Monday, March 16, 2009
Ukhanas in the time of IT : "Taking the name"
One of the finer distinctions between , say Indian weddings and Western weddings, is the undeniable sense of there being two sides , that you get in an Indian wedding. There is the Groom's side, and then there is the Bride's side. Both are accompanied by several generations of folks, right from a mother-in-law's mother-in-law to a cousin''s newborn. Unlike Western weddings where there is a separation of say, the couple and everyone else, the former in conference with the priest, and everyone else, watching sedately from a distance, in Indian weddings, its considered absolutely OK to hover around the couple at all times.
Once the mandatory religious rituals are over, the social customs take over. Over the last 20-30 years, society has changed, but we do continue to follow certain customs, simply because they are so quaint, and other folks have a lot of fun.
One of these customs has to do with the recitation of what is known as Ukhana's.
Ancient customs decreed that a woman should never say her husband's name. It might have had something to do with instilling a sense of superiority in some people, and inferiority in some others. ( Its like you don't call the British monarch, Elizabeth, or even Mrs Stuart. Its the "royal we" syndrome. ) .
You never ever used his name, whether addressing the husband, or referring to him. You had to appear suitably reticent or unwilling if forced to say his name. That was "good breeding". There was a time when you addressed every male you met , only in the second person plural, out of sheer conditioning and observation of other ladies doing the same. If absolutely unavoidable, say, in a crowded situation where he was running to catch a train and you found out that the arrival platform had just changed, you called out to "so-and-so's father".
What happened if there were many children named so-and-so, or, if there were no children, sort of baffles me, but our women are and were so resourceful, that it doesn't worry me.
And yes, the sky doesn't fall. There is always another train....
However, in a major concession to the memory neurons that grow , develop, and remember things out of frequent usage, we had, and continue to have customs and occasions, where not only does the wife utter the husband's name, but instead of utilizing the imperative mode , she says it in a graceful rhyming couplet or 4-line verse (called an Ukhana), sedately , seated in finery, eyes downcast, secret glances at the in-laws , and a gentle clearing of her throat.
The last is understandable if you realize, that frequently, the first time this happens , is in the wedding lunch.
Literally translated, this event is called "Taking the name". The bride and groom are seated at special seats along with the groom's immediate relatives, usually with special fancy plates and stuff. There is this clamor from assorted elderly ladies, and people you cannot refuse. The bride stands up, takes a piece of whatever from her plate, looks up, takes a deep breath, and says some rhyming couplet, where generally the second line mentions the husband's name. Once the words are done with, she feeds the morsel of whatever to her husband, and everyone , after making approving noises, gets on with the business of eating . These days, the husbands too, are made to do this.
Earlier the rhymes had to do with life, gardens, fruit, perfume, good luck, respect, food, god ,worship, woods, jewellery and lots of similar things. They said stuff about spending your married days in your garden of happiness, bringing honor to the new family, being an adornment to the new family , and so on. There are actually books that are published with Ukhanas for all occasions and so on.
A few examples with rough translations. (xxxx throughout will refer to the name of the spouse)
मात्यापित्यांच्या छायेत फुलासारखी वाढले,
आजच्या दिनी xxxx च्या चरणावर जीवनपुष्प वाहिले.
(I have flowered and prospered in the shelter of my parents; now today I dedicate my life like a flower at the feet of xxxx)
दोन वाति एक ज्योति,दोन शिम्पले एक मोति, xxxx रावाचि मि सौभाग्यवति.
(Two wicks , but a single flame, two shells but a single pearl, I have the good fortune to be the wife of xxxx)
You get the idea.
In keeping with globalization, the IT generations, the large number of women who work today, and so on, a need was felt to upgrade the tenor of these ukhanas. Also, today many weddings take place out of India, where the bride and groom work, their friends attend, who only understand English, so there was a suggestion to have English Ukhanas.
In keeping with the times, these are Unisex. Both the bride and groom can use these. A groom saying these will win extra applause.
Beautiful are the flowers , sweet is the fruit,
In XXX's life's OS , I have become root
Some say Blogger , some say Wordpress,
As xxxx's partner, I will try my best...
There are new jewellery shops in Sunnyvale, I'm told
XXXX, did you hear that ? I need to buy some gold......
Some Google for food, some Google for a name,
XXXX, just use Yahoo, if you forget my name.....
I am the memory slot, in the motherboard of your life,
XXXX, the cake is great, would you pass the knife ?
Some blog for money, some blog for fun,
XXXX, in your life, I 'm the important one ....
Restarts in life, you need ctrl-ALt-Delete,
XXXX, the car keys just dropped by your feet....
The next one guaranteed to please the inlaws....
This new life stage is booting, systems undergo some checks,
xxxx, to your family, I offer my deep and hearfelt respects....
Some work in compilers, some do databases,
xxxx, frequent flier miles will now take us places
Obama has won, but the economy is down,
XXXX, I still have my job, don't frown.......
Snow in LA and Texas, they say its all Climate change,
xxxx, with you, my happiness goes out of range......
Snow flakes in Colorado, Vermont in the fall,
xxxx, I still want to go see the great Taj Mahal
Jewellery visuals in .gif, diamonds in .jpg,
xxxx is so brilliant, i dont need more, you see.....
And so it continues.
Just some fun , in a life , where you are destined to the say the same name in different ways, for the rest of your life. .
And like Salman Rushdie said , "Names, once they are in common use, quickly become mere sounds, their etymology being buried, like so many of the earth's marvels, beneath the dust of habit."
But I like more, what a Chinese Proverb says.
"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names."
In a rhyming couplet, may I add.........