Sunday, June 29, 2008

Antony - The wedding

[warning: long post!]

Amma liked the girl. I don’t thing anything else ever mattered. That Antony agreed to marry her was just a slight co-incidence....:D

Some mothers hug their children when they come back home after a long time, others kiss them on their cheek, yet others rue at how thin their child looks. Mine pinched me on the arm! The outpouring of this motherly emotion was thanks to me botching up all the tasks assigned to me. Like writing a speech for the wedding, typing the addresses of relatives and so on and so forth. Appan managed the addresses and Joechen managed the speech, as for me, I thanked my big fat Indian family.

Thursday was marked by repetitive journeys to Ernakulam as last minute shopping hogged most of our precious time. I was appointed driver since Appan was sick and tired of driving to Ernakulam in the mad traffic. I liked the responsibility and the traffic was not as bad as I imagined. And for my services, I was rewarded with an excellent Jubba which I wore for the wedding.

Amma’s oldest (and most capable!) sister Elsey aunty and her grandson Joseph came on Friday. And from then on, Amma breathed easy. Friday saw more visits to Ernakulam and general preparations going into full swing. I was assigned the prestigious task of fixing the toilet seats in the next flat. If the Mahatma saw me, he would’ve been pleased no end… my father… well he just smirked! Antony was seen running around booking rooms for his and my friends who would be visiting.

Saturday was hectic. I had grown a full beard and when I suggested, that I could shave my head instead of my beard, it did not go down too well with the family (no sense of style!). But now, a new situation emerged that threatened the very social fabric of Kerala. My friends (read dregs of society) from Bangalore had just landed at Aluva Railway station!

As we had planned, I booked them a tempo traveler. Their initial target was Boothathan Kettu, which later changed to Aathirapilly and Vaazhachal. Nayantara, the south Indian heroine, was having a film shoot there. No prizes for guessing who got the paparazzi shots! My only solace is that while trying to take the picture, Shyam got bitten by a leech….again!

I was presently assigned to collect the wedding rings from Ammu's father and to supervise the parking arrangements at the church. "This isn’t a job for superman" I complained, "Yeah, it's a job for Aby" Amma shot back and the matter was settled. I came back home to see a packed audience. In my absence the whole house had filled up with relatives.

It was time for the madhuram veppu. Joechen (Amma’s only brother) was giving the speech. The long and short of it went like this

"Dhane dhane pe likha he Khaane valae ke naam"(On every grain of food, the Almighty has written the name of the person who shall have it) – Saying by a Mughal era poet.
In the year 2008, Antony Menacherry went to visit his maternal grand father at Edakunnam, Koovapally. After exchanging the usual pleasantries and spending some time around the house, he decided to take a bath. Unfortunately, there was no soap in the bathroom. So, Antony went out and asked his grandfather for soap. After checking the usual place he kept his soap and finding none, he opened the cup-board and took out a foreign soap, which he gave to Antony. The date on the soap caught Antony’s attention though… it was marked 1991. Pulikunnel Scaria Abraham was a man known for his spartan ways (a man who has 9 daughters’ needs to be I guess!). He had kept this soap safely in his cup-board for 17 years! But the story did not end there….

In the year 1991, George Menacherry was walking in a supermarket in Saudi Arabia. Among the many things he bought there was a Camay soap, which he presented to his father-in-law Mr. P.S Abraham on his return.

The moment George bought the soap, God almighty had written his eldest son Antony’s name on it and for a long 17 years it waited for him. The very same Almighty has written Ammu on Antonys fate and Antony on Ammus fate.”

Joechan then gave Antony his wedding present… a framed copy of the Camay soap cover. Everyone was left spell bound by this present and speech.

The rest of the night was devoted to feast and drinks. Unfortunately, the food was only average. The very same caterers were the ones in charge of the wedding feast. What if the food tomorrow was also bad? Amma looked tensed.

Early in the morning on D-Day, Appa was awake and thrilled, for his first born was going to get married. Amma was awake and thrilled, for her first born was going to get married. I was awake and thrilled, for I was the one driving the Merc to Church. Antony… he was sound asleep!

The driver came early and we went to church to check out if all the arrangements were made. Also, I needed to be familiar with the car. All the flower arrangements were in place. Everything seemed set to welcome the new couple. The decoration for the car was simple, one bouquet on the bonnet and one on the hood. More importantly, I drove a Benz for the first time in my life!

Back home a minor tragedy struck. Peetu chettans baby was dozing off when she fell from her mothers hands and knocked her head on the glass teapoy. The wound on her forehead was deep but not serious. We rushed her to the hospital and fortunately the doctor patched her up in no time. Amma was extremely sad that “blood was split” on such an auspicious day. But other than this small hiccup, everything else went on pretty smoothly.

