Friday, September 21, 2007

How the bald men from Tirunelveli conquered Thanjavur

Now that the wedding is over and the new Manni is not so new any longer, two things occupy our minds.
1. Preparations and hyper activities are underway to send T Anna and M Mani to USA
2. Going through the photo albums and wedding videos over and over again

The latter is most fun. Everyone has an opinion and loves to make snide comments involving: body mass and the lack of hair. After a point, you can almost predict what the joke is going to be. Going through the albums, one notices that there are several bald men.

For a long while I thought that only the men in my family had this, baldness quality. Everyone was bald or getting there. May be it was to do with the Bharadwaja lineage. Madras Thatha, Periappas, Chitappas, Chitappa Thathas -- every one of them bald. Even the young men of the family are mostly bald. When me and S met (more like, saw) any bald man, we wondered if he was related to us.

As one goes through the wedding albums one realizes that most of the men in general are bald. Not just our side, but also the men from M Mani’s side seem to share this quality. Most photographs therefore, show a glinting bald head. Sometimes, when the orange light of the videographer focuses on bald patch, one can see a halo.

The baldness aside, the wedding was as chaotic as one can imagine it to be. Inspite of being from the payyan veetu, we had our own share of drama. Sulking relatives, some chaos, lost keys, upset (allegedly) older unmarried cousins, nosey old maamis, only one ac room for the boys side, the works.

Thankfully for us, the wedding happened at one of the T Nagar mandapams. This was useful as we could run across to the house each time we needed something or just wanted to get away. It also proved useful for the guests who were aged over seventy (who formed a significant proportion of our guest list one noted). This helped as they were brought in to pelt flowers and blessings and sent back after a cup of paayasam. Inspite of this proximity, four cars were needed – three of which were arranged for by the ponnu side. However, four ambassadors proved to be insufficient to carry the load of the extended family and their often frail egos.

The key consideration was to ensure that balance was maintained and feathers remain unruffled. I realised that - amma is actually a goddess. The detailed itinerary that she planned, the complex road map that she drew and the permutations that she worked out made me think that, she and not S should take a shot at the JEE exam.

For example, let’s take thatha’s elder brother – Kitchu Periappa Thatha who stays in Tiruvanmiyur and thatha’s younger brother – Vichu Chitappa Thatha who stay in Mylapore. Given that these were thatha’s brothers, their presence for this Gothram migration was important. Since both of them, had their own minor clan who needed to come for the wedding, each needed one ambassador car to be sent to them. One then needed to factor in that Tiruvamiyur was further away from Myalpore. However, given that the periappa thatha was the oldest member of the clan he needed to reach before anybody else did. And therefore, the cars needed to be managed and sent out at the right times. So, amma and T Anna worked out a complex algorithm and shared the same with S. Inspite of S’s brilliant execution, at least three people were offended, of which only one of them expressed their crib directly to us. Amma and Appa profusely apologized and made sure that T Anna and M Mani did one special round of namaskaram for all these offended relatives. Though, it is somewhat ironical that one must seek blessings of someone who is unhappy with you. It really doesn’t bode too well for T Anna and M Mani.

Next was the distribution of bakshanam and dividing the paruppu thengai. It seemed that M Mani’s family had cheated us by not giving us the number of murukkus, ladoo and mysore paaku that we had asked for. So me and Dubai Atthai who were in charge of the distribution, did some cheating of our own and gave some of the people only ladoo and deliberately didn’t give anything to some people. However Gomathi Periamma who takes a special dislike for Dubai Atthai yelled at her and took over. What had happened earlier was, since Dubai Atthai needed air-conditioning (given that is what she was used to) she was specifically given this soft task. However, as far as Gomathi Periamma was concerned, Dubai Atthai had failed. To add insult to injury, she took one look around the room and triumphantly pulled out one more cardboard carton of bakshanam that mine and Atthai’s partial blindness had missed. After which D Atthai sat in the corner of the room and wept. She refused to leave the room till the wedding got over. In a bid to cover up we started giving bakshanam to people who were not part of the original list. This, as the ones who had to be given the same, had left by then. Amma will never be able to live this down. However, everyone knows that the happiness of a marriage is ensured only if there is at least one unpleasant moment at the wedding.

I saw the wedding only in small doses. T Anna made for an enthusiastic and charming groom. He remembered inane details of random relatives and made polite conversation with several people. However, during the Kasi Yatrai he almost disappeared with the umbrella as he very briskly and purposefully walked towards the nearby Kasi Arcade. M Mani’s appa must have had an anxious moment for a brief period.

I also realise that my extended family has very limited faith in my ability to tie a knot. The number of people who asked me if I was ready to solemnize the wedding actually began to make me anxious. The pin-thali photograph has my face focused with utmost concentration and all the chittis, periammas, atthais, other women I don’t recognize watching closely and looking impatient. After getting my sari for having done the deed, I managed to escape.

Of course how can a wedding really be complete without some other-gothram-people-spotting. Amma had planted her reliable (!) sources – Indira Maami (neighbour and soul sister) and Alamelu Periamma (the real sister) to do the job for her. When the elder sibling gets married, the younger unmarried siblings are potentially at risk. It didn’t help very much that I was going to turn twenty-four soon.

