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.........

35 comments:

  1. Whoa! good ones those English ukhanas. And bloody good timing I came across your post. :)
    You got those from somewhere or you made them up?
    I am a maharashtrian girl getting married to my south indian boyfriend in a couple of weeks. He can use these during the 'ghaas dena' ceremony instead of rote-learning marathi ones and saying them without understanding the meaning.
    :) do u have more?

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  2. Hi G,

    I made these up. I have made some for some of my friends' daughters too. (Some of whom also married south Indians):-)

    I can generally make a few more for you if you can specify what the emphasis should be on. eg. For another couple, the fellow was in finance so we made smart comments on that.

    Do let me know.....

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  3. This is indeed interesting. So G, go ahead and give some details. I am so eager to see what Suranga comes up with !

    Me being the South Indian who got married some years ago, to a woman born and brought up in Mumbai !

    Me. Sans ideas of whats coming. She sans ideas of cooking. And the celebrations... Sans Ukhanas !

    :)

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  4. Wow this is awesome. Should hvae written it a couple of years ago though! I am a maharashtrian and my husband a south indian and I was FORCED to do this by my relatives during lunch. He, on the other hand, got away with something in english!

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  5. You made these... wow.. these are good ones...

    I call my husband by his first name and dont believe in this ukhana ceremony. So didnt take one even on my wedding day, inspite of lot of forcing by relatives.
    Simply didnt see any point in doing it when i call him by name anyways.They finally gave up and left us alone with our food.

    BTW i have some funny ukhanas, if any lady is pissed off with her husband, dont know if you have already heard them:

    hirve hirve harin,
    tyache vakde vakde paay
    amche he kuthe disat nahit
    khadyat padle ki kaay

    chandichya tatat
    jilebiche tukde
    ghas bharavte martukdya
    tond kar ikde

    Thank god my husband didnt force me to take ukhanas, or else he would have got one of these for sure.

    I should have made one up for those irritatingly persistent relatives too,
    something that would ask them to stop bothering me :-)

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  6. All of this sounds so complicated.
    Do not know if I would ever learn all of this. Your writings are a true education to this One Woman!!
    Thank you for visiting me.

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  7. I am really enjoying learning about the customs of India.

    If I hadn't been allowed to use my husband's name I would have just yelled, "Hey you!" I'll bet he would have been happy to have me call him by his given name after a few months of that. ;-).

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  8. I am really enjoying learning about the customs of India.

    If I hadn't been allowed to use my husband's name I would have just yelled, "Hey you!" I'll bet he would have been happy to have me call him by his given name after a few months of that. ;-).

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  9. Hahaha, jabbrich hote tumche ukhane!! If I remember right, there was a forwarded email going round with hilarious ukhane - a lot of them were quite chaavat, lol! Enchanted's 2 ukhane figured in that mail.

    Here's another one for the times:

    Won't be cooking today; I happened to chip a nail
    I'll be in the other room - when you get that pizza, just send me an email.

    g

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  10. What an interesting post!!! And how enterprising we are, arent we...moulding traditions of a bygone era to suit the present day society!! GREAT read....

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  11. 'Western' weddings in Oz have no such divisions Suranga. It's generally one big party ...

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  12. Kavi Since you married a Amchi Mumbai girl, Ukhanas are mandatory. Learn.

    Sitting on a swing together, rituals you dare not refuse,
    Ever since XXX said yes, on Blogger I have started to muse.....

    or

    Avial,Jasmines,Sandalwood and Kanjeevaram silk,
    XXXX, would you like some kapi, i've just heated the milk..........

    Shilpa I guess being married to a South Indian, you will probably escape Ukhana events in other life stages, (Manglagaur, Haldikumkims, etc. If you need help let me know :-)

    Enchanted I too call my husband by his first name, and the various relatives on both sides were highly skeptical about this naav ghene stuff in my case. I looked upon this as a fun on-the-spot-poetry thing and confused the whole lot. You get asked to preside at other peoples marriage events (bandhleli Gaath sodne), etc and i have a stock thing that goes :

    Ukhana konta gheoo, mala nahi paath,
    XXX cha naav ghete, ani sodte he gaath

    or

    Kai hee gadbad, kaama ahet sutrashe saath,
    XXX cha naav kasa gheoo, mala nahi paath....

