Kalyana Mandapams and Stadiums


In the region where I live, I’m surrounded by tens of thousands of square-metres of Wedding Halls – Kalyana Mandapams, of various hardware facilities and operating systems. Basically, all have two main functional areas: the Main Wedding Hall, were the religious-or otherwise, marriage ceremonies actually take place; and a Dining Hall where guests are treated to a mind-boggling array of sweets, savouries and the best of foods of the season.

While the Wedding Hall is decked-up to be a visual feast, to exercise the eyes, the Dining Hall tests the limits of the taste buds and the digestive powers of the stomach. The Main Hall decorations are theme-based and Professional Adorners or Wedding Planners are often called-in to work on a concept so that the awfully well-dressed guests themselves adorn and complement the beauty of the venue, making it a memorable photo-opportunity. Guests move around coyly greeting each other; and there are chairs, invariably the hard plastic kind, where you can sit back and the survey the ‘Wedding fashion cat-walk’. Many guests must have spent months ‘planning their red-carpet entrance’ and the layers of cloth, the metres of silk saris with matching bejewelled blouses (a small area of great intricate work) speak their own language. Sometimes, you can catch a girl so beautifully dressed that you wonder whether she is the Bride (or a would-be Bride, drawing attention with come-hither looks), or charmingly trying to steal the Bride’s Day. Whatever, many a heart skips many a beat!

The Dining Hall, by the standards of the Main Hall is a dreary room with never-ending lines of tables and chairs, and seriously-uniformed Attenders running around in file-formation, like food-carrying ants, loading the banana-leaf plate, neatly laid on a paper table-spread, and ‘first sprinkled with holy water’ before applying weight. When one comes down to sit for the meal, one is baffled by the network of rows and columns of rainbow coloured food on display, guarded by the mandatory towering water bottle…and a courteous Attender waiting to serve more! Most take a quick little peck off each item, neatly fold the leaf (remember, always in your direction – as a sign of satisfaction) and quit to make merry at the open Food-Court where ice-creams, fruit salads, coffee, tea and the kind are in full flow, and thronged by the After-Main-Course-Food-Eaters. Lotus-Eaters?

One of the best scenes of the Wedding Halls, is the long queues lined-up to greet the Just-Married Couple, on stage, sit-in for the photo-moment and make Kings of the photographers who command the proceedings. I often wish the couple get down from their high perch and mingle with the guests in the Wedding Hall, leaving the stage to the Musicians and Photographers, to fill the voids.

The only conversation that I can recall, and rings often, after leaving a Wedding Venue, is the host, with folded hands, sheepishly asking, ‘Have you eaten?’ God bless the couple!

While all this is happening in the neighbourhood, I can hardly find a place to play a Wimbledon Tennis game, kick a World Cup Football, basket a ball, do an Usain Bolt dash, or prepare to run a Kenyan marathon. Why cannot we build as many Indoor and Outdoor Stadiums and Play Grounds as there are Kalyana Mandapams? When children come home for the holidays, there’s hardly a place for them to play, resulting in them getting betrothed to the mobile screens, wedded to smart phones and flirting with mobile-app games. We have pushed them to that level, haven’t we? When I get a chance to talk with these kids, I find that many are into some kind of a physical game, which is encouraging, but they struggle to ‘find a match’ to exercise their interests or kindle their playing passions. No wonder India fails to find and send awesome talent to the Olympics, despite millions lurking in the shadows (and perhaps enjoying a hearty meal in a Kalyana Mandapam)

Maybe, we could organize a Wedding as a Cricket Game with the Groom trying to bowl-over the Bride while the Bride’s Father keeps wickets, the Groom’s Father doing the Umpiring, and immediate relatives spread on the field, while the guests watch. They can mingle over field drinks and after the tiring game, create enough inner-space for a filling gorgeous Lunch or Dinner. Maybe the Couple can be dressed in tennis gear and play a love-game of Tennis about the nets with appropriately-dressed guests swaying their heads as the game unfolds! Maybe the Stadium itself can be turned into an Open-Air Kalyana Mandapam with the stage erected in the middle and the Guests watching and cheering from all sides. Gladiator Weddings?

I beguiles me that while we create so much facilities for people to get married we fail to think about the kids they will be producing, in the long run. Play they must, on the open grounds and fields, build up reserves of strength and energy to run and play the game of life, before they themselves head to the nearest Kalyana Mandapam!

I’ve deeply resolved that when I get the chance and wherewithal I shall get involved in creating a Play Stadium for the young chaps, as well as the old guys (to walk their tired legs), in my locality! Hope, you do too!




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