Monthly Archive for January, 2007

Thoughts on South Indian weddings

Here are a few random thoughts that were going through my mind as I was attending the weddings in India.

First of all, South Indian wedding are like software packages. There are several rituals in each wedding, but just like software modules, you customize a wedding by choosing which rituals you want to include. You can have a light-weight wedding in 2 hours or you can have a full featured wedding for 2 days. Don’t forget that there may be dependencies. Imagine something like:
“Can I include the arundhati darsanam module?”
“Sorry sir, you need to have included sadasyam module for that”

What’s with the 2am muhurtham or the auspicious time chosen for the weeding? These times are determined by astrologers in consultation with planets. If these planets are suggesting the most inconvenient time for the wedding, may be they are giving a hint!

And of course there is this wedding ritual. The priest makes the bride and groom do things that have no apparent meaning, like, “Ok groom, take this twig and make circles in the air above your head with it.” The practical meaning of most of these is lost in time. But the funny part is, there will be a ‘holier-than-thou’ older person who wants to nitpick at something as absurd as that. He keeps insisting, “No, no! You are not supposed to hold the twig in the middle. You must hold it at one end!” This guy must have devoted half his life to see a world where twigs are treated with respect and dignity.

If the wedding is a long wedding, there will be a communal sari changing room set up. I think it’s unlawful to be seen in the same sari for more than 2 hours. There will be about 4 women changing saris in this room at any given time. Typically, an older woman is posted guard at the door. She shouts at the top of her lungs “Women are changing here, keep away” and does everything in her power to deter approaching males, short of digging trenches around the room. She regards any male older than 3 with suspicion, not knowing that, the people she should really be watching are at the unguarded side of the room where a window carelessly left ajar is almost always found.

One regular fixture at the weddings is the “official photographer”. Just like how 007 has the license to kill, this guy has the license to step on anybody’s toes. He won’t hesitate a moment to push you with his elbow or stand on your foot, if he is getting a good angle. Most of these people have a passion for taking dinner photographs, surprising happy diners with photographs in their most compromising eating positions. I think there is a secret competition among these professional wedding photographers… who can get most people with mouths wide open. Bonus points if there is food in the mouth.

Enough aimless blabbering.

Traffic guidelines

I don’t remember ever seeing a Traffic Rules book in India. That might partly explain the traffic in India. People seem to be making up their own rules as they go. Here is my humble attempt to reverse engineer the traffic rules from what I observed:

  • You can drive anywhere on the road. Some people prefer to drive on the left side. Don’t pay any attention to the decorative white line in the middle of the road.
  • When you are completely stuck in a traffic jam and there is no chance to move even an inch, it is mandatory to blare your horn
  • When you use the head-lights, it is absolutely forbidden to use the low beam
  • Stopping or slowing down at red lights is appreciated
  • It is a felony to be caught driving a motorbike without a mobile phone glued to your hand and ear
  • When you collide with a motorist or pedestrian, it is customary to exchange profanities
  • Pedestrians and cows have the right of way
  • When the gate is closed at a railroad crossing, all vehicles that cannot pass under the gate must stop. If you can bend, crawl or roll yourself and your vehicle under the gate, you can continue without stopping
  • Turning on the hazard lights (both indicators blinking) means you are going straight and not about to turn (I swear this is true)
  • When driving on deserted village roads, look straight ahead not sideways. Please respect the privacy of street side defecators.