Om Mangalam Mangalam..

Chennai (2006)

It was a big fat Tamil brahmin wedding. You can imagine the setting. From Kancheevaram clad Mamis to Silk Dhoti Mamas, from adorable little girls dressed in their Pattu Paavaadais (silk skirts) to young ladies just graduated to Sarees, the wedding hall was overflowing with guests. The hall, beautifully decorated with jasmine, roses, lotus, and Javvanthi flowers, looked colorful, heavenly and royal. Traditional Naadhaswaram and Melam instruments added to the festivity. The priest who was seated in the center of the stage was totally in control of the event.

The bride, wearing the traditional Madisaar (9 yards silk saree) for the first time in her life, was obviously a little nervous. The groom in the Panchakancham style Dhoti (probably his first and only time in that attire) was trying his best to follow the priest, worried about being scolded for missing the Mantras. The bride’s parents looked happy, proud and nervous all at the same time.

The initial ceremonies of the day were over and the Muhurtham was about to begin. Muhurtham is the actual wedding ceremony where the groom ties the traditional Thirumangalyam around bride’s neck making her his wife, a tradition, similar to exchanging rings in the western culture. Thirumangalyam, also called as MangalSutr, is the sacred chain. The bride was seated on her father’s lap as per the tradition, with her mom standing right behind them.

Image courtesy : Artist Maya

Ketti Melam, Ketti Melam” said the priest as he raised his hand above and shook his fingers left and right as an indication to the musicians to play the music of the Muhurtham. Everyone’s attention turned towards the center of the stage to make sure they wouldn’t miss the reason they were all gathered there.  4, 3, 2, 1, the countdown began to the climax of the event.

“Stop!” said the Bride.
Enna aachu ma?” asked the stunned priest (What happened dear?)

That was a little unexpected. The bride’s parents were totally confused and clueless. The groom was shocked, the Thirumangalyam in his hand shaking. Everyone else on the stage was taken aback.

“I need my two brothers on the stage” said the bride in a very clear and strong voice. “I can’t get married without them by my side; it is very important for them to be here.”
Avlothaana? Athukaa ippadi! ” the relieved priest sighed. “Koopidungo”  (Is that it? Call the brothers now!)

A sense of panic and urgency set in the crowd.

“Where are the boys?”
“Where is Shri? Where is Ram?”
“Did you see them?”
“Are they in the kitchen?”
“Are they in the reception?”
“Go, look for them”
“Shri ”

My cousin grabbed my hand and pulled me from the car, as I was stepping out of it  “Shri Anna! Where did you go?”
“I went to the ATM to get cash, What happened?”
“Ayyo! You can’t find a better time? Come on, rush, it is time for the Muhurtham and Akka won’t get married unless her two brothers are there on the stage right next to her.”

I ran through the crowd, pushing people out of the way. Thankfully nobody complained and some even pushed me ahead, making sure that I would reach the stage quickly. My parents were so relieved to see me, by that time my brother also managed to reach the stage.

“Thank god! You two are here” said my sister, the bride. “I want you two right by my side when he ties the Thirumangalyam.This is the most important moment of my life and I want you two to be a part of it” she said and got teary eyed.
Loosu! (You silly!) We are here, we wouldn’t miss it” said my brother patting her head.
“Careful Anna, Don’t mess her hair.” I pulled my brother’s hand away.
“Now, shall we?” My soon to be brother-in-law was anxious.
“Yes,” my sister smiled. And the priest started the mantras. “Om..” he said, “Om Mangalam bagavanu vishnu, Mangalaaya karudathwaja..

I was holding my sister’s left hand, while my brother was on the her other side holding her right hand. She was sitting on my dad’s lap, and my mom was standing right behind them, with her two hands on my sister’s shoulders.

What a perfect way to get married! With all your loved ones surrounding you, showering you with their love for you, sharing the most important moment of your life. As expected, we all got teary eyed as the groom proceeded to tie the Thirumangalyam. The crowd went wild with applause, yelling good wishes over the music.

“What a great wedding!”
“We have never seen one like this” they exclaimed.


USA (2011)

This Valentine’s Day I proposed to my boyfriend of three years. My parents were in the US at the time, staying a few miles away with my sister (they were visiting her). But I couldn’t share my happiness with them. They were not part of the most important moment of my life because they didn’t want to be. Had I been straight, our engagement would have been a big family celebration. Though I am very thankful I had two of my queer friends to help me select the ring and plan the event, I still missed my family.

“I don’t understand why you insist that I have to get to know that guy. I can’t and I won’t. I understand that you are gay and you don’t want to get married to a girl. That is that. Why do you expect me to meet that guy?” asked my sister.
“Because I love him and I want my family to get to know him.” I said.
“Why? Can’t you keep your gay life separate? It is no big deal. See, I don’t talk about work at home, I keep my professional life separate. Likewise, you should keep your gay life separate. You are being stubborn. I don’t appreciate that. I am telling you once for all!”

This, from the sister who put her wedding on hold because she wanted her siblings to be a part of it.

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South Indian, Sambar lover,Subramanya Bharathi fan, Rebel, Bleeding heart liberal, Writer, Dreamer, Die-hard romantic and Queer. Twitter: @shrisadasivan

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