The Baltimore Wedding

This last week, I was witness to a friend tying the knot, tying the knot, tying the knot at the Hindu Temple in Baltimore. Visa restrictions had forced my friend to get married in the US and the bride’s parents were left in the lurch as massive appointment backlogs at the US Consulate in Madras found them watching a webcast of the event instead (We took turns manning the camera and the computer when the audience, and there were quite a few on them on Yahoo Messenger, would throw tantrums about the broadcast quality). In fact, the only elders present were the groom’s parents and the bride’s brother. The rest of the well-wishers comprised entirely of friends who had either driven hundreds of miles or like me, had made last minute flight reservations (thankfully, Baltimore was a Southwest Airlines hub). What resulted was a gathering of self-appointed photographers & videographers turning a solemn (& usually boring) event into the most fun & informal wedding I’ve ever been to.


It is interesting how the usual 3 day Brahmin wedding can be crammed into a 5 hour ceremony if the priests put their heart into it. And it was all about improvisation. A ritual that usually involved placing colored rice and green bananas on a banana leaf, was now performed with paper plates. In the priest’s words..

Namma ooru-na elaiyile pOduvaa…inge idhu thaan namma elai

In the absence of a full-fledged thavil/nadasvaram troupe attempting to puncture your ear-drums, a boombox commandeered by one of the priests played the appropriate music at the right places. And with volume control.

Gattimelam music pOdungo….

With the tape selection being limited, and more songs to be sung, the priests quickly rounded up the women-folk present who, in a sudden fit of stage-fright, forgot the words to ‘lakshmI kalyANa vaibhOgamE’. But they soon recovered, and since it was the only song they seemed to know, encore performances were encouraged by the priests.

And finally, the placing of the bride’s feet on an ammi (grinding stone) was accomplished with a makeshift block of granite. Nice.

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Giving a boisterous crowd, such as this, a second chance to throw colored rice at the couple is not such a great idea, especially if you are the bride&groom in question. The idea was to throw the rice into the ‘angavasthram’ hoop that the bride&groom held out in front of them. Instead, my friend was buried in a hail of flying grain and it was amusing to watch him wince as the flying shrapnels hit him all over. Too bad I could not get a clear shot and had to settle for three-pointers.

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The Internet played a major role, as it should, in a wedding such as this. My friend had called me some days before, asking me if I could find Jasmine flowers in Florida. After all, what’s a Tamil wedding without ‘Mallipoo’?! A few unfruitful phone calls and Googling sessions later, I called him back preparing to launch into an explanation as to why that could be virtually impossible. But he was already halfway into placing an order on Fancy Florist, buying a set of carnation wedding garlands. Still not jasmine, but I don’t think anyone even noticed. It was not until after the wedding when I happened to be in the same car as the garlands, that I laid nose to flower and realized with surprise that it smelt like vegetable kurma. And then re-realized that I was smelling my own hands holding the garland. The flowers themselves were devoid of any scent. Who knew?

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So yeah…absentee parents, nadasvaram CDs and odorless flowers almost makes it sound tragic, but I could see by the end of it, that all wedding blues had been effectively voided by an enthusiastic group of 30. And I guess that’s when you realize, it’s really good to have friends!

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