Marriage Bus (BH: D297)

May 28, 2012

Though it might sound like the 'gravy train', the 'marriage bus' is a totally different beast. It has rapidly evolved into several mutant species that are visible in different parts of the land, flourishing during what is termed the marriage season and includes all of spring, most of summer and autumn. Close to the equator, here technically there is no winter.

I rode in my uncle's car tracking a specimen marriage bus this morning. Destination: cousin's wedding. We had driven all the way to "Marakkadamukku" (Wood shop intersection) past Attingal on the way to Varkala. We had driven past the Attingal queen's palace and over Kollam river. I remembered a recently heard joke: "Q: Why does Thiruvananthapuram have so many lanes and alleys to get from any point A to point B besides the right royal main road? A: Because the king made quick trips to the several wives distributed around the capital."

As mentioned couple of days earlier, walking into the wedding ceremony of a much younger cousin, in a hall brimming with well-wishing, concerned relatives, demands preparation from any older unmarried cousin. I had been using the writing of three stalwarts of Malayalam literature for the prep work. M.K. Menon ('Vilasini'), poet Kunjiraman Nair and the recently deceased scholar Sukumar Azhikode had all been unmarried. Since the questions and expected answers about my marital state were to be in Malayalam, I thought it'd be inappropriate to summon help from the likes of Vajpayee, Abdul Kalam and Narendra Modi.

I had pretty much readied versions of Sukumar Azhikode's answer to Akbar Kakkattil as reported in 'Sarga Sameeksha', a priceless volume of interviews with 25 of the greatest Malayalam writers. When asked why he stayed single, Azhikode says that when he was young, somehow he got the notion that getting hitched would curb his individual freedom forever. He goes on to say that his life has proved his hunch to be right. He retained the power to be angry. He retained the freedom not to worry about upsetting powers that be. He could take decisions without worrying much about the consequences that crop up with having a family. 

Seizing on this answer, Kakkattil follows up with a humorous and brilliant: "Hoping that you won't get angry, let me get this clarified; are you suggesting that married folks like me are enslaved and gutless?

Azhikode's reply: "As a married man, you cannot now get unmarried to verify the truth in what I am saying. But the unmarried me can get married to see how it feels. I still retain that freedom. What about you?! That's the difference"

The quip went down surprisingly well with my concerned uncles today. It is far too easy to turn the tables on most of the champions of the nuptials among relatives by bringing up their own state of the union! Universally, it leads to playful humor followed by thoughtful silence leading to grim observation of the distant horizon. 

Those who know me well know that I pride in swinging both ways. It doesn't take much to get help from other gems of literature who have spent lives devoted to their wives or lovers. Any Neruda line can decimate the Azhikodan philosophy. Two of my personal favorites, R. K. Narayan and P.G. Wodehouse cherish marriage, both in life and in their fiction. Hopefully soon, I will have the chance to pull out those contrasting quotes and do a turncoat. 

Got the opportunity to return home from the marriage using the grand Kerala Road Transport Corporation buses. An ordinary one till Attingal and an L.S.F.P (Limited Stop Fast Passenger) back into the city. At Kallambalam stop, an American dude asks if the bus would go to Kovalam. Vigorous head bobbing by the passengers in the front seat makes him retreat. Not convinced, his female companion climbs into the bus and talks to the driver directly.
"Trivandrum? Yes?"
"No! Attingal only!" 
They continue to wait in the noon sun. Bus stops are Kerala's natural tanning salons.

At the Attingal bus stop, busy enumerating pros and cons of marriage, I get into the wrong bus. Luckily I figure out that the "Vellanadu" via "Nedumangadu" board was "East Fort" only in my imagination. The LSFP that soon comes by takes 45 minutes to get into the city. 

It's been many years since I travelled this route in a public service bus. We used to take the bus frequently when I was in school. We had no car then. The trips were to attend marriages much of the time. 
Vomit enhanced trips! 
I was convinced in those days that lemons are distributed at weddings so that people can suck on them and sink that vomitting sensation while going back home in the speeding, swerving, rust-smelling bus behemoth after the heavy variety feast.

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