We were very excited about the forthcoming Arun’s wedding and each day was spent by discussing, speaking over phone, mailing or even dreaming about the days to come and the enjoyment that we would be having in participating in his wedding. Especially the grandeur that his wedding promised and the type of food that we will be eating and above everything the kind of music and our dance on the day of Barat. The expectation and excitement started filling our hearts more ever since Arun and Ajeeta’s Betrothal Function went off very well at Chennai on 23rd August, 2009. Here are some photos of that function.
Click on each photo to enlarge
There were umpteen things to shop. Uri and Ravi did their job of meticulous planning on every activity - when to go and buy silk sarees, dhothis etc., auspicious dates for purchase of some Jewelry, silver wares, clothes to be gifted for near and dear ones were all chalked out. As and when we had time we finished these pleasant work then and there. One advantage of having a long span of time between the engagement and the marriage (courtship time for the couples) is that we could do our endless shopping with relish and ease and patiently look for what exactly we wanted to buy and enjoy every bit of the shopping. But the distinct disadvantage was, one tends to pile up things which were not necessary and also spend a little more than necessary. Well, that was all the more fun!
Our umpteen visits to silk saree shop, Thanga Maligai, Naidu Hall, Pondy Bazzar especially our hunt for colourful bangles, beautiful sandals, matching clips and Bindhis became endless but unforgettable. We went all over Chennai and learnt about a number of shops where we get good stuff. Most importantly our (srini and I) visits to ever-crowded Ranganathan Street to a particular shop situated in the middle of the street, that too during Diwali time to buy chumkis, beads,d ecoration pieces, laces etc., for the ‘marapachchi bomai’ and jewel box which we made to give the ‘kasi malai’ to the bride which Amma and I bought from GRT. On the whole we were all fully equipped for the wedding and Uri and Ravi on the other hand did not waste even a minute’s time. They made the mailing list, got the addresses, list of people who would be attending the wedding at Gurgaon on 8th and 9th November. They got even tickets booked for those who wanted so and organized accomadation through the girl’s parents. Every aspect of the function was clearly thought of and Murali Caterers and Sridhar Vadyar, became frequently used words for almost 2 to 3 months at home. Of course the entire success of the whole function was due to them. Uri and Ravi organized every thing with their own special touch of love for Arun. Special mention has to be made about the total cooperation and the enthusiasm with which the girl’s parents participated in the entire function. They made it clear the love they bestow on their daughter and they wanted nothing to be left out not even a small ritual which would be part of our marriage. We( others) were also too clear that our main aim is to have a gala grand time at Delhi wedding, enjoy in toto the happenings, we all danced, made fun, joked and what not and ate to our hearts content and had a great time there. In order to explain the meaning of the rituals, Uri requested Parthasarathy mama to prepare a write-up. On Arun's suggestion, the write-up was not printed, but was to be sent by e-mail. Mama prepared a small website, the address of which was sent to all North Indian friends as well as Ajeeta's parents and other relatives.You can also view these pages by clicking on the following link.
Probably Srinidhi and I were the first one to arrive at the marriage venue at South Patio, Unitech club, Gurgaon.(Vasumathy had arrived on Friday 6th morning and Lakshmi Mami and Mama a couple of days earlier, but they were staying with Kanna Mama (Lakshmi mami's brother). After getting down from our much delayed flight at night, received by my loving sister and dutiful brother in law, we were worried about going to sleep on empty stomach and having a sleepless night. But Uri had packed nice paranthas and subji (you see she is a loving sister!!). . Paneer was very soft and had a flavour and pleasant aroma which I realised are all missing here. Arun suddenly appeared in Uri’s room and wanted Srinidhi to tie a sacred thread (like kappu) with seven things already tied to it, to ward off evil, as per their custom which srini did proudly. I enthusiastically described to Arun the things we had ordered from Mysore for Vilayadal which his younger sisters-Divya, Arthi (Ravi's brother Sundar’s daughters), Srindhi(my daughter) and Maya (Vasumathy’s daughter) were supposed to gift to their Bhabhi . I had also somewhat artistically (atleast I made an earnest attempt to be artistic!) decorated two marapachchi bhomais with madisaar, thalai samaan, pinnal, jewels etc., for the girl doll and panchakajam , angavastram,some jewels etc., for the boy doll. The hairdo and headgear which were suggested/made by Srinidhi made the dolls worth noticing. Jayashree (Ravi's sister-in-law) had bought a white soft toy, nice bangles from Mumbai as already discussed and we (Uri, Srini and I) also ordered some for ourselves (santhadi sakil. Vasu had shopped quite a bit as usual never mindful of the cost and bought from the USA nice cosmetics, night dresses, hand bags, pouches, beautiful mirror, artificial jewelry etc., Uri purchased dresses for the bride and Uri’s entire room was filled with these items. A portion behind the curtain became the safe locker where a suitcase containing the valuables (including mine to be used the next day) was locked and chained to the grill and curtain drawn hiding it. Arun left for his room and uri allowed me to return to room no. 103 next to hers with a solemn promise from me that I would be ready early in the morning.
