Friday, October 26, 2007

Weird Tamizh Serials...

Tamizh serials and movies seriously need to be banned. Their sole aim seems to be in keeping our folks immersed in out-of-date ideas. I especially hate some women-centric concepts like:

1. Victim marries rapist because the town tells her that's the right thing to do and he's technically her husband.
2. Bride's father commits suicide because some idiot stopped the wedding right before the muhurtham. Usually, he claims to be the ex-boyfriend and the groom becomes all righteous and decides not to marry a "tainted" girl.
3. Wife commits suicide because her husband leaves her and she's "vaazha vetti".
4. Marriage is a one-time thing for a woman. And if it fails, God forbid, there's no life for the woman after that!
5. Polygamy amongst males is acceptable.

#1 is extremely ridiculous and re-inforced by movies like "Nattamai" and countless serials. How can a woman live with an insensitive guy who doesn't care about her wishes/feelings?

I don't even want to talk about #2. There's still intense societal pressure about honor. Though it is a humiliating thing to happen, I don't see why the bride's father has to die. Societal recognition is not worth dying! People are fickle and they're often wrong.

#3 -- I've seen it almost happen in real-life. Tamizh women are obsessed with this "vaazha vetti" thing. They let go of their body & mind and become obese, stupid creatures. Their excuse: "I am vaazha vetti". Whatever!

#4 -- Indians have an obsession with the "one-time-only" concept in almost anything. There are no second chances, no second life etc..Unfortunately for women, they suffer the worst. There's this article in Vikatan about a guy who cheated and married 100 women through an online matrimony site! 100. And what happens to these poor women? Their marriages are void legally . Is re-marriage even an option for them? I bet their own families wouldn't agree to it!

Serials are the worst culprits here. By broadcasting something repeatedly, they re-inforce these notions and make them acceptable currency. Bah!

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is there such a thing as over-hospitality?

These days, I feel that most of our lives are centered around food. In the US, if you want to meet someone who doesn't belong to your close friends' circle, then it usually ends up over food. You can't just drop by to anyone's place without scheduling it.

"Hi, I was wondering if we could just drop by this evening.."
"Oh, then why not make it dinner?"
"Come on. We haven't seen you in a while. Let's do dinner."

Okay. So the next time you want to meet them, you'd have to ask them over for lunch/dinner/breakfast or whatever. This being golu season, your golu invite is usually clubbed with dinner/lunch. There's no just dropping by someone acquaintance's place in the evening around 6-ish, having sundal, chit-chatting and just leaving. I guess people are just trying to be hospitable and take care of the guests. But is there such a thing as over-hospitality?

This time in India, I was plied sumptuously with coffee/snacks each time I visited someone's house no matter what the time of day! Morning, evening or night, you're supposed to have something.

"Have some coffee.."
"No..I just had some at Kripa Aunty's house. We stopped there before coming here.."
"Oh, you should taste the wonderful new coffee powder we got at Andal Cafe! Just a little bit.."
"No, please. I'll have some water.."
"Then have some juice. Mango ok?"

Usually, by the time I got home I'd feel like an over-stuffed party bag with all sorts of food items sloshing around in my tummy.

Besides, I think Indians have this special niche for coming up with creative dishes. For almost any festival/function in the house, we have sumptuous meals served on banana leafs. I like eating on banana leafs but then, you lose track of your portion size on them..:) So the cook plies you with liberal servings of sojji appams, 2-3 kosmalli varieties, vazhapoo vadais, sambar, morkuzhambu, rasam, 3-4 poriyals and koottus, payasam and you're left panting just looking at your banana leaf! People don't take "No. Enough" for an answer when they serve. They think it means we're being shy to ask. So they ply you with even more food.

"Tsk..these days kids have shrunk their stomachs in the US. See, she's struggling to finish her lunch and I've just finished two servings of each dish! Tell your daughter to eat well!"


Besides all this, there are those working lunches, working dinners etc..If you want to meet a colleague outside of work, you do it over dinner. If you want to talk to your realtor about something, you go to the nearest Starbucks or Krispy Kreme and down 2 donuts before you leave. Why can't we just meet anyone somewhere in the park or the library or the nearest museum? Why is food the central point of all congregations?

I have nothing against all those people who feed me good food..:) But personally, If I want to meet a friend to just talk, then I'd like to be able to do that without scheduling a mealtime for it! Besides, hasn't mommy said that talking while eating is bad for your health? :)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Marriage Chronicles

Warning: A very Tamil oriented post. Cannot for the life of me translate some of the words to English..:) They're true, authentic Tamizh!

