Special thanks to my special editor, Amrit
Maami goes to Palakkad – 1
Nitya was right. Maami couldn’t say no to what everyone else thought was a good catch. So what if her daughter had fallen in love, she finally reasoned with herself. She had done so with the right man, someone whom her son-in-law approved of highly. (Krishnamurthi and Gopal had first met over the last packet of degree coffee at Madras Stores following which some stimulating conversation had taken place and a lasting friendship was formed) So when maama, Sivakumar, Ramya and the Krishnamurthis said everything short of ‘Grow up with the times!’ (Kaalathathku thangitha mathiri nadanthukongo!) to maami, the Palakkad boy was summoned. “My intentions are clear,” said Gopal, much like a Hindi film hero, adding that his extended family in Kerala had already been informed and their blessings sought. The fate of Nitya and Gopal was sealed, much in high-tech fashion with several visits to the PCO where maami and her formidable equivalent Baby (Padma) made conversation in two different types of Tamizh (dispensing off with the waiting for post cards or turmeric-smeared envelopes) and came to a common conclusion that the happiness of their children was more important than anything else… The Tamarabarani would make its way towards Kerala to merge with the Bharathapuzha. Maama thought it fit not to point out that maami had left Tirunelveli a long time ago and the Ambazari lake at Nagpur was all she knew now in terms of a water body.
The engagement would take place at Rishinaradamangalam as was the custom and the marriage at a neutral venue two months later, preferably Madras . So it was decided Maama, maami and Nitya would go to Kerala for the engagement. It was discovered that maami’s mother-in-law’s cousin’s daughter Krishnambal stayed in Palakkad and that would be their first stop before proceeding to Rishinaradamangalam.
So the trio boarded the KK Express one balmy October morning which made its way through Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to reach Olavacode railway station after 36 hours. Krishnambal’s husband Ramakrishnan picked them up at the railway station and promptly deposited them at Kalpathy Gramam (a village in the heart of the town? That was perplexing for maami), and left for another of those marathon meetings for the annual Kalpathy theru (chariot festival. He was president of the committee, you see!) The family spent the next day, going to different temples in Palakkad and early on Sunday morning, they travelled to Rishinaradamangalam by bus for the engagement.
From the mannam (the village square), they took two autos (maami, maama and Nitya in one and Krishnambal, Ramakrishnan and the engagement paraphernalia in the other) to the grammam. As they passed through verdant fields and entered the grammam, they could hear whispers of Nagpur-kaara (the Nagpur people) from passers-by. Hearing this, maami was pleased – the people in every village are the same, she noticed with amusement. At the entrance of her home, Baby stood with a huge smile of welcome while Gopal ran forward, taking the huge bags off their hands. “She doesn’t wear a madisaar,” maami noted in wicked glee, already placing herself one up on the ‘what it takes to be a proper maami scale!’
“Vaango Vaango, budhimuttu acha…” began Baby and before she could complete, maami shot a furious look of alarm towards Krishnambal. Fortunately, Krishnambal came from the same village as maami and could easily sense her discomfiture at hearing those words. She laughed loudly and explained that Budhi-muttu in Malayalam meant ‘trouble’ and Baby had meant to ask whether they had any trouble in finding the house. And not budhi-mattu in Tamizh which meant ‘crazy in the head’. Everyone laughed, maami too, a trifle uncomfortably, wondering what other differences lay in store.
(to be continued…)
Grammam – village in Tamizh and Malayalam
Turmeric-smeared envelopes – a Tam-brahm custom where good news, especially wedding invitations, etc were sent in envelopes where the four corners were rubbed with a dab of turmeric to signify auspiciousness.
In Tamil Brahmins, the engagement ceremony is held at the boy’s home.
In olden days, when the bride’s and groom’s families lived in cities far away from each other, Madras was always chosen as the neutral venue. (For example, my mother was from Nagpur, my father from Cochin and they got married in Madras.)