In the year 1988, barely a few months after my wedding, my uncle in Bombay telephoned and requested me to put up a marriage ad in a popular Malayalam daily, seeking suitable proposals for his son, i.e. my cousin, Satish Nair. My cousin was quite a handsome chap but had unfortunately undergone a kidney transplant in Bombay hospital when he was studying for CA. My uncle being an honest guy told me that I should not hide this fact in the marriage ad. So I drafted one accordingly which read something like this 'A smart, enterprising, handsome boy, 29, charted accountant, seeks suitable alliances from good looking Nair girls. Family background immaterial. The boy has undergone kidney transplant but is keeping fine health.' My uncle gave me the responsibility of receiving the mails, screening the proposals, checking the horoscope, getting clarifications, etc. and told me to forward only the sieved ones to him.
Well, people shun taking risks, especially in health matters, and as expected we got only a handful of proposals. Out of it only three passed the preliminary qualification tests. I forwarded them to my uncle and asked him to send my cousin to Kerala for 'bride seeing' and to proceed further with the proposals.
My cousin landed in Kerala a month later. There was a proposal from the daughter of an Army officer stationed in Punjab and we wanted to explore it first. The girl's father communicated his inconvenience to come to Kerala but assured me that he would make obligatory arrangements for our visit to see the girl.
Our tryst with the girl was scheduled at around 11 a.m. on a Saturday. The girl belonged to a place called Thiruvillamala near Trichur. The place is well known for its scenic splendor and verdant topography. Unfortunately a bus strike handicapped our initial plans and to our further dismay it turned out to be a day of torrential, incessant rain. Every drop was like a thick needle that could prick the skin. A rescheduling of the trip looked bleak as the girl's house could not be contacted over telephone. We therefore decided to venture on our bride hunt from Cochin. We first got into a truck going to Trichur. It took us nearly three hours to reach Trichur. It was already 1 p.m. Being anxious about our rendezvous, we got into a lorry going to Thiruvillamala side and asked the driver to drop us off at the main junction. We never imagined that the route would be so tortuous. It took another three hours for us to reach Thiruvillamala Junction. The girl's father had given me some directions. We enquired about the location of the house at a coffee shop. They told us that the place was located far interior. Due to the nonstop rain, landslide and undulating mountainous terrain, no taxi or auto-rickshaw was ready to take us to the girl's house. Finally a jeep driver yielded to our plea at an exorbitant sum. By that time, my cousin looked drained of all his energy.
It was almost 5 pm and dusk had set in early as happens on a rainy day. It took another forty-five minutes of nerve shattering roller coaster ride to reach our destination. Our journey uphill resembled events from Jack and Jill's nursery rhyme. We had nearly broken our crowns. At a precarious turn the jeep's wheel got stuck in the mud and came to a wobbly halt. The jeep now stood skewed perilously and my cousin who had bravely occupied the front seat was by now hanging for his dear life. The driver kept on ranting about the devastation caused along the way and rain was the villain everywhere. He scared us with stories of many deaths during the previous days and of an epidemic running wild in that village. Fear gripped my soul and I wondered whether we were heading for a funeral service or a bride seeing. The driver of the jeep knew the girl's family and extolled her brilliant academic record. Talking further revealed that she was the only girl in that village who had passed matriculation in her third attempt.
At last we reached the girl's residence. It was a traditional 'Nalukettu' type house that one could often see in the Malabar region. The humble relatives of the girl had been eagerly waiting for us since morning. We apologized for our egregious delay and soon we were escorted into a small dining room. I warmed up the ambience introducing my cousin to the girl's relatives waxing on his ebullient personality and illustrious pedigree. My cousin and I had earlier come to an understanding regarding certain non-verbal signals in case he did not like the girl. We waited eagerly for the girl's appearance. At last she opened a door and came in with a tremor. I wondered whether there was a minor quake as my cousin suddenly grabbed my knee beneath the dining desk. We almost swooned at the sight of the lumbering leviathan lady who completely eclipsed her puny relatives encircling her. My wife had given me a preliminary checklist to test whether the girl had any handicap. This was likely, as we had explicitly advertised that the boy had undergone kidney transplant. So I requested her for a glass water to assess her movement. She rocked the floor once again and convinced me that she could not be lame. It also allowed me to observe her dark hair that flowed like a cascade on her ebony back. I cracked a joke to see her teeth and my cousin later told me that her 'Close up' smile haunted him for several months. I then asked her something in a low voice to test her hearing and her reply made my cousin partially deaf. Soon my cousin gave me the signal and I quickly gobbled the banana fries and gulped down the tea. The girl's mother pleaded us to eat more as we had missed our lunch. We politely declined it saying that our stomachs were full. I told the relatives that we would convey our decision in a week's time.
Outside, the nature still looked sinister and was waiting to resume her whiplash. A pregnant black cloud suddenly burst out and rain bombarded on us like bullets. We rushed to our Jeep and asked the driver to take us straight to Trichur. It was mid night by the time we reached Cochin.
Well, my cousin gave up the prospect of a second 'bride seeing' and returned to Bombay. A week later I received a letter from him, which said that he had a recurring nightmare after his return to Bombay. He narrated the nightmare as follows- 'The result of that particular trekking trip is that the dame that we saw there appears in my nightmare complete with her fat rotund body and long protruding teeth and vicious grin. A garland in her hand and egged on by her relatives she chases us, accompanied by the acoustics like 'Nadaswaram','Thavil', 'Aarp' and 'Korava' (just to give it a touch of authenticity). She chases us until we are cornered into a jasmine adorned wedding altar. The bride now stands facing us in a suggestive blushing posture. The crux and climax of that nightmare is that she lifts up the wedding garland and adorns it on your neck instead of mine. I am still perspiring from that chase'
Well, my cousin coolly passed on that nightmare more to my wife than to me. That was the last time I ever accompanied any one on a 'Bride hunt'.
Nalukettu ' The old houses of Kerala invariably consists of four rooms joined together in a rectangular form with a central courtyard, corridors, massive pillars and dormer windows. These structures are called Nalukettu (Four blocks)
Aarp ' Male Ululation made during festive occasions
Nadaswaram ' It is one of the most popular classical instruments of south India and the world's loudest non-brass acoustic instrument. It is a wind instrument similar to the Shehnai but larger with a large flaring bell, sometimes metal
Thavil ' Thavil is a barrel shaped percussion instrument from South India. It is used in folk music and Carnatic music, often accompanying the nadaswaram. The thavil and the nadaswaram are essential ingredients of traditional festivals and ceremonies in South India
Korava ' Female Ululation made during festive occasions