The place was quite scenic early in the morning and from the corridor I could see cute little birds and hear a number of them chirping, singing and on the other side of the window from the room could see the garden, lush green grass well trimmed and the lovely swimming pool. This triggered memories of my own swimming lessons and my last and final attempt at Madras Gymkhana where I was about to drown at the shallow end!!! Anyway here the lay-out was beautiful. Srini and I got into a vehicle and visited Ramu Anna and Manni (my mother's cousin) who were overwhelmed to see us. Later we went to Kanna Mama’s house nearby, who were ever affectionate and came back home (club!). Another vehicle was sent for vasu who picked up Sundar and kannika (Urmila's friend Mrs. Kalpana’s neice) from metro ‘Dwaraka’ station and came to join us. I came to know of all these terms and was quite thorough with them owing to the number of times they were used. Jokes apart, I sincerely appreciated the keen interest and involvement with which Uri and Ravi did their job and really took care of their guests. Meanwhile Ravi picked up Naren (younger son) from the railway Station. We all went to Ajeeta’s house for lunch (slightly late) and the poor girl was seated alone with a stiff posture with her hands and legs full of mehendhi. But the work they had done with this magic mehendhi cone is seen to be believed. After nice heavy khana for the stomach, there was sangeet with dol (dolak) rhythmically played by her relatives while Vasu and Srini joined in dancing. We were half way through our mehendi when there was an uproar and loud thundering noise (sorry voice/voices) and there kavitha (Ravi's uncle Gopu mama’s daughter) arrived. Lots of laughter, jokes and teasing each other followed this as she wanted mehendi done on her whereever possible. Any way she stopped with legs and hands much to our relief and we all later left for the club.
I wonder how much and how many times we would have eaten and how we were all hungry even without doing anything. I think that is the magic of being happy and being with relatives and friends. We wanted to eat out and taste Delhi food in the night, but we could’nt find any place nearby. So we went to the dining hall (restaurant). Meanwhile Arun arrived with his close friends Gaurav and Dinesh who were whole heartedly welcomed for two reasons. One that the dictum of ‘more the merrier’ would apply, The other being they would help us to finish eating our huge dinner orders. Uri and Ravi who had left a couple of hours earlier to the Shehar (New Delhi, about 30 kms away) to buy some urgent, left out things (which included something vital that Naren forgot to bring) came back. We were completely relieved and insisted that they finish their dinner and then go up to the rooms. But the man in the green shirt who had taken the orders about an hour earlier did’nt even bring a piece of starter till then. Pacha sattai became his nick name and Kavi(tha) called him and gave him her piece of mind in Tamizh. Anyway for quite some time he would’nt get us anything as the place was full, which meant that we had more fun and laughter and when the food at last arrived, it vanished in no time.
