(Warning: Directionless post ahead)
“Can I please not come”, My repeated pleas fell on deaf ears as my parents dragged me into the church to attend the baptism of a family friend’s grandchild. All this, after the previous day’s drama of finding a gift for the baby to be baptised. We had absolutely no clue about the age or sex of the baby. Plagued by the theories of socialization which emphasizes on the role of toys in identity building, my parents and me went gift hunting.
Embarrassed by the situation, the mean me disowned them for a while and loitered around the store until a specimen caught my eye. A distraught guy from CET ( don’t ask how I knew he was from CET, I’ve lived close enough to the place, long enough to identify the species) was searching for the perfect gift for his girlfriend. I kept on staring at his antics which left him embarrassed and me suppressing my laughter. The gift was wrapped in red, with a red rose on top and the guy was troubling the sales boy for a red satin ribbon and a red envelope for a greeting card , all this reddish-ness made my jaws drop to the floor. Any self-respecting girlfriend would fling the gift out of the window and dump the boyfriend for his aesthetic sense or the lack of it. Kids these days! Ah, never mind, I’ve seen worse cases of relationship induced gift paranoia. The parents finally got their gift, age- neutral gender-neutral and all that and we headed back home.
Next day, in spite of a head-ache that transpired to a stomach ache and then body-ache, my repeated requests were ignored. Powdered and perfumed, dressed, decked and accessorized I was literally pulled into the church by my parents. Sans, the niceties of it, God bless the family and the baby… ( my parents were relieved to see the gift was appropriate enough for the baby, it was ‘he’ by the way), my intention is to throw some light on the specimen you encounter on such occasions. After the final blessing, while the photographers camera assaulted the baby and family, the valiachayans, achayans and kuttiachayans disappeared into the safe confines of their four-wheelers. Obviously, to lubricate and dissolve their digestive systems which wouldn’t absorb a single morsel of food without the ‘petrol for the achayan’s soul’. Experienced valiyachayans returned steady and stable, the achayans in the making made a strenuous effort to appear stable while the kuttichayans, taking their baby steps into true achayan-hood were still learning to how to booze and not break loose.
Observing them all and making a mental note to avoid crossing paths with the who’s who present in the hall, I waited in the queue for my turn. Before I knew it, I was pushed forward step by step, my plate being loaded in the process. By the time I emerged out of the mob I was struggling to balance the plate and the high heels ( aargh Amma). As my bad luck was kharaab, I ended up right in front of the ‘local babu’ who never spares me from his annoying questions. This achayan conveniently skipped everything that happened in god’s abode above and landed on time for the lunch in the parish hall below.
“Nee maamodisa koodan vannatha?” , he drawled.
“Alla kooli pani kittuonnu nokkan vannatha”, I wanted to retort but a valicha chiri a.k.a a reluctant smile sufficed for the moment, just like smileys help you when you have nothing to say.
I was appalled by the audacity of the number of achayans who sauntered in one by one , their wifeys had to sit through the rituals in the church and busy achayans landed on time to fill their pot bellies. Anyways, whoever had walked in with high hopes of a sumptuous lunch, left with sullen faces. I’m sure even Obama and Osama would’ve struck a deal to finish off the cook, if they had to eat that abominable sorry dish of a mutton stew. When I realized, my body couldn’t take the torture any longer, I left the plate in the bin, balancing it amidst a leaning heap of plates that threatened to crash any second. Dessert looked like gulab jamun and tasted like rubber. Lets not delve into more details about it.
The caterers are the most despicable species in Mallu land these days. Add to it the extravagant people who don’t need a special reason for food, wine and merriment. I was shocked to see chicken biriyani being served on the 41st day of my uncle’s demise. Food was wasted in tonnes for this baptism too. And there are people who get a heart-attack due to the soaring food inflation these days!
Being the season of weddings and baptisms, I am sure food, wine and merriment left many in dire straits by the end of it. Living epitomes of gluttony who binge and then rush to their docs, the ‘pressured and sugared’ ones who find it difficult to exercise self-control this season… I saw many ruthless daughter-in-laws who looked daggers at appachans and ammachis foreseeing troubled times ahead.
Gone are those days when cooking food for the next day’s grand occasion was a celebration in itself. Tempos arrived loaded with huge vessels, people thronged the local village market, advance booking would be made at the ‘kula kada’, the pandal would be erected, family members stayed up all night to slice onions and grate coconuts over endless banter and gossip,the ‘dahannakaaaran’ or the ‘local chef’ was a VIP during the season, the plantain leaves had to be cut and cleaned,young men served the food to the guests and end of the day, the excess food was parceled to family members and neighbours. Ok I need to stop taking that trip down memory lane once again!
(PS: Not all Achayans are like that)