Sunday. Sunday, for me, is the official Sadhya day because that’s the day (for reasons still unknown to me) most people decide to host their wedding ceremony. And it’s the same story in all these weddings. There’ll be couples to bless, friends to meet after long time, acquaintances to be made and gossip to be exchanged. Needless to say, my mom loved marriages. They were, in her opinion, an indispensible part of life.
As is the case for almost all Sundays, this Sunday too, we were to attend another nuptial service. The difference was, this was the marriage of one of my immediate neighbours’’ daughter. And this marriage had been the “BREAKING NEWS” for about a whole week. The reason?? Yeah, you guessed it. She was a “victim” of the cupid’s stupid games.
As I did mention, since they were my neighbours, it was quite startling (not to mention bewildering) to wake up one fine morning and to see that view from my bedroom window, which had been a green coloured house had suddenly changed to a blue one. Obviously, the first reaction was soon replaced by curiosity which was swapped for astonishment and delight (Well, at least on my part. What my mom thought was another story altogether) as aunty came in with the invitation card. And the conversation unfolded as follows:
Mom: “Anu* is getting married?? OMG why didn’t you tell me Jaya*? I am so happy for you. How come you never mentioned it when we were talking about all this?”
(At this juncture, I would like to mention that my mom and Jaya aunty are a part of a huge friends circle at the temple, which is kind of a substitute for the usual parties and socialising events which my mom cannot attend as she is working woman-cum-wife-cum-mother)
Jaya aunty (With a sombre expression on her face, which if I may say so, seemed quite inappropriate… especially keeping in mind the numerous times I’ve seen her face getting all lit up while discussing the cost of Kaanjeepuram sarees): “Hmm… mm..mmm..”
Mom (Realizing that she is missing something but being able to figure out the exact problem) asks cautiously: “Jaya is everything alright?”
Jaya aunty (Looking close to tears): “Mmmm… everything is fineee… just fineeeee”
(This is when I slowly started inching towards the stairs, as from experience, I had recognized the classical symptoms of a crying spree. And I also knew that when that happened, I wanted to be nowhere nearby.)
Mom: “So where is the boy working? You found him through the matrimonial site?”
Two simple questions. Two seemingly harmless questions and there, the tears were …. gushing would be the appropriate word. And needless to say, I was caught in between. As always. God when will I learn???
By then I was curious to know what all this was about, so I brought them a glass of water and planted myself on the sofa. And tried to make sense of the story being told in between tears and tea and Parle-G before I was banished to my room, where I sat cross-legged on the floor, leaning against the wall, trying to make sense of what I had just heard.
From what I understood, the bottom line of the whole drama was this – Anu was getting married to a guy of her choice. I knew that she had been studying at Coimbatore for MBA and apparently, that is where they met and fell in love. From what I knew, he was a great guy, well-educated, smart, financially well-off, working in a reputed firm. In my opinion it was a great match. Nothing to be ashamed of. And definitely nothing worth shedding tears. As I sat there wondering, trying to figure it out, through the crack of my door, I saw my sis heading for the stairs.
“Hey,” I said, “If I were you, I wouldn’t be heading downstairs right now. Major drama alert.”
“Oh,” she stopped and considered for a moment. “Who is it this time?” she asked a bit wearily, retracing her steps.
“Aah… the wedding huh?”
I looked at her surprised. I hadn’t occurred to me that she, of all the people, might have an idea, what all this is about.
“You knew about that?”
“Sure” she said, with her hand on the doorknob. “Everyone knows about it. Anu is getting married. To an Ezhava boy.”
Oh did I mention that Anu is a Brahmin??
Aah… finally everything made sense. The low-profile wedding, Jaya aunty’s grief… everything. Suddenly I kinda felt sad for Anu. In a community where love marriages were a reason enough for eyeballs to roll, inter-caste-love marriages were the ultimate. To feel the people’s eyes on you wherever you go judging you, to not to be able to celebrate your love in a way you want to… it was distressing. And at that moment, I felt an unexplainable rage towards Jaya aunty and her husband for ruining what ought to be one of the best memories of their daughter’s life. So what if the guy was of a different caste? (Lower caste… that’s what others would say) Oh come on, when you fall in love, you can’t be like “Excuse me, are you a Brahmin? Do you have ettil shukran?” Besides, how does all that matter? I’ve seen quite a few arranged marriages between couples, whose horoscope and caste and subcaste had all been perfectly matched, fall apart for trivial reasons. Moreover, it wasn’t as if she had eloped with the guy. (which, I admit, is mortifying) She had simply made it very clear that if she was to be married at all, it would be to this guy and no one else. (I must say, I was kinda astonished that Anu, who was such a soft-spoken thing had said that. Kudos to her!!) All the disgust and intolerance I had for such people was for a split second overshadowed by the ecstasy I felt for Anu.
And then I looked across to the big blue house and not for the first time, my eyes were drawn towards the bright beautiful rose plants grown by Jaya aunty. I was reminded of all those days I had spent watching Jaya aunty (usually when I’m supposed to be studying) tend to those bushes with so much love and care. I had always seen how proud she had been of them, how she used to show them off to everyone, regardless of whether they blossomed or not. And then I thought about how similar they were to her kids. I had watched her plaiting Anu’s hair when she was a kid in the evening, seen her drive her to music classes, which were replaced by tuition classes as Anu grew. I remember once seeing Anu and aunty at the mall, arguing over which dress to buy and the pride on aunty’s face when I mentioned how beautiful Anu looked on her farewell day. And I can never forget that day aunty came in a saree that Anu had bought for her, the happiness that was hidden behind a carefully-manufactured-oh-it’s-no-big-deal expression. She had always been with Anu, regardless of whether she was first in class, or the time she had been going through some personal issues. I myself had witnessed the unconditional love aunty had for her daughter. Anu had been her baby, her centre of universe for a long time (ever since her birth to be precise). Obviously, she would’ve dreamed of her choosing a groom for her precious daughter, just like her parents had for her. So when all that dreams are shattered, if crying about it is her only reaction, then I guess she is entitled to do that, don’t you think?
And so I attended Anu’s wedding which was a pretty much low-key affair. Albeit the bride’s parents were a bit subdued and there were quite a few murmurings, but the unmistakable exhilaration on bride’s and groom’s face muted all that. We went on stage, congratulated the groom and bride (now husband and wife) and proceeded to mingle with the other guests. As we sat down, I heard someone behind me say “Do you know that the boy is Ezhava? What was Jaya thinking, marrying her daughter off to such a boy!” Another day… any other day, that single statement would have ruined my mood. But that moment, I took a look at the radiant faces of the duo on stage, told myself “Who cares?” and proceeded to discuss with my mom about the attires of various gorgeous women all around us.
Take care & aabar dekha hobey (Can you guess which language it is without googling it? Clue: It means goodbye in an East Indian state)
PS: The palada pradhaman was lip-lickingly tasty.
* All names have been changed so as to not to intrude upon their privacy (not that they might read this or anything)