Uri as usual instructed after confidential consultation/directions from Ravi as to who should go where the next day. Luckily I had to pick up Usha (Chithapavathu usha- my mother's cousin) whose flight timing in the morning was an hour latter than Vijaya mami’s for whom uri was to go slightly earlier in another car. Though I had got up quite early, but to my dismay Uri and Ravi were already getting ready with a long neat print out of list of people coming by which flight or train or from where and which vehicle should go to pick them up and who should or no one need to go etc., details. Why I considered myself lucky was, as Naren failed to raise up to the occasion and overslept, Kavitha was whole-heartedly deputed to go to the Railway Station at Nizamuddin. She had to wait hours together to receive not so enthusiastic and starving and tired Kittumama, Saroja Chithi, Vaasu and Kausalya as they had not eaten much in the train (Garib Rath Express), They were very hungry and anxious to reach their rooms soooon. Poor them and Kavitha. They never spoke to anyone but declared their eagerness to get into the room where Murali caterers had already brought nice south Indian food like sambar rice, aviyal, parupu usili,appalam, vadai, sweet, savory, curd rice, pickle and pal payasam, which Vasu and Srini had arranged on the table in Room No.103. The air around was already filled with too much of laughter and talks as vijaya mami, Usha and then followed by parthasarathy mama and Amirtha mami were all there. We were all very happy to see vijaya mami and applauded her will power and enthusiasm and sheer love she had for people as she had come alone from Bangalore. Gala arrival of Pattu chithi, Latha, and Sridhar (Papu as he is fondly called by children), Chithiya, Sudhi.(Sudha/chithra) filled the air with lots more fun. , Lakshmi Mami,Rangamama, Kanna Mama and Subadhra mami and then Chellappa, Raju and his wife arrived and after a while Mythili mami arrived and as usual in our functions and weddings, the scene was repeated-one talking to the other in the end of the room and in between two or three separate groups of people having their own conversations and a new-comer to the place won’t be able to make head or tail of any thing. Meanwhile Uri clarified a few of her doubts about the next day wedding kya cheese from Lakshmi Mami and Lakshmi Mami was to go after lunch to Raju’s house which was near the venue for soaking the kalyana paiyan’s veyshti (dhoti) in yellow sacred water . Again luckily kavitha had accompanied for two reasons one -she was able to sing lakshmi kalyana vaibhogame better than others and two-she tidied the bathroom after a mess was made there by Raju by turning the entire area yellow with the sacred water!!
South Indian food by Murali caterers in room no. 103 and north Indian buffet in the restaurant were both available for lunch. Some went for the former while others were tempted by the latter. But I for once did neither and tasted a bit here like pal payasam and a rasamalai and lassi from downstairs and saved all my energy for the long awaited barat function. I was delighted to see two arms open (filled with mehendi) Mrs. Harini, Uri’s close friend and a colleague who incidentally also clubbed her next day's (the day of Arun’s wedding) award-winning ceremony on behalf of her school. Earlier she and usha were to travel together and tickets were booked but due to this function she changed her plan but still did not miss Barat and chose to miss the Dinner party hosted at that function. Mrs. Kalpana, yet another close friend of Uri arrived with huge pacakages of trays. They were followed by Mrs.Radha, another good friend from Meerut and Mrs. Sangeetha and Mrs.Neelima again close friends of Uri who were her collegues at Meerut had come for the wedding. Along with mehendi, eating and gossiping, we didn’t waste a minute but were dressing in our rooms and were all set for the function.
On the whole the sheer joy of reunion of friends after quite sometime was up in the air and a series of introductions followed and we all turned our heads to see Arun clad in his carefully chosen new ‘Sherwani’ in a lovely silvery golden colour with maroon combination. The dress was becoming on him. With love and admiration Uri went to him followed by Srini and I and spoke to him. He was among a group of safa-clad north Indian looking relatives i.e., Ravi, Kkittumama, chithiya, Rangamama, Sundar, papu, Vaasu. Parthasarathy mama and varadhan decided to be in their usual costume with out ‘safa’ for their heads. (safe ya no safa). Now, nobody bothered about others and all wanted to have pictures with Arun. Hence so many of these pictures unmindful of the same corridor background!!
