There are two different subjects that i want to write about today.
Subject No: 2 beckons. Having picked up a degree of astuteness ( sic) over the years , i am going to stay with Subject No : 1.
Subject No : 2, can wait.
I used to read war stories. And so when well meaning relatives came up to me and declared that my ‘engagement’ would happen on a particular day, the guns seemed to boom within ! The Indian army engaged the militants, scream newspapers. And here i was getting engaged too.
In proper Thamizh tradition, the engagement ceremony, (called Nitchiathartham) is official confirmation that all else is over. I mean, confirmation that the girl and boy are hooked and soon to be married. Over the years, this has morhped into a ring ceremony, where the bride-to-be and groom-to-be, exchange rings. The first official interaction between the families !
So, there i was. In a flowing white Kurta and oversized Reebok sandals. God knows where i got my tastes from. The ditinct smell of incense, jasmine and multiple perfumes permeated the Madurai air. Guests strolled in. Cameras clicked with flashes of sound & light that i thought were reserved for missiles from a stealth bomber.
There was the quintessential video grapher who insisted on shining his arc lights on me in the most inopportune moments. I insist, to deaf years, till date, that it was by design. His logic It seemed to me that the central idea was to let the world know who the groom was. And that was by shining his video light ! By and large, the crowd understood the importance of light and focus !
In a while, my wife to be, in all bridal finery, walked in. And the cameras disowned me like an MP who lost an election. The crowds nodded in approval. Or atleast, thats what i thought. I saw everybody talk. I thought it was about me and my wife to be. They could have been discussing the weather, the traffic, politics, or match-making for other prospective brides and grooms & such else. For the scared, every shadow is a ghost !
Other rituals were on, in a corner. Like background music that interests only music aficionados and not movie goers !
And then, the time to exchange rings arrived. Nervousness kept me relentless company. I slipped the ring on to her finger.
The cameras clicked and for a moment, it felt like a celebrity. That momentous moment had arrived and slipped by too. The moment seemed fleeting but for the photographers! True to spirit, one photographer shouted ‘once more’ ( He couldn’t get the angle right) !
I think the photographers did that, not once, but thrice. Embarrassing it was. To slip the ring into her finger and then pull it out, only to slip it back in ! I bore it for the greater glory of photography, thrice ! After which i stopped and stood static. My hand holding hers, the slipped ring adorning her finger, posing for the camera.
From, nowhere a bunch of colleagues who had travelled all the way from Bangalore arrived on stage. With a clear intent and purposeful action that would put any social activists’ to shame, they lifted me and tossed me into the air. Engagement Bumps, they said !
I went up thrice into the air. White Kurta. Reebok sandal. And all else. Each time i came down, i was filled with fright and images of the open mouthed awe struck Madurai audience. The tapestry of dhotis, sarees, safari suits in ‘shock and awe’ at this turn of the engagement !
My wife to be stood still. Her face pale. Every other conversation in the room seemed to cease. My father-in-law & party to be, looked distraught. With such raucous colleagues and friends of his son-in-law to be, i guess he (they ) had good reason. The sole musician playing the Mirudangam stopped. My parents stood still. My brothers grinned. The cameras kept clicking.
Thankfully, it didn’t go beyond thrice.
In sometime the buffet was thrown open. The Mirudangam player resumed his play . The conversations resumed. My friends went their way. The cameras followed them and their antics. I stood in a corner. All by myself. A plastered smile, shivering hands and a sweating forehead. Imagining & trying to see meaning of what the signs foretold.
My last bachelor night was a stiff one. I tossed and turned in bed. Many times over. This time all by myself. The next day, i was married. I havent looked back, ever since !
And oh yes, Subject No : 2.
Sept 8th also happens to be The International Literacy Day ! ‘On this day, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. Celebrations take place around the world.’ So says Wikipedia !
Now, Subjects 1 & 2 are two different subjects and have no connections / linkages whatsoever. I write them in one post for the sake of factual coincidence of date. Nothing else !