cartoon wedding: Wedding couple vector illustration.

During our times (and our fathers’ and grandfathers’) it was the done thing to get one’s daughter married to her own maternal uncle, probably to preserve the family property. In fact, it used to be the prerogative of the said uncle. If he were too old for the girl, then his sons would be the next choice. The uncle’s presence at “JAI MALA” was to signify his acquiescence to give the girl outside the family (which would be done after ritually offering the girl to 9 demigods). Likewise, a boy could marry his maternal uncle’s daughter or his paternal aunt’s, without inviting public censure.

All this intra-marrying would give rise to a lot of complicated connections. The most complicated was between Mohan and Jyoti. First  Krishnan married Kamala, a distant cousin. Later, Kamala’s brother Venkatesh fell in love with Krishnan’s niece (sister’s daughter) Padma and married her. The daughter of Venkatesh and Padma, named Jyoti (love) married Mohan, a son of Krishnan and Kamala. On painstakingly tracking the relationship by unravelling the tendrils of the family vine, we discovered that Mohan could be his own sons’ cousin! We gave up at this point and did not try to find out how Jyoti was connected to her sons apart from being their mother.

Well, what has been worse was marrying multiple times (of course one wife at a time) as our great grandfathers did! Going back 2-3 generations we are always able to find a link to any member of our community.  The computer family tree always compliments me as the most connected member.

Well, if such multi-links happened within families, it was no less when it came to extended families. It started when I married Ramu. Later, my sister Komala married Sathyan. Sathyan’s brother Prasad had already been married to Ramaa, a friend of mine. Couple of years later, Ramu’s sister Geetha married one Mr. Narayan, an elder brother to Ramaa. Since Ramu and Prasad were posted in the same unit, we had a roaring time flummoxing people- “Ramu’s sister has married Mrs. Prasad’s brother and Mrs. Ramu’s sister is married to Prasad’s brother!”

Communitywise also, there were tangles when my friend Sukanya married Ramu’s friend Gopal. The links carried on to the next generation and extended families too, quite clear to us but extremely complicated to outsiders.

The last one I cannot help narrating is a social one , that of Prema.

One day, when I was working in a school, I saw a young lady wanting to meet our Principal regarding a teacher’s post. When my friends saw me talking familiarly to the lady, they asked me “Do you know her?” Well, the young lady was Prema. I let go the litany breathlessly. “Prema’s father and Ramu were classmates. Prema was my daughter’s classmate in college. Prema married my son-in law’s close friend. Prema was a colleague of mine in my previous school in addition to being my friend Malini’s cousin….”. My friends let out a collective groan and put their hands up to stop me from going further expressing their regret for having asked me the simple question.

(Some names have been changed)

cartoon -courtesy123RF.com


The Larcenic Lagnam


Earlier, festivities in Indian weddings used to be spread over 5 or more days. Now with the custom of conducting them in wedding halls in vogue, the celebration has come down to barely one or two days. But whatever might be the duration, the most important part of the wedding, the muhoortam is selected with the greatest care- in consultation with the astrologers.

Muhoortam is the formal part of the wedding during which the daughter is given away. At this time the bride is made to sit on the lap of her father (Lord have mercy on an aged father who failed to get his overgrown daughter married off in time). Her hands are made to jointly hold a coconut with the bridegroom’s hands and holy water from a silver pot is poured over it without a break by the mother of the bride till the priest finishes chanting the family trees (upto 3 generations) on both sides three times.The ritual is called ‘dhaare’(flow)

The whole ritual is carried out in the muhoortam time called lagnam. It is carefully chosen as each lagnam is associated with a calamity also. The calamities may befall due to five agents, namely, mrityu (death), agni (fire), raja (king), chor (thief) or rogapanchaka (disease). So when we fixed the muhoortam for our daughter’s wedding, we had to choose the comparatively mild one, that being a chor lagnam. That meant, due to the marriage being conducted in that lagnam, there was a risk of our losing some personal belongings. The priest assured us that propitiation could be done to nullify the effect of the bad lagnam by gifting a pair of lamps to a Brahmin. We decided to go the whole hog and presented a pair of small silver lamps to all the lady-relatives. The deity must have been really pleased as the wedding went off well with not a single article missing from the wedding premises. Of course, the strict vigilance of my hawk eyed brothers-in law also must have contributed to it.

But the deity in charge of the larcenic lagnam (period of larceny) was not one to let go so easily. Ramu’s friend BKS who had parked the popular brand of car, a white Ambassador in the parking lot of a famous hotel across the street from the wedding venue, found it missing when he came to collect it in the night after the reception. A police complaint was lodged. In spite of that, the car could not be traced. It was as if the evil deity had really spirited it away.

But strange are the ways of destiny. The period allotted to the larcenic lagnam must have come to an end when after a year, a nephew of BKS, who was well steeped in the automobile lore, found something familiar about the car which was waiting to fill in the fuel at the gas station. Yes, it was his uncle’s car! No doubt about it!! He stealthily tailed the car and noted the house number when the car was locked up in the garage. The police were informed. When the culprits were apprehended, they confessed that they used to take the car out only at nights to transport recently- printed newspaper bundles to Madras!