the times are neighbors, fellow colleagues / seniors in the same organization. So guys beware, and never get involved in any duel with your dudes around, especially when your wedding bells are around the corner. Certificates provided from the intelligence authorities, the boy gets a chance to look at the girl’s picture. Yeah, at last – men have got a say …………sshhh, but that’s not the case always – Stamped and Approved by the parents, grand-parents and all the aunts out there in the oblivion, the scrutiny leaves very less choice and much lesser decision making powers left with the ‘mappillai’ (the groom). By now, with scores of dialogues and lectures on marital bliss, the boy gets matured, comes out of his dreams, sheds his ‘my dream girl’ ideas and gets really groomed (read broomed). So, if you are some-one thinking of having a gala time during this ‘pen thedum padalam’ dreaming of looking at dozens of pictures of lovely beautiful women to chose from, its high-time you learn the hard truth. So far, the story goes on like this – the true Indian wedding is about two families getting wedded socially, with much less emphasis on the individuals involved. It’s all about focussing on building a family that would socially suit and satisfy all the requirements of all the elements involved. That’s surprising to note the ‘gyan’ that I have got out of the whole affair - Go back and read the last sentence – that would make it to the Webster’s Concise English Dictionary.
Now it’s time for ‘boy meets girl’ ceremony, the most popular and the most feared event in which the boy (our poor hero) gets to meet the girl (his dream girl, by now); Thanks to all those ubiquitous tamil movies, that’s lot of mis-information conveyed about ‘ponnu pakuradhu’ (boy meets girl). Sleepless nights with loads and loads of questions, all the gaiety involved in looking at a girl (hey, come on – that’s what we guys have been doing this since we were 15) is lost. The boy now becomes a ‘good’ boy which means a close hair-cut, lot of coconut oil applied, well shaven, thick spectacles and some vibudhi in the fore-head – That’s what you call ‘Mapilla-kalai’; And a Big ban on T-shirts and Jeans. Well, thinking about it, I was not able to recognize myself in front of the mirror, even though I was able to pacify my parents on sporting a red T-shirt for the occasion. The second greatest difficulty was to remain cool in front of your parents, subduing the anxiety and excitement, . . As of me, I jut kept mum, clinging to some boring short story book. The event was scheduled by 11 am at an old temple in the girl’s native village. Most of the times, it would also be in the house of a common acquaintance of both the families. We drop down before the temple, the tropical sun making the place more sultrier; A larger banyan tree amidst towering ‘Ayyanar’ (A native south Indian God) statues, there were some villagers praying and offering ‘Pongal’ to the deities – A true village scene in these southern parts of our country. I was unperturbed by this calm and serene atmosphere, the excitement inside growing upon. If it would have been any other day, I would have been kneeling before the ‘Ayyanar’ statue for a silhouette shot against the blazing sun (Photography forgot). The temple called the ‘Alagu Nachiamman koil’ seems to be the traditional place for such ‘ponnu pakuradhu’ events and was a bit old, devoid of any architecture and was looking really poor. Enter the temple, butterflies in my stomach – going to look at a girl, officially . . . and the most important decision of life – the tension mounts on, but have a look at my face, I am still blushing, answering the greetings. Now we move the camera, and pan it towards the entrance of the temple – Heroine entry. Head bent down, eyes looking at the ground, an uneasy walk with her heavy saree, and yet again neatly combed, oiled hair with lot of jasmine flowers fragnating the arena, the girl is asked to sit just in front of the boy. She was like ‘gonna cry at this moment’, I would have been roaring with laughter, if for another day. The camera moves on to top-angle, boy and girl in the fore, the males from either side seated to the boy’s end and the females led by the boy’s mother sitting in the opposite side. After former introductions and exchange of pleasantries, all of a sudden, there is absolute silence; Nobody is uttering a word, people moving around, an unknown uneasiness catches up the atmosphere, the boy takes a chance to look at the girl, highly conscious of all those around. Thinks again, “Hey man, cheer-up …. I have come to see the girl, what’s wrong with it”, gains some confidence, overcomes his shyness and looks at her again and yet again, the cycle continues. In a couple of minutes, with the same confidence, a game starts on, Look in and Look down – both of them, the whole world around them vanishes, its only the both of them, vying for eye contact and at last it happens once,…knock, knock, knock – there’s a voice from behind ‘enna pudichirucka?’ (do you like her) – that’s the boy’s father asking …….back to reality, the answer comes - a Big YES; People start asking the girl and she is reminded again to ‘look at’ better …. So that’s like the final call – And again, its me the same blushing and eyes pointing to nowhere with her, lifting up her head, eyes rolling all over and finally fixing it on the ‘subject’ for one last time. Somebody in the crowd, ‘Would the both of you like to talk to each other?’
‘Hmm….ok’ (But that was not half-minded)
We move on to another part of the temple, leaving behind all those people wondering about our conversation. I check how tall she is, when we walk a few paces together for the first time. My efforts to make her sit beside me go in vain – she sits facing me and after 30 seconds of initial silence, I was the one to break the ice. I introduce myself to her, that’s real stupidity – It was like going to a job interview and talking about yourself. Still it was a nice starter to get the conversation going. It was only single-word answers and nods from the other end, I in spite of being shy was leading the talk – Is that a true Indian girlish stuff? Nope …It was for me to later find out, how much talkative she is.
Well the conversation, for sure was not about future plans and the materialistic ambitions to be fulfilled, rather I would say that those few minutes were spent in overcoming the shock of finally getting to know, who is your ‘spouse gonna-be’; Everybody young and youthful, start dreaming and would have by their early 20s formed a complete hologram of their life partner, and this was the moment of truth, getting enlightened from all the unanswered questions accumulated for years. The moment of accepting the things and in such a time, one would not expect to talk sense, it would only be some customary Qs. Then it was for me act manly, I ask her the inevitable question only after being sure of the answer and she nods, “hmm . . . . . . pudichirucku.” In true professional way, it was time to close the short meeting
‘Is there anything else, you would like to ask?’
‘You have been keeping mum all through; Are you always like this or…’
‘No, I talk a lot, but a bit tensed now’ pat comes the reply.
‘I am not so, I usually talk very less,’
‘….’ (Stunned? - - Dunno what)
We return to the main temple, to be surrounded by my mom, grand-mom and aunt . .’On the spot decisions’ made, the wedding gets FIXED. A pooja performed in the same temple, it is time for some formalities and documentation to be done.
How about me? Still confused but contained, happy and sad, amazed (somebody called me mappilai), gazing wildly at my future father-in-law, vying to look at her, again and again, cursing the pillar that was blocking my view of her, answering some customary Qs from her cousins, and awkwardly thinking about taking my camera out for some wonderful clicks of the place;
Curtains down: With me still not able to comprehend what the world of marital bliss has in store for me.
Well, that’s the beginning of another story,….Nagz