Bride Seeing or Pennu Kaanal as it is popularly known in Kerala is not unique to our state though the Kerala version is very unique. The Pennu Kaanal Ceremony (PKC) is a solemn ritual wherein a prospective bridegroom goes to the prospective brides home to give her a look see. On a predetermined date and time after much consultation with the TV guide in Malayala Manorama the prospective bridegroom (PBG) sets out with close family members to see the prospective bride (PB). Much dusting of Cuticura Talc precedes the PKC and the whiff of its fragrance due excess use is the first sign to the villagers that there is a wedding in the air. The happy villagers rejoice!! A typical Syrian Catholic wedding lunch leads to much mirth and unnecessary laughter. Of course the more ‘kallu’ ( toddy or liqor) is served more the unnecessary laughter. I haven’t worked out the exact ratio though.
The scent of a wedding in the air also serves as a wake up call for Mallu mothers of unwed daughters across the length and breadth of the earth to start preparations to showcase their respective daughters. It is at this precise time that the collective groans of unwed mallu girls rant the air leading to the local legend of the “Yakshi’ a kind of a Mallu Banshee. For long it was thought that the ‘Yakshi’ was a female spirit wandering the coconut groves and backwaters. However recent research by Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has revealed that the ‘Yakshi’ wailings were actually the moans of mallu gals in their twenties with well-paid jobs, articulate, independent and unwilling to take on the additional job of glorified housekeepers. Of course the KSPCB is also probing the local legend of “Maveli” who was actually a gatecrasher at wedding receptions! After much gate crashing he declared one day that this was indeed “Gods Own Country’ because of the numerous wedding feasts and merry making that he mistook for heavenly revelry.
Anyways to come back to the narrative, there is much anticipation in the prospective bride’s home as she is gently teased about her impending marriage and flight to US if Boby likes her, and to Europe if Thomas approves of her, Dubai if Johnson likes her , and Delhi if Capt. Mathew fancies her , and to Pathanamthitta if Kuriachan is smitten by charms etc. etc. The list is endless to the places a Kerala bride can go.
The prospective Bridegroom is now on his way to see the prospective bride sandwiched between Ammachi, Achchachan, Mathaiachchan, Susan Aunty and Jinu, Minu, Shinu and Renji. The ‘marriage broker’ a quaint sub species of Homosapiens much won’t to merrymaking and bill making also squeezes in to show the way.
The Cuticura Talc has one draw back, it cakes due to the humid weather in Kerala and therefore has to be dusted and re-dusted driving up sales and much merrymaking in the Cuticura marketing offices at Kochi, Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram.etc. Which drives up the sales of Brandy which drives up the sales of duck fry and so on. It would be a vicious circle but for the brandy and duck fry. And the merrymaking continues and fuels the legend of ‘Gods Own Country”.
Much before the prospective groom leaves his house, the price of coconut oil, diesel taxi’s, Kissan Squash, jaggery, ducks, pork, beef and Cuticura goes up considerably. Leading to much merry making in marketing offices of …well you get the idea by now I guess.
The prospective bridegroom sets out of his house after his mom has recited three ‘Hail Mary’s, one ‘Our father’ and thirty two curses because Renji spilled chicken stew on his pants.
The culinary preparation in the prospective bride’s home for the PKC usually commences one-month before the prospective bridegroom father hires the Ambassador taxi. Some of the traditional items that are prepared to entice the bridegroom’s mother are:
· Vattayappam (a steamed dish sweetened with jaggery)
· Achchapam (rose cookies as they are known in Bangalore)
· Jackfruit Chips
· Banana Chips.
· Black Halwa
· Assorted Biscuits
· Orange or Pineapple Squash
Of course the fact that the prospective bridegroom prefers Tandoori Chicken and Honeybee Brandy doesn’t matter at all. It is always his mommy dearest who has to be pleased. We celebrate ‘Mother’s Day” every Pennu Kaanal day in Kerala. (Excuse me while I wipe a tear).
The PBG arrives in good shape from his journey at the prospective brides “Tharavaad” (ancestral home, so called because the ancestors built it before the Wright brothers could say “ma look at that bird”)
The bridegroom’s entourage alights from the taxi and is met in person by the prospective father-in-law who immediately ushers in the guests and seats them on the shiny new rexine sofa set specially bought for the occasion. The buying of the rexine sofa signals the fact that his darling daughter is all grown up and he surreptitiously wipes his eyes. He has just been to the bank and his bank balance made him shed tears too.
I shall not dwell upon the merrymaking in the marketing offices of Alapatt Jewellers, Jayashree Silks, Cuticura Talc etc. after the bridal shopping spree by the prospective bride’s parents. But I have heard that the revelry could be heard far and wide leading to widespread panic and tensions on the Indo Pak border. Well…. a Mallu drunken revelry is often mistook for a Joint Indian Military exercise in full swing.
This informative narrative would be incomplete without giving due mention to the Kerala’s own native detective service; This service is usually used for ‘pre marital information gathering’ ( or snooping in simple English). Nothing evades the eagle eyes of the native detective service. Information gathering, storing, embellishing and spreading are part of its large menu of services. The marriage broker, numerous relatives and friendly and helpful neighbors staff the detective service. Of course friendly neighbors are the most forthcoming when divulging information that even the snooped upon families did not know existed. And it is to this agency that the families of PPG and PB’s turn to in their hour of need. They deliver fast and reliably too. Though the claims of their reliability are quite unreliable I hear.
( to be continued in next post)