Yesterday, I went to the wedding of a friend and colleague. They had a cute little civic ceremony. The girl here is the theoretical physicist. The guy is a farmer. A real one, with his own orchard and fruit shop and tractor and everything. The ceremony was set in their orchard. The parents of the bride and groom spoke. Then the bride and the groom sang a song together. Then, they tossed a coin to decide who should say the wows first. The girl won the toss. They exchanged wows, a judge that was hanging around in the background in his robe, pronounced them husband and wife and said “You may now kiss the bride again” (for they had been hugging and kissing all through the ceremony so far, no pretence of virginal purity or any such hypocrisy any where in sight), and they got onto the tractor of the groom and drove away. Cool, huh?
And as always this got me thinking about Indian wedding ceremonies I have been to. I have only been to south Indian tam-bram weddings. And I haven’t been to one in a while as I had decided that I will not go to these “extended-family-no-alcohol-parties” unless I was friends with the bride or the groom and most of my friends got married at inconvenient times and in inconvenient places (in India when I was not able to travel for example). But of course I have distinct memories of the many weddings I went to before I left home for college. And I had an advantage, in that I sat through the ceremonial part of the wedding with my great-granddad, who explained to me the significance of the various aspects of the wedding. But again, his explanation always had a religious tilt to them and over the years I have come to associate social or sociological rationalizations to them as well.
As a consequence, I have categorized the bits and pieces of the ceremony into the adult and the child parts. For example, the “oonjal”, where the bride and groom sit on a swing and are rocked and fed sweet things and sung to, or when the they have the “nalangu”, which are essentially slapstick games of breaking stuff on each other and throwing things and being carried on the shoulder of relatives to see who can be lifted higher must all clearly belong to the “child” category, included to make 8 or 10 year old kids that used to be the bride and groom once upon a time comfortable with the whole process. Then there are the really cute things that broadly belong in the adult category, like the woman following the man when he takes her hand to signify her support for him, or the “ammi mithikkardhu” part, when the man takes the woman’s feet in his hands and puts on the “metti”, to say I am your slave as much as you are mine. If you are not able to see the cuteness, imagine it in the context of 16 year olds in love for the first time.
But in today’s day and age, when 30-somethings are the ones getting married, all of this takes a rather ridiculous bent, doesn’t it? I wonder if our ceremonial weddings have evolved to better fit the social context today. Do you know? And if they haven’t then here is to hoping that they will in very short order!