08 May, 2013

The TamBrahm Series Part 5 - Kalyana Saddhi and Nalangu

(Picture courtesy : mywedding.com via Google)

While the Mapillai (groom) and the Mattuponnu (daughter in law though literally translated it stands for CowGirl !!) are busy finding feet to prostrate in front of, most of the crowd would, quintessentially, have made a beeline towards the dining hall.  In the olden days (I mean days when I used to attend TamBrahm weddings regularly a.k.a my school / college days) – that is not to say that I’m Jurassic – a traditional lunch was always served the traditional way – on a banana leaf.  The dining hall at a TamBrahm wedding fills with people faster than a playground filling with people during a fire drill. 
Saddhis or Sadhyas are the official hallmark of any important occasion in a TamBrahm circle.  We TamBrahms do not eat to live.  No Sireee !!  We have our priorities absolutely right and we follow them to the T.  We live to eat – it’s as simple as that.  A Saddhi just serves to prove my point.  It consists of atleast 6 types of vegetables – each cooked in a distinct style and then there is the usual Trinity of Food – Sambar, Rasam, Buttermilk.  The payasam manages to wedge itself between these three rather unobtrusively.
Tired after getting engaged to each other all over again and then finally married, the by now weary groom and bride finally trudge off to the dining hall to have their lunch.  If they’re lucky, their lunch would be on the same banana leaf and the whole process would be as unobtrusive as it can.  When I say unobtrusive what I actually mean is that the bride and groom would get away with just about 90% of the clan gathered there and breathing down their necks.  I remember feeling like some sort of an exotic microbe being examined under the microscope and till date I do regret not being able to actually “taste” the food on our wedding lunch menu.  Being a microbe under a microscope is not exactly an exalting feeling, you see.  The lunch, apparently, was excellent.  Thanks for that, folks !!
Once the bride and groom are seated, not willing to give the flustered groom and bride a millimetre of space to themselves, the whole clan kind of descends on the hapless couple exhorting them to eat from each others’ banana leaves.  Worse still, it is quite commonplace to see a bunch of lecherous relatives insisting that the groom feed the bride something from his leaf and vice versa.  Many couples do, under the watchful, gleaming eyes of the said relatives who make it clear that they have one thing and just one thing on their minds right then.  They look pretty much like I guess the witch did when she trapped Hansel and Gretel in her house – sans smacking their lips in glee.  
There have been times when I’ve felt that those big laddoos that are served on the banana leaf could be put to much better use than the bride or the groom eating the laddoo.  I mean – just imagine the possibilities.  A bunch of cackling relatives who just won’t stop talking, staring and just won’t leave you alone.  You have two huge laddoos on your banana leaf.  At that point in time, those two laddoos are absolutely potent missiles, if not anything else.  Use them, people !!  The multiple ways in which those laddoos can be put to good use is something I’m not going to pen down here – I leave that to the absolutely wonderful abilities of your fertile imagination.
Nalangu is invariably next on the menu, or should I say next on the agenda.  It is usually squeezed in after lunch is done and over with and before the reception begins.  It’s a sight to behold, truth be told – two grown up adults in their own right sitting across from each other and rolling (of all the things) a coconut in the space between them.  I mean, come on people !!  Why can’t the bride and groom play lagori with the coconut, huh ?!  All those laddu kuttis and manoharam kuttis can be put to good use, right ?  Also, it would save the bride’s mom and the groom’s mom the trouble of hacking away at the kuttis to equitably distribute the same between the multiple number of mamis and athais who are bound to grace the occasion. Put a kutti (a pyramid shaped sweet) in the centre and let the bride and the groom play lagori with the coconut.  If they manage to hit each other with the coconut, there could always be a “retired hurt” rule in the books. 
The bride and groom have to actually try and wrest the coconut from each other.  I remember being pulled alongwith the coconut.  Ayyo !!  Yo – provide something wrestleworthy !!  Ek coconut se kiska kya hoga ??
Nah !  Ain’t happening !!  While the groom and bride roll the coconut around, looking extremely flustered, hordes of mamis would be seen giggling at what usually seems like a private joke.  Thank the Lord for that.  One wouldn’t  really want to listen to their jokes then lest the coconut be turned into one of those missiles like the ones being made in North Korea.  The bride is usually asked to sing a song and invite the groom for the Nalangu.  What was that again ??  Invite the groom for the nalangu ???  He as much got married that day as did the bride, did he not ??  So why does he need to be invited ??  Also, given the choice, brides would probably say they are better off not inviting the groom because you see – No Groom No Nalangu !!  Simble !!  Again, if the bride is someone like me, she would probably scare the living daylights out of the people there just by singing.  Such is the power of my music !!  That afternoon, I scarred people for life just by singing !!   Before you ask, the answer is "No !  No Regrets" !! for having scared them.  They asked for it !!  Yet again, before you ask, I did not sing "Ramba Ho Ho Ho Samba Ho Ho Ho".
The bride and the groom would be asked to anoint each other with chandan and kumkum and sprinkle rose water and after all the trouble that they would have taken to mess each others’ hair and faces up, they would be asked to crush and scatter pappadam on each others’ heads.  What a waste of good pappadam, I say.   There has been many an instance where the groom has been left looking like one of those dacoits from Sholay, what with the larger than earth tikka (not panner tikka) on his forehead and the bride has ended up looking like a cross between Kannagi and Lady GaGa. 
I, for one, would say have Nalangu by all means. Oh yes !  We must !!  Since I’m not the one going to be on the hot seat for an innings of Nalangu, what’s the harm in insisting that Nalangu be a ritual in all Tambrahm weddings in the future, eh ? 
 Instead of the pappadam thing, why not have a pie fight ?  That way, ancient relatives can be renamed too – Chocolate Padma Mami, Banana Raman Mama (better still Vazha Pazha Raman Mama if he gets hit by a banana pie), Kaapi Lakshmi Athai,  Custard Lalitha Chitti, – depending on the pie they’ve been smacked with.  Imagine a Blueberry Vasantha, a Strawberry Krishnan, a Pumpkin Tripurasundari, a Lemon Narayanan.  The list, folks, is endless.  Oh and somewhere along the way, the whole thing might not stop at just pies.  It just might end up as a pie and tart fight.  Now that should make things really interesting !!
The poor kids who have had to endure two days of the wedding ritual (as mute bystanders, I mean – not that I’m promoting child marriage here, just in case someone misunderstands), have indeed earned their fun time.  Line up the priests.  That should perk the kids up  big time.  Line up the priests and get the kids to throw wet sponges – Mr.Bean style.  Priests nowadays would consent to just about anything on two conditions – as long as they get paid for it and as long as they do not have to recite mantrams (vedic hyms) full and proper.  Using priests for target practice would be a dream come true for the kids because they simply cannot miss !!
All it takes is a bit of “neeyat” and the whole Nalangu thing could be taken to a different level altogether. 
Hmmm …. I’d said I’d be clubbing the three post-wedding aspects of a TamBrahm wedding together in this post.  Kalyana Saddhi, Nalangu, Reception and Shanti Muhurtham but upon more contemplation, it has been decided that last two deserve a post of their own. 
So be it. 
One more edition to follow ….. I don’t really know when. 

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