The immediate days after the horoscope was handed over to Vaidy Athimber were the days when Santhanakrishnan Venkataraman Iyer (S) well and truly began contemplating and dreaming about who his future would be spent with. S got into a zone where in his mind he had started planning out the minutest of details regarding his impending “ponnu paakal” (literally translated ‘bride examination’ where the groom’s immediate family would go to the bride’s house and figure out whether the families are made for each other irrespective of whether the actual bride and groom are made for each other).
Among other things he had started thinking about what shirt and pant he would wear, which handkerchief he would carry, which deo he would use, and more importantly what he would talk about when the “periyavaal” (elders) say “ponnum paiyanum thaniya koncham pesikattum” (give the girl and guy some time to speak amongst themselves). In any case, S being the “avasara kudukkai” (now this term has a whole story about how a guy puts his hand inside a pot without actually waiting to see if he could get his hand out, and how he gets his hand stuck in the pot forever, basically referred to someone who counts his chickens before they hatched), completely forgot that there was an entire cumbersome, time-consuming and complicated process where the “jaadagam cherchai” (horoscope matching) was to be done.
Now this entire business of “jaadagam cherchai” involved first level of preliminary screening by Appa who learnt the very basics from Vaidy Athimber, followed by the shortlisted “ponnugalodaya jaadagams” (girls’ horoscopes) being carefully copied (by hand) and handed over to Kalayanarama Sivaramakrishnan Iyer (Appa’s brother, K Chittappa) who worked in Vijaya Bank, Palakkad as a Zonal Manager, who in turn would personally visit Jothidaratnam Nurani Vaidyanatha Panicker, the ‘family astrologer’ for the entire Mookupodi Paata side of the family.
After the jaadagams would make this long arduous journey from Sruthivaani (or other sources) to the “jolsiyar’s” (astrologer’s) hands, it would then be carefully scrutinized for the “pathu cherchai” (the ten critical matches) which includes looking for compatibility in things such as personalities, ability to consummate the wedding, number of offspring, a long life, tendency of the couple to quarrel
with each other, possibility of a “kannu” (evil eye) being cast on the couple, and other related (and unrelated) things. Therefore, statistically speaking the possibility of one jaadagam making it out of this entire journey successfully was something like 1 in 10.
Another point to be noted here is the fact that even before Appa would do a preliminary screening of the jaadagams, he had his own ‘elimination criteria’ for girls based on his ‘worldly-wise’ (which S found very archaic to say the least). Some of these criteria included – “aval Bombay ponnu aakum, romba mechanical-aa life vazhundhu pazhagirpaal, namma setup kku suit aagadhu da idhellam” (she is a girl from Bombay who has led a mechanical life, will not suit our way of life), “doctor odu jaadagam ellam paakave vendam, nammalaala ellam andha lifestyle kku adjust panna mudiyaathu” (let’s not even bother looking at doctor horoscopes, we’ll never be able to adjust to that lifestyle), “ayayyo rendu varsham aa US le irukkala, appo aval chattai-kaari aayiruppa” (she has stayed in the US for two years, she will be someone who wears a shirt), ” delhi ponnellam vendam, avalukku nalla avial chamaikka theiryathu” (girls from Delhi are rejected as they probably won’t know how to cook good avial). S couldn’t quite believe how callous Appa was being with his choice of a possible future daughter-in-law. Hello, this was S’s marriage, and Appa was acting as if he was getting married all over again. When questioned, Appa (with Amma in tandem) would respond with “nammellam etharey kalyanam nischayichu nadathirikom theriyuma unakku, poda sundakka payaley!!!” (do you have any idea as to how many marriages we have fixed and conducted, get lost you young whipper-snapper).
By the end of 3 odd weeks since the horoscope had appeared on the pages of Sruthivaani, S had lost all hope of ever finding a suitable “Vadamal” bride for himself. All the ones that he liked based on either names, or educational qualifications (after all he was going to have ‘intellectual conversations’ with his wife, right), Appa shot down because of some or all of the above criteria, and the ones that made it through, didn’t quite make it through the ‘jolsiyar‘ criteria, and the number of jaadagams shortlisted was steadily decreasing. S suddenly was caught up in an early stage of Anuptaphobia (fear of staying single) where he had recurring dreams and thoughts of how he grow old single, and die a quiet death without leaving behind any legacy (read children to carry on his and his family name).
And then sometime around end of March, it happened…….