    :-)


    One woman's journey, DarleneYou must think this is all fun stuff. It is, for everyone except the bride and the groom. But then thats the general idea. :-)

    Gauri IT lends itself to a lot of Ukhana making. Yes, I have read the bunch that goes around in the email, and there are also several sites on the Net. But making personalized Ukhanas for people is fun. I have made some for girls I have known since they were in KG, and even for their husbands....

    SGD Welcome to the blog, and thank you !

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  13. June Yes , I know. But given our cultural diversity of religions and customs, this is just from my community....Others may have even still different customs. But for everyone except the bride and groom, its fun...:-)

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  14. very very funny even the ones enchanted created.....

    hirve hirve harin,
    tyache vakde vakde paay
    amche he kuthe disat nahit
    khadyat padle ki kaay

    chandichya tatat
    jilebiche tukde
    ghas bharavte martukdya
    tond kar ikde

    hehehehehe "martukdya!!!" amazing !!!

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  15. Thats funny... strangely i didnt know bout these ukhana's....

    interesting too...

    lovely post as usual !

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  16. Fantastic post. So informative and so much in detail.

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  17. You are so talented in so many ways! This was very interesting. So many customs there.

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  18. OMG!! you are awesome.I am a marathi Gal married to a south indian guy..My aatyas told me what to say..but he got away with something in English!..Oh and this post took me back to my wedding day :)Thank you!

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  19. I disagree with the first part of your post. There is definitely a girl's and boy's side in western weddings.. and if you have been to any Italian weddings (or even seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding) you will see how much the parents fall over the couple to make their decisions for them!

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  20. the ukhanas you made up are really funny!! You have a great talent in poetry!!

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  21. Ranu I'd use the "enchanted" Ukhanas with care :-)

    hitch writer I guess this is a purely marathi custom. I used to think tha Gujarat had similar customs, but looks like they dont.

    If they did, then you would be taking Ukhanaas like,

    "Gujarat me kehete hai," Naam soo chhe?"

    XXXX meri wife ka naam, firse mat poochhe...."

    :-))

    nsiyer thank you. And I am amazed at how many maharashtrian girls, getting married to South Indian boys, were forced by their aunts to take Ukhanaas in their marriage. While the fellows escaped. need to make some nice Tamil/Kannada/Malyalam etc Ukhanaas.......

    Judy With all our languages, and various customs, life is certainly never dull here. Though I imagine if Laura Bush had to take Georges name, she could say something like,

    "Export to us Alphonso mangoes", to India he did ask,
    George eats so many, in Texas clearing garbage is a task....

    MimiThank you. isnt it interesting. All the marathi girls married to southern boys think I am awesome :-)

    PuranPoli met Payasam, thereby a story does hang....
    Ukhanaas in the mandap, with a fine American twang...

    RoshniTrue. There are sides in Italian and other communities with a Mediterranean flavour. But notice, they force their wishes on the couple as a whole. Ever heard of a bridegroom's mother sitting puffed up, encouraged by folks, because she doesnt like the saree the girls mother gave her 2 minutes ago in the mandap? And the groom is just helpless ?

    But maybe the Italians can take Ukhanaas like,

    Pasta, Tiramisu, Pizza, devoured at the leaning tower of Pisa,
    XXXX is my wife, did you think she was Mona Lisa ?

    :-) :-)

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  22. I am amazed by this post and the witticism of Ukhanas.

    I love the one about Italy. It's a pity the ones for slightly "pissed off" wives are not translated into English.

    But Roshni's quite right, there are sides in Western weddings and many stories between families. And different traditions for the bride and bridegroom. Like the best man will make a speech to say how awful the bridegroom is (and nobody says anything about the bride), while the bride was traditionally supposed to sell her garter on auction and throw her bouquet in the crowd...

