(This is a sequel to my previous post The Vow. )
CHANDRU and Family ATTEND A VILLAGE WEDDING.
Jyothi had just tucked-in Bharath for the day when she heard the distinct murmur of the car’s engine below.
It was Chandru after a long day’s work. Interviews were on for the past one week and Chandru was expecting a transfer with promotion.
She opened the door to a beaming Chandru. As he removed the shoes, he looked at her and said
“We have to shift to Delhi. I have been posted in the Central Office there.”
She was thrilled. She was happy because Delhi was close to Agra. Her dream had been to visit the Taj. And of course Kashmir was not very far away.
After dinner they sat to discuss and plan – the shift. Chandru was on cloud nine-
“I thought Peter will be getting this post but after seeing my records, the high ups in Delhi had opted for me. “
Jyothi thought this was the right moment to talk about the wedding invitation she received that morning. She knew that Chandru would agree to anything right now.
“Before that we have a wedding to attend. I received the invitation and a personal letter from my Mama whose son is getting married.”
“Which Mama? That joker Parameswaran from Kottayam?”
She pretended to be annoyed.
“You never have a good word for my relatives. The letter is from my elder Mama who could not attend our wedding because Paatti was sick and he couldn’t leave her side. He has not met you and he wants us to come for the wedding. The wedding is in the bride’s village in her Grandfather’s ancestral home. “
“You too have an ancestral home there, right?”
Yes. Mama’s wife’s brother is staying there with his family. Mama has a textile showroom in Coimbatore and has a big bungalow there. We used to go there for my vacations. The son has opened yet another showroom there and it is his wedding.”
“You think tickets to Palakkadu will be available now?”
“Come on. The wedding is only next month, a full fifteen days before you have to report in Delhi. We can drive up to Coimbatore. Mama has booked two buses and we can all go together as he has suggested. The village is beyond Palakkadu more towards Guruvayur.You can leave the car in Mama’s house.”
“That may be nice. Bharath will enjoy the bus ride through villages. He has not seen the country side.”
“Yes. And Amma will be there too .”
“But why is your mother at Coimbatore? From your village this other village is just a few kilometers?”“Well. Mama wanted Amma to be here as an elderly person to take care of certain things.”
The next day she called up her uncle and confirmed their arrival at Coimbatore. She spoke to her mother too, not forgetting to mention Chandru’s promotion and the shift to Delhi.
“They are providing quarters too Amma , in a very posh locality,” she said with pride.
Jyothi was very happy that Chandru agreed with all that she said. She made a trip to Rasi Silk House and purchased a saree for Mami and a good jari veshty for mama. She picked up a nice wallet for her cousin who was getting married. After all he was making a lot of money!!
they drove down to Coimbatore .
Bharath had been given a list of Dos and Donts.
The reception they received at Mama’s place was a grand one. Kittu Mama had learnt about Chandru’s promotion from his sister and the Son-in-law’s posting and the shift to Delhi was something to brag about!!
Jyothi asked for a tray and placed the saree and dhothi and the three of them fell at Mama’s and Mami’s feet. Mami’s eyes lit up seeing the six inches jari in the saree. She took it and discreetly felt it with her fingers to see if it was genuine silk.
Very early next morning they left by two buses, a group of seventy – friends and relatives. Bharath was fast asleep on Jyothi’s lap and Kittu Mama was incessantly talking to Chandru, spraying betel juice on his shirt front. Chandru was going red in the ears and Jyothi was hoping that he would not snap at her Mama.
“Mama, why don’t you take a cat nap? There’s a lot of work for you as you reach there and you hardly slept last night.”She suggested.
“Jyo- no no no no. We have to stop for breakfast in a while at Ottappalam. My childhood friend has his hotel there and whenever we visit the village, we have our breakfast here.”
“Amma,” Bharath called her as they stepped down from the bus and raised his index finger.
She took him straight behind the small hotel after enquiring where the bathroom was located.
The bathroom was a mess.
“No. I won’t do it here. It is smelly ! I want to go back to Madras. This place is no good.”
The smell of stale milk, sour dosa batter, left over vegetables etc. made the place an undesirable locale !
Finally she took him under a mango tree and the tree had a copious amount of nutrient filled water !!
The bus loads of men, women and children were already seated inside the hotel. As Mama had intimated the owner about their arrival, a wide array of very tasty breakfast items like steaming dosas, iddlies, vadas, pongal and pooris were being served. The aroma of sambhar and the potato curry blended with tiny onions was enticing.
