Saturday, July 23, 2005

Bride Seeing Part II

(Those of you who are reading this for the first time please read Bride Seeing Part I before continuing any further)

After the native detective service gives a clean chit to the prospective bride and groom the PKC ritual commences fuelling the economy of Kerala. This is why despite labor problems, every MNC worth its salt is setting up base in Kerala and diversifying into Black Halwa, Talcum powder, Jaggery production etc. I have heard that the Lipton jaggery is quite a hit in North Kerala while the Microsoft Talcum Powder (Version 1) is slowly being accepted in the State. Version 2 which will be an antidote for Version 1 will enter the market in December. Maggi Black Halwa and Intel Banana Chips now sit proudly on all supermarket and Chai Kada shelves and preparations are in full swing to market Honeywell Brandy before the Onam season. News has just come in that Dunlop Tyres have entered into a JV with a local Achchappam manufacturer. This is an unconfirmed report though. Please watch this space for further developments.

A word about the origin of PKC. PKC originated in 9th BC when nubile nymphets were sacrificed at the altar of the pre historic God Marriageappan. Now Marriageappan is an especially hard to please God. So the pick of the mallu gals namely in their twenties, with good educational qualifications and looks were chosen. The not so good-looking and not very well educated gals are also sacrificed although the sacrifice is accepted a bit reluctantly. Please don’t underestimate the powers of mallu parents while negotiating with God himself when it comes to sacrificing their daughters at the altar of Marriageappan. Now Marriagappan is the only God with a fierce Mom who makes life hell for him and so he makes life hell for PBs parents. It’s a vicious cycle!

Before the PBG’s entourage set out from home the PB’s friends gather excitedly to ‘dress her up’. A word on PBs friends. These nubile nymphets are also PBs much wont to merriment and excessive laughter at the sight of any member of the male species.

Now the most important step that a prospective mallu bride takes in her life is the one with a loaded tray in front of her prospective in-laws. She is thoroughly coached in this art by her mom from the day she turns 18. This gives her a training period of approximately three years. When she graduates with flying colors her father celebrates with Honeywell Brandy and Intel Banana Chips.(I have heard that Indian Airlines is tying up with the Kerala moms to provide training to their Air Hostesses in the art of serving beverages without spilling.)

The PB steps out smartly balancing the tray of hot steaming Kanan Devan Tea wearing the Jayashree silk saree ,Alapatt Jewelry and the now fast caking Cuticura Talc. But she does it bravely with a chaste Revlon Hot Babe smile on her face and a faint Lakme Summer Passion Blush spreading on her Lacto Calamined cheeks. (Please note male readers that the Revlon Hot Babe and Lakme Summer Passion are shades of cosmetics) Her graceful Bata steps tread silently on the Kerala Coir Board mats also bought specially for the occasion. As she walks into the living room she surreptitiously checks to see if her Baush and Lomb contact lenses are snugly in place (remember the detective service is unreliable at times).

The PBG looks up in anticipation his hernia belt forgotten (another intelligence failure). As he takes the proffered glass of Kanan Devan Tea he gets his ten seconds to make an informed and intelligent lifetime decision before she sashays back to her room. Nowadays the PBG and PB are allowed to meet for a few microseconds (do I hear gasps?) Yes the times they are a changing. A typical conversation between a PB and PBG when they are allowed to meet goes something like this:

PBG: er… what’s your name?
PB: tee hee ABC
PBG: My name is XYZ
PB: tee hee

And after that profound discussion on their likes and dislikes, hopes and aspiration, dreams and ambitions they decide to tie the knot or not.

