Here is Part 3… Do let me know if I should continue…
The making of the madisaar
At 18, maami’s oldest daughter Subhalakshmi was well beyond marriageable age. And on annual visits back home, maami deftly fielded the barbs and insults that came her way until she could not take it any longer. And so she launched Operation Bridegroom for Subha. Her in-laws would have none of the marrying outside the region even if the family stayed in far away Nagpur. “Woe betide if you pollute the pristine waters of the Tamarabarani with the disputed waters of the Cauvery,” they warned. (Families from Tirunelveli district where the river Tamarabarani flows never liked to marry their girls to boys from Thanjavur, the land of the Cauvery, even if they all belonged to one community). But maami took no notice of this. She’d rather have some nice Tamil boy from Nagpur as her son-in-law. She already had someone in mind; Krishnamurthy, the young man who sometimes came to eat at Kanakavalli’s home (the only other Tamilian in the chawl) in the evenings. A bachelor who held a clerical job in the Food Corporation of India… and lived in a one-bedroom ‘family quarters’. She took Kanakavalli into confidence while putting the latest batch of vadaams (fritters) out to dry and in course of time, got hold of the boy’s address and wrote directly to the parents, attaching Subha’s horoscope as well. The boy’s parents were settled in Benaras since three generations and that maami, hoped would shut the mouths of relatives, after all, Benaras was Kashi, the place you went to atleast once in your life-time (with your parents, of course!), if you wanted moksha.
Maami was ecstatic when a reply came after two weeks, neatly written by the boy’s father on white paper and posted in an envelope (not on an inland or a post-card, she boasted to all) which said that the horoscopes had matched and they had also written to Kanakavalli regarding further inquiries. For the next 10 days, maami kept Kanakavalli in good humour and only breathed a sigh of relief when her neighbour told her that she had indeed posted a glowing report on ‘our’ Subha.
Soon, a date was set for the ‘girl-seeing’ ceremony. Krishnamurthy came accompanied by his parents, two older brothers and their wives. Subha was decked up in a green self-bordered kanjeevaram from maami’s wedding trousseau and maami herself dressed in simple Bengal cotton (a gift from Jayatidi two houses away!) The other two daughters were sent to Malathi-tai’s home (Kanakavalli overdosing on Hindi movies where the bride-groom liked the younger daughter better ensured this!) while the son Sivakumar was allowed to stay at home. Murthy’s family came, saw and promptly asked Subha to sing. Maami’s at-home music lessons paid off and Subha bowled everyone over with a keertanam in hamsadwani raagam. And after maami’s signature sojji –bajji and filter kaapi the family did not have a reason to say, ‘We’ll go back and send you a letter.” They agreed immediately and the date was set for the month of November a couple of weeks after Diwali. Maami heaved a sigh of relief. She had a 11-month respite for the thala Diwali and if the fertility Gods showered their blessings, she’d combine the festivities with the seemantham.
Before leaving the home, Murthy’s mother Rajalakshmi (and maami would think aloud later, I hope there will be no clash of the lakshmis) just made one observation, “Maami, you and Subha look like sisters. Have you thought of wearing a madisaar now that you’re graduating to mother-in-law status?” Maami was taken aback at first, and then her practical and sensible side took over. Yes, a madisaar it would be, from now on!
Moksha – divine deliverance
Kanjeevaram – silk saree from Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu
Thala Diwali – the first Diwali after the wedding which the couple spends at the girl’s place. Involved much expense for the girl’s side in the past.
Seemantham – a kind of baby shower
Sojji- a sweet preparation made with semolina and sugar and bajji – fritters made out of raw bananas, potatoes and brinjals dipped in a gram flour mixture and fried. Must in every ‘girl-seeing’ ceremony
Kaapi – South Indian filter coffee
Vadaams – preserves made from rice that would be fried, part of an elaborate meal