Thursday, November 3, 2011

Then and Now


The house was buzzing with activity. Children running hither thither in pursuit of each other, babies wailing for apparently no reason at all, women busy in the kitchen, grand mothers and great grandmothers fussing over everything and nothing; and the men folk -countless uncles, cousins, grand fathers and even neighbours overseeing the decoration of the Pandal and the seating arrangements.... All around there is activity - sometimes chaotic and confusing as too many people try their hands at same problem.

The elderly men soon take up their place in the most important corners of the venue and help themselves to the seemingly everlasting supply of betel leaves coupled with aracanut and lime and discuss grave matters of politics and governance. They chat happily about all important matters under the sun and keep a watchful eye on the goings around them.

Inside, the grand mothers, grand aunts and the hordes of female relatives concentrate on the cuisine and on the arrangements of the rituals of the D Day... In between, they find ample time to gossip and to pull legs on unsuspecting young girls.... all have a good laugh! They enjoy time together while cutting vegetables, scouring the utensils and even while preparing cauldron after cauldron of dishes! Together they work, happily they partake in the activities - ignoring the scorching heat and smoke of the traditional cooking... The main chef appointed for the feast preparations is more or less a manager... He is a master in making these ladies do all the work under his watchful eyes!!!

As the day wears off, the people take a dip at the family pond, or in the nearby temple pond - as far as the men folk are concerned- and do the evening prayers. Soon, the children are fed first and sent to sleep. Heaps of sleeping mats and pillows are stacked in different parts of the house. People help themselves to it and have a fitful sleep after chit chatting to their hearts fill!!!

But then, has everyone gone to sleep??? No, never! There are different groups of young men and women who make use of the time to recall their childhood antics and to play a game or two of cards... This is the time that cousins have a blast. The Bride/ Groom too join this gathering. Singing and cracking jokes and gossiping continues late into the night. Sometimes, these youngsters get little or no sleep that night!

In the morning, before the Sun is up, people are ready - sometimes to go to the venue of the wedding or to welcome the guests to the home. All take active part in making the guest feel at home and soon the wedding rituals are appropriately done. The feast soon follows - the children first, then elders and ladies followed by the rest. Everything is done methodically and without major hiccups. (The common spoiler is the power supply which would have surely gone off the previous night, creating anxieties regarding water supply)

Even if some minor hiccups do occur, people take them all in their stride... Soon, a wonderful get together for the wedding comes to an end. Close relatives, who had been camping at the home for the past four days (if not a week), are bidding their byes and the people of the house in turn express their happiness and gratitude for the support they received. Everyone goes back with fond memories that will be recalled at the next gathering... It being a memorable experience!


There is a long line of vehicles awaiting their turn and place to park at the auditorium. It is already the morning of wedding and the breakfast is being served by uniformed caterers. If only one could park the vehicle somewhere.... if one is too late, then it will soon be lunch time!!! Somehow or the other, one parks the car - some times in a swampy ground or under the coconut or anywhere the car can squeeze into without much damage...

Task accomplished, the next mission is to have breakfast, where one can take one's own sweet time to enjoy the delicacies.. Once the stomach is full, then one can think of meeting the host - soon, a search is undertaken to find him/her, as many a times the specified person will be moving around meeting other guests or arranging some last minute tasks... In between one might bump into other long-forgotten relatives and chat up with them and escape from their company as soon as possible - who knows, someone might just remember some embarrassing tales from childhood! The less time spent with them, the better!

Once the host is found and proper pleasantries are exchanged, it is time to bid bye in advance. For, one is always in a hurry and may not have the time for another man hunt! So, better do it now itself. And of course, one has to peep into the part of the hall where  the wedding ceremonies are undergoing, so that one can proffer one's opinion on the "couple" later...

Soon, the news spreads that the lunch has been laid. What follows is a mad rush to the dining hall. The jostling that follows to grab a seat for lunch is exceptional. It is like a huge game of musical chair... People who manage to grab a chair in the first place consider themselves as victors and those who failed, move to the sidelines meekly.... No sooner than the second course is served, all the vanquished slowly comes back and position themselves behind a chair. That way, no one can beat them in the game this time! Meanwhile, the first set of people struggle to finish their lunch under the impatient watch of  the people standing behind them, and somehow, manage to gulp the whole meal down and vacate the precious chair... the waiting crowd scoops in and the cycle repeats itself till almost all of the guest have eaten....

Those who have had their lunch, proceeds hastily to the tray of betel leaves and chew the leaves and hurry towards their respective vehicles. Soon, they are all gone! Only a handful of people remains...

Returning from such a wedding feels like returning from a war.. There is no joy of meeting dear and near ones, no happy reunions, no reliving of old days - everything turns out to be a farce. What remains is the weariness of travel and a sense of absurdity. One might even question the rationale behind attending such functions... It was a forgettable exercise in the whole!


  1. Well written piece, Nisha! I fully agree. You have captured the changing hues of our social fabric so beautifully. Keep writing...look forward to your engaging posts.


  2. Nice one Nishedathi...Kalam mari katha mari...
    There is also another trend seen these days.There is a wedding in the traditional style and a reception in modern way! That can compliment the tastes of every one...

  3. Thank you Jaji & Roopa!!! This change has been noticed for long now... Attending a few weddings in the past couple of months acted as a catalyst to put the thoughts into words.

  4. Well said Nisha. It applies to everybody. I get so worked up to see the mad rush in the dining hall during weddings. Some people behave as if their sole intention of attending the event was to have food. At some occasions, I left without taking food by looking at the great circus that one had to perform to get a seat. The biggest challenge at such occasions was to avoid the host while leaving!! It is more of a cultural shift, which is here to stay (whether some of us like it or not)!

  5. have a nice flow and style in writing. A bit of humour and a tich of sarcasm made the above piece a pleasure to read. Keep best wishes. I suggest you publish this somewhere, say Sunday Magazine of The Hindu/ Indian Express etc.

  6. Ajoy Sir, I too think that this mad rush is here to stay, no matter how disgusting it is turning out to be!

  7. Nicely narrated, i can visualize the first paragraph.. :)

  8. Though I cannot relate to the 'Then' wedding coz I have never seen weddings like that. But in our tharavadu 60th birthday , 70th birthday etc are still celebrated in this manner and a joy to be at.
    Can definitely relate to the 'Now' weddings and so hate the rush outside the dining hall. Its quite funny how the entire wedding becomes only a matter of ticket for free food.

    Your detailing and flow in the writing is a pleasure for the reader to imagine the situation.

  9. Thank you sowmya for sharing your thoughts... And welcome to the club!

    I wrote it from my experience; may be that's why you enjoyed reading it. Thanks for the good words!!!

  10. Thank you Deepak Karthik for your comment. I appreciate the gesture!


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