Quite recently, I was emotionally blackmailed by my mother into attending the wedding of a distant family relation. “The groom is your auntie’s father-in-law’s third nephew’s son”, my mother told me. “What will they think if you don’t attend? They know you are in town. What will we say if they ask us about you?” I admitted that all these questions have great potential for social embarrassment. But why the hell would they remember to ask about me? They would be understandably busy during the wedding. I could not conceive of any situation where the groom’s mother would actually run around asking, “Where’s my husband’s uncle’s daughter-in-law’s sister’s son? It’s been ages since I saw him. Where is he?” She would more likely be sizing up her own daughter-in-law for the post ceremony title bout. My dear reader, let me ask you something. If held at gunpoint, could you recall the face of your auntie’s father-in-law’s third nephew’s son? If you can, you could be my mother (or my auntie). In either case, my deepest apologies.
Anyway, I attended the wedding, and frankly, it was a harrowing experience. You’d expect only the groom to feel so during any wedding, but you would be mistaken. A 25 year old unmarried, employed son of a relation (doesn’t matter if this relation can give as good as she gets) is considered fair game. Mallu weddings have a way of attracting saree clad women from all parts of the country who have been dying to ask you about your future plans. It doesn’t matter where they catch hold of you, they will show no mercy. So, based on my experience (which I will not recount here since my therapist told me that reliving the experience might prove to be too traumatic for me) I will outline a few tricks to avoid what I went through.
- Faced with any question, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you. You have the right to speak to your mom. If you cannot find your mom, God save you.
- If against all your instincts you are forced to talk, never tell them that you studied at an Indian Institute of Management. You will spend the better part of the next half hour explaining what it is and why it is not half as bad as Ponnani School of MBA, where “Girija’s son went to do his Yembeeyay”. Believe me, it’s not worth the preparation you put into CAT.
- The next inevitable question will be about job and salary. Just say Infosys and “reasonable”. Trust me. You do not want to rattle off names like Avendus Capital, Mindtree consulting, Flipkart or Schneider. The reply would be a sympathetic nod and the story of how Girija’s son got a better job at Infosys. And yes, any would be over-enthusiastic consultant who says he works at Booz & Co. will only have himself to blame.
- Never, I repeat never get suckered into giving career advice to anybody’s younger son. The temptation will be there, when an innocent question like “Could you please talk to Appunni here? He is soooo lazy. I honestly don’t know what he will become”, can easily catch you off guard. Believe me, Appunni will not appreciate any advice you give, his mother will closely monitor every word of it, and your career advice will not be worth shit anyway. It is a lose-lose-lose situation. If at all you get suckered into it, tell Appunni the story of how you and your buddies went playing beer pong the night before CAT and how the next morning you nearly puked all over the CAT paper. Everyone will be scandalized, most of all Appunni, but at least you will get a laugh out of it.
- The last guideline is exactly that; a guideline. There is no known way to counter this deadly question, which is mostly asked by grandmothers at these weddings. They labour under the impression that their sole duty during Vanaprastha Ashram is to catch hold of errant youngsters and marry them off. Be very afraid of the ones who have taken their rheumatism pills on the day of the wedding. It is an empirical observation that such grandmothers are seized by a missionary zeal to aid cupid (or Kamadeva, depending on your religious leaning). My favorite way to counter these questions is to knowingly nod at the lady and point to my mom. She is sure to abandon me and corner my mom to extract all the juicy details about her future daughter-in-law. Caught by surprise, my mom invariably panics and admits that she is guilty of the most horrendous sin any mallu mother can commit- of never having started searching for a prospective bride the day her son graduated. Serves her right for emotionally blackmailing me in the first place.
Meanwhile, go meet the groom and shake his hand. My therapist told me that it always pays to be in touch with fellow victims. And yes, beat the crap out of Girija’s son if you can find him. It helps, too.