Kalyana Mandapam Blues

You can always tell a North Indian wedding, because they have the bridegroom perched up on a white horse, wearing a turban, and looking foolish and anxious at the same time. He'll be surrounded by a group of milling people, some of them attempting to dance, led by a ragtag marriage-band, and they'll be straggling toward a Kalyana Mandapam, or marriage hall, one of which has just come up on the corner of our street.

It's a huge, yellow, disproportioned, ugly thing, which will change our quiet neighbourhood finally and forever.

In the case of the wedding baraat (bridegroom's procession) mentioned above, the marriage-band would usually be wearing uniforms somewhat like those of American high-school bands, but this group wore Tamil kurtas and veshtis, and played nadaswaras (super-sized and super-squeaky oboe-ish instruments) and the kind of drums that you sling over your shoulders with a strap and play on two sides -- holding a stick in one hand and using metal-capped fingers with the other. In spite of their traditional South Indian appearance, they were playing out-of-tune Hindi film songs. They were preceeded by a bus carrying a generator and shining a huge klieg light on the procession, so that video-cameramen could immortalise the scene.

During a wedding, our street now becomes a parking lot, and you can hear the doorman, far up the street, calling out on his loudspeaker, "Driver so-and-so, Driver so-and-so...." Sometimes there are firecrackers.

Two days ago the ruling party held a political function there. There were cutouts of the Chief Minister, and vertical tube-lights lining the street, and lots of recorded music blaring, and giant figures of the CM and other party notables made out of hundreds of tiny lights strung on bamboos lashed together. That part was pretty, but our street was crammed with "party workers" in their politicians' uniforms of white veshti and kurta. I looked out of my window, across the green and leafy garden and through the gate at their white forms, and at the busses and trucks which had brought them and were clogging up the road and thought, "Oh no, politicians! There goes the neighbourhood!"

No comments: