“What did you wear for your wedding, Ammachi?” I watched my grandmother closing her eyes as though she was viewing herself in the mind theatre. Then she spoke,” I wore my first chatta and mundu on that day. Being a Syrian Christian and a wife-to-be, my mother felt it was only right that I wore the traditional chatta and mundu. It was so funny wearing a mundu for the first time.
“Can you imagine a long white piece of cloth tied around you and with a tail at the back?” She turned and asked me.
“It took me ages to learn how to tie a mundu properly.” Ammachi chuckled.” My mother gave me her best neriyathu to wear along with the chatta and mundu. It was also the first time I used neriyathu. I feared that if I didn’t hold the neriyathu on my head properly, it would fall on my face and everyone would laugh at me So I walked with my head firmly fixed straight so the neriyathu would stay put. But my neck began to hurt after a while and I moved my head, which made the neriyathu slip on to my back. My mother saw this and knocked my head with her knuckles. She warned me not to drop the neriyathu while at church and embarrass her in front of all the relatives.
I have not worn a scarf to church yet. It is customary that orthodox Syrian Christian woman cover their head when they enter the church. My mother doesn’t like to follow the orthodox customs. Her family belonged to the Anglican church. Although my father’s family belongs to the Syrian church, my mother would try to fight the cutoms and traditions of Orthodox Christians. My friend Anila has a white lace scarf and I too wanted one like that. When we went to church I showed amma Anila’s scarf and asked her
” Would you buy me scarf like that?”
Amma shook her head. “Nina, bible never mentioned that women should cover their head”. I wanted to ask her, then why is she covering her head with the saree whenever we went to church.
I promised myself, when I grow up and earn my own money, I will buy my own scarf, beautiful white lace scarf with tassels at the border. I was always fascinated to see how I would look when I cover my head. When no one is at home I would use a towel as a scarf and pretend I am at the church, going to take my first communion. Balancing the towel on my head, holding it with one hand and gracefully walking to the altar.
The rain was now very heavy and ammachi was worried that paddy field would get flooded and destroy then crops. The non stop rain would weaken the stalks of the paddy causing the grains to drop in to the wet soil and be damaged. Ammachi went to the back of the house, cut a leaf from the yam plant and used it as an umbrella to go into the fields to survey her crops. Normally Ammachi would never let me out when it rains, for if I get fever, Amma would fight with Ammachi for allowing me to play in the rain. But this time Ammachi gave me a yam leaf too.
We walked slowly in the rain to the paddy field holding the yam leaf over our head. I was accustomed to using an umbrella and was delighted in the novelty of holding a yam leaf over my head to keep dry. Suddenly I felt the right side of my body is getting drenched with rainwater so I tilted the leaf in that direction, but then the rain started beating down on the left side of my body and all of a sudden the wind started billowing causing my yam leaf to sway and one point the leaf nearly turned upside down, allowing me to get completely soaked. Ammachi saw me struggling with the leaf and quickly scooped me up with one arm and held the leaf over my head. Ammachi let go of her leaf and was getting wet while making sure my head stayed dry.
After surveying the paddy, we cautiously but hurriedly returned to Chengannur house. And Ammachi used a towel to dry my head and body. She removed my wet dress and wrapped the towel around me to keep me warm. Ammachi then wringed my dress and hung it on the slats meant for the rubber sheets inside the kitchen. I looked anxiously at the bund to see if my parents are coming back. I silently prayed that Amma and Appa wouldn’t come to fetch me until later. If Amma saw me without my clothes on, she would be upset with Ammachi for allowing me to play in the rain. I didn’t want Ammachi and Amma to fight, which would eventually lead to a fight between my father and mother.
Ammachi’s concern about the rain destroying the crop is proving to be right, the field was getting flooded and there is nothing much she could do other than to hope that it would stop raining soon. But I couldn’t hold my excitement learning about Ammachi’s marriage ceremony,” Tell me about the wedding”