Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Great Indian Engagement Story

We left at dusk from Bangalore and headed straight towards Kurnool on a Saturday i.e. 24th Feb’07. The air was very murky, less smoke and definitely less pollution than usual Bangalore roads. We stopped at a dhabba after about twenty kilometers from the location where the new International Bangalore Airport to have simple yummy desi dhabba food. Since we missed our lunch that day, this food was like ambrosia to us.

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In the gathering gloom, the dry Andhra Pradesh landscape was like something a medieval painter might have used to suggest the environs of pain and turmoil. The car was zooming like fluid on the super smooth NH7, which was hemmed on both sides by parch lands. From what little I could see by the light of the full moon, there was this escarpment, which flattened out to a curvy route.

With songs being played on the player ranging from Pink Floyd to Karunesh, from Don to hits of 1980’s, the vintage classics. Hari was in a romantic peppy mood like "mann mein ladoo phoot rahe thae" and was insisting on all numbers from the latest Hindi movies, which spoke of love in Manhattan [KAHK], to Syndney [Salam Namaste], to Amsterdam [Hum Tum]. The rules for the driver’s seat were simple, for highway road the speed had to be on an average 80Kms/hr and this plummeted to 60Kms/hr wherever there was traffic. During this drive, my memory raced back to a typical Scottish engagement when a song was played with the bagpipe music in the background. I had attended this one way back in 2004, when I was in Glasgow for four months. Scottish engagements are more like family get-togethers, an event that adorns the altar with the brilliance of tartan, the simplicity of kilt worn by men and of course the splendor of the bagpipe.

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Going from Bangalore to Kurnool a distance of 400kms, there is a substantial rise in elevation that increased the temperature by measurable degrees. We finally reached Kurnool in the late hours at two o’clock in the night and rushed straight to our beds. The next day morning we were woken up by the dry morning at Kurnool. We freshened up and were ready for the function, which started by 9:30 AM.

The engagement function was conducted with the full consent of parents, relatives from both sides and was a joyous occasion. But there was one factor that interested me, the role of traditional rituals that is still firm and rock-solid in middle towns. Like everything in India the present is constantly layered over the past and if not regularly we visit these age-old traditions at least occasionally these days.

The engagement mandap, which was more like a puppet theater stage, was decorated ostentatiously with flowers, terracotta diyas, mango-leaf garlands and rice-paste alpana. The entire space in front of the mandap was full of people, most women draped in rich Kanjeevarams and silk sarees, jasmine flowers woven in clusters adorned their braids. The bright colors, combined with glittering gold and silver threads brightened the crowded hall.

Swati wore a nine-yard saree in the traditional style, repeated some sholkas which the priest asked her to, applied tilak on Hari’s forehead and the climax came with the exchange of the engagement rings. Since, Swati’s grandma was the eldest living member in the gathering, it was she who acknowledged the bond. As per customs, Swati carried some betel leaves, betel nuts, a coconut, a sandalwood stick and a red pumpkin which was offered as a gift in the name of God, to confirm this relationship forever. Since this function was a prelude to the wedding, the scale and duration of the homam and other pujas was not that grandeur. The guests threw holy rice and flower petals on the couples head who were both adorned with the large traditional bridal garlands. In a short while the stage was dressed in all this colorful melange. While all this was in WIP, the madhyana bhojanam [lunch] started.

The lunch, offered was typical South Indian, of course of the modern variety, with a long list of vegetarian dishes and other mouth watery items. From what I could remember and all that I tasted from the menu, there was lemon rice, brinjal curry [hot and spicy soaked in oil], lady fingers fry assorted with kaju, sambar, rasam, curd rice, stuffed capsicum, salad, ladoos, etc. The ice-cream corner was the center of attraction for the kids who just gathered four to five cups at a time, and gobbled those as each one was in competition with some other friend of his/her as to who would finish first and collect more. The paan counter near the exit of the food court also had lot many guests to collect a piece of paan after a heavy lunch.

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We finished everything and started our trip around evening on 25th Feb’07. Excitement was inevitable as we started traveling and saw life in the town of Kurnool, which at one time was voted to be the state capital of Andhra Pradesh. All vehicles were not alike, saw auto rickshaws but without the meters, Brahma bulls (bullocks) pulling carts, full and empty. There were big green buses and smaller yellow, and red buses and trucks carrying water or rocks or bags of rice with people riding on top. Entire families rode together on scooters and bikes carrying five people, young, old, big and little. Traffic is to the left, the British way and one traffic rule is that size matters. The bigger the vehicle, the more rights it has. The bicycles were also numerous and often carried loads of pipe, furniture, computer monitors or computer units. There was a white line down the center of the road, but it might as well not be there because everyone ignored it.

Within thirty minutes of driving we touched the highway road again. When you get on the highway, it is generally for a short vacation, holidaying or any stress buster event. Mind always wanders thinking of the good time ahead and this hinders concentration and focus. This becomes more relevant during the night hours as the highways are poorly lit and often one encounters a serpentine queue of trucks and lorries flashing headlights on high beam.
We made sure that we were alert on all these fronts and took regular breaks to charge ourselves.The hi-tech dhabbas managed by Reliance adjacent to the fuel stations, impressed me a lot and these are better than few I have seen abroad in terms of facilities and maintenance. After long hours of drive, we halted at a roadside daaba for our dinner at around 12 in the midnight.

The paan shop outside didn’t have the regular supplier as it was pretty late but I could find a big inventory of "Bisleri" water bottles stacked in the racks. No wonder, days are not far when Bangalorites would need these, and get these from nearby places, considering the way the city is expanding and the heavy demand for water in the coming years.

Finally we reached Bangalore at three o’clock in the morning and had a few hours of rest and then again back to normal scheduled life.

Sometimes it is hard to make documentary-style footage, after having seen so much of natural diversity, that it goes a long way toward breaking the ice. I've written way too much again, so I'll sign off. But but but for your info, exchanging with you some chumma talk we have over coffee....

Hari, a smart dude was recently complemented by someone that he resembles Saurabh Ganguly, is definitely an artist in his area of work. Yes he possesses the same flair, brilliance and style as dada when he gets into his arena. His first wife is his laptop, and he is not satisfied with using one that he runs a desktop next to his laptop. The usage of double system is simple while he can do his architecture and solution design on one, he can develop and run his programs on the other with intermittent sessions of chat and blogs/news reading. One day while chatting over coffee, he said "Abbe apna life tau time pass hai re", not anymore dude. Leave work early for a change, go out and spend healthy time with Swati, my free tip, what's that. Hehehe.... Dost shine on and best wishes to you as always for anything and everything you do.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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3 Comments:

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice experience reading..it was like i was also in their

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger Sneh Madhur Sirohi said...

great write up bro. plan next trip to Pune :)
Sneh

 
At 1:18 PM, Anonymous prasad said...

Cool blog man! I didnt know you wrote so well!

 

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