Chandru had kept two chairs vacant near him and across sat Mama, his wife and Jyothi’s mother.
“I want chocos.”
“You can’t have what you want. Learn to eat what is given to you. You love pooris, don’t you ? Eat them for a change. The curry won’t be spicy at all,” Chandru said sternly.
As he settled down to eating pooris, Kittu Mama was heard hollering…
“Ey..Cheema, Sundaram, Panja, Chinna — all of you come here.”
He was calling all the servers to his table. Obviously he seemed to know everyone individually
They all assembled near their table and Mama looked at them with pride in his eyes and beamingly told them ,
“You know who this is (pointing to Chandru)? My niece Jyo’s husband. Our house Son-in-law. P.Chandru. P Chandramouli. Pudukkottai Panchapakeshan Chandramouli. He is from Tanjore side. He is a biiiiiiig officer in Madras. Now he is going to Delhi to hold a very very biiiiiiiig post there. If any of you want anything done in Delhi, you can ask him. He’s pure gold and goodness personified. Will do anything for any body.”
The breakfast turned bitter in Chandru’s mouth and Jyothi was getting the jitters as to how he would react. Mercifully he responded with a feeble artificial smile.
Meanwhile a huge man who had travelled in the other bus, wearing a yellow silk shirt, rings adorning eight fingers, a bracelet- thick like a wrist watch and a heavy gold chain hanging from the neckless -neck – waddled towards them and introduced himself to Chandru, after chiding Jyothi’s mother.
“What Akka ? You are not introducing me to your Son-in-law? Okay I’ll tell him who I am. I am Margabhandhu. Mami’s maternal cousin from Mangombu.I am a Mirasdar there. I have a palatial home. You must come and stay in our home for two days. ”
Jyothi looked at Bharath ( who was staring at this uncle of hers) with a squeamish feeling and fearing what would come out of his mouth, tried to drag him away from there.
But the damage was done !!
“I know you. Paatti has told me a lot of stories about you. She said that you would swallow anything that’s near you like a python does. Yes ! yes ! Malappaambu Marghabhanthu (Human Python)! Aren’t you him?”
If Chandru had a third eye, Jyothi’s mother would have turned into a heap of ash. He hated people making physical remarks about others or giving them monikers.Luckily some one else called out to him, ‘Margu, your coffee has arrived. Come on. Drink while it’s hot.”
As they spilled out one by one and walked towards the bus, the Hotel owner Parasuraman came hurriedly towards Chandru,
“You know. I’ve been cherishing a dream in my heart. I want to open a Hotel in Delhi. I have saved money too. You can perhaps help me find a place and get me the license too. You’ll live long.”
Chandru smiled and shook his head and walked towards the bus. He was mentally kicking Jyothi’s Mama. He wished he had never agreed to accompany his wife. She should have come by herself!
“What was Parasu mama asking you?” , Jyothi asked him as they took their seats.
“He asked whether he can come to Delhi with us and cook for us,” he cut in and she knew that things were certainly not okay with her husband. It was all the fault of this Kittu Mama!! No wonder the family members called him All India Radio – broadcasting all the news in the family at the top of his voice. Ah ! Those were the days when mobile phones and SMSs hadn’t made foray into human habitations!!
The wedding was held in the bride’s paternal grandfather’s home which was a sprawling bungalow built in the ancient style. A pandal had been erected and Kittu Mama’s son was very pleased – the girl was a beauty- and all the sammandis were very happy with the arrangements and food. The silver and steel vessels that were lined up on the carpet in the huge central hall were gleaming. Mami had no complaints. Chandru hid himself from Kittu Mama’s range of vision fearing yet another melodramatic introduction.
He sat in one of the chairs behind and was enjoying the proceedings. He had a sumptuous breakfast of Ramassery Iddlies with delicious sambhar and three types of chutneys ; puttu,vadas soaked in sambhar and pumkin halwa oozing with ghee – all washed down with excellent coffee. He was nodding away to the strains of music wafting from the nadaswara and caught a glimpse of Jyothi in animated conversation with a handsome guy – totally incongruent with the ambience here. He was handsome, suave and looked very sophisticated. He remembered Jyothi talking about their neighbour’s son who had gone to London and who would be coming down for the wedding with a German friend of his ; yes, he remembered the German friend downloading six or seven iddlies , seated across him in the dining area prior to which he was taking a video of the proceedings!!
