Monday, August 22, 2011


I have a faint recollection that a long time ago I read a serial in the Thamizh weekly 'Anantha Vikatan' --- a serial titled Washingtonil Thirumanam, penned by the famous Thamizh writer Saavi. I am sure many, particularly the members of that era, would remember the title I am referring to. It was a hilarious comedy describing how a South Indian Brahmin wedding was conducted in Washington at the request and funding of a top philanthropist of the US. With all the fanfare like a double Nadaswaram, and gaslights carried on the heads of the Korava (gypsy) for the Mapppillai Azhaippu. All the things needed for the wedding, including the Koravans and gaslights, were flown to Washington by special aircraft. Not only that, to make appalams expert Mamis, women who had the last word in the processing of high class appalams, were also brought to the capital so that they could be factory fresh!!

Expert, outstanding and famous cooks along with their big, big andas, cheena chattis and chatukam and karandhis (large enough to cook for a thousand guests) were also transported by air. Well, to make a long story short the wedding thus conducted was a great success, enjoyed by the whole population of the city. The Press, not to be left behind, gave a good coverage of the wedding!

The above story was published in the late 1960s, when US was out of reach to the common man. It was a dream come true for the first few Indians who were lucky enough to go to that country either as students for higher studies or officials sent on deputations and also for the diplomats getting posted there.

Now it is different. Every Indian household has at least one daughter or son settled there. Their children are no different from other children of other countries growing up there. Inter-marriages are common. Some prefer to come to their native place to get married, others get married in the cities where they grew up.

In June, there was such a wedding in Chicago. My grandson Kartik got married to Danielle, his friend of five years. It was a perfect wedding in every sense of the word, a pot-pourri of two cultures. There was no Mappilai Azhaipu, no vritham, no Kasiyathirai, no Mallai Mattal, no oonjal. There was a Sasthrigal (priest) who conducted the wedding in a very dignified manner with the bare essential rites such as the Vinayaka Poojai, the Kappukettal which the Sastrigal himself did both for the bride and the groom, the Kannika Daanam, recital of the Gothram and then the Mangalya Dharanyam or Thali kattu,( the ‘Mundru Mudichu) or Three Knots.

The first two knots were tied by Kartik, while the third knot was tied by Yamini, Kartik’s sister, as is the tradition. Yamini looked lovely dressed in a blue chiffon saree with a matching orange brocade blouse. The bride equally lovely and graceful was wearing a green chiffon sari and a pink brocade blouse, the groom in a tuxedo but no shoes. Next followed the other rites like the Saptha padi, Aseervadham and lastly the Aarathi.

The civil ceremony followed after a break for cocktails. While the guests were enjoying the drinks and meeting other friends, catching up with each other’s news, the bride and her bridesmaids absented themselves. Shortly, all the guests were seated at their respective tables – yes, there were about fifteen to twenty tables seating eight to ten people at each.

I really appreciated the way the guests were seated. Each table was labeled with the names of the guests, all members of each family in the same table. For example, my children and myself were at one table; the grandchildren were at another table; Jaishree’s mother and her brother, sister and niece with her family at another; known friends together likewise. Each one was made to feel at ease. The food, mainly north Indian, was served on individual plates.

Now, the bride in her really beautiful wedding dress walked down the stairs on her father’s arm followed by the two flower girls and bridesmaids, making a striking entry. From the other side Kartik and his Best Man walked in. It was a beautiful sight. The ceremony was conducted by a padre.

Both Danielle and Kartik took their vows, readily said the two words “I Do” without any hesitation, and exchanged rings. Most eyes (especially those of the parents) turned misty. The newly-married couple exchanged kisses and had the floor to themselves for the first dance as a couple. After this there were speeches, by Kartik thanking every one for their presence, and Jaishree saying a few words about Kartik, about how caring he is to everyone -- in Jaishree’s own words: “A caring son. a caring brother, a caring friend and now a caring husband to Danielle…”

It was then time for every one to get on to the dance floor. Not only youngsters but slightly older couples -- Raji and Muthu, Jaishree and Bala -- also joined them. I felt very happy to see them all enjoying themselves.
I was also thrilled to see three and little girls – seven-year-old Maya and Arundati, and two-year-old Samyukta (three f my great granddaughters) dancing and prancingo all over the place, sometimes by themselves or with any willing partners. Maya’s wish was granted when Kartik found time to dance with her.

Unlike the Washington wedding, for this Chicago wedding there was no need to get anything from India,. There are many outlets in Chicago where one gets all that is needed for any of our functions including the Kalasam and mango leaves!

Two days before the wedding there was a Mehendhi evening organized by Jaishree, in which many relations and friends including the bride’s relations and friends also took part. There were two professionals, girls from India, who did a great job of doing the designs on the hands and feet of children and ladies eager to have it done. Throughout the whole evening there was singing and dancing and merrymaking followed by a very tasty north Indian dinner.

On the wedding eve, Danielle and Kartik hosted a dinner for their relations and friends. This “Rehearsal dinner” (as it is called) for the relations and friends who have come to attend the wedding, was at an Italian place. After the dinner, speeches were made by Bala, Shaun -- one of Kartik’s friends -- and the young brother of Danielle. This was followed by Danielle and Kartik giving gifts to their parents. The bridesmaids too received gifts from the bride. An aunt of the bride was also very generous with her gifts to the parents of the bride and groom, and also to the bridesmaids

The evening and the dinner came to an end with the Ramakrishna clan singing “He’s getting married in the Morning”.

To be continued…..


Gauri Gharpure said...

Dear Maiji,

Congratulations for the wonderful occasion in the family. It was a very pictorial, emotive description.

Also, thanks for the warm response to my email about a month back. Am settling down here and we shall keep in touch.

Meenakshi said...

Very nice

Anonymous said...

Eagerly awaiting the continuation,Lalitha Chitti
S.Moorthy & Janaki

Ramakrishnan said...

Marriage in Chicago is another proof that we are presently living in a global village!
Congrats, Lalithathai for that wonderful running commentary.
Had I advance intimation or information,may be, my daughter Priya - who is just an hour from Chicago- and her family could have been part of the happy occasion.

Renu said...

very and description both!!!

www.coruñ said...

I believe one and all must look at it.