I am home for Christmas. Christmases in Kerala is something else together. It is not the cake and Wine variety, but a warm get together of people close to you and people whom you were looking forward to meeting all year long. Christmas in Kerala is synonymous with my Ammachis. I guess festivals everywhere are synonymous with grandmothers. Mine were no different.
Today I want to write about my Dad’s mom, because not only was she a mom and grand mom in the truest sense of the word, but a really wonderful mom-in-law to her daughter in laws as well. My mom was her first daughter in law.
When my Dad went for his pennu kaanal (or short listing a bride) my mom’s elder sister was one of the first girls in his list. When my Dad went to my moms place to see the prospective bride, my aunt was yet to get ready for the event. My mom came out and decided to chit chat with my Ammachi, Dad and Achchachan so that they do not notice the inordinate delay that the prospective bride was taking in getting ready. Since my Mom wasn’t the prospective bride, she was at ease talking to my Dad and his folks. My Dad did see my aunt, but went back home and sent word that he was more interested in marrying my mom! All hell broke loose in my mom’s family! My mom’s Dad, who subscribes to some of the strangest notions of family honor was incensed! He felt insulted and promptly turned down the proposal. The sisters though, thought that the whole thing was damn funny. A stalemate ensued with my dad being persistent with his decision and my mom’s Dad refusing to have anything to do with my Dad or his family.
It was in such a tense and delicate situation that my Ammachi decided to take matters into her own hands. One fine morning, she put on her best mundu and chatta, said a brief prayer, put a large donation in the church donation box, took blessing from the Parish priest and clutching her umbrella and a rosary, got into the Jeep to go to my mom’s house. She later got down from the Jeep as she didn’t want to give my Mom’s Dad a chance to further strengthen his refusal due to the fact that my Ammachi had come in a Jeep. This could be misconstrued as showing off or high handedness. She finally caught a KSRTC fast passenger to Changanassery.
With careful handling of the situation, without bruising my moms Dad’s ego too much or compromising her family’s pride too, she made my mom’s Dad see reason. Her practical approach to the whole drama, turned my mom’s Dad around (egged on my mom’s mom) and he finally agreed to the proposal. But he had a rider. He wasn’t allowing his younger daughter to marry before her elder sister. My Ammachi agreed. On her way back home, as is the custom she visited all the families who were related to us in Changanassery. The result was that, not only did she come back home that day with a daughter in law but a groom for her daughter in law’s elder sister too. And the best part was that he was her nephew!! I think she must have felt like a top cat then.
Can you believe an Engineer boy’s family in the Kerala of the late 70’s groveling in front of a girl’s family! It is this nature of my Ammachi that her sons also inherited and that explains the family unity and their practical outlook in life. My dad also set a trend by marrying without dowry. And this was due to my Ammachi’s practical take on dowry. She was adamant that no girl’s father would buy any one of her sons. It was a strong message and nipped in the bud, any interference from her daughter in laws families in her family. The lady was a visionary though she had barely passed 8th standard. But I guess education is all about the values you imbibe and not degrees and certificates you amass.
During my parents wedding reception, my Ammachi’s sister asked her why she went out of the way to get that particular girl when she could have easily changed her sons mind. My Ammachi thought for a few minutes, cleared her throat and said “Edi Susanneh! I weighed the pros and cons of the families of all the girls. And I saw that this girl’s family has a healthy population of girls. You know how pathetic we are in this department!”
Susannah could only say “Ende daivamey Eliamme!! Kalakki!!!” or something like that: p
p.s my aunt still takes a long time in getting ready. Thank god for small mercies: p