The Marriage of Lakshmi

             The South Indian middle class attitudes and observations
         Mister Mayilsamy was full of smile!! At last he had sucessfully found a groom for his beautiful daughter Lakshmi. The groom was no ordinary groom. An American-resident Indian groom earning salary in thousands of dollars. Thousands of dollars every month are sure to make his daughter happy and comfortable for her lifetime was the main reason for his jealous selection. Moreover nobody’s daughter in his circle married a similar person like his new find – theirs were ordinary Indian grooms. His daughter’s new groom was sure to make his relatives and friends feel jealous of him. That was the most important part of it all.
         Miss Lakshmi was full of tears! The death knell of her life is going to sound in few days time. All of her imaginary expectations are going to get shattered. Her fiance was as dark as a coal tar can be. Even the most powerful camera would find it extremely difficult to distinguish his facial features. And all signs were present on the face to show that his character was as dark as his complexion. Some who are fair outside are sometimes dark inside. Those who are dark outside are sometimes fair inside. Some who are fair outside are fair in the inside too. And those who are dark outside are dark in the inside also.
         The last type will surely be detested by any individual for marriage. The ‘dollars’ blinded the image-conscious, village-born Mayilsamy and at the same time made him deaf too. Even his close relatives were not able to persuade him to change his mind. His wife, being an South Indian woman did not dare to speak against her husband. Her only daughter Lakshmi too, being of the same mould was not ready to go against her father’s wishes. That would be considered most inappropriate for a South Indian girl.
         Arrangements for the marriage slowly began to take place on all fronts. Eye sensitive, decorative invitations were designed and printed by a reputated firm in the city for the wedding. When the invitations were distributed to the relatives and friends, most of them belonging to lower middle class, the women importuned their husbands for the arrangement of money, to pay for the jewel loans and release the jewels kept in bank lockers.
         The husbands too, with great difficulty, readily arranged money for the return of the jewels as the wearing of jewels by their wives on the marriage day would be a prestige issue for them. The jewels were scheduled to go ‘back’ into the bank lockers after the wedding. And they were to ‘come out’ only for the next wedding. It often seems that the jewels are synonymous to women. But this actually does not seem to be the case. In fact, the jewels spend most of their time underneath the Earth in crude form and after their refined birth from Mother Earth, they spend their time either in jewellery shops or in bank lockers. Once in a while, for few hours, they find accomodation on women with the job of satisfying the human eyes and for the purpose of irritating the weak and poor jealous relatives of their owners.
         Inside the big bungalow, Mayilsamy was irritating almost everybody with his proud talk. None could have avoided noticing his eyes which were sparkling with pride and joy. With every passing minute, the very jealous and cunning relatives of him, found him more and more incorrigible and their tolerance level having reached their limits, they quietly took leave of him and left his house for peace of mind.
         Other people who have come from far away places had to bite their teeth, suppress their jealousy, pretend happiness and smile, conceal disappointment over their inability regarding their own daughter’s wedding and listen to the boasting of him regarding the amount of money allocated to dowry, other expenditures and the American resident Indian groom’s place and status of work. Those who had a deep sense for the welfare of Lakshmi's real, personal, non-materialistic happiness, found him much to their disliking and left his house with regret unable to change his mind. Mayilsamy whose face was radiant with the joy of satisfaction of the ego, refused to allow anybody’s words to get processed in his brain. Whosoever was not in tune with his mind were categorized as ‘jealous’ by him.
         Lakshmi was bitterly weeping in her room. The more she reciprocated the lovable thoughts of the hours she spend with her good collegemate, the more she wanted to weep. She was regarded by everyone as an expert at good observation of people and needed only few minutes to rightly conclude an individual’s character. So her selection could not possibly have been wrong. They both happened to do their schooling together and study at the same college too. Throughout, their relationship was platonic and time tested. Unlike other relationships, their intimacy did not disappear with time span. On the contrary, they became more intimate. At least on the surface, it seemed to be.
         She was basically a village girl, who spent her early ages in her native village. In the beautiful pleasant village, she whiled away her time with simple village folks in lush green fields, in river enjoying swimming, with grazing cows, with little calves, with little goats, dogs and kittens, sparrows, rabbits, parrots, with untensioned relaxed people who were completely in tune with nature. In all, she was a natural village girl who has slowly become sophisticated in city life.
