Two women and their music

A wedding  holds unequivocal attention. Always. For, it means a new set of promises. A new beginning in togetherness, love, joy and such else.

I sit in one such wedding today.

Before proceeding any further, I must make a confession of sorts: Every time I am at a wedding, for some reason there are tears in my eyes.

Its a curious kind of emotion tinged with joy, resulting in the odd tear to pop up first and then opening the flood gates. There have been occasions where random strangers seated in the next chair would shuffle their feet, slowly lean away and do everything possible to make it known to the everyone in the vicinity and passing flies on the wall, that we were seated next to each other by quirk of fate and nothing else.

Sometime back, me and missus were invited to a wedding. The groom was a friend. The bride was an acquaintance. They were really nice people. We wished well for them. As the wedding vows were exchanged, tears commenced their solemn roll down my cheek.
The missus, visibly embarrassed, left to herself, would have gone incognito. She did pass a few boxes of tissues with delectably discreteness. ‘Stop it’, she said in a hushed tone, ‘before someone thinks you had an affair with the bride and still long for her.’

That thought stopped those damn tears on their tracks. Since then, I have tried to adorn a monk like poise wearing a visage of intensely meditative calm, at weddings. The tears somehow contained just before they broke free of the eyelash. Or thereof.

Those memories run amuck as I sit in this wedding.

The bride is almost family. The young lady, who my mind still places as the school kid from next door, is getting married today. All the interspersed years between her being a school kid to now stand in reams of gleaming Kanjeevaram she is draped in. I realise that ‘time is fleeting’ is a saying that is greatly understated.

The wedding is at Tirunelveli. Down in the deep South. The quaint place and all the simple conversations hold every inch of my mind.

As the music wafts in, the aroma from a surfeit of jasmine flowers on many several heads are only suitably contrasted by the bright jewelry on many necks. The atmosphere of a Tamil wedding in Tamil Nadu, with food served on leaf, is barely settling down with filter kaapi beginning to course the veins, when I slowly become aware of the tears are brimming at the corner of my eye. Again.

I let them be. But this time, I realise that it is the music that is playing its part. There are two women playing the nadaswaram. I keep looking at them and soak in every nod of their head, tap of their feet and the wafting tune from the instrument. They have poise and panache, suitably matched with a certain playful practice to their craft.

They seemed to be in the flow. It shows on them. And on my eyes too. These were two women with many years behind them. They must have taken to music a long time ago. They are devoid of the slickness that city dwelling offers and retain a familiar rough edge to the smooth music.

They finish.

As they are packing up, I walk upto them and tell them that their performance was awesome. They fold their palms in unison and say ‘thank you’. Head bowed. I linger.  I ask them where they are from. ‘Valliyur‘ they say. A small picturesque town that is a distance away. Some more conversation reveals that they have a pretty busy calendar.  They have been playing the nadaswaram since they were eight years old.

I have a lot more questions to ask. How did they start? How do they survive in a man’s world, in a small town? How many hours do they practice and so on. But they don’t have time for me, as they reach for the filter kaapis from the brass cups.

There is something in them that moves me. My eyes brim again with precocious tears. There is something in these women that move me beyond words. The tears lurk and then fall over the brim.

Then I think of a poem a colleague shared.

I should be content
to look at a mountain
for what it is
and not a comment on my life
David Ignation

I think of these women and their music.  Somethings become clear.  Ah, poetry. Somethings remain muddled. Maybe thats were the music is.

Sticking the neck out..

A wedding invitation bearing my name ‘& family’ came my way. And ofcourse, i went.

And brought to mind typical weddings and their decorations back in Madurai. The Mumbai wedding is slightly different. It retains all the glitz and is a little more racy. The eye is on the watch and the thought is with the 9.07 PM local that needs to be ‘caught’.

But the point is this. That across India, for every marriage, many converge. And each wedding is a very typical, Indian moment. For every marriage, many converge. ( usually in multiples of many hundreds). All eat. Most see. A few wish. Some other wedding ‘proposals’ exchanged.

Everybody gets photographed and videographed. And form a queue that will walk upto the bride and groom to gift or thust a cover (ofcourse with cash inside ) into a sweaty palm of a tense bride. Or groom, for that matter.

When feisty youth used to course my veins i used to abhor attending weddings. For it was the time when the other ‘uncles and aunties’ would be concerned about what i was doing.

Which was exhibited with a casual question on ‘how much do you make ‘ as though it was the number of dosas that had gone in since morning. (And in any case, the question rather had been about the dosas).

And ofcourse, that was followed by a by-the-way comment about how their son was was basking in the Mediterranean and the daughter was waxing eloquence in London or someplace else, you only saw on National Geographic.

But the point is this. That the great Indian wedding is an inescapable part of us. There is music. There is dance. There are pretty women. And handsome men. And ofcourse, some great food.

And in the midst of all the din & decoration, often less talked about is the good that it does to economy. For the wedding season spurs many businesses on. From the decorator to the dance party, everybody makes some dough. And by the way, the jeweller is not someone that i am going to talk about.

This picture landed in my in-box from a friend, who wanted to establish that the recession was far away from ‘happening’ in Kerela’s weddings. Now, this surely had my eyes perk, and the ears twitch.

What the world wears for its wedding is a matter of personal choice and consequently – none of my business.

But you know…i am just concerned. Of the neck.

An ‘Engagement’ like none else !

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 ! 

A match with a sixer !

An early morning of April saw us at a wedding. The reception was scheduled in the evening. Somehow, receptions seem to be tacky affairs with plastic smiles, extra make up and heaps of calories. We chose the ‘early morning’ wedding.

While the routines of a wedding continue, the sideshows / issues are of interest to me. Leading to the main question that people i am in the know of ask me, when will i ever focus on the ‘main’ issue ?!?! But that is, as they say, ignoratio elenchi. Besides the point !

At 6.40 am we got some hot coffee. The coffee was GREAT ! I guess it was filter coffee. No, not Bru. Filter coffee. The coffee itself was besides the point. It was the cup that mattered.

The handle was made of paper, and neatly folded along the curves of the cup itself. It took me a minute to unfold it and have the hot coffee in style. Which prompted a whole lot of others to follow suit. It felt good to be a pioneer! To catch something by the ear has been a long time. Especially so at someone elses wedding !

Weddings are also occassions to see democratisation of technology. Essentially photography.
Just as the mangalsutra was all set to be tied, out came video cameras, hand helds, mobile phones and every other recording instrument. As people occupied their vantage positions, it almost seemed like Roland Garros or Wimbledon. With all the lenses focussed on two or three people. The cameras went click, click, click.

Not so long ago,(and still prevelant) was the practice of ‘posing’ for the video camera that happens in our weddings. Where you stand still on the stage with the bride and groom, and video camera guy pans the camera. Agreed the video camera was supposed to capture movement. Somewhere, the emphasis of the movement of the subject (sic) got shifted to the emphasis on movement of the video camera!

After seeing everybody who had a somekind of a camera on them ( SLR, Camcorder, camera with a phone, phone with a camera…and the like) jostle for space to get the righ picture, i got up too. Fearing that i might be labelled as somebody who ‘did not care’, i whipped out my phone. And caught this image.

What do you think ?

Well, this is what i think.

Looks to me like the groom is a vanquished bowler just smashed for big hit, by you know who. The wicket keeper, although from the same team, looks a happy man. Perhaps happy with his match-fixing ! And btw, the 3rd umpire has signalled a six ! ( I promise i havent been watching the IPL matches. But this is what i think )!

Welcome to the married mans world Karthik !