My cousin is slated to be married next weekend and I am expected to play the equivalent role of the “best-man”. My wife who is undoubtedly my “better half” was busy using the weekend to sort things out and recheck if all the outfits are in an appropriate condition. As I sat in the aircraft on the way to Hyderabad for a business trip later that day I was thinking back to 2005. This was the year that I finally tied the knot and settled down. The experience of being the groom was a test of my patience, the whole set of ceremonies were too long and sometimes I wonder how I got through the whole gamut of rituals and relatives unscathed; well almost unscathed!
Before I write any further let me admit that I sure hope my wife reads the “better half” reference in the earlier paragraph and I get some brownie points. In the last few years I have come to understand that it helps to keep collecting a few brownie points because very often they bail you out of some tricky or sticky situations. I also know that as you read it you might feel that by just stating this I have lost the chance of accruing some brownie points, but let me tell you that I believe otherwise. I think our spouses are fully aware when we are making a bid for some extra points and it’s not really something one should try to camouflage. Well that my view, to each his own!
Since both my wife and me are from Kodagu (also known as Coorg), a beautiful hilly coffee growing area nestled in the western ghats of Karnataka in South India, our set of rituals are totally different from any other Indian Wedding. Some key differentiators are that we have no agni (fire), we do not adhere to the concept of Mangala Sutra (a sacred thread tied around the brides neck) and the bit that I love the most is the fact that there is no place for a priest at the wedding. The rituals are actually conducted by the elders of the family. That said one of the common factors is the fact that the event spans over 2 full days but can easily spill into day three as mine did.
Please note that our wedding rituals on day one and first half of day two were held simultaneously in two different cities: Mysore and Bangalore. Hold on to your imaginations there, we did not clone ourselves to make that happen. Traditionally, the wedding is held in the local area of the bride and groom which normally means in two different locations. This was appropriate more than a few decades ago because travel between villages in the hilly countryside was a huge task and hence it was easy for the locals to wish the bride or groom as the case may be at their village only. Now if I have managed to confuse you sufficiently I will proceed!
On day one I was quite upbeat. It was more like a gathering of close family and friends and the rituals were quite few and far between. I was not confined to a place and could walk around freely and chat up. A few friends insisted that I was spending my last day of freedom that day and a few “senior” relatives thought it was alright to joke about the trials of married man, now that I was at the verge of becoming one. All in all, day one was quite simple.
Day two started early and after being literally draped in a traditional outfit that looks great but can be quite a task to wear during a hot day in late April. The groom wears a white tunic and a colorful waist wrap, that wrap was so tight that after a few minutes I was gasping for breath and my lower ribs screamed out, threatening to crack or at the least be deformed for life. The most arduous part was not living in those clothes for over 26 hours but was travelling close to 300 kilometers along with the wedding party between the two cities.
At around 8 am on day 3 three when everything was wrapped up and we were headed home, I can safely say that my wife and I were happy that the whole thing was over and we could get some reprieve from the uncomfortable clothes that we had been thrust into almost 26 hours ago. But as I helped my equally tired wife remove the elaborate embellishments adorning her hair, I realized that the testing time was far from over. When we finished extracting all of the “extra fittings” an hour later, we just crashed out; numb to the world!
I can’t help but wonder if this whole elaborate set of rituals were deliberately planned by our ancestors to torment the bride and groom so much that they would dismiss all thoughts of marrying again; thus setting a foundation for a long lasting marriage… As I always say, things are not always black or white!