         The good well mannered boy was basically a townee who has spent his life inside crowded buildings, suffering environmental dirt and pollution, noise pollution of traffic jams, in trade fairs, in exihibitions, in vacant lands playing cricket, in cinema halls, at home watching television, playing cards, video games, with sophisticated people, with hypertensioned people, unnatural people, in a refined society ………In all, he was exactly opposite to her.
         With the passage of time, an unknown bridge, bridged them and they both started taking a liking towards each other. Somehow, the news reached the image conscious Mayilsamy and that was the reason for the marriage. The boy’s parents were of ordinary family and were quite rich. But not richer than him. Moreover, they had no noteworthy ladders through which he could climb higher in the society.
         Mayilsamy made a careful rewind of his personal as well as social network memory and made sure that everybody were extended their invitations. The best marriage hall in the city has been selected for the marriage. The marriage hall had a good infrastructure, camaflouged interiors and an excellent marble flooring. The catering firm was among the best in the city. Lavish food orders were placed for all audiences of the planned grand marriage. Decorators were paid without bargain for the electric light and flower decorations. Brahmins who were to perform rituals were given enough money to remain contented atleast for a few weeks. And all other workers associated with the marriage were made comfortable without any form of money distress.
         Lakshmi was still weeping in her room. The next day would be the marriage day – a doomsday for her. Like all other girls, she had expected a fine marriage and a happy life. But that was not going to happen. Dejectedly, she sat in her room painfully thinking her thoughts. Her line of thinking seemed entirely different from that of her father.  Mayilsamy was thinking in terms of image projection by means of her marriage and the satisfaction of the ego. Whereas she was thinking about the satisfaction of life in the long run of fifty years or even more than that.
         As far as she was concerned, all materialistic possessions are bound to become bored in just a matter of months. And what really matters is the depth of a person’s character and mind. The groom’s character could have escaped the prejudiced image conscious Mayilsamy. But it could not go undetected by her indepth observation of  body language. Her friends too were painfully grieved over the proceedings and had to remain tightlipped.
         The Astrologer had predicted a somewhat troubled marriage life. But his predictions were simply overwhelmed by the ‘dollars’ factor. Mayilsamy had his own reasons for the selection. He had started his life as a poor boy from a very poor family. The money troubles faced by his family, made him to think that money is the root cause of all miseries and that it can solve any kind of problem.
         On the evening before the wedding day, the marriage hall was well decorated with colored serial bulbs and tubelights. The serial bulbs and tubelights, which were spread colourfully over the branches of trees grown outside the compound danced whenever a gentle breeze blew over them. The evening kept everyone busy with their respective department of work. As minutes passed by, the night started to increase its darkness. As hours passed by, the night started to decrease its darkness. The Sun was yet to open His eyes and the marriage day was just dawning. At the back of the hall, the vidhwans were dutifully playing their Naathaswarams, Miruthangams, Tablas and the like.
         Outside the hall, gentlemen and ladies belonging to upper class got down from their respective cars with happy blissful faces. The gold ornaments of the ladies did their job of attracting and making other women suffer from envy. The jewels impressed the rich relatives and depressed the poor.  The rich and the powerful were extended warm welcome by Mayilsamy. The poor and weak relatives of him had to remain contented with just a smile and a simple nod of his head.
         Some audiences of the marriage were found busy in interchanging information about their relatives, friends and deadly enemies. In fact, all private secrets of one’s family which got detected, come into light, mostly at the time of marriages. Informations about someone situated hundreds of miles can be had just by attending a marriage. In short, marriage halls to some extent function like information interchange centres.
         A brahmin began to chant the mantras in front of the fire place, situated before the wedding couple. As he chanted the mantras, he poured something into the fire. Over the stage, the glittering jewels blinded the beauty of Lakshmi and at the same time diminished the effect of sadness on her face. With her heart, full of trust, she prayed God to make a miracle to happen and stop the marriage. But such miracles happen only in movies, never in real life. Invitations printed, hundreds of audiences present, mantras being chanted for the finale …But God could do even the impossible was her only hope. All these days God never betrayed her, howsoever busy He was. She seemed to be the one among the most preferred devotee of Him.
         The music vidhwans were dutifully playing their instruments. In few minutes, they were scheduled to raise the sound and speed of the rhythm, when the brahmin gives the sacred marriage thread to the groom for tying it on the bride. That would become the end of the marriage.  In front of the stage, Mayilsamy was found distributing little rice to all of those present inside, for the gentle throwing of the same on the wedding couple, as a gesture of blessing during the tying of the sacred marriage thread by the groom over the neck of Lakshmi.

