As far as Santhanakrishnan Venkataraman Iyer (S) was concerned this particular jaadagam (horoscope) was no different from any other. She was well-educated (an IIM-A graduate, mind it!!!), typical Pattar ponnu from Bangalore, father was a Chartered Accountant (one of the earliest ones with a Membership Number running only into 4 digits, ie, among the first 10,000 CAs in the country), one younger sister, well employed with Accenture Bangalore, etc etc. Now S had seen and liked enough profiles of this sort, which had immediately been shut down by Appa (Venkataraman Sivaramakrishnan Iyer) with his usual rants and reasons as stated in the earlier story. But then, for some wierd reason, Appa seemed to be really really interested in this jaadagam. Maybe it was the fact that it was an IIM jaadagam coupled with the CA sambandhi (son/daughter’s in-laws are called sambandhi, although literally translated the word only means ‘relative’) which made Jayalakshmi Mahalingam Iyer’s (J’s) prospective alliance interesting.
The jaadagam cleared the first cut (Appa with his amateur astrological skills and his wierd shortlisting process) and the tougher second cut (Jolsiyar round of screening) and finally reached the photo stage (stage in which a funnily worded letter would be sent to the girl’s parents asking informing them of the ‘jaadagam porutham‘ and requesting for the photograph). Now at the outset while this may seem like a reasonably harmless thing to ask for, this particular letter had a lot of implied meanings. It meant that the guy’s family had liked the profile of the girl, the profile of the girl’s immediate family, had enquired about the girl’s family and had found it to be suitable enough to pursue the matter till the photo stage. In Appa’s generation, asking for the photo of the girl pretty much meant that the kalyaanam itself was a foregone conclusion and that only the decision regarding the actual date had to be taken.
However, on this side of the 1990s’ most Pattar Ambis had started rejecting girls on the basis of their photos (indha kaalathu pasangalukku periyavaal pechukku koncham kooda mariyadhai illai, adhiga prasangi gal) (kids these days have no respect for their elders, outspoken brats). In Appa’s family, it all started with Muralikrishnan Hariharan Iyer (Murali Anna, Hariharan Periappa’s son) rejecting girls left, right and centre based on their photos – “ivalukku color poralei“, she is not fair enough, “ivalukku mudi neelamave illai”, her hair is not long enough, “ivalukku kondgran kannu”, she has a squint eye, “ivalukku Suppandi pole moonji”, she has a face like Suppandi, were some of the atrocious, pompous remarks that he made. In any case, his attitude towards marriage in general was more than just a little distorted and will probably make up the matter for yet another post.
But Murali Anna’s attitude ensured that both Hariharan Periappa and Appa had to lose a lot of face in the front of a lot of their really good friends and acquaintances whose daughters’ jaadagams had been considered for him, and they didn’t quite have a plausible reason to give these Maamas and Maamis. In any case, in S’s case, the fact that a jaadagam had gone up to the photo stage meant quite a bit to S. It had been a troublesome 45 day time frame since the shortlisting had started, and S had begun to harbour doubts of ever getting married. So there it was, around 7 days later when the photo arrived in an envelope although Appa and Amma saw and liked the photo, S somehow couldn’t bring himself to actually pick up the photo and see it himself. Everytime he thought about, his heart skipped more than a few beats and he found himself shivering. S was an incurable romantic who believed a lot in ‘thalai le ezhuthu’ (fate, literally translated ‘writing on the forehead’) and in his heart of hearts, he kind of knew that this girl was the one (‘enakkaga porandhaval’ the girl born for me), but he still couldn’t bring himself to look at the photo. Finally, when Appa and Amma were in deep sleep he slowly and silently went downstairs, switched on the night lamp and had a good look at J’s angelic face.
One look at the photo and S knew that J was ‘the one’. He knew that she was the one that he had been waiting for all his life. He knew that she was the one who would cook him that great avial, the awesome Paaladai Prathaman, the amazing Semia Payasam, fry all those lovely pappadams, make the mouth-watering Mysurpas. She was the one who would listen to those melodious Yesudas songs with him, watch all those crazy Tamizh movies with him. He just knew that she was the one.
However after he conveyed his approval of the photo to his parents, S was plagued by doubts about his own eligibility for the sambandham. Maybe J would find him too dark, too short, a little too plump (courtesy all the beer he guzzled during his engineering days), a little too bald (his damn receding hairline). After all, she was an IIM-A graduate and he was but a lowly engineer, so maybe she wouldn’t quite think that it was a match among equals. Maybe her Appa would find S too under-qualified and incompetent to give his daughter’s hand in marriage. But then, J’s family knew all about him and his family, which is why they mailed the photo across in the first place, didn’t they. Thoughts like these were driving S completely crazy when J’s Amma called and fixed the Ponnu Paakal at J’s Mama’s place in Bangalore. The only reason they chose the Mama’s place was the fact that J’s maternal grandparents were visiting Bangalore and they were staying there.
Little did J know that this whole Ponnu Paakal thing would make enough stuff for another lovely story.