The quick and dirty 5 step guide to attending Mallu weddings – for married couples

The popularity of my previous posts on the esoteric art of navigating Mallu wedding ceremonies has seemingly made me quite a celebrity amongst select circles. I have received multiple emails from my pained readers, detailing their own harrowing experiences on the battlefields of the Great Malayali Matrimony. All filled with gore, I assure you.
Scanning through these mails, it struck me that I had not properly addressed the plight of one select group of people who are often forgotten the minute they step out of the limelight- the hapless young couple who promised to share life, love and the TV remote on the hallowed grounds of Guruvayoor or Palayam church. They are the centre of attraction for an entire day, and then are sort of relegated to the background as fresh recruits step up to face the fire. Their duty done, they retire into the Elysian fields of marital bliss. No one cares what happens to them afterwards, as they try to find their feet and learn to buy two different TV sets and cable connections.
“It won’t do”, I said to myself. “If no one will take the responsibility of guiding them through the post wedding phase, I shall.” But before we go any further, my dear reader, I should like to warn you that I am not yet married. Ergo, I am just about as much qualified to give you marriage advice as Bugs Bunny. So follow my directions with a pinch of salt.
With that mandatory disclaimer out of the way, let us return to the matter at hand. The first three years of marriage can be tough. It’s often a period of exploration and discovery, where the languid joy of waking up in each other’s arms in the morning can quickly turn into abject loathing after the first unintended fart. And those are just the personal moments. Social events can be hell too. Take for instance, that traditional rite of passage – attending the first marriage after your own. Things can get pretty ugly if you don’t know how to roll during these occasions. Fortunately, these three rules can ease things up a bit.
Rule 1
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 no other rights.
Rule 2
Guys should steer clear of middle aged ‘uncles’
To a man they all consider themselves experts on personal finance. Coming from an era where government jobs were the ultimate wet dream for any self-respecting graduate, their personal finance advice begins and ends with real estate. Compound that with mid-life, existential and a host of other Freudian crises, and they will often end up persuading you to buy apartments in Perumbavoor or potato farms in Coimbatore. Not a great idea. If ever you are caught in such a situation, there is a right and a wrong way to deal with it. I shall illustrate with dialogues.
Wrong way
Uncle: “Sandeep, now that you are earning so much money, have you thought about investing some of it?”
Sandeep (pleasantly surprised): “Why yes, Uncle. I am building myself an emergency savings fund worth three months of living expenses, while at the same time contributing to a retirement index fund and a fairly diversified mutual fund with a healthy choice of risk, given my age and future earning potential”
Uncle (horrified): “My dear child, do you even know what investing means? Real estate, that’s what it means. All these funds are totally fraud. I invested some money ten years ago in Teak and Manjiyam plantations, and have not received a single rupee back. They are all fraud people, trying to sell you fraud things. You should only invest in land, I am telling you. Land will always be there for you. In fact, my sister Girija’s son has some potato farms in Coimbatore, why don’t you just take a look at it? Golden investment, I am telling you.”
Right way
Uncle: “Sandeep, now that you are earning so much money, have you thought about investing some of it?”
Sandeep (with a faraway look in his eyes): “No uncle, any extra paisa I have goes to the Sai Baba foundation.”
Rule 3
Girls should steer clear of ‘aunties’, those dangerous ‘saree clad assassins from Palakkad’,whom I have had occasion to refer to in the past.
If you are caught, be prepared to fend off questions like, “You have grown so thin, aren’t you getting anything to eat at your new place?”,” Why do you still go to work, isn’t your husband earning enough?”, “When are you buying a house, or do you plan to stay in those rented flats forever?” and “When can we expect some good news?”
That last question may seem innocent, but beware. Roughly translated, it means, “You have been married for 3 months now. When do you plan to start a family?” Most of these aunties come from an era where they took the phrase “Go forth and multiply” to heart, and where family planning meant waiting for 2 months after child birth before trying again. They share the Vatican’s hatred of condoms, instead preferring to adhere to the time tested mantra “Don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’”
Unfortunately, there is no simple way to escape if you get caught. Borrowing and adapting from the US Army’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training manuals, the best course of action is to make yourself inconspicuous to avoid attention. If caught, try to confuse the enemy with random comments about their husbands and escape before they regroup and try to launch a counter attack. If all else fails, commend your spirit to God and tell them that your husband has had a vasectomy. It’s better to go down fighting.

