April 1st 2006 was the designated date for the Ponnu Paakal (first look at the girl) which as mentioned earlier was to be held in Jayalakshmi Mahalingam Iyer’s (J’s) Maama’s (maternal uncle’s) house. Now the significance of the date was completely lost out on Santhanakrishnan Venkataraman Iyer (S). Little did he realize that it was not only ‘Fools’ Day’ in the rest of the world, but would prove to be “the” Fools’ Day where he would be fooled into believing a lot of things.
Appa (Venkataraman Sivaramakrishnan Iyer) got in touch with Hari Periappa (Hariharan Sivaramakrishnan Iyer) who came down all the way from Hyderabad with Saavi Periamma (Savithri Krishnaswamy Iyer). After all Hari Periappa was the eldest son of all of Mookupodi Paata’s sons and after Paata’s passing into Kailasam (read passing away) he was the “Karonooru” (main person responsible for all auspicious things) in the family. In fact Appa went far enough to book Second Class II Tier A/C train tickets for Periappa and Periamma, which in the family was bigger than anything else, as far as travel was concerned. All thrifty Pattar families thought of Second A/C as an extreme luxury never to be used more than probably 2 times during a lifetime, once when coming back from one’s own wedding, and another when coming back from one’s son’s or daughter’s wedding. In any case, times had changed and Appa had accorded this unique honor to Hari Periappa and Saavi Periamma. So there they were, Appa, Amma, S, Hari Periappa, Saavi Periamma and the mandatory “Mapillai Thozhan” (friend of groom) who in this case was Krishnan Kalayanaraman Iyer (Kicha), K Chitappa’s son. Now the role of the Mapillai Thozhan is reasonably interesting and makes material for another story altogether and shall therefore be brought up at a later stage.
Appa took the liberty of booking a Toyota Qualis and the 6 of them trooped all the way to J’s Maama’s house to reach well in time before the Raahu Kaalam so that the “chadangu” (ritual) could start off before Mr.Raahu decided to play his magic on the proceedings. The first thing S noticed about the entire proceedings was the fact that almost all of J’s extended family was present at the occassion. And suddenly S, Appa and Hari Periappa were on the backfoot. Although they had anticipated some numbers, they didn’t quite anticipate 27 distinct and unique members of the extended family, almost all of whom seemed to have an equal say in the proceedings. J’s Appa (Muralikrishnan Ramaswamy Iyer) Murali Maama had invited his brother, his sister-in-law, his sister, his brother-in-law, their children, apart from J’s Maama who had invited his brother, brother-in-law, his sister, his sister-in-law, his father-in-law, his mother-in-law, his Chittappa, his Chitti, his Athimber, his Athai, his onnu vitta chitappa, his onnu vitta chitti, his rendu vitta periappa and an assortment of others. So there they were 27 members from J’s side, and all of 6 from S’s side. Suddenly the Mapillai Pattalam (groom’s army) were outnumbered much like the Spartans against the Persians in the movie “300”.
But somebody had to start the proceedings and therefore Hari Periappa promptly asked S to do a “shastaanga namaskaram” (eight touch prostration) to J’s Paata and Paati who were beaming at the significance of the occassion. J’s Paata took and instant liking to S and his brainy looks (little did he know that it was just the looks that were brainy, whereas there was not an iota of brains left in S by now). S did the mandatory namaskaarams, smiled at all the lovely maamis, most of whom were dressed in red or maroon Kanchivaram Silks bought at Nalli Silks, all the while searching for the girl who he had seen in the photo. J, the star of the show (after all that’s why they call it the Ponnu Paakal) was nowhere to be seen. S waited patiently for around 5 mins when the elders were exchanging pleasantaries, and then slowly leaned over to Hari Periappa and said “Ponnai vara chollungo, ethira neram aachu” (ask the girl to show herself, it’s been a while now), and Hari Periappa being the good friend he was immediately said “namma paiyan oru avasara kodukkai aakum, maami, neegal unga ponnai kootindu vaango” (our boy here is in a perennial hurry, maami, go bring your daughter).
S’s breath slowed down, his heart beats increased, he was having sweaty palms in anticipation, and there she was, J, walking down the stairs as if in slow motion. At first sight S was gone, S had finally fallen in love, he could hear the violins, he could smell the dew on the rose petals, he could feel himself floating around on the clouds. As for J, she didn’t seem to impressed. After all, she had seen better and had settled down for S’s jaadagam only because he seemed to have a sense of humor. And his photo, although not that impressive was much better than other ‘wannabes’ who were just marrying her for her IIM degree. In any case, first impressions of S on J were not all that bad, but it would take only one small mistake from S for J to reject him outright.
After the initial namaskarams and hi-hellos to S’s elders, J sat down in front of S trying to gauge his personality. Finally S mustered enough courage, and leaned over to Hari Periappa and said “enakku ponnu kooda koncham thaniya pesanum” (I want to speak to the girl in private), to which Hari Periappa promptly announced “namma paiyanukku edho koncham confessions ellam pannanumaam unga ponnu kitta, koncham thaniya pesanamnnu chollaraan” (our boy has a few confessions to make to your daughter, he wants to speak to her alone). J’s mother (Meenakshisundaram Kalyanaraman Iyer) Meena Maami took J and S into a room and gave them the privacy they needed.
Little did S know that this was the last conversation that he would have where J actually listened and understood what he said.
Santhanakrishnan Characters –
Since too many characters have been introduced in the stories so far, here’s a ready reckoner of them –
Santhanakrishnan Venkataraman Iyer – S – The main protagonist
Jayalakshmi Mahalingam Iyer – J – The co-protagonist, S’s wife
Venkataraman Sivaramakrishnan Iyer – Appa – S’s father
Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy Iyer – Amma – S’s mother
Muralikrishnan Ramaswamy Iyer – Murali Maama – J’s father
Meenakshisundaram Kalyanaraman Iyer – Meena Maami – J’s mother
Mookupodi Paata – Appa’s father
Hariharan Sivaramakrishnan Iyer – Hari Periappa – Appa’s Anna
Savithri Krishnaswamy Iyer – Saavi Periamma – Hari Periappa’s wife
Kalayanarama Sivaramakrishnan Iyer – K Chittappa – Appa’s Thambi
Krishnan Kalayanaraman Iyer – Kicha – K Chitappa’s son