15 February, 2013

The Tambrahm Series (Part 2) - Nischayathaartham a.k.a Engagement Ceremony


(Pic courtesy : momentville.com via Google)

In continuum to my previous post on the JadaagamEduthachaa bit, we now proceed with much elan towards the main event  – a TamBrahm wedding.  It is a massive, large scale affair, not unlike the gargantuan sizes that invariably personify some of the TamBrahm Mamis and Mamas.  Well, not all of them are mammoth, to be fair but there are those that can just run over your senses pretty much like a steamroller runs over a freshly tarred road and yes, like a steamroller, these abundantly proportioned mamas and mamis do very much leave their impression on you – especially at TamBrahm weddings.

Now, the TamBrahms like verification – of any sort.  Even after the jadagam matching takes place (as mentioned in my earlier post), the mama mami community spread the word around the beehive that is the TamBrahm community (minus the honey making).  “Ramanodu jadagam Subramania Iyer odu pondatiodu mamiodu shaddaganodu athaiodu ponnukku chendirukkaam”  is how it would start and then it pretty much becomes like the game – Chinese whispers – that I play at school with the kids.  Meaning – it starts off as a sentence like above and by the time it reaches someone who actually knows the “ ponnu”  in question, the whole DNA structure would have been altered.  It is a wonder that no mix up has occurred yet among the TamBrahm weddings and no “pullai”  has been married to an alien from outer space.  Yes, the relationship structures are that complex.  Probably that’s why the little green people from other planets keep at a safe distance from us.

Since the TamBrahms like verification of all sorts, of any sort, all TamBrahm weddings have an “official” engagement ceremony, yet again, the day before the wedding.  What purpose it serves, other than another excuse for yet another “elai pottu sappadu”  is beyond me.  I mean, to re-engage a couple who have already been engaged, is, well, a bit extreme, don’t you think ? 

The engagements too have this wild assortment of youngsters and elders alike, all thrown in, forming this huge vat like structure of aviyal – meaning a mix of just about everything there is, to mix.  Mamis resplendent in their bright kanchivarams and their blinding blings as in Vaira Thodus and Vaira Mookutthis.  There are very few TamBrahm mamis who walk around showing their belly buttons.  Just doesn’t happen !!  If it did then the TamBrahm community would have had the highest number of belly button piercings – given our penchant for anything blingy and shiny and needless to say, anything blingy needs to be exhibited to the world.  TamBrahm mamis might even have the three diamond or seven diamond thingy on their navels, peeking and winking from the midst of the mighty folds.  Some sight, I tell you !!

The mamas walk around with their mundus either at full or at half mast, depending on the weather.  The vadhyar would be ready and waiting like a hawk, sensing the dakshinai within reach.  Tiffin would be on in full swing in the afternoon because we TamBrahms love food.  Nothing, I repeat, no function is complete without an elaborate array of food.  Banana leaves would be laid out – just a small piece of the banana leaf for the tiffin, not the whole leaf.  “ Dei Rajamani Kesari edu daa”  would be routinely heard and once the sweet is served on the leaf, the other tiffin dishes would start arriving, pretty much like a conveyor belt.  The tiffin would end with piping hot filter kaapi (what else ?).

The Pee Pee Dum Dum is another essential – don’t get any ideas – I’m talking of the Nadaswaram and the Thavil duet who are required in the hall for the Getti Melam at certain extremely important parts of the wedding ceremony.  To be honest though, the TamBrahm wedding orchestra of nadaswaram and thavil sound like the instruments are being put to their death rather than having music played.  The nadaswaram would screech like someone witnessing a murder while the thavil would be hit time and again like Sivamani on a high.  I’ve seen many a child absolutely startle and howl out of sheer fright as the nadaswaram and the thavil climb to the heights of a crescendo.  Such is the impact !

The engagement ceremony entails the grooms parents and the groom on one side while the brides parents and the bride sit on the other side.  The parents would once again exchange plates loaded with fruit and yellow coconuts, plates so heavy that it would take all the periappas and chitappas together to hold the plate without dropping it.  They would once again reiterate that their son will be married to so and so’s daughter at so and so time tomorrow.  Just in case anyone forgot or decides to change their mind, you know.

