Thiruvarur Komala

The identity I have gained among the public today is,Kalyana Malai Mohan. Kalyana Malai is not a baby born in haste; it has been given birth in a healthy atmosphere only after involving me for about 30 years in all the marriages that took place in and around my hometown and later having it as a base, making the sound project of marriage contract. In all these years, the changes the society has undergone in its views and thoughts, has made me recollect the past with awe. Certain ideas which were considered conservative in those days have made us feel, they have got sophisticated by now.

Certain things which were considered cultured then are now felt, have become cheaper.

I wish to make a picturesque description of yesterday and show the proceedings of today in contrast. I am sure; you all will go along with my feelings when I share my experiences through this series.

I was just 16 then. After going round the towns around Tanjore such as Nannilam, Nagapattinam, Vazhutur and so on, we finally settled in Thiruvarur. Our house was in Kamalalayam Vadakarai. I had a friend named Narayanan in my immediate next house. When Narayanans parents sought alliance for his sister Komala, we both got thrilled. Everyday, I used to narrate all the happenings of the next house to my mother. One day, we came to know that a guy named Aanantharaman was expected in their house, to see his sister and find out whether she would be a good match for him. Our ecstasy knew no bounds. Assuming to have acquired elderliness suddenly, Narayanan and myself sat by the side of Komala and did all that she needed. We demanded the flower woman to knit the flowers so closely and make a Kadhamba mala and bought it after a good deal of bargain. Thus we were assuring ourselves a permissible place on that occasion. When Aanantharaman declared that he liked the girl, the whole family became jubilant and celebrated their joy.

A mixture of blush, shyness, a sort of serenity, silence and satisfaction was seen in Komalas face!

That day I realized how the chemistry works in a girl as soon as she is proposed by a suitable groom! I rushed to Komala and whispered in her ears whether she liked the groom. She casually replied, Those are all up to my parents to decide.

Nowadays, when I introduce the young girls in Kalyana Malai program, they offer a very clearly visioned thought and express their views and expectations about the groom frankly. They decide their partner along with their parents, among the heap of information about guys that are placed before them. Miss Sudha had about 150 choices from which her father Mr. Venkatraman chose a suitable groom for his daughter. Miss. Gayathri and her mother Mrs. Karpagam had their choice from 435 offers. Gayathri and her husband Anand are now in search of a suitable name for their offspring which is expected within 4 months. At this juncture, when girls of today enjoy their right to select their better half through Kalyana Malai, going hand in hand with our culture, Im inevitably reminded of Komala.

Narayanan’s father Ramanujam was allotting various offices for the members of the family to make the marriage celebration a grand success. Wishing to gain some importance during the celebration, Narayanan and I were keeping ourselves always within the reach of his sight. We would have been satisfied even with the work of buying vegetables and milk but he shared all the work among the other members. At last, he called Narayanan and handed over the cash box saying,” I’ll not interfere in any of the work until the ‘Kanikadhanam’ takes place. So, you are responsible for the accounts.” Feeling dejected that I was not given any responsibility, as I was young and does not belong to their family, I started home. His father commanded,” Mohan, wait! You have an important work. Along with Seenu Mama, you have to go to the station tomorrow, bring the Sambandhi and his family from the station, look after them well during their stay here and help them to go back safely in the train. All these are restored on your hands.” [Seenu mama is his dear friend and my maternal uncle. My mother used to boast that I’m a Xerox of Seenu mama!]Joy sprang out of me as a fountain as that was a great honor and acceptance conferred upon me! Generally, these responsibilities were shouldered by the paternal or maternal uncles of the bride!

The bridegroom, Sambandhi and their people were to come from Chidambaram. The train would reach Tiruvarur by 8.30a.m. About 30 members were expected to accompany them. Hence, I hired 6 bullock carts with the money received from Narayanan and reached the station even by 7a.m.The train showed its face only by 9.30a.m., being late by an hour. The DEGREE Coffee, which I stored in four jugs reached a minus centigrade and became chill! Even then, I offered it to them, with a mind to relieve them of their tiredness. “Even our maid does not deserve this coffee” – so saying, all shared it till the last drop! Ramanujam uncle had strictly warned me not to reciprocate any of their comments. Hence, turning a deaf ear to all their comments, I arranged them in all 5 carts and loaded the 6th one with their luggage. Cheenu mama ordered me to take them safely. He politely whispered in the ears of Sambandi,”Mohan will look after everything. I have other marriage works. So, let me take leave of you.” So saying, with a relief, he escaped from that place. I gladly occupied my cycle and headed the procession with all cheers.

Kamalalayam Vadakarai street was fully covered with a decorative pandal. Before our procession reached Vadakarai, the groom’s father stopped me then and there and investigated regarding the arrangements made by the hosts. He spied with many questions to be sure that they all would be treated with due respects by the bride’s family. Unless and until the groom’s family take their bath and get ready, even the youngest of the bride’s family would not be allowed take the lunch. I was already burning with hunger. So I tried my best to reach the destination at the earliest.

Bridegroom Anantharaman was very close with Narayanan and me on his first visit to see Komalam. But today, to much of my surprise, he totally ignored me! Later, he frankly declared us that he was thus instructed by his parents. He was so advised because they had a feeling that, only then, he would be able to maintain the status of a Bridegroom without which he would not be respected. Along with all these great incidence, on the day of marriage, groom’s uncle who went to have a dip in the Kamalalayam tank got absconded. Oh! What an interesting anecdote. Why don’t you wait for just another week?

Nowadays when I take up a contract for marriage, the groom and the bride, both work in America. Both take up the same flight just two days before the marriage. Parents of both bride and groom come to the airport and take them home together. How heart filling the sight is!!!

Nowadays when I take up a contract for marriage, the groom and the bride, both work in America. Both take up the same flight just two days before the marriage. Parents of both bride and groom come to the airport and take them home together. How heart filling the sight is!!!

(All the incidents narrated in this series are my experiences in the past. Names alone are changed.)