Amma is very hopeful and ambitious for me. However in a huge departure from family tradition, she has decided that I must find a not-bald person to get married to. Don’t mistake us now. We are a bald-men-friendly family, but two reasons prompt amma in her quest for a not-bald groom:
1. She needs to do better than G Periamma’s quest for a son-in-law
2. Nagam Akka, the neighbourhood busybody often spouts this piece of wisdom – the problem with bald men is that they always look the same. One can never make out what their true age is.

We like to age gracefully and well, so we shall look for boy with hair now, so that he can go bald later.

I am feeling somewhat wistful now when I look at T Anna’s wedding pictures. There is this particularly brilliant photograph which has – Appa, T Anna, Periappa, Chitappa 1, Chitappa 2, Chitappa 3, Madras Thatha, Periappa Thatha, Chitappa Thatha and Shastrigal. It captures an intense moment, with all of them staring intently at the homam. Their brown and shiny heads gleam like some rare gems. Such beauty and symmetry is to be found only in rare architecture. Pity then that - my kalyanam shall not have such photographs.


Bong Girl said...

What if we shave the heads of all the men for your kalyanam?! :)

P.S: Are T Anna and M Mani not going someplace for a honeymoon? :)

Tamil Hater said...

The things that people miss? I suppose, unevolved races have such problems.

Anonymous said...

It captures an intense moment with all of them staring intently at the homam. Their brown and shiny heads gleam like some rare gems. Such beauty and symmetry is to be found only in rare architecture.

Blogeswari said...

Super ATP.. washington-il tirumanam padicha/ partha tripti

And puhleej it is M.MaNNi not M.Mani

ps : don't tell me you call her manni and all that .. per solli koopadradudan phashun

Anonymous said...

This should have been photoblogged! :)

வல்லிசிம்ஹன் said...

ohh. I am so sorry I have missed yr blog all this while.:)))
Anna Manni honeymoon poyaacchaa?

altimate scenes from a wedding.
intha maathiri
kalyaana post ithuvarai padicchadhu illai.


sumantics said...

This needs to be said - you are a phenomenal writer. If you ever write a book, sign me up for it. I will buy the first one.

Raj said...

I hope that there will be more such episodes on the wedding of T.Anna and M.Anni. Hilarious.

Hawkeye said...

fantastic. fantastic. yen kaila oru ponlmaalai iruntha i would have gifted.

such brilliance. orey proudness that you are tamil.

Kadambari said...

Hilarious only! :)
Where is the amma?

Anonymous said...

For a newbie Blogger you sure have the fastest learning curve! :)
Anyway, kalakku.

Lazy Blogger said...

best blog post ever. You HAVE to write a book - just a compilation of articles like this. It will be a timeless showcase into the wonderful(?) world of tambram families. You will be the Meenakshi ammaal of our times!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Amrita Bhashyam said...

Hehe, priceless! ;)

Rajasthani Boy said...

Your only hope is a North Indian boy.

Anti Indoo said...


teddygal said...

Wow gal!! dat was such a factual yet comical description of d oldest traditions of tamil nadu!! I loved reading it :) It helped me relive some of dos 'kalyana galaata' moments ;)

Anonymous said...

Gone silent again?

Atticus Finch said...

Ah, how many family weddings have I missed already... The price of chasing the dollar... :(

Brought back a million beautiful memories... Thanks!

Thoppai mama said...

reproducing this comment to KA's post. Did such a 'shandai' occur?

Soundar // Sep 7th 2007 at 1:35 am

My apologies in advance to those who do not understand Tamizlh.

Scene: Late 80s,
One of the small Kalyaana mandapams around the Mambalam/ Pondy Bazar area. These have shoebox sized rooms allotted to the PoNN and Payyan aatthukkaara. Typically the womenfolk of each side cram into one of the rooms. Seer varisai examination, jewellery comparison, blouse changes, make up and gossip. 5 kilo roja maalai hung on a nail. Noise levels are pretty high, humidity is 100% and the rustle of silk sarees is all pervasive.

M1 (badly bucktoothed periyamma of bride): AeNdee Sacchu, sammandhi aatthu-kkaara romba raangi pudicchavaaLaa iruppaa pola irukkay.

M2: AenDee? ennaacchu, ennacchu?? (All heads turn with hairpins clamped between teeth, little girls whose pinnals are being braided have it inadvertently yanked, bride being made up turns around as well, smearing the drishti pottu mid-application)

M1: Vandhu eranginadhum erangaadhadhumaa naa poi sammandhi maami-tte ‘enna maami, kalyaaNamaa?’ –nnu kujalam vijaaritthadhu thappaa pocchu dee-mma.

M2: Ayyayyooo, ennaacchu, solli tholayaen-Dee!
(All attention is now fully focussed on M1. Little girls whine ‘Amma, hook poettu vidu’ to which the ammas unwilling to miss even one word, usually respond with a backhander and ‘Porutthukka mudiyaadha-di shaniyanae’. Noise levels go up as the smacked girls set up a loud wail. The pazlhuttha sumangali-s grumble ‘Aen-Dee Kamu, kozhanthaya enna-nnu kaeLu’.)

