Tenny bowed in front of his grandparents. His grandmother had tears in her eyes as she blessed him. His grandfather, on the other hand, had an amused look on his face. As Tenny’s grandmother started to mutter a prayer, the photographer yelled, ‘stop it right there.’ ‘Grandfather,’ he commanded Tenny’s grandfather, ‘you move a little bit forward. And grandmother,’ he pointed towards Tenny’s grandmother, ‘you turn slightly to the left.’
‘No. No. Don’t move too much,’ the video cameraman objected in an equally loud voice, lifting his head from the eye-piece of the video camera in his hand as his assistant flashed a warm beam of light on a perspiring Tenny and his grandparents. ‘Don’t move them too much, he told the photographer curtly. He was much younger than the photographer, but the video cameraman always outranked the photographer at any Kerala wedding.
‘No, I won’t. Just a little bit,’ the photographer compromised. Tenny’s grandparents moved forwards and sideways according to the directions they received, the crowd of people swarming around them also moving to give them the space they needed.
‘Go on now. Give him the blessing,’ the photographer gave the go-ahead. Tenny’s grandmother dutifully recited her prayer once again, but the spirit had gone out of her. Now it was just a show for the benefit of the cameras. Tenny continued to sweat profusely despite the ceiling fan whirling overhead furiously. There must have been around fifty relatives in that small drawing room, packed around Tenny and his grandparents.
‘Done! Done! Who’s next?’
Tenny’s maternal grandmother tentatively came forward. ‘Ammachi, go forward,’ Tenny’s younger sister prompted her, but the cameras made the old lady twice as shy as her widowhood demanded.
‘Tenny’s suit – its cut is so old fashioned,’ a cousin from Kolkata muttered. ‘Did he get it made in the UK?’
‘No, of course not. It’s the bride’s people who pay for the suit.’
‘True, but he could still have bought it in England.’
‘I think the bride’s father arranged to have it stitched by a tailor in Kottayam.’
‘No wonder …’
‘Who’s next?’ the photographer demanded.
‘It has to be Daddy and Mummy,’ Tenny’s elder brother suggested cautiously. He wasn’t old enough to be sure if the groom’s parents outranked the groom’s father’s elder brother and his wife.
‘Shouldn’t it be Perappan and Peramma?’ someone queried.
‘No, no, after the grandparents, the parents, then all paternal uncles and aunts in the order of seniority and then all maternal uncles and aunts,’ the photographer informed them, his authority derived from his long years of experience in recording weddings. Eight pairs of maternal uncles and aunts quietly prepared to wait their turn.
‘Yes, yes, Tenny’s father and mother should bless Tenny before I do,’ Tenny’s Perappan declared with a tinge of embarrassment.
Tenny’s mother walked up to Tenny, followed by his father.
‘A little bit to this side,’ the video cameraman ordered. ‘The father should stand to the mother’s left.’
‘Let’s not waste too much time over positions. We need to be in church by eleven. So, why don’t you take the photographs as best as you …’
‘Don’t you want the photographs to turn out well? Twenty years from now, do you want someone to look at your son’s wedding photos and wonder why you are in the wrong position?’ Tenny’s father did not have an answer to the photographer’s questions.
‘These blessings are eternal. To be recorded forever, and it’s my job to make sure they are done right. Our job,’ the photographer hastily corrected before the video cameraman or his assistant could say anything.
‘We are paying six thousand for the photographs and ten thousand for the video,’ Tenny’s brother informed an uncle in hushed tones, without hiding his pride at spending so much money on photos and video.
Tenny’s Perappan and Peramma took up their positions soon after.
‘Thank God Tenny managed to land a job in England. If he hadn’t…
‘It was I who advised him to study nursing. Everyone said I was mad. No one likes the idea of male nurses, but these days they are the ones who manage to get jobs in England and America.’
‘Tenny is not in England. He is in Scotland. In a nursing home faraway from civilisation. Our nurses get jobs in places where white people don’t like to work.’
‘I’m sure it’s good enough for Tenny,’ another uncle, this one Tenny’s father’s sister’s husband, sniggered.
‘Your turn will come up soon,’ someone informed the sniggering uncle who looked around for his wife. ‘Where’s Leilamma?’ he asked someone standing nearby.
‘Is Leilamma around?’
‘She’s here.’ Leilamma could be espied on the other side of the room, tucked in between three other relatives.
‘It’s ten twenty already. We will have to start for the church by ten forty.’ Tenny’s mother announced.
‘We need to take a few shots of the groom leaving the house and getting into the car. Ten minutes for that,’ the photographer said.
‘We can be a few minutes late. It doesn’t matter if we don’t get to the church by eleven.’
‘Oh no!’ the video cameraman objected. ‘We must get to the church before the bride does. I need to shoot the bride getting out of her car.’
‘Won’t that be recorded by the bride’s video?’
‘Don’t you want your own video show the bride getting out of her car at the church?’
‘At this rate, we will not be able to get everyone to bless Tenny.’
‘Can’t you take photos of Tenny getting out of the house while the rest of us bless him?’ an aunt asked only to be drowned out by hoots of laughter. Her two sons, Tenny’s cousins, cringed in embarrassment.
‘Never mind. As many blessings as possible till ten thirty. Then we leave.’
No one objected. Tenny continued to receive blessings at a pace dictated by the photographer and video cameraman.