First I went alone on rounds to the lounge and I exclaimed seeing chelappa with his ‘safa’ and was quite surprised to note that men thoroughly enjoyed their new role especially their costume and looked totally transformed. When we went down after a couple of clicks in the lawn in different groups and combinations, to the lounge in a hurry so that we don’t miss out any part of the celebration Uri was to put the pagadhi, sehara and the kalgi on Arun's head and with the beaded veil, I felt he looked like Rajput King). It really suited him and nothing was out of place. But this sweet-looking thing was not all that easy to combat. It was like dressing up an astronaut before his space trip. First Uri fixed it but it would’nt stand there. Then Mrs. Kalpana was called for help. Neelima tried her bit and then I tried my best with all possible clips, pins etc., but to our dismay nothing worked! Cameras were all ready our folks were all waiting at a distance to capture the first image of this ceremony. We had no clue whatsoever as to how to fix it. That person who tied the safa came and to our surprise fixed it. within seconds.
Then we walked out and then hurriedly got into cars parked outside and reached the place where the decorated Goda (horse) was waiting (to receive the gadha (donkey) as Parthasarathy mama and others jokingly said). After giving away some (only a few hundred-rupee notes) Arun got into the horse skillfully. But later the band fellows and the trumpet fellows were playing the music and slowly one by one started dancing and Ravi started giving away money after circling it near Arun (to ward off evil - dhrishti) which is their custom so that the procession could move. There was a slight hesitation as to how to start dancing but menfolk were already on the job and Vasumathy followed suit then Kavi and then I followed them. I remembered Ajeeta’s father's words that we should dance at least for some distance, as it is their custom and also if we are happy about the marriage that we should dance. I really danced to my heart’s (or leg's) content. I could see even Uri dancing on and off. And Saroja chithi, Kausalya, Vijaya mami, Aamirtha mami and Pattu chithi were all eager to see me dance and I did so with all enthu. Meera, Subadra mami, Latha and Mythili mami were all around enjoying all these. Very good dancers like Srinidhi, Kannika, Vasumathy, Divya and Aarthi and good dancers like Kavitha, Sudhi and even Usha ( a bit), Jayshree and I and a few men danced with a lot of enthusiasm and ease, Sundar, Ravi, Naren,Vaasu (my cousin), papu all danced but the gutsy fellows even after seeing us dance did not let the procession move. We understood here that one has to be smarter than all that and somehow Ravi tirelessly danced and also gave away money and so also his army friends who were dancing very nicely. I do not know how many hundreds, five hundreds and thousands were given away but it was all for good, as the bridegroom did look so good.
When we arrived at the brightly-lit venue, a spurt of activity and fresh lease of dancing followed. Here Kannika, Srinidhi and Vasu danced beautifully.(these can actually dance) We were given royal reception rather Arun was received by his would-be parents in law along with ladies taking aarthi with ‘dhoop etc., When we went inside the richly decorated maidan or ground or huge lawn area we were amazed to see the wonderful colour lights decorating either side of the path with a real red carpet to the bridegroom and his people, the beautifully lit trees, the landscape with nice water theme, the serially laid out colourful stalls on the other side and a nice play pen or a jumpy jump for the kids and aesthetically decorated stage. It took some time for me to grasp every bit. We sat in the chairs facing the stage and Arun was left all alone for some time. Then Naren gave him company and then his sisters by the time series of snacks was served one after the other which kept us busy and we also started tasting the juices that were served. We were happy to see Narasimhan and his friends family, Mukundan (sudha’s husband) and Gautham and also Uri & Ravi’s friends, Sundar’s friend and Arun’s friends who had come directly to the venue.
There was a sudden loud music and Ajeeta’s father started garlanding the men among our relatives and her mother followed by garlanding the ladies. Ranga mama and Lakshmi mami were the first followed by all others. There was some more music while Vasumathy was garlanded and she again danced. Meanwhile the huge LCD screen was projecting the bride but to our surprise we were not able to locate the music band and the bride!! The place was so widely spread with all guest congregated everywhere. What I mainly liked about the whole thing was that in spite of all these happenings I could sense that there was no rigidity and everything was done with ease and the air was quite casual and free. Meera was filled with thoughts of her son Arvind’s wedding and Pattu chithi and I recalled Vardhan's son’s marriage which we all attended in Mumbai recently. She said that the reception organized in the evening the same day in a different venue there was also too grand and they were spellbound.