M1: Badhilukku aedhaavadhu sumuhama solli yirukkalaam. Aana, pidicchuntaaLae paakaNum.

M2: Enna, enna??

M1: Sorraaa…nammatthu manushaaLLaam vada naattu-laendhu vandhavaa, ellaarum Baambay Delli, Kalkata-nnu periya periya aabeesar udhyohatthulae irukkaravaa. Kaekkaraa..enna ipdiyoru Mandabam thaan kaDacchudha, veyilum puzlhukkam-um thaangalae, oru AC poDapdaadha…. kuLikka kiLambinaa venneeer ille….saapdalaam-nnu ponaa eppa paar, verum saadham thaan, boori, rotti patthi kaeLvipattadhillaya…ipdi adukkiNdae poraa-dee!

M2: (Setting up a loud wail) naa appavae sonnaen ivar-tte, oru nalla hall-a book paNNungo-nnu, aedho AVM Rajeswari-yaame, selavaanalum paravayillai, moottha poNN, oor mecchara maadhiri kalyaaNam paNNinaa-dhaan namakku gouravam-nnu. En thalai ezlhutthu..ipdi nee vaangu padaNum-nu irukku!

M3 (atthai of bride): Paavam Balu-ve aen-Di kuttham sorrae! KalyaaNatthukku innum mooNu paer nikkaraa, neeyum vacha vacha-nnu poNNaa petthu poettirukkae, irukkaradha-yellaam moottha-va maeleye selavazlhi-cchtta appram nadu-ttheruvilae poi nikka vaeNdiyadhu-dhaan! Illae..Balu kalyaaNatthulae ungappa 2 pavun sangili podaraen-nu sonnaarae, innum-thaan vandhunNdirukku. Modhalle adhai vaangiNdu vaa, perissa kiLambittaa Balu-vai kuttham solla!

Pitched battles now rage! Thirty year old issues get raked over! Earning capacities of husbands are slighted! Allegations of corruption are levelled! By the time the menfolk bang on the door to sue for peace, mallihai-ppoo is flying thro the air, braids are grabbed in the fight, ‘savuri-s’ come loose, kids scream, older women unleash a hoarse timbre of voice previously known only to their husbands, teenagers sit back and enjoy the fight.

My lunch break is at an end. However those interested in extending the scenario may continue! I will rejoin at end of Business hours!

Anonymous said...

Step aside, Naan unga Amma kitta dhaan pesanum ;-)

I know the kid's only 24 but how about a 31 yr old single child, a Phd from the US who is now settled in India working for one of these big name MNCs in Bangalore as a research scientist or something like that. Extremely well read but thankfully introverted, passionate about photographing giant turtles and debating Hindu philosophy, he's even got a very nice sounding (read: exotic) name...Indha kaalathula gothram geethram ellam vendaame... Marriages are made not in heaven but in id exchange pannikka sollalaamae ;-)

ps: Just realised I need to explicitly mention that the person in question is MY WIFE's cousin coz my better half also reads this blog... Keep penning ATF !!

pps: He's not bald !! See, he seems to be 'the Chosen one' :-)

Nits said...

Hi ATP, first time on your blog and devoured all your posts at once because I could not stop.

Anyway, I am also Tamizh and Penn but not Asal as am from Bombay (I see from your blog that you thankfully hate Delhi but have only indifference for Bbay), now in Yoo Yess.

On a serious note, I love the Hindu. Call me old-fashioned but I like news, analysis and plain English and not Hinglish. Hindu is lovely and I'dl ike to see your byline....guessing it won't be ATP!

Asal Tamil Romeo said...

I demand that I be allowed to contribute to this Blog.

Irish dude of the Nakkal Gothram said...

Check out if Dr.Subramanya Swamy is interested in marrying you. You write the same way he speaks :-)

Or Visu....

Mandu said...

Hilarious !!

I want your autograph


Voracious Blog Reader said...

Hi ATM and ATP,

Nice blog.

Ended up reading most of the posts.

Now, how did I end up at your blog? Ah yes, from Krish Ashok's blog.

Voracious Blog Reader

Roche said...

nice description of the wedding.bald heads in weddings isn't rare........

Anonymous said...

Hi MS. Hows it going? The Karthi interview was superb! Well done.

Aparna said...

Amazing post...especially "Next was the distribution of bakshanam and dividing the paruppu thengai. It seemed that M Mani’s family had cheated us by not giving us the number of murukkus, ladoo and mysore paaku that we had asked for." LOL

Anonymous said...

No Nilu type fellow for ATP then. Good.

Anonymous said...

Tee hee. Much fun.

Deepti said...

Too muchness wonly!

Aswin Kumar said...

"However, everyone knows that the happiness of a marriage is ensured only if there is at least one unpleasant moment at the wedding."
very aptly depicted in one line a typical tam-bram really enjoying all teh brahamana koosumboo and naakul...specially those subtle satires n sarcasms...

Pavithra Sankaran said...

It is to do with ulundu appalams. Eat one everyday and watch the vazhukai progress.