Saturday, January 28, 2006

My Trip to Coimbatore - Simple Ways of South India

Thursday, when I reached Senthil's house, I took bath and changed into a Kurta (Rhythmica) and a pyjama. That's a dress I usually never go out in. Supposedly my night dress, or something of that sort.

That evening, there was a premarital ceremony. It was almost in the same scale as the marriage. And know what?! I went there in my night-dress, a pair of bathroom slippers added to that! :)

And if you are thinking, that's too much, let me tell you that it wasn't by any means. Most of the gentlemen there were dressed in some light coloured shirt and veshti. My attire was more colourful than theirs.

Well, 'Do in Rome as Romans do.' I feel, that's exactly what happened there. I didn't get any scandalised glares from anybody there.

Contrary to this, I am sure that in North India, this would have been impossible. There marriages are full of pomp and show. People dress up in a very glamourous way there; and one's acceptability in the gathering increases with increasing glitz.

I feel that South-India scores over North-India in this regard. If there's any vanity involved in South-Indian marriages, it's surely not as blatant as it is in North-India.

I observed a reaffirmation of this in the food. Though, Senthil's family is a non-vegetarian family, complete vegetarianism was observed during the wedding. Contrary to this, I can't imagine a Bengali marriage without non-veg. In fact, I sometimes feel that if and when I ever marry, I will give a complete vegetarian party. But I know that it won't be listened to in my family. :( The food was heavenly. Hot rice, sambar with lots of vegetables, some simple vegetables and sweets. The message that I wrote to some of my friends after finishing one of the meals there was : 'Rice, sambar, rasam, sabji1, sabji2, kesri bath, papad, pickle1, pickle2, chutney...Grub.Grub.Grub...Burp! Blesings from a satisfied Brahmin. Happy wedding :-D'

I ate beyond all my limits, and didn't face any stomach problems. Well! Atleast while I was there.

Yes, vanity is not blatant. But it would be wrong to say that it's absent. My observation has been that dowry-system is disappearing at a faster rate in north than in south. In fact, I am quite amazed with the way people look at dowry. It's given a very noble look, and you just can't argue. Lakhs of rupees in cash and gold are transferred from the bride's family to the groom's family. It is difficult to argue why only the bride's family is so concerned about creating infrastructure of their daughter's new home, and why can't the groom's family do it. It's presented all as if it's some kind of voluntary gift for the loved one. So, it becomes a very family matter, in which others can't speak. Even if the scale at which dowrying is done is way beyond the normal scale of operation of the family, it's still voluntary! Kuprathas survive in a very clever way. In most cases, they survive not by force of the perpetrator, but the by the apparently willing submission of the victim.

Another point of vanity was regarding religious customs. They are followed to the limit here in South-India. Nothing wrong of course. But I see that they are blindly followed with a nonsensical faith. In fact I met with characters who generally chip in with a suggestion of some custom that must be followed. I feel, in most cases, their sole purpose is to attract some attention and show how much they know about religious stuff -- which in our nation is an easy substitute for being a good person. And people follow it without question. I feel, that's how Hindu rituals have got so badly riddled with rituals which lack the least bit of sense. I feel, this kind of vanity, is more a show of faith to God, as if to say: 'See! We are such staunch followers of you! How can you not bless us!'


fuse me said...

Hmm, Kuprathas do continue to exist due to the very reason you cited.

I disagree however on the comment about dowry in South India as compared with North India. I belive that it was never as prevelent in South as much as it was in North. But I guess thats a matter of opinion.

If you think that wearing a Veshti and a Shirt isn't vane, you must check out the Thilaks that many south inidan men wear and the mogra flower the women wear along with the rich silk sarees inspite of the heat, you'll find all varieties. I guess vanity expresses itself in various forms.

Lastly i agree totally with your comment about South Indian being overly ritalistic. And especially the fact that people come up with new rituals every time as if it was the most important ritual in the marriage.

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