Antony was 'dressed' by cousins. Unfortunately, I couldnt join in as I was at the hospital. He looked great in his blue-black suit and tie. I especially loved his tie. It kinda suited him well. This was followed by the "sthuthi kodukal", getting blessed by his elders. Though I am younger, I didnt get completely sidelined... I got a handshake...:D

Appan (Amma's father) blessing Antony

Daisy Aunty and Jose Uncle bless Antony

The handshake

Antony Aby Bhai Bhai

The 'old' family

We were early at the church and so was the bride. Existence of non-transferable duties in the church meant that this became one of the few weddings which I witnessed in its entirety. Fortunately, the priest kept the ceremony short and simple as he had promised to do. Since Antony had done some serious practice on tying the knot, there were no glitches during the grand finale. Antony looked handsome in his suit and Ammu was stunning in her cream colored Sari. More importantly, as a couple, they looked perfect. ‘Nalla cherchayonde’ was one happy whisper that I overheard.

Thaali kettu

However, what surprised most people was the ceremony (planned by Amma) after the Kurbana. Antony and Ammu were led to the reception hall, which was only a short distance from the church to the tune of traditional chenda kotte(drum beats) under a muthu kuda (bejeweled umbrella). The whole family marched in two columns behind them. Amma's long time dream thus bore fruit exceptionally well. She had the same plan for the engagement, but was discouraged by Appa since it was “their” ceremony. Anyways, everyone was impressed. Who knows, maybe this will become another Syrian Christian tradition.

My family firmly believes that the wedding ceremony is rated by the stomach. The food thankfully was absolutely delicious. The reception at the hall was a walk down the memory lane for me. Antony’s old friends from Kollam I.J.H.S School who had been my seniors were there. So were our old neighbors and Amma and Appa's old colleagues. I was meeting most of them after more than a decade and it felt great catching up.

Cho Chweet!

Lights camera action

The Gang

The lunch stretched on for 2 hours and it was nearly 4 P.M in the afternoon when we reached home. I, Antony and Ammu went last, so that the newly weds could be ‘received’ as per Syrian Christian protocol. It was a simple affair; Amma took a rosary and a bible, blessed Antony by drawing the cross on his forehead and then Ammu. Then she asked them both to kiss the bible. Ammu, then entered her new home with the traditional ‘right-foot-first’.

The welcoming party

Bouquet for the couple

Amma giving Chedathi the 'ninne edutholamedee' smile...:D

As per the family tradition the stage was set for ragging the newly wed couple. This ragging session was scheduled for 8 P.M. everyone was in high spirits (literally). The movers and shakers of the family were in full flow. My aunts and cousins took center stage and started singing. It was really a sight to be seen. The songs were, as usual, peppered with a good amount of innuendo. Antony and Ammu were forced to sing and dance too. Unfortunately, my video camera quality leaves much to be desired. But here are some snippets.

Ragging committee

Drum Beats

The party stretched well into the night with Vinu, Minu chechi and Shirley aunty stealing the show. Finally we sang the “manavaati…. Maniyara thura..” song and played ‘train’ with Yamuna chechi leading, Antony, Ammu and the rest of the family following. Each holding the others shoulder. But the “train” took its sweet time and lot of pleading before it entered the bedroom.


Once the "train" entered the bedroom, we all sat around the nuptial bed and “gheraoed” Antony and Ammu. “Start the show” screamed Joe Aliyan. “Yeah, yeah, we bought the tickets, now start the show” Vinu seconded and the poor newly weds sweated. Poor Ammu chedathi, the initiation ceremony into the Menacherry family must have been a shock for the poor girl.

Amma(?) finally came to the rescue and chased us all out of the room. Everyone left after wishing the newly weds a long and happy married life. And so ends this blog with my own humble wishes to Antony and Ammu for a happy married life.

*More pictures here and here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The birth of a man

She was the master piece of the Gods. Everything about her was perfect. Her eyes as blue as the sky, her skin of golden hue, her laughter a twinkle among the stars. But her heart, her heart throbbed with pain! The pain of loneliness, the pain of her tragic fate, a pain so inhuman the the very air hung in moody melancholy about her like a veil. For, she was denied a mate!

Men came from near and far hearing of her divine beauty. They were all drawn to her like moths to a flame. She aroused such uncontrollable passion that they went mad in their longing for her. But there was not one among them, who could even dream to wipe her feet. They were like candles to the Sun!

The years passed and her hope to find a mate dwindled like a trickle of water drawn in by the parched summer mud.
“Why do thee make me suffer like this my lords?” she cried unto heaven, but no answer came forth.

But, she was not of timid lineage. In her veins gushed the blood of ancient warriors. She was not somebody, who you could say no to, or refuse to answer! If the Gods be her adversary, then so be it!

She shook with such fury that even nature trembled before her. Her eyes glowed red and fire entered her heart. She decided to take up severe penance standing on one leg with a smoldering fire all around her. A feat, that even toughened ascetics balked at! Her penance was so strong that the very foundations of heaven trembled. The whole world smoldered in the heat of her prayers, life as we know it was threatened. The very balance of nature was upset.

In utter desperation, the Gods appeared to her and begged her to stop her penance. But she was inconsolable. A perfect creation as she was wasted due to the ineptitude of the Gods. And as each tear fell from her lovely cheeks onto the scorched earth, nature shivered in agony as if fed with fire.