A strong wave of heady perfume made him turn his head and he saw Jyothi’s mami escorting a very old lady bent with age,towards him. The old lady sat near him as Mami said,
“My mother, Son-in-law. She turned ninety nine last month. She has been pestering me to bring her to you. Just talk to her for a while and I will come later and take her back.”
The toothless sweet old lady caught hold of his hand and said,
“ My daughter told me all about you. I could not attend your wedding as I was away at Trivandrum in my eldest son’s house. Jyothi told me you are going to Delhi. I was there twenty years back on my way to Kasi and my husband was alive then. Jyothi’s mother told me that you will be moving into a new bungalow.”
“Not new, Mami. It’s the quarters and my predecessor just vacated it. “
“Oh ! Then you must do a Navagraha Shanthi before moving in, then. You know, they might have cut goats and hens in the kitchen and we don’t want the spirits of those animals ( ‘janthu’ was the exact word she used ) hanging around there – you know , they can get into human bodies …yes..people get possessed !! And to get rid of these souls is very difficult. Oh ! It’s a long process.”
Chandru imagined the soul of a dead hen getting into his mother-in-law and visualized her running hither and hither clucking away to glory and it brought a grin to his face. “Kluck kluck.”A hen sporting nine yards of kanchipuram Silk cloth and running around !!
“ Don’t smile. I am not joking, Son –in – law. Years back, my daughter –in-law would get into moments of anger at odd times and we got a Jyosya here to do a Prasnam(read the past,present and future)and he discovered that the soul of a dead goat had entered her( Obviously !! A living soul could not have…it would be transmigration, then) !! Then we had to do some midnight rituals to get rid of that spirit.”
He had seen Malayalam movies with tantric rites performed at midnight and it gave him creeps !!
Luckily for him some one came to take her away for some consultation and she left.
Oof ! What macabre stuff !!
Midnight rituals to get rid of an animal soul that possessed a human body !! These Palakkattans are crazy, he said to himself.
turned to the centre of the large hall and saw the bride being escorted away to wear the nine yards saree before the Mangalsutra was tied .
Mama was talking animatedly to the head priest and looking in his direction ( phew !! the old man has spotted me , Chandru thought) and he saw the seventy year old head priest heading his way.
“Namaskaram.Namaskaram. Namaskaram. I am Sambhasivam – family Priest. I have been with them in all their good and sad moments. Heard that you are moving to Delhi. My shaddakan( wife’s sister’s husband) is there in Vikaspuri. He is the head Priest in the Amman Temple there.”
Fine ! Now this man is going to put me on to that priest to do the Navagraha Pooja !! Now, how am I going to shake this character off? Chandru wondered !!
The Priest continued-
“ Here.This is his visiting card. Keep it with you. You don’t have to go hunting for a South Indian Priest for the yearly Shradhdha of your parents. Just give him a call on his mobile. He’ll bring every thing and even send a lady the previous day to do the special cooking.”
Chandru was taken aback.
“ Mama. My parents are still alive.”
The Priest was a bit taken aback and presented a sorry state. He slinked away and took his place at the ceremonial mat once again.
So much for the marketing tactics!!
What next ? Chandru wondered. He wished he could get back to Madras. But Jyothi and Bharath seemed to be enjoying themselves. Bharath had made a few friends and they were playing, darting into the dining area now and then to eat something.Hope the boy doesn’t start purging !!
Suddelny , Chandru realized he was hungry. The wedding rituals were over and every one was drifting towards the dining area.
He followed ,visualizing a big banana leaf with umpteen vegetables like kaaLaan, Olan, Koottu, Thoran
The Paladaprathaman- which he could consume in gallons, given the chance….
The spongy Jangiri soaking with sugar syrup
The mango pickle and thick curd
The poori-like puffed pappadams which had a special taste
The banana chips – salt and sweet
He felt good again.
Forget Kittu Mama spraying betel juice on his shirt.
Forget the spirits of the goats and hens. Let them play hell and get into anybodyy’s body.
Forget the Priest who wanted the Shraddha of the parents while they were still alive and kicking .
Forget Kittu Mama’s vocal announcements.
To hell with everyone !
He was going to relish this special incomparable Palakkadu Wedding Feast..
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