Finally we could spot Ajeeta and she was clad in a wonderful ‘ghagra specially designed for this occasion and looked most beautiful and charming especially due to her nice smile. She was escorted to the dais and introduced (!!) to Arun. Then the brief ceremony of exchanging garlands (varmala) followed. As usual people then went upto the dias introductions followed and we all took many photos group by group. Slowly guests started moving towards the food stalls. Here I should say that unlike marriges in our own place (Chennai) we had lot more of leisure time here to talk and exchange views and rediscover our own relations. This was very interesting part which all of us who were there together would never forget. This made it all the more special.
Slowly the guests had eaten and gone back and I could meet Raghunandan and his wife who promised to come the next day too. As for our people many of them went back to the rooms before 11.00 PM but some of us continued being there. The next item was dance in the dancing floor with the D.J. playing the music. It did not matter who danced what and how, all of us once again danced. Some very well and others -so so and some like me for the sheer joy that my beloved nephew (son) is getting married. We had ardent admirers of our dance in wonderful Saroja chithi, Kausalya and Kittu mama who enthusiastically sat through and Ajeeta and Arun were also on and off watching the screen. Finally around 12 o’clock we went to eat along with Pattu chithi, There were over 100 items to select from and I tasted my favourite aloo tiki, paneer kabab, pani puri (2 pieces) and a kulfi. While I was returning back to where people were seated I saw a gentleman wave to me and tell me that one of our relatives has some problem. I saw Lakshmi mami seated and blood in her mouth. She had fallen on her way back from the stalls though she had gone to eat dinner with Mythili mami and others. I kept sugar and then ice and the bleeding stopped. We were worried, but Lakshmi mami was not. It was very gallant of her, particularly since she was leaving for the USA the next day.
Food was served specially for Ajeeta and Arun and for a few of us around and Naren who had declared while dancing that he would be tasting all the items of food ate to his heart’s content. He was visibly overjoyed and Uri, Ravi, Naren and I were the last to leave the Evergreen garden. Sundar and later I offered to help kalpana pack the valayadal things, koorai pudavai etc., in the trays brought by her but she clearly told that her niece would only be able to help her fast. The next day morning when we got up, we were highly impressed to see the trays which were beautiful and artistically made. I understood why she was particular to do it herself. Our contribution was only to say 'wow'. Every tray was a piece of fine art made by kalpana with materials carefully selected by her and kannika must be equally talented.
We were zapped when even before 6 o’clock hot coffee was brought in hot cans and served. The famous Delhi milk and decoction coffee (from Coorg?) made us wake up fully.(asathitar Murali of Murali caterers!) Here I would be failing in my duties if I don’t talk about the aroma of coffee ordered from the club which was only Nescafe. Arun had talked earlier about how even Nescafe tastes better in Delhi and he is absolutely correct. The quality of milk made all the difference. When I ate the paneer here in Gurgaon especially , 'how all along we have been having such hard stuff called paneer without any aroma with a tinge of sour taste in the end. No wonder when people from here come to Chennai they settle for Dosas’ was my mental reaction.
I thought people will be late but they were dot on time at 7.00 A.M.. Uri was clad in 9 yards, Arun and Ravi in panchakajam. Mami helped me tie 9 yards. Sridhar vadyar, who is a well-known Iyengar vadyar in Delhi, arrived on time and ‘Jathakarna’ and ‘Viradham’ for the boy were performed on the stage finely decorated with flowers in the lawn.
Soon Ajeeta appeared. We were happy to see Ajeeta in her designer silk saree with thalai saman, jadai, Jumki etc.,. . Something appeared very special apart from the fact it was not stuffy closed atmosphere and the climate was nice. The beautiful green background and the open air made the magic. This was absolutely traditional but fun in its own way and we again relished every bit. Ajeeta looked beautiful and the traditional dress also suited her as much as the previous day's ghagra. Her relatives also visibly enjoyed the wedding and were quite enthusiastic in sprinkling yellow chaval on the couple. Jathakarna for the girl was performed and the mantras were recited religiously by Sridhar vadyar, on and off offering explanations in Hindi for Ajeeta and her parents to understand the meaning of each and every thing that was done during the wedding. Ajeeta’s mother applied mai (kajal) on Arun’s eyes very neatly which made all around recall either their own marriage or their sons or daughters wherein the monter-in-law had smudged the mai too darkly upto the cheek in most cases!.