Anyone who's gotten married in true Tamil Brahmin tradition or attended a close relative's wedding will know that marriage is all about "banthathis". For the uninitiated, "Bandhadhi" is a style of doing things associated with a place. Eg. Tanjavur bandhadhi, Palakkad bandhadhi, blah, blah, blah. Most of these bandhadhis enunciate very, very,very essential,important things to a marriage:

1. The size and ingredient(cashew, kadalai paruppu or thengai) of the 3rd paruppu thengai in the nth seer varisai being presented to the groom's side.

This assumes paramount importance because some old maami from the groom's side who's married off 5 daughters will be watching it. She will also promptly come and tell your mom:

"Yendi, ennadhu idhu unga aathula mundhiri paruppu paruppu thengai vekkaradhu dhaan pazhakkama? Enga bandhadhi-la idhellam kidaiyaadhuppa. Hmmm.."

2. The shape of the vessel that maamis use to carry the vilakku during the oonjal. For the ignorant: Mamis circumambulate the bride & the groom on the oonjal with a vilakku in a vessel.

Mami1: "Enga bandhadhi la ellam bosi dhaan.."
Mami2: "Ille ille, enga bandhadhi la adukku dhaan..enna pesarel!"

3. The exact sequence of relative maamis when doing the paruppu pudi ritual during oonjal.

I cannot stress the importance of this. Not only does each bandhadhi have its special way of suthifying paruppu pudi, the hierarchy of the maamis is also very important. If you ask a younger person to do it before an older maami (who incidentally would've disappeared somewhere at that exact time and cannot be found), you have a crisis on your hands.

4. The exact count & identity of persons who should be present in the room when the bride has to tie her nine yards saree.

The first rule is that none should care about the sentiments of the bride. If tradition dictates that your maami paatti's daughter-in-law's nathanaar has to be present, then it HAS to be that way. Doesn't matter if the concerned person knows to tie the nine-yards saree.

5. The menu of the wedding.

If you don't get the menu right for your banthathi, you will be ostracized and castigated by your banthathi clan.

6. The shape and variety of betel leaves that is given as tamboolam.

"Enga Tanjavur-la ellam kumbakonam vethalai dhaan kudupaa! Idhai paaru, edho vathalagundu vethalaiya kondu vandhu vechirukaa! Hmm..ivaloda pazhakkame veraya irukku!"

Knowing your "banthathi" will also make you Supreme Counselor of Unwritten Marriage (SCUM for short) rules for ALL weddings that you attend in your lifetime! Seeing how important all these above listed things are very important to our marital bliss and peacefulness, S and I have decided to initiate our own, special banthathi: the Lexington Banthathi. This will ensure that we will be lifetime presidents of this new banthathi clan and none will have the courage to overrule us. Maamis, watch out! Here we come!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I used to love being privy to "secrets". I'd feel all tingly when a friend or a relative drew me close and whispered conspiratorially in my ear, "Don't mention it to any other living soul! You're the only one in the know." To me, it was a sign of trust; a seal of approval on the sanctity of the relationship; And in some ways, a bonding ritual. After all, what's a relationship without sharing those little things that none else knew? I fought with one of my best friends in college because he refused to tell me the name of his crush. We didn't talk for 2 months and we fought many times over it. I considered it an insult to the friendship that he didn't share it with me (Me of all people! Didn't he consider me trustworthy? Wasn't I his best friend? How dare he!).

I don't know when gyaan descended on me (You must agree that it is a sure sign of enlightenment that I can't pinpoint the moment the lightbulb went off in my head! :)) but things are not so black-and-white to me these days. Recently, I found that a relative hadn't shared some important family events, albeit sorrowful, with us. It was a shock to the entire family to find out about it. Some were angry, some outraged, some unconcerned. I just felt sympathy. There's so much involved in sharing personal things -- a bit of ego, fear of judgement, fear of disapproval, fear of being seen as a loser, fear of consequences and fear of the pity that'd be brought on by sharing. And sometimes, its just the plain burden of having to pick up the phone and talk to people than face-to-face interaction. The list could go on!

I've stopped basing relationships on what other people share with me. Sure, I feel good if they trust me enough to tell me something. If not, well, I'll be a bit hurt but they'll still be good friends! :) Besides, some secrets are best left in the dark.

The friend I fought with during college is still one of my good friends. He came to India from the US for my wedding and though I didn't get to talk to him much, I was happy to just have him around. I've realized that I can't let go of some relationships no matter what -- secrets or not!

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Three exciting days condensed to a few snaps...

The entire wedding seems like a happy and exciting blur -- shopping, relatives, excitement, rituals, mantras, temple trips, good food & good times! I confess I was too wound up (about just getting the 9-yards saree tied in proper fashion before people started banging on the Bride's door -- "Neramaachu..Ponnai vara sollungoo!" ) to have the "Omigosh-I-am-getting-married-eeeeks" feeling..:) Everything went in fast-forward mode in India and now I am savouring each moment through photos/videos. Long live technology! :)