    Tell me, Ugich, is it also considered rude for Indian wives to look at their husband's face or eyes ?

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  23. Helene H Thoughtful, poetic, cultured, Ukhanaas are highly applauded in weddings in my community. You normally dont say witty or fun Ukhanaas in such a gathering. Its all very formal.

    So making these Ukhanaas for the couple is a sort of teasing. Today lots of women work, and so attitudes have changed. The wedding customs havent.

    However, this business of not looking up at the husbands eyes/face etc, simply got over at least 50-60 years ago. Though you must unerstand that India is so vast and culturally diverse, that this custom may still be prevalent in certain rural areas, and possibly strict old royal households.

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  24. Helene You wanted the translation of the other angry wife Ukhanaas ? Here it is :

    hirve hirve harin,
    tyache vakde vakde paay
    amche he kuthe disat nahit
    khadyat padle ki kaay

    (means : A green green deer, with crooked crooked legs, Cant see where he (the husband) is, has he fallen into a ditch ?)

    The second :

    chandichya tatat
    jilebiche tukde
    ghas bharavte martukdya
    tond kar ikde

    (means : There is a piece of Jilebi ( a sweet orange colored thing in sugar syrup) in a silver plate. You weakling, turn your face so I can feed it to you....)

    Of course some of the words can only be approximately translated, and you can see why no one dares say these Ukhanaas , except on email, where we can all laugfh over them.

    Incidentally, Jilebis are sold somewhere in the Algerian areas on the bank of the Seine , in Paris. I have seen them myself !)

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  25. Helene You wanted the translation of the other angry wife Ukhanaas ? Here it is :

    hirve hirve harin,
    tyache vakde vakde paay
    amche he kuthe disat nahit
    khadyat padle ki kaay

    (means : A green green deer, with crooked crooked legs, Cant see where he (the husband) is, has he fallen into a ditch ?)

    The second :

    chandichya tatat
    jilebiche tukde
    ghas bharavte martukdya
    tond kar ikde

    (means : There is a piece of Jilebi ( a sweet orange colored thing in sugar syrup) in a silver plate. You weakling, turn your face so I can feed it to you....)

    Of course some of the words can only be approximately translated, and you can see why no one dares say these Ukhanaas , except on email, where we can all laugfh over them.

    Incidentally, Jilebis are sold somewhere in the Algerian areas on the bank of the Seine , in Paris. I have seen them myself !)

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  26. Thank you so much Ugich ! I love these poems. I especially like the green deer one. This sounds very naughty.

    I did come across a young woman who did not look her husband in the eye, in a very rural area of India (which is astonishing for a Westerner - eye contact is so important for us in a couple). And a friend of mine made many jokes about that, which I didn't understand.

    Thank you for your input.

    I will loook out out for Jilebis, how intriguing !

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  27. Hey UK, Need help with these ukhane. Where can I email you with details??
    :)

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  28. That was so cute!! You made up so many cute ones! And the background to it was wonderful to know too! I had no idea about such a custom.

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  29. hahaha...wish i'd read this post a month ago when at a family function I was asked to say an ukhana and was totally at a loss of words until a relative came to my rescue..

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  30. my post was inspired by your's. thought u might like to read it http://alicespeephole.blogspot.com/

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  31. aamchya hyanche ghar hote lakdache
    XXX naav ghete saasubaaichya maakdache ...

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  32. reshmi sadryala ahe plastic che bakkal...
    XXX la ahe takkal pan dokyat nahi akkal..

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  33. brillant piece of information, I had come to know about your web-page from my friend hardkik, chennai,i have read atleast 9 posts of yours by now, and let me tell you, your webpage gives the best and the most interesting information. This is just the kind of information that i had been looking for, i'm already your rss reader now and i would regularly watch out for the new posts, once again hats off to you! Thanx a million once again, Regards, Marathi Ukhane for Grooms

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  34. excellent information about marathi ukhane, but i want more Marathi Ukhane. any one can visit this website by clicking this link. and if you know more sites please share

    ReplyDelete