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Call me to sing a Kathakali song

Another trip to down south and attendance at another inter-caste wedding.
A big iron ‘oral’ used for de-husking  paddy and pounding rice, occupies the center of the stage and  a small trunk of  peepul tree wrapped with yellow cloth, nearby.
The girl is sweet with a graceful smile and satisfied look; the boy is nervous, glances now and then to catch the reaction of his orthodox father and whispers at my ear, ” manage the situation if it turns ugly”. The bride’s group do not mingle with the bride-groom’s and the division is awkward . Children are playing around blissfully unaware of the heat around. The vadyar leads  the proceedings in the conventional Brahmin style and intermittently the purohit from the girl’s side proceeds according to their style. While inhumanly enjoying the unnecessary  confusion in conducting the wedding, by clubbing the two styles, I think of my nephew’s wedding  in Guwhati, a few years ago.The day’s proceedings were as per the Brahmin customs and at night, it was according to the practice of Assameese Kashtriyas, the community to which the girl belongs to.There was fun there too. I had to act as a Vadyar there, in the absence of the professional who missed the flight from Kolkata and I managed the show too well. albeit with a little  knowledge of the proceedings and zero ability in chanting mantras.The real fun was when I distributed the ‘akshatai( the sacred rice mixed with turmeric powder, for placing on the head of the newly wedded couple when they bow before the elders, as a mark of their showering the blessing. The elders placed the yellow rice on their own head ! I should have foreseen the problem and counseled them in advance. Even experts err, sometime!.
I move towards the gigantic  figure with a  gorgeous mustache standing near the girl on the stage  and utter a  few words to gain his friendship. He clasps his hands and laughs  loudly as if he was enjoying a joke, to make which I had no courage in his presence. Leading me to the stage, he  asks me to collect  rice, thrice, from the heap already arranged, by both hands, and  drop the cereal down.”The couple needs your blessings” he remarks.
No confusion here as to the selection of heads to place the sacred symbol of blessing;  Simply drop it down allowing to get it  mixed with the heap below, its original place. Ultimately that is what happens to us all, whether you wear a thread around your shoulder or not, is it not?
The bride-grooms father calls me aside to admonish, “Avankitte unnkku ennada petchu?(What on earth are you talking to him) and mutters helplessly, “nan ennada seiven?”(What could I do now?).
I arrange his ‘panjagatcham’ in proper shape and tell him in a low voice, ” if you were less traditional and younger to me, I would have invited you to share my bottle of  Italian wine or at least to play Rummy.There is only one thing we can do now-” I drag him towards a big peepul tree in the garden, make him to sit on its platform and loudly sing a couplet from the Nalacharitham’ Kathakali.
‘Aakrithy kandal athi rambheyam
Aaral ivalude atharam peyam”
Like me, my friend is a lover of Kathakakali and he enjoys the music, forgetting for a moment his unwanted anxieties about the inter-cast marriage that has just taken place in his family .A colorfully dressed damsel passes through, gazing at us and gurgles. Blissfully she does not know the meaning of the song which is somewhat like this:
‘ She is extremely beautiful;  I feel kissing her lips”‘
Had she known the meaning, the mustached ‘Kownder’ would have tied me to the tree and de-skinned or even smashed my bones to tiny particles- He had, anticipating such eventuality, made readily available, both the tree and the iron de-husker, on the stage.
Moral of the story:
If your ward is marrying a girl sans your approval, call me to sing a Kathakali song, but make sure that no iron ‘oral’ or trunk on the stage.
Hyderabad
March 14, 2009

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