If we look back at how the country has developed and evolved over the years, we’ll probably surprise ourselves. There have been fundamental changes that have taken place in the country, especially with respect to socially construed elements like gender, caste, etc.
For instance, today we have come across – and read about – many instances of people keeping aside their ‘caste’ and ‘religious’ differences and not only living harmoniously, but also helping members of other communities out. Which is why, when a local Malayalam newspaper recently carried a paid announcement about a wedding, it came as a surprise to many.
Not that it is uncommon to have people pay to print wedding announcements, it’s usually the basic information of name, date and venue that is advertised, but what has raised eyebrows in this particular advertisement is that the family has taken it a bit too far with its detailed explanation about the Nair lineage of the newlyweds’ families. In case you didn’t know, Nairs are one of the higher castes among Malayalis, ranking just below the Brahmin and Kshatriya castes.
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The announcement reflects the hypocrisy of our society in a rather, distinct way. As much as people claim to be progressive and broad-minded, as opposed to the previous generations, they still might not think twice before posting such an exhaustive wedding ad with details tracing the Nair bloodlines of the bride and groom. What is even unsettling is that the families are both highly educated, the mention of which also comes only after the parties’ caste was duly glorified.
This is the paid ad that was published recently.
Written in Malayalam, the announcement starts with introducing the bride thus — ‘Mythili Menon, of the bloodline of Diwan Peshkar Shri Kappazhom Raman Pillai of Thiruvithankur (Travancore) and Shrimati Gauri Amma from the Kovil Pillai family of Nair legacy.’
This is followed by an introduction to her mother, as IAAS Mahalakshmi Menon, the 2009-2014 Principal General Accountant and father as Krishna Menon working in Geneva with the UN.
The groom was introduced as Nakul Prasad, who belonged to a respected Nair caste family, whose father PN Prasad is the chief general manager at a bank in Mumbai.
The announcement claims that the wedding was conducted in complete accordance with the traditional Nair wedding customs. Karayogams or the localised Nair-governing organisations were present from the sides of both the parties to solemnise the wedding. Thiruvananthapuram Chettikulangara Sridevi Nair Karayogam was present from the bride’s side, and Chennithala Shanmuga Vilasa NSS (Nair Service Society) was present from the groom’s side.
There was also a brief mention about the reception and the girl’s make-up artiste, Renju Renjimar – whose name in fact stands out because of the absence of a Nair to it.
Even all the other information provided had a casteist tinge to it, and whether you register the names and details of the wedding or not, there is no chance you’d not finish reading the ad without knowing that it was a high-caste Nair wedding in all respects! In today’s day and age, this ad is testament to the kind of duality in society and the deep-rooted social evils that persist, coming to the surface usually during such traditional customs as a marriage ceremony.
What is alarming about such casteist ideologies, especially when it comes to weddings, is how some people tend to associate any negative incident with not following caste rules. Take the case of N Panchapakesan, founder, Chennai Sai Sankara Matrimonials, who wrote a disturbing post on the murder of S Swathi, a Chennai-based techie, saying how had she chosen to associate with a ‘pure Brahmin boy’ as opposed to a supposedly lower-caste person through a social media site, things could have worked out differently.
In the case of this wedding announcement, as much as we’re happy that such a ‘perfect alliance’ has been formed and the newlyweds would go on to live a wonderfully happy life together, we hope families – and the society at large – realises and acknowledges that the marriage would work more because of the two individuals involved than the caste they come from or the Nair rituals through which they were wed.