...                                       ... Even the crude enemies of her family were talking
...                                       ... merrily with her family members. That was a very 
...                                       ... "unusual” thing to happen in her marriage. Her
...                                       ... beloved boyfriend who was ready to sacrifice life
...                                       ... to marry her was talking with her ugly fiancee in
...                                       ... a very friendly manner. Inside the marriage hall, her
...                                       ... servant maid began to draw water from a circular well
...                                       ... and started washing her clothes. After the washing
...                                       ... was over, she laid the clothes on a string for drying
...                                       ... the clothes. Then after she began to cook on a stove
...                                       ... kept over the wall of the well. The village cows were
...                                       ... seen munching grass grown on the marriage hall’s
...                                       ... marble flooring, just in front of the fire where a
...                                       ... brahmin was chanting mantras. It is hard to say how
...                                       ... the village cows came to the city and into the
...                                       ... marriage hall. And why they were not chased out of
...                                       ... the hall. Why no one bothered about them. And
...                                       ... how grass could grow on the marble flooring. And
...                                       ... how anybody could build a well inside the marriage ...                                       ... hall. And how her servant maid could wash clothes
...                                       ... inside the hall and dry it, particularly at the time of
...                                       ... marriage.

...                                       ... A river was flowing silently just few yards from the
...                                       ... fire place. The friends of Lakshmi were enjoying the
...                                       ... swimming in the cool river. A waterfall was flowing
...                                       ... violently from the higher ground to the lower
...                                       ... ground. Water, when it hit the bottom created a mist
...                                       ... like appearance over the marriage stage and blurred
...                                       ... everybody’s vision.

...                                       ... One small sparrow was found sitting on top of a
...                                       ... piebald gelding horse which was grazing grass
...                                       ... grown on the marble flooring. Two small dog
...                                       ... puppies were playing in their usual ways. One small
...                                       ... kitten was sleeping in her uncle’s lap who detested
...                                       ... the very sight of cats. One man rode a scooter
...                                       ... straight into the marriage hall in-between the gap
...                                       ... between rows of chairs and silenced it thenafter.
...                                       ... Nobody seemed to take notice of him.

                                      … Her little friends were found flying in a strong
                                      … gust of wind. Air took one of her friend high
                                      … in the sky and slowly descended her near a
                                      … tree top. Her little friend caught hold of the
                                      … tree branch and rested on it with a face, full
                                      … of bliss.

                                      … Another little friend of her who was resting on
                                      … the same tree top, wished the new visitor and
                                      … jumped from the tree. The wind which was
                                      … experiencing a mild tornado, took her happily
                                      … high in the sky. What happened thenafter to
                                      … the little girl could not be “found”. One small
                                      … boy was descending from the sky as if a leaf
                                      … was falling slowly in a wave like motion.

                                      … Her mother who was preparing coffee in her
                                      … house situated miles away from the marriage
                                      … hall, suddenly appeared from a room entrance
                                      …in the marriage hall and distributed “hot coffee”
                                      … to some of the relatives.

                                      … The music vidhwans raised the sound and speed
                                      … of rhythm of their musical instruments as the
                                      … brahmin began to chant the vital mantras for the
                                      … tying of sacred marriage thread by the groom
                                      … over the neck of Lakshmi. The brahmin as he
                                      … chanted the mantras, took a plate which contained
                                      … the sacred marriage thread and showed it to the
                                      … groom. The groom picked up the yellow thread
                                      … from the plate …
                                      … ……………………..
                                      … ……………………..
...                                       ...  ..................................
         In a flicker of a second, the entire marriage hall and its audiences vanished! Lakshmi opened her eyes. It was dark everywhere. Nearby, her beloved husband was sleeping peacefully. The nightmare was only a dream !!   

Written by  Gokula Anand                                        Year:  2001   

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