So I recently encountered this nearly foreign ceremony that I was supposed to perform to the “goddess” of all “Sumangalis”- Lakshmi. Back at the Iyengar household in my pre-wedded era, this particular Puja was blissfully skipped since it was a non-entity in the books of the vertical stripes clan. Now, nearly a year after declaring my collaboration with the Iyer clan, I was expected to follow the whole thanksgiving-to-Lakshmi ceremony. Though the goddess is married to Vishnu, the clan leader of the mighty Iyengars, it is beyond me why we ignore it.
Anyway, swathed in a poorly tied 9 yard saree, thanks to a random tutorial by a wise Paati online, the Pujai spanned for two excruciatingly painful hours with us trying to fanthom complicated Sanskrit words from the Devanagiri and Latin scriptures. We spent five hours in preparation. The ceremony, to top it all, had a whole list of, what my mother calls, Nachchu Velais, aka, silly work. So the function had these various steps that put my head in a dizzy but then, since we were two people, we prevailed. I have never imagined the task of cooking and preparing for an important ceremony but I can now tell you that it was a painful pain pain.
By lunchtime, we were famished and weak, what with the fast we had to go on until the ceremony ended. So after we reached the finish line, both of us declared our happiness at putting the day behind us for a whole year. While gobbling up the Idli and the Kozhukattai that were the staple food for the Vratham, we remembered that the next day was Avani Avittam, again a Tam-Bhram ceremony for the men. It was that one day in the year when the brahmin men realize that their Poonal is now old and smelly and unless they exchange it for a new one, they would be social outcasts.
This is where the epiphany came to me and I reaffirmed my belief that we live in a hugely patriarchal world. For one, Avani Avittam is not all that huge on fasting. It depends on the man. They take exactly forty minutes to do the Pujai, don’t really have to wear the Panjakacham (the male equalent of the 9-yard Madisar), they even found an audio file to make the chanting of the Mantrams easier and since they seldom let themselves see the insides of the kitchen, the women are left with the task of cooking. A menu Kalyanam-worthy. So we the women had to wake up earlier than them. Again. And grind, fried, cut and cooked again. EOD was the same: fatigue. This time, the men empathized with us because all the good food did them in.
Later in the day found me arguing with the mister about the partiality that is our society but I ultimately abandoned it after a playful banter. Agreed that I enjoyed decking up my Amman Mugam but until next August, its a big, relieved bye!