Up in the Air

There are only 12 seats worth taking in any budget aircraft. The exit seats. Not necessarily because in the event of a disaster they provide the quickest escape route. The real reason is the extra leg space. These 12 seats are the only places where a self conscious budget traveller can stretch his weary legs out and drink in peace. But that vision of heaven becomes as relevant as Obama’s promise to smoothen out the American economy as soon as a kid plops down in the seat next to you. Bye bye drinks.

The next best option is to power up your phone and start listening to music. In today’s world of sharply delineated tastes in music, even that’s not an easy task. Used to be there was a time when listening to Madonna wouldn’t get you branded as a bisexual. Nowadays, there are categories of music and categories of people who listen to it. Akon or 2pac is cool, Linkin Park and Underoath are God level and Adele and Enya are romantic. Guys who listen to Adele are branded gay, girls who dig Underoath are branded tomboys, and anyone who follows Justin Bieber is labelled ‘moron’ on the Binet scale. With all this going around in the musical circles, you have to be very wary of what playlist you are caught dead listening to. I personally have multiple lists, suited for different occasions. None of them feature Adele.

As I have stated elsewhere in my columns, having kids sit next to you on flights can be a source of endless nuisance. They are yet to fully master the nuances of social etiquette, so they can be a huge pain in the ass when they have a mind to. Beguilingly enough, the one sitting next to me in Singapore’s own Tiger Airways flight from Singapore to Trivandrum had an almost placid demeanour. He was the picture of integrity, except for his overwhelming urge to please everyone, do the right thing and save the world. God, I hate boy scouts.

Soon as we were seated and buckled in, the air hostess came to our seats, leaned over and whispered conspiratorially to me. “Sir, are you aware that you are sitting next to the emergency exit? ”. “Yes”, I whispered back. “Good. In the event of an emergency landing, will you be willing to help people exit the aircraft?” “Yes”, the kid whispered. “Excellent!” beamed the air hostess. “Now remember, after the emergency landing lights go off and the plane comes to a standstill, please take hold of the red handle, push the door upwards and pull it towards you.” “ Hold, push, pull. Can you do that?” the kid whispered to me. I didn’t understand a couple of things. So I proceeded to ask for clarifications. “Why are we whispering?” I asked the air hostess. “And what the hell do you mean by that question?” I asked the kid.

“Sir!” whispered the shocked air hostess. “ the language. He’s just a child!” I was suitably chastised. “Hold, push, pull. Yeah I can do that” I whispered in a conciliatory tone. “But then, what do I do with the door?” “ You can hand it to me when you exit the aircraft, sir” , she whispered. I was not altogether sure if she was serious.

Anyway, the rest of the flight was relatively calm. I say relatively, because the kid started getting on my nerves with his unbearable urge to help out. He interrupted my music several times to repeatedly ask me if I was comfortable sitting next to the emergency exit and if I wanted to switch places with him. He requested the air hostess several times to clarify how best to disengage the door in the event of an emergency landing. He drank water like a fish and kept going to the loo every twenty minutes. Which wouldn’t have bothered me much except for the fact that every time he got up, he took time out to remind me that in his absence, I was the sole person responsible for the safety of the rest of the passengers. And every time he got back to his seat, he would give the red handle a reassuring tug, just to see if I had tampered with it in his absence. He even asked me if I was strong enough to dismantle the door. I had half a mind to take hold of the red handle, push the door upwards, pull it towards me and bash the kid with it.

Matters came to a head when we landed at the airport. I do not exactly remember what triggered him, letting off the devil inside the Boy Scout. Maybe it was the landing lights going off. Maybe it was the voice of the captain over the intercom, wishing us all a pleasant stay at Trivandrum. Maybe it was sheer desperation at not having had the chance to be a hero. Whatever be the reason, the kid lost it right at the end. At the very exact moment the air hostess turned to smile at him, he jumped up from his seat, leapt over me and caught hold of the red handle. I vaguely remember him calling out “ Machaaaannn….” . He pushed the door upwards, unhinging it. And then promptly lost control, dropping the 15 kg plastic and aluminium crash door on my lap.

I am afraid I may have to start including Adele in my playlist from now on.