Kasi yathirai was performed and we teased Arun to atleast for formality sake say that he would go to Kasi instead of marrying. If we see all these customs like kasi yathirai, unjal, thengai urutal etc., are to bring in adjustability amongst all close relatives so that there is bonding, ‘give and take’ policy and thereby no ego clash. During Unjal all sang together songs like karpaga valli nin, thandhana nahe. Latha suggested that we could sing kurai onrum illai which Kavitha and all of us enthusiastically did and in spite of my severe throat pain I wanted to sing it for Arun and Ajeeta. Subadra mami and Meera sang one song nicely and we wanted the girl’s side people also to sing which they happily did. Finally kavitha wanted to sing papa kehathey hein the only Hindi song she knows which she confessed and sang that very well.
Earlier breakfast consisting of idli, uthappam, vadai, juice and coffee/tea was served in club itself. Ajeeta's nathanars-Divya, Arthi and Srini along with Usha and Lakshmi mami went to help the bride tie koorai pudavai. When she returned in 9 yards it was really worth the wait and she looked so apt and nice in 9 yards too. During mangalya dharanam the air was filled with emotional prayers and complete blessings for the couple and the newly-wedded were instantly blessed by elders. The melodious nathaswaram filled the air with complete rhythm and sanctity and incidentally it was so melodious as it was in the open air. For once we all thoroughly enjoyed nathaswaram a lot in a wedding. It was quite pleasant and those who played were too good with their skills. For all these arrangements Subhadra mami had to be specially thanked as many things were her find. We were happy to see Mythili athai’son Srinivasan with his wife Bindu and 2 sons and also I was over joyed to meet Pradeep, a good friend of mine with whom I had worked 25 years back in Department of Science and Technology who had come with his wife from New Delhi. We were all very glad to see Ramu Anna who came with his son Ragunadhanan (very sweet of him to come on both the occasions) and brother in law Veeraghava mama who blessed the couples. I was very glad that the greetings we had made with the pictures of Arun and Ajeeta came out fine and obtained the signatures of all who attended the wedding and presented to the couples after muhurtham. Kalpana liked this idea very much and many appreciated this. I could do this with the help of Srini’s art master and it took long time to design. I also spent long hours before the computer.
Following this varanam ayeeram was sung for thengai urutal which was fun and then Graharpavesam was performed. Uri, Jayashree, I and then Kausalya and Vasumathy did the pidi suthal and Lakshmi mami,Vijaya mami, Amirtha mami and many of us took aarthi. Pattu chithi and others did the 5 people suthal for panja bhodams like one with water, two with lamps etc., Previously girl’s side grahapravesam was performed by them with all enthu. With that the entire function was completed very harmoniously.
Lunch was arranged in the lawn with North Indian buffet by the club on one side and south Indian muhurtha sappadu (on vazhai ilai) by Murali caterers on the other side. As usual I tasted both and puliyodarai and pal payasam of S.I and Rabdi and palak kofta of N.I were good. Kavitha along with Mythili mami were the first to leave and then Ramu Anna. All the guests who had attended were very happy and one by one left for home. Parthasarathy mama, Amirtha mami and vijaya mami left along with Subhadra mami and others and from there to Ramu Anna’s house to see manni. Jayshree and family left before usha, Srini and I left but saw them in the Airport. We had to wait a bit for the driver as he had gone back and understandingly the over-worked drivers must have been too tired. Vasu, Lakshmi mami left after dinner I was told and Uri, Ravi and mama came back the next day and Naren went back to Mumbai.
Even after a week we called up each other and recollected the nice time we shared and the pleasant memories, the reminiscences still lingers on. The consensus was that somebody in the family should fall in love with a Rajasthani so that we can attend a Rajasthani wedding in Jaipur!
(Photos by Parthasarathy)
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