Among men, she cared for only one. And that was her wise and saintly father. The gods approached him in their desperation, seeking a solution to this Gordian knot.
“O! Wise man!” they cried, “A creation so perfect takes millennia to create and the God who made her paid with his soul. For such is the effort he spent. And now she demands one more!!! A mate!!”

The wise father shut himself in a cave and thought for seven days and seven nights, finally on the morning of the eight day he emerged, tired and emaciated, but with a twinkle in his eyes.
“It is clear that you Gods will not be able to create a mate for her anytime soon, it is also clear that her youth will not stay forever, so here is what I will suggest to you…..Take her life!!!”
The Gods were shocked “But, it is not her time to die yet!”
“Oh, but, I did not finish” said the wise man “Make the most perfect man you Gods can think up of and reincarnate my daughter when you’ve completed this stupendous feat”
The Gods looked at each other and nodded their heads in amazement. Yes! the wise man had spoken the truth, this was the only solution.

So they made me.

Hey! Hey! Hey! Point is, my bro is getting married in like 10 days time and see… I am you know “single and ready to mingle” So I thought I would come out with this sales pitch that would have the ladies* swooning in my arm.

*Noticed the plural huh? Hey! No sweat, I didn’t stand on one foot… she did!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Love in the time of cholera

Did I love the book? Yes I did
Did I hate the book? Yes I did

When I saw the movie at the rental, I first thought of Kite Runner and decided not to watch it. But then curiosity got the better of me and I am thankful it did. Maybe because of my low expectations or maybe because of the abundance of mammary glands on display, I liked the movie a lot.

But mind you, this is what wiki has to say “Time rated it "D" and described it as "a serious contender [for] the worst movie ever made from a great novel ... Skip the film; reread the book."

And this is what I have to say, “You need a Nobel prize in patience to re-read that book” The inference -> Time is trashy, I am classy!

I read the book coz I paid a lot to buy it in the first place. It was an exercise in patience for me. The initial part of the book is extremely slow going, but once you reach the middle there is no stopping.

Gabriel García Marquez has woven a story that is intricate and enchanting around a story line that is depressingly ordinary. The essence of this story is about its characters rather than the story itself.

The story revolves around Florentino Ariza, the jilted lover. Some say that the pivotal character is Fermina Daza, a logical conclusion considering that she is the center of attraction for two men, her husband Juvenal Urbino and Florentino. But to me, there is no question. The perverted yet spiritual, sick yet romantic, complicated yet naïve, irritating yet sympathize-able (ok, I just ran out of words!) love and character of Florentino makes him the undisputed protagonist of the novel.

The story is about two young lovers Florentino and Fermina. Fermina's father disapproves of the love. For two long years they are separated from each other, but their love keeps growing with each letter sent. The moment Fermina returns back to town, Florentino rushes to see her and they meet in the market. But in that one lucid moment, Fermina “just knows” that Florentino is not the right person for her (after two years of passionate letter passing!). Even before the reader murmurs “ah! But why?” she gets married to the rich, handsome doctor.

So, is she just a bitch who dumped somebody for money? Nope! The next 50 years of her life are completely devoted to her doctor and philanthropist husband. Meanwhile, Florentino passes these years with two main themes. One, to try and forget Fermina, which he is unable to do and two, to wait for her husband to die.

Then comes the most perverted part of the story, about how Florentino tries to “forget” his love for Fermina. He does this by f****** anything that moves. He even keeps a record of it in his diary! Readers are constantly reminded of this perversion on his part and then alternately made to sympathize with him when he suffers greatly due to his true love. I say “made” because I really believe that Marquez has the skill to make the reader feel whatever he wants us to feel.

Finally when he says in passing that he has known more than 600 women, I (and you, assuming you are male) end up thinking “Daivamae!! enthoru aneethi!*”.

Apart from this “perverted novelty” of the novel, another extremely interesting part is the concept of love in old age which Marquez has beautifully dealt with. It is an eminently thought provoking part of the novel. Florentino proposes to Fermina on the very day that her husband dies. Initially, she fumes with rage at this affront to her widowhood but later they become lovers again (at the age of 80?). Fermina a strong person with hardly any misgivings is left wondering whether her life would have been better with her lover.

Finally it is the characters in the book that make it a classic I guess. Characters that make you hate and love them alternately. Suffices to say that even Fermina's pet parrot has "character"!!

Coming to the film, it has selected the right(read nude) scenes instead of falling into the usual trap of trying to show too much of the novel. The actors, except for Urbino are how I imagined them to be. Giovanna Mezzogiorno(Fermina) with her no-nonsense body language and excellent dialogue delivery fits her role perfectly. She is also the most challenging character to enact in the movie, since Fermina in her youth, Fermina in her marriage and Fermina the widow are very different characters.

Florentino Ariza’s character remains the same throughout and Javier Bardem was able to do it full justice. The scene where his uncle shouts at him for writing business letters to clients in the fashion of a love letter and his reply to it are nothing short of classic. It shows Florentino for what he is, the hopeless romantic. Again, the scene with him fornicating in his office as his uncle drops by, shows his perversion (though comically) the very same way it is in the novel.

If you catch hold of the novel do read it, if you catch hold of the movie, do see it. For there are only few such!

*That doesn’t need translation!