The good news/bad news is broken to the respective parents and the entourage straining their ears behind the door and there is much merrymaking or much cursing of ancestors and talks of dubious family lineage according to the good/bad news. The thought of the impending marriage or another PKC puts the PB’s father in gloom. However a quick swig of Honeywell Brandy takes care of all mallu dad's problems till the bills arrive.
Honeywell Brandy and Intel Banana Chips and Microsoft Talcum Powder Version 1 are a lovely combination I hear (that is if you are an aspiring human bomb)

With that the PKC comes to an end for some lucky couple. Of course the PKC causes much heartburn, anxiety and anxious moments leading to much merrymaking in the marketing offices of Gelusil,Digene and hundred other products that are directly or indirectly involved in this ritual. However this exercise should be commended for its thoroughness in pre marital preparation.The PKC saga will definitely roll on for another hundred years but with changes I hope.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Bride Seeing Part I

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
· Tea
· Coffee
· 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)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Mallu Whispers

Ever played Chinese Whispers? Well, we Mallu’s play it all the time. With equally interesting results! Of course the ‘Mallu Whispers’ are strictly confined to the family and the whispered message is usually some scandal that a family member gets embroiled in, wittingly or unwittingly.

Take the case of TJ. A middle aged respectable gentleman. The poor man was on his way to Yeswanthpur market on his Kinetic Honda when he hit a middle aged vegetable vendor. She kicked up quite a fuss gathering a huge crowd. TJ had to part with a sizable amount of cash to stop her screeching obscenities to ten generations of our ancestors. A perfectly innocent incident but for the fact that it was observed by a relative from a distance. And it became a scandal.

Now a scandal is something a Mallu family like us, fears more than the plague, famine and pestilence.

‘The Scandal’ in my family comes in three categories:

Class I:

Somebody (in the large extended family or lef) elopes with somebody
Somebody (lef) leaves priesthood / convent
Somebody (lef) leaves the faith
Somebody (lef) marries outside the faith
Somebody (lef) has an extra marital affair etc.

Class II:

Somebody (lef) is disinherited
Somebody (lef) kills somebody
Somebody (lef) is a teetotaler
Somebody (lef) was caught in a scam etc.

Class III:

Somebody’s (lef) fly was open at church, marriage or other public spaces
Somebody (lef) made eyes at the neighbor’s daughter / son / wife / husband
Somebody (lef) rooster mistook the neighbours duck to be a er...hen!!
Somebody (lef) voted for the communists….. and other trivial matters

TJ's case was also scandal material though of Class III category. It reached Kerala in two weeks time. This happens with most Class III scandals. Class I scandals travel via STD only and Class II via email or word of mouth through sudden visits to relative’s homes in the guise of looking them up. Class III scandals travels at leisure without much hurry to reach its destinations. I shall not describe the arterial roads and towns or aerial routes to keep the narrative short.

The TJ scandal took the NH 7 and NH 17 (most of the time) to reach Kerala. From Bangalore it went to Hosur ( a wedding) then to Dharmapuri ( the brides wedding reception) and then to Salem ( relatives to the brides reception went to visit relatives in Salem ). After a days rest it took off again to Coimbatore (an uncle’s death and another potential Class I and II Scandal as he had willed his chicken farm to his daughter because his son had married a Jacobite). I shall not describe the journey of this scandal, due to lack of time.

At Coimbatore the TJ scandal took a break as relatives stayed back to help / console / gossip with the bereaved family. From Coimbatore the scandal resumed its journey resting in between stops and finally it reached my home town and spread like wild fire. From thereon exhausted and tired and worn it went by email to Europe and the US and the English did embellish the facts a little bit (just a wee lil bit mind you!). And when news was delivered abroad, it went something like this.

• TJ was carrying a young and nubile vegetable vendor on his bike
• His bike skidded and he and the luscious vegetable vendor ended up in a heap on the road.
• As he and the curvaceous vegetable vendor picked themselves up from the road the villainous husband of the sexy vegetable vendor arrived on the scene.
• The enraged husband of the gorgeous vegetable vendor then thrashed TJ.
• TJ had to part with a lot of cash to assuage the wounded pride of the ravishing vegetable vendor’s husband.
·TJ still meets the hot vegetable vendor

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Nirvana !

Life is good and bad. You know it can never be
perfect and that it never have been, and you're
fine with that. You still feel it's important
to live life since it can end any day and not
sulk because of some little failure in life.
You are often a happy person, still you don't
laugh all the time. You have a somewhat calm
aura and most people feel comfortable around

How do you see life?
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