Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Smile Please Madam

We went to a friend’s house to congratulate them on their newly wedded status. They showed us their wedding album. It was a tastefully done coffee book with pictures that didn’t garishly shock, but rather sublimely blend. The pictures showed the bride and groom laughing into each others eyes looking lost in love and there was a picture of their silhouettes walking on the sands of Kovalam beach hand in hand. At the wedding ceremony the people were not even looking directly at the camera. The photography was brilliant and the lighting natural. The album brought a tear in my eye. A tear of abject jealousy and self pity.

‘That sucks!’ I said swallowing back more tears. ‘No, I mean it really sucks’ I tried explaining to the visibly perturbed hosts. ‘Not your album, but ours.’

‘Oh, come on…I bet it is awesome. We must see it sometime when we are your place.’

Both Pi and I cried in unison, ’Nooooo!

I shuddered thinking of the photos and the cameraman from hell (or rather Triplicane). On the album cover was my face, almost murderous, and around the photo was a message in golden letters ‘Heven shower blissings on the happy coupple.’ Next to mine was Pi’s face with his eyes closed…hoping no one could see what he saw.

If he hasn’t burnt them already, Pi guards the photos like a crazed watch dog. His figure not being a perfect ten during those days, made him protest vehemently against the cruel treatment given to Brahmin bridegrooms. ‘Sorry, you can not wear a shirt and the poonal (sacred thread) over that. You will have to go bare-chested.’ they said.

‘Can we wait for a year longer to get married? I could go to the gym or convert to Christianity.’ he begged.

Unfortunately no one even considered it; Pi had to pose without a shirt. I believe the constipated look on the guest’s faces was actually shock mingled with sympathy for me.

So there he was consciously half naked exposing chest hair to open fire and there I was telling him how his tummy was making the priest jealous as I poured some ghee into the flame. At that time, the the cameraman would call out loudly, ‘Madam, look here madam. Can you smile please? Tilt head towards him please and point that little pinky towards the Jupiter if you don’t mind. And while you are at it, could you move to the right so we can get the mapilai’s (groom) love handles in our frame.’

When Pi tied the mangalsutra, the camera guy made me shake hands with Pi and pose. *Click* At first I thought it must be the first kiss equivalent of Indian weddings, but later when he made my brother shake hands with Pi after my brother poured puffed rice into the flame, I was a little confused.

Some things perplex me to date. First, why should there be a videographer in a reception? Second, why is there a band on a stage singing ‘Gemini Gemini Gavani Gavani?’ Third, why should there be a reception at all?

On Pi’s insistence, who was now more comfortable in his Sherwani, I decided to stop making faces at the cameraman. ‘It’s alright. Just deal with it today. Cooperate with him so you look good in the pictures.’

‘Madam, don’t grin. Please look here. Smile saar. Saar, look here saar. Aiyoo Saar, here here!’

‘Ok, who hired this moron!’ Pi was livid.

Video guy would pull people who were in the middle of greeting us and rearrange them beside us and make them stand straight and look directly into the camera while he rolled his video camera to take action shots. The camera guy clicked a still picture to accompany the action shot just in case we missed who presented that plastic tea cup set.

Ohm… Ohm… Ohm! Slow breaths. There will be an end to this. All I have to do is believe in it.

I protested against the filmy poses and he finally gave in. If I lived to tell this tale, I want to retain some dignity. Not a single wild horse was going to make me hold Pi's cheek with one hand and throw my head back in coy abandon. I told him not to bother with any graphics and just do a simple album and video. 'No frills pa.'

‘Aiyoo, how is that possible madam? For all that money, you will have to get all this only no?’ I considered handing him all my jewelry to disappear with the photos forever.

He wanted to do real time computer simulation and dazzle the crowd. It definitely was a crowd puller as we turned around and performed a fake puja to the screen behind us; he morphed the screen with an image of Thirupathi Balaji Yelumalai Venkatesa of Govinda Govinda fame. The audience could see all this and we had no idea what was happening. As we offered flowers to the screen and folded our hands in devotion, the crowd was yelling how close I need to go to the screen to get the flowers falling in the right angle. Next we had to stand with our side profile to the camera. We were being flown to Singapore on this Honeymoon Airlines with our faces sticking out of two windows, one behind the other. Even they were prudent not to get us booked on adjacent seats.

After a few days 3 humungous albums in sets of three and 3 sets of DVDs arrived at the door in a truck. I left my copy back in India giving the airline-baggage-limit excuse. If they ever needed an extra bed, it would come in handy. My mom teared up as she watched the video for he 10th time on the same day. Now I realized who this was for.


I had no courage to watch the video for the longest time. When I finally did in the company of a few drinks and persistent friends, I was pleasantly surprised to see most of our footage replaced with Simran and Surya’s dancing. Then there was the whole computer graphics deal that would put Spielberg to shame. My head splitting into ten and forming a little trajectory into Pi’s eyes. It’s quite possible I actually performed that stunt under those circumstances. I wish he could have turned me into Kali mata with blood dripping from the corners of my mouth and tongue sticking out. Oh well, that wasn’t necessary. From what I saw of myself in that red saree, I came close.

A year later back in India, just as I walked into my parent’s house, I saw a gigantic laminated picture of the both of us looking completely hassled in our wedding garbs, hanging on the wall. The very picture I detested as my hair was all frizzy and Pi was er... fat. Horror of horrors!

‘The nice fellow that he is, Popular Studio guy presented us with two such laminated pictures, for free!’ my mom gushed. ‘The other one is at your in-law’s.’