Last weekend took us on a whirlwind visit to Mumbai and Pune. Sriram, long-time friend, sharer in many an adventure (and misadventure!), sleeper at ten thirty, and a lot of other things, finally got hitched, and Vidya and I got a chance to see a Tam Brahm wedding from up close.
We flew into Mumbai really early on Saturday morning, and were whisked away by a Mr. D’Souza in his taxi to Sriram’s place in Thane. He lived in Lokpuram, a ‘society’ of a few thousand houses in Thane, as did two more of his cousins. All his relatives who had come for the wedding from places as far away as Coimbatore, Bangalore and Chennai were supposed to be distributed among the three flats. However, we ended up having one of the flats all to ourselves, which gave us the chance to rest up a bit before everything began. The flat we stayed in belonged to Kumar, who also had another name which escapes me temporarily, but I can remember that it did lead to a lot of hilarity when he was in college!
After catching a couple of hours of sleep, we found ourselves in Sriram’s house again for ‘breakfast.’ This turned out to be the typical TamBrahm brunch that takes you right through the day, and also gives you enormous potbellies in the bargain – sambar rice and curd rice with two different veggies on the side, pickles and papads – something that would have passed for a full lunch anywhere else!
Suitably stuffed, we prepared to go back to our naps before starting off to Pune with the marriage party when Vidya noticed the mehendi on everyone else’s hands, and started off a conversation with Sriram’s sister on whether she too could have her hands decorated. In double time, the beauty parlour was contacted, found unresponsive, a mehendi cone dug out, a willing neighbour found, and Vidya’s hands covered in the dark green goo that would soon fall off, leaving behind a lovely orange design.
This took up all of the time we had decided to spend napping, and it was time for the bus-ride to Pune. The marriage party, about forty-strong, piled on to the none-too-comfortable bus that the travel agent had sent in place of the super-delux-air-bus he had promised, and we set off. The front seat of the bus was the pantry, packed with numerous five-litre water bottles, five-litre water bottles filled with Tang, five-litre water bottles filled with lemon juice and massive packets of various savouries, chips and the ubiquitous fryums. The entire journey, which took all of four and a half hours, even though we took the highway, was one long continuous eating binge, even though everyone had just had their brunch. To top it off, we stopped at the Food Plaza on the way to guzzle a few vada paos each. Vidya and I took that opportunity to buy some Lonavala chikkis to bring back to Hyderabad.
Finally, after missing the right exit and going about five kilometres past it and turning back, we pulled in to the Maratha Mandir, the marriage hall where it was all scheduled to happen. The hall had a few rooms attached to it, where we deposited our luggage and freshened up before the ceremonies started. However, since we had come from a long journey and must be tired and hungry, we were given some ‘tiffin’ before the evening’s events – it was Tam food, tasty, none-too-healthy if you were watching your weight, and irresistable!
And then the ceremonies started off in earnest – apparently, the original TamBrahm wedding was a long-drawn affair, lasting anywhere between five and seven days (This, of course, is hearsay – please step in and correct me if I am wrong!). Thankfully, nowadays it has been compressed into an evening-and-morning affair, much I’m sure to the delight of all the cricket-crazy TamBrahms (which, come to think of it, should be all of them) who hailed the invention of one-day cricket as a welcome alternative to the five-day test matches. Sriram, the man of the moment, who is usally hassled by the smallest of inconveniences, remained smiling and happy throughout the ceremony, the reason for which was quite apparent as soon as we saw Purnima, his fiancee (then. Now his wife!). She was looking quite dazzling, and they made a good couple. The ceremonies went on for a bit, with everyone related to the bride and groom seeming to participate at one time or the other, and I was quite content to go crazy with my camera.
After the ceremonies was dinner – a feast obviously put together by someone who not only knew their food but also immensely enjoyed it. It was an absolutely delightful meal, and though we were still stuffed from all the day’s intake, we managed to put away quite a bit. We wandered around the marriage hall a bit after dinner, and found Sriram and Purnima still on the small stage. We investigated and found that the photographer was making them strike poses for him – he was very particular about where they stood, how they stood, how much Sriram’s head was tilted, how far they were from each other, and a hundred other things. But I did manage to get off a couple of brilliant shots of the couple.
After that, we retired for the night, or at least we tried to. The weather had been, up to that point, uniformly and brutally hot, and the rooms we were supposed to sleep were stuffy and really hot. So we made our way to a long hall which had large open windows throught which the slightest of cool breezes flowed. We got mattresses spread out on the floor of the hall, and stretched out. Sriram too found his room oppressively hot and came and joined us. The night passed quickly, and before we knew it, Sunday morning was there – bright and sunny and with all the noises of a wedding.
This was the day of the actual wedding, and Sriram was in for the long haul – except for a short break for breakfast, he would be continuously part of the ceremony for about five and a half hours, and he had steeled himself for it. But we found the going surprisingly not too tedious, perhaps because we knew the principal players and felt for them. The ceremony was colourful and at times very poignant. We broke for a sumptuous breakfast after which the actual tying of the thali happened. Several follow-up ceremonies later, lunch was served, and the wedding ceremonies were finally over.