Kalyanam In Baltimore

Karthik and Samantha’s wedding in Baltimore , on September 15, 2011 made me realise how much one takes  weddings for granted, back home in Bangalore.  We pretend to be reluctant guests, and arrive with faces that make no effort to hide the fact that we are only there because we couldn’t find a valid excuse to skip it altogether.

Unless, of course, its’  a wedding in the family. Which means catching up with  cousins from across the globe, country, and city, packing  twenty years’ worth of nostalgia into the time between the muhurtham and the saapad. And letting it spill over into the afternoon, reminiscing and clearing space in the attic of memories for  the anecdotage that’s to come.

When Cousin Balu and his wife Janaki’s invitation to their son Karthik’s wedding  was received, I’d been here in Herndon Virginia two years,  and the last wedding I’d been to was a year ago in Bangalore –  and the yearning to sink my teeth into a spicy masala vadai,  and feasting my eyes on a banana leaf with all the “items” in their place- payasam, paruppu, avial, the kosambaries (two), curries, the thick sambhar and the aromatic rasam, and the sweets- a laddu and invariably , poli or chiroti…………… had me itching to take the next plane out of Dulles back to Bangalore and become a wedding crasher.

Of course, there was no banana leaf  at Karthik & Samantha’s wedding , though most of the “items”  that go on a banana leaf were served making it the most sumptuous meal.  But there were reunions!  And meeting a whole new generation of nieces and nephews with amazing talent and their joie de vivre which was quite infectious. I met Karthik’ sister Aparna for the first time. And since I’d met Karthik only a couple of times, and he didn’t remember, it was quite like the first time.

Meenakshi, Manju and Bhimu Chittappa came down from Minneapolis, Popy and Bernard drove down from Ottawa, and  Kumar put in an appearance too. Meenakshi drove us to Baltimore the previous evening and we stayed at the hotel which Balu had organised for everyone, since the wedding was to start rather early.

The aura of  a lovely Madras wedding had already taken over the Greater Baltimore Temple , where the arrival of the bride and groom was awaited. The oonjal, and the mandapam decked out in floral festoons, there were kolams and vilakkus. And looking glorious in Kanjeevaram and diamonds glittering on her  ears, rather MS-usque was Jana’s mother. Mami, whom I had last met when I was in college or school, at one of the weddings- her other daughter Meena is married to Kumar, Balu’s brother…….. put me to shame with how sharp her memory was-  how’s your mother doing after her surgery, how is Bunty, and where is your husband, why isn’t he here. Are you liking it in America?

Soon all her children and grandchildren began trickling in,  appropriately dressed in finest Kanjeevarams,  and there was so much beauty, joy and laughter . When the bride arrived, and it was time for Kashi Yatra and oonjal,  the young nieces and nephews began singing the beautiful marriage songs ……..maalai maatrinal, sita kalyana vaiboghame…….and all the songs that make one tearful and choked at weddings, especially when one never had this kind of wedding.  Jana’s sister Vidya’s son Anirudh enthralled with his fine rendering of “Enna thavam seithanai…….” and many more throughout the entire ceremony.

It was just as touching to see Samantha’s parents submit to all the rituals while they obviously had no clue what it all meant,  Samantha’s father told us later that he had enjoyed doing it all the same. Samantha herself looked  very comfortable in the madisaar,  and beautiful, enjoying the ceremony.
Meenakshi and I  noted that everyone looked tearful when the thaali was tied, and everyone stole a few moments to compose themselves and pretend that they never cried at weddings.

It was great to meet all the lovely sisters and brothers of Jana. Lakshmi, who had once come to Bangalore with friends, and I had been their “guide” in  Jayanagar 4th block,  I have to bashfully admit, I couldn’t recognise, but when I knew her she had curly hair!  She was the wedding planner, I learnt, and its thanks to her, my  urge to hop into a plane bound for Bangalore and turn wedding-crasher could be put on hold!

This post is long overdue. And  with this, my parting promise to Jana has been redeemed, I hope!


  1. Meena Manjunath says:

    Hi Jairshri, – beautifully done.
    Enjoyed reading this very much.

  2. nalini says:

    I feel like dashing off home and attend a REAL tamil wedding.

  3. Aparna says:

    Hi Jayasri, great blog entry with colorful descriptions! It was a pleasure to read and brought back nice memories of kalyaanam. Your description of Paati is especially good! We all really enjoyed reading this, thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply to nalini Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s