Being one of the cousins, out of some 70 extended near and dear cousins and their cousins ,(thanks to my grandparents – naughty couples of ‘the’ india! :D), and having a global plethora of friends and their cousins, I’ve been witness to a diaspora of all types and varieties of Malayali weddings. Catholic, Syrian, Jacobite, Pentecostal, Hindu, Muslim, Inter caste, Arranged, Love and arranged, Love and runaway, Love and missing-in-action, you name it, I’ve seen it all. 😛 So in short this kind of makes me an unofficial authority in the art and science of ‘malayali weddings’ and the hoopla surrounding it. For your easy reading, I’m gonna break it down into sections depending on the craziness and activity surrounding each. Read on and buckle your straps 😉
1. Arranged weddings ( All castes Christian, Hindu , Muslim)
This is the most straight forward wedding (for sake of argument, its straight), you are gonna witness in terms of the couples compliance to elders wishes. Starting off, the ignition of the whole process is done by joining one of the many million malayali wedding sites now boasting membership numbers exceeding that of Facebook ! And believe me they cater to the many permutations and combinations that form the colourful fabric of the rich, boisterous and pompous malayali’s all over the globe. An IT grad in the family is tasked with the initial profile creation and then he is kicked out by the elders. Then they rub their hands with glee, sip a cup of kattan chaya ( black tea) and start groom/bride hunting. Priorities vary, but the common points where the ‘malayali factor’ comes in are here
- If the girl is less than fair, NO. ( “the baby will be dark and no amount of kumkuma poo (saffron) milk will help ! “)
- If she is too short, NO. ( “she needs not to be carried on his hips like his kid ! “)
- If she is seen in jeans or shorts or 3/4th’s, NO. ( ” who knows what kind of character she is, if she is wearing this exposing clothes ” ! )
- If she is highly educated, NO. ( ” there will be ego issues and she wont listen to him . Too independant” ! )
- If her hobbies and likes , list things like ” don’t mind smoking and drinking partners”, NO. ( ” Sheesh, she herself might be a huge chugger and puffer” ! )
- Anything else , PASSES.
- If he is listed as “social drinker and non smoking”, NO. ( ” Liar! Who drinks without a puff at least! ” )
- Minimum eligibility is engineer or doctor. Any other profession is entertained only on an inspection of the guy’s rubber estates. The more ‘rubber’ he has, the less difference he not being a doctor/engineer makes. 😛
- Age and baldness is NOT, I repeat, NOT a criteria if he is an NRI and earning in multiple zeroes after 3 zeroes. Period.
- Anything else , PASSES.
Now starts the talks between cherukante ammavan ( groom’s uncle) and penninte achan (bride’s father). Both start neutrally extolling their respective kids virtues and character so much , that it seems the site just found the new age Adam and Eve! And that too from numma (our own) kerala ! Now for those of you wondering , if the bride/ groom is asked anything regarding their wishes till now, the answer is NO. Because according to malayali logic, any hidden love affairs and crushes come out in the initial discussion period, before the oldies bring in the IT grad relative! 😛 So everything after that is a ball set in motion that culminates ‘successfully’ depending on various twists and turns. “Successfully” , providing the groom’s family clinches an attractive dowry deal, which can include anything ranging from latest bmw car, 916 jewellery to liquid cash and city properties. And the weirdest fact? The girl’s family is more than happy and exuberant to give the same. After the deal is clinched, then finally the guy and girl see each other’s faces properly and start talking, chatting and messaging. Doesn’t matter if it seems obvious that they vary in thoughts as in giraffe to ant, the deal is set. “Live with it” is the keyword here. 😛 Then the entire clan of both families descends, both dead and alive ,from around the world arrive 1 month before the wedding and start shopping . And when I say shopping, I mean the ‘baap’ of all shopping lists in the world! It’s at this time, that malayalis break all known records of jewellery purchasing making sure the girl is covered in enough gold, to the extent of making her stoop from its collective weight 😛
It’s also at this time they get to know how low in standards, allegedly, the other is. The gossip machines also start pumping around this time. But since the deal is set, Live with it!. Oh.. And the marriage dates are fixed based on the clans vacation dates, not on the groom’s leave availability!. FInally it all comes down to the wedding which is one huge carnival of betrothal, engagement, naadan kallu (toddy), foreign booze ( that the clans brought from duty paid shops in airport), mind blowing sizes and shapes of F&B, and pazhavum paaniyum (banana and sweet wine) . And therein ends the arranged marriage scene. BTW, did I say naadan kallu? 😛
2. Love marriages (Intercaste, Love and arranged, Love and runaway, Love and missing-in-action)
This is even more funnier in execution. For the sake of simplicity am going to take it from the guys point of view. The premise is simple. Guy loves a girl( be it same religion or different). Parents bring in the topic of marriage. ( Remember the discussion before they bring in the IT grad? 😉 ). Guy says no to marriage talks. Oldies start fidgeting. Investigation starts. Finally guy comes out with the truth. Cut to chase. Father talks about social status, mother talks about 9 months painfully carrying in stomach, cousins congratulate. From here there are 3 separate track lines
- Intercaste, Love and arranged – Both clans talk grudgingly, either arriving at a false compromise or one party wholly taking charge. The marriage though happens like arranged itself, with both parties or the in charge clan, with or without a plastered smile on their faces. The grandiosity of the wedding is still maintained with all those stuffs that was mentioned earlier. Which also includes naadan kallu 😉
- Love and runaway – This is where epic chase scenes and friends and cousins come into play. Both clans dint find a deal clincher ( probably because bride’s family wasn’t keen on giving dowry to a guy they dint choose , looking at his rubber estates ! ). Then cinematic plans and blue prints are drawn, guy and friends kidnap the girl willingly, both change dresses on the run, reach a register marriage office, ( which the cousins had blocked before) , sign and become man and wife. Then to try one last time for parents approval, followed by the friends and cousins entourage , they go to either homes. If in stereotypical scenario, the parents break down and agree on seeing their kids married and with spouse in tow, all is well again. If not , then defying society’s norms they start living alone, with support from the same friends and families. Worry not. Because this last’s only till the girl delivers a child , and then the now official grand parents come to see their grandchild. Happy ending. Oh sorry! Did i mention the flowing of naadan kallu the night after the couples succesful register marriage! 😛
- Love and missing-in-action – This is again simple. Scared of parents even before the talks come up, guy and girl elopes and runaway. Usually noone has a clue of their whereabouts until some friend or cousin who knew the plan, talks. Then the parents go in survival mode. They get their kids back and enter a truce. An official marriage takes place with only near and dear invited to play witness. Naadan kallu flows . 😉
So you see, we malayalis have a knack of going about marriage in the most cinematic and perfect way. It’s as we say, a chagara (torrent) of emotions, deals and lots of agreeing to disagreeing. We dominate it entirely with episodes of over dosed melodrama, family sentiments, lovable cousins, kick ass friends, snoopy relatives, gossiping neighbours, NRI relatives and who not, to form THE BIG FAT MALAYALI WEDDING ! 😀
Did i say NAADAN KALLU ? 😛