Then would arrive on the scene, the naathanaar(the bride’s sister in law).  Wonder who christened that term.  Naathanaar !!  Literally translated – natham means a bad smell and naararadhu means something is stinking.  Not a very complimentary address that – Naatha Naar – all of which means a stink.  Now it is every nathanaar’s honour to anoint the bride to be with sandal paste, kumkum and place a garland on the bride’s neck.  Wonder who thought of that one ?  The brides do not intend marrying the naathanaars, do they ?  The naathanaars also have to place this little kumkum tikka on either side of the bride’s cheeks – cheeks on her face – just in case anyone reading this has an imagination galloping like a horse.  If all naathanaars are like the one my best friend had, ahem .... a bit clumsy (I’m being very very generous here), then all that would happen in the process is that you would probably have one of your eyes poked, your head gear (the make up on the bride’s head - not the orthodontic kind of headgear) disturbed, a backhanded slap administered and some rather suspicious and soggy looking pieces of rock sugar and sticky raisins forced into your mouth. 

The bridegroom would be sitting on the opposite side, in deep contemplation, wondering, I guess as to how he got himself into this whole mess while unbeknownst to the world, the bride would be wondering how the hell she got herself into this situation.  They would be shocked out of their reverie as one of the mamas or the vadhyar (or a whole lot of elderly men) would look stern and yell “ getti melam”  with a finger (the pointer not the middle finger) wagging furiously, at the orchestra of nadaswaram and thavil.  That would be a sign for them to start torturing their respective musical instruments.

In the midst of all that finger wagging and screeching instruments, the priest would be screaming mantras, trying to top the din created by the Getti Melam.  This is the part I don’t get.  Why get the nadaswaram and thavil to screech and bang and then scream on top of that ?  While the bride and the groom look completely nonplussed, the nathanaar would be performing her nathanaarly duties and would be handing the bride a brand new sari with a couple of dolls and some other frill stuff on a plate large enough to hold enough food for about three families, at the same time.  Dolls !!!   The said dolls in question are not a pair of Barbie and Ken.  Far from it.  There have actually been times when I’ve mistaken the said “dolls” for voodoo dolls.  They are these weird looking things that look as if they’ve been made, as an afterthought, at plastic factories, with left over plastic. 

The best part of the thaambalam is that everything would be piled up on that plate pretty much like a lagori – just waiting for the ball to hit it – precariously perched, is the term.  The mother of the bride (the ball, in this case – though a better description would be a cannonball) would rush to help her daughter hold the plate, muttering “naan pidichikaren di kondhei”  and rather helpfully knock down a few things which would lead to two or three other kancheevaram clad mamis in the vicinity scrambling on all fours to collect the stuff that the bride’s mother had just knocked down.  Oh, the joys !! 

“Poi anchu minutella sari mathindu va kittaya” (change into your new saree in five minutes and bring thyself back here)  the priest would proclaim to the bride, who, in the meanwhile would have been enjoying the mad scramble taking place around the place.  The Naathanaaru would take the bride’s saree and blouse and herd the bride away, and alongwith about 25 other people, head towards a room to “help”  the bride change into her new saree.  Why half the world (or so it seems then) needs to go along with the bride is something that totally beats me.  The rooms have walls, they do not need human walls.  So then, what’s the point ?  The point here is that there is no point !!  To look for a point in some of the TamBrahm customs, is totally pointless.  You do get my point, don’t you ? 

The “anju minute” time having passed, the bride would be herded out once again and then there would be the getti melam once again as the brother in law to be goes around pottufying (also called dotting or putting the kumkum) on the groom’s forehead.  It has to be a big dot, big enough for the groom to look like “ groom dot com”.  The groom would be then sent off to change his clothes – all by himself – not with 25 pairs of eyes focused on him (like David Beckham in the latest H & M underwear ad). 

Once the bride and the groom change into their new outfits, the engagement ceremony would be deemed “wover”.  The groom and the bride would then walk around with the kinnam (bowl) of akshadhai (yellow rice grains) and do namaskaram after namaskaram until the world seems like a horizontal flat line and not the circle that the geographers have deemed it to be. 

On that note, please do join the kalyanam post coming up in the next edition.  Poittu Varen Kittela.  Pinne Paarkalam.  Nalaikku nearthe vandhudungo. 



5 voice(s) said so:

Cuckoo said...

The number of fingers that go up for 'Ketti melam' is also funny! The moment it is announced, almost everybody rises their finger, as if the 'band' cannot see any other finger except theirs!

Btw, the reason the band is present is to ensure that the bride, groom and their parents do not hear any 'ashubh' words from the audience and only hear the sonorous tones of the 'vaathiyaar'.

Cannot wait for part III>

Cheers
Meera

specs buffy said...

Proud to be part of that elite group with all the paraphernalia attached - loved it and waiting for the uncensored sequel!!!

Aparna said...

So enjoyed reading this, and I'm totally going to remember belly button piercings the next time I see a madisaar mami :)

Sumana said...

Very humourous indeed. Loved the post.

Arun said...

Am sitting in a taxi reading this. , so very thoroughly enjoying the article, rolling into big bouts of laughter, perplexing the poor cab guy...awesome read