Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vardaraajan weds Sripriya: power of the curd rice with maavadu

From a very young age, I've had this fascination for tam brahm marriages. mainly for the rituals and their meaning. we may not have the band baaja baarat style festivities. no mehndi, no sangeet and no baraat dancing with lots of distilled ethanol in the system. what the festivities entail is a score of 'maamis' in their madisaars, their body covered with jewelry whose collective worth would be more than the GDP of Mozambique and most importantly marriage rituals which looks like an enactment of a mythological story.

The Vardhan tale (protaganist of my previous post) was more of a glance in my previous post. thanks to the substantial few blog hits to this post, I thought of sticking to vardhan for my next literary adventure.  This post describes our very own Vardhan embarking on the  journey of holy matrimony. please pardon my ignorance on the exact technicalities of  a Tambrahm wedding, I've tried my best to stay as close to the exact technicalities as possible. 

With Vardhan reaching the echelons of academic success in his field with a bunch of fortune 500 companies vying for his attention, the Ramasubus' next assignment was to get Vardhan married. Mrs Ramasubu had quiet tactfully convinced Vardhan to talk to their distant relative Sripriya. Like a dutiful son, Vardhan agreed and as a first step gave Sripriya a call. after battling through almost 15 mins of awkwardness on the phone, both Vardhan and Sripriya opened up to talk more about themselves, likes dislikes and everything in between. As Vardhan gained confidence in the conversation he mustered the guts to ask her out for a coffee. so, the date was fixed at the Coffee Bean in San Jose. Vardhan was nervous and excited. After all it was his first date ever. He reached 15 mins early to get the best seats in the cafe. Sripriya looked more pretty than in the photograph. she wore a normal white top and jeans. Vardhan quickly put a mental tick under all his physical appearance check boxes for his bride to be . A three hour coffee date was all that both the to be groom and bride required to give the thumbs up for the marriage.

the date was planned for the end of the year. In the preceding months to the wedding Sripriya and Vardhan spent a lot of time together. dinners, movies, drives and lot of those couple activities that probably both of them had never done in their life. For the December 28th wedding, both the groom and bride decided to fly together on the 8th of December. On the other hand in The Ramasubu household, bustling wedding preparations were underway. Mrs Ramasubu was the captain of the ship overseeing all of the work. Vardhan was going back to India after 3 long years and this time it was to get married. When the Singapore Airlines flight from San Francisco landed in Chennai, a hoard of people were present to welcome the new couple. Vardhan was over awed by the situation. His maamis and chithis and athais were all there along with his to be In laws and their family. after an hour long meet and greet at the airport, both the families retired to their respective homes. For the next two days Vardhan just slept for long hours firstly to beat the jetlag and secondly to avoid having to work and run around helping with the wedding preps. 

three days later though he couldn't escape being trapped into the work. the maamis in the family (for the uninitiated the term 'Maamis' means  a quintessential Tam Brahm lady for whom not observing  "Patth" is more of a crime than murder and who are ardent followers of the Brahmin book of rituals, festivals, food habits and everything in between) decided to take Vardhan on a field trip. Little did poor Vardhan know what he was getting into.  It was the place where men take their wives to shop and by the time the women come out, the men have grown a beard. This holy place is the SAREE STORE. my dear friends selection of a kancheevaram saree for a tamizh maami is categorized as  probably the most important decision she will ever make. As vardhan walked in to the store with 5 other maamis from his family, the gatekeeper of the store gave him a sorry look almost to say that " buddy, you don't know what you've got yourself into". As Vardhan went through the grueling 6 hour wait for the ladies to finish their saree shopping, he felt exhausted even though he hadn't done anything but wait. the only good thing about the day was that he got to meet Sripriya and see her try on different sarees.

As the home stretch to the wedding began, things went from peaceful to busy to chaotic at the Ramasubbus. relatives started pouring in and Vardhan tried to recollect his grandfather explaining the family tree which created such a tangled mess in Vardhan's brain. the festivities were kicked off with Vardhan being forced to visit a beauty salon. As Vardhan sat there on the salon chair with his face being painted upon, he remembered his Phd days where he probably shaved once in 3 weeks and bathed once a week. slowly but surely he was realizing what he was walking into. " marriage is going to be much more difficult than solving Navier-stokes Energy equations and third order differential equations" he thought as the two pieces of cucumber finally came off his eyes.

In the evening, Vardhan got ready for the first of two days of marriage celebrations. the first event was the Janavasam/"Maapillai Azhaippu. Vardhan walked out of his house in his new suit which he had gotten stitched after multiple sizing and measurement visits. Vardhan sat in a red convertible. from its appearance it looked like a car used by aristocrats in the 60's. the 5 Km route that the car took had multiple stops as the car ambled along. Vardhan felt as if he was being showed off to the world before he gets slaughtered. Vardhan stepped out of the car on reaching the banquet hall to a traditional Aarthi. all through the journey and at the banquet Hall there were a couple of guys, one with a video camera and the other holding a flashlight continuously following Vardhan with complete focus on him. he felt odd about all this paparazzi attention. Being the Scientist that he was, Vardhan questioned every ritual and wanted an explanation for everything. His Athai (aunt) the in-house vedic scholar was assigned this duty. Vardhan got on the podium and  a few prayer exchanges later, he was handed a new suit to wear from the brides side. looking surprised, Vardhan asked his aunt " why am I getting another pair of clothes. I am aleady wearing a new pair that I got specially stitched. and why did you have to get me in an open top car to give me a new pair of clothes:. Aunt Lakshmi smiled and in reply explained that this ceremony is called Janu Vasam. Janu meaning kneee and vasam meaning cloth. Technically the groom is a Brahmachari after his Upanayanam (Brahmin Baptization). He is supposed to lead a life of minimal needs. no shaving or hair cut, wear a pice of cloth around his waist upto his knees. hence the trip to the brides' place where he is given new clothes and brought out of the Brahmachari phase. the open top car ride was an enactment of the olden days where the whole village is introduced to the Groom.

After all the festivities of the evening, Vardhan was tired and ready to retire for the day. he had to get up next morning at 4 am for the most important day in his life. he was nervous, excited, over awed as he went to bed in one of the banquet hall rooms. Next morning He got dressed into his traditional Iyer ensemble. As he walked to the podium, he saw a healthy crowd already present. the podium set up with all the necessary decorations and all eyes on him. Vardhan went by each of the rituals one by one including the dramatized version of him walking away to Benaras and being stopped by Sripriyas Dad and then made to sit on a swing with his newly wed by his side. Finally after several hours of tiring yet fascinating rituals, there came the moment that made the brides parents cry. the moment Vardhan was officially married. As part of the post wedding activites, Vardhan was made to play a lot of the customary post marriage "games" which he miserably lost. Vardhan's aunt explained the meaning of each of the rituals. starting from why he enacted the going away to Benaras, to why elders washed his feet. Apparently,  the groom walks away not in anger but in humility saying that " I am not as big a vedic scholar to be worthy of your daughter, I have to go and learn more". the Bride's  father then convinces the groom against this. Also, the post marriage games are a way for the bride and groom to loose their inhibitions owing to the fact that back in the day, the groom and bride were very young when they got married and it was an arranged affair. they never got to spend time with each other or meet before the wedding.

A week worth of hectic travel and temple visits later, Vardhan was all set to take his newly wed bride back to the U.S and start his new life. Just before leaving for the airport, Vardhan requested to have  his magical culinary delight. the CURD RICE. the only difference this time was that he was served curd rice by his newly wed wife with an addition, the mango pickle or more fondly called among the tambrahm brethren as Maavadu.