Far back in my childhood this word Appan Cheyal was always linked with my name. I don’t remember how this started or why! All I remember is that my elder brother as well as my eldest ‘Athimbar’ (my eldest sister’s husband) had chosen the man with this nickname for me to marry.
This nickname belonged to one Mahadeva Iyer. He was related to my eldest sister by marriage. He was a widower and was very rich. He was the wealthiest person of that time, owning acres of agricultural land all over the area he belonged to. He was a very God-fearing man and with every breath used to utter these two words ‘Appan cheyal’ which meant ‘God’s will’. That is how he got the nickname.
He life style was like that of a zamindar, and as any zamindar of that era he was always well turned out with gold ‘Kadukkan’ (solid gold earrings), gold ‘kappu’ (solid gold bangle), a thick gold chain with a ‘Rudhraksham’ encased in gold round his neck and a walking stick with a solid silver handle. This description was given to me by my brother and brother-in-law telling me that he was the one chosen by them to be my husband, adding that he was not that old. His being sixty and me six the age difference was a mere zero, they teased. Here my memory does not help me so I cannot say how I reacted to this teasing.
By and by my brother started adding to this saying that our parents wouldn’t have to spend too much on my wedding. Appan cheyal being a rich man he would not demand anything from my father. But to send me to my in-laws’ place empty-handed would not be right, my brother added. So he would say that I would get as dowry my mother’s old silver, bronze and brass utensils, my mother’s equally old steel trunk, which was given to her on her marriage, and my parents’ old double cot – which had been pensioned off a few years back.
As I grew older I became aware of the teasing and its meaning. I started to resent it which only added to their teasing. My brother came out with a slogan repeating it whenever we came face to face. My sisters and even my mother enjoyed the slogan very much.
The slogan went like this
Engathu Lalithavuku kalyanam
Avaravar athiley sappad
Vettilai pakku kadailey
"Our Lalitha is getting married
The nagaswaram is played in the temple
Every one eats in his own home
And gets the betel leaves and nuts from the shop."
This teasing went on till I was ten years old, when my brother left home and went to Benares for higher studies.
Years passed and soon it was time for me to get married. It was my brother who went to Thrissur to meet my to be in laws and fix up everything with them Coming back from Thrissur he told me that he was sure that I would be very happy in the alliance.
Contrary to all the teasing my marriage was a grand affair with all the elite of our place attending the function. In those days a wedding was graded by two items, the nagaswara vidwan and the caterer. The nagaswaram was played by the then famous Ambalappuzha Brothers and the caterer was the famous Karamanai Appu.
Only one of my brother’s teasings came true. World War II had just ended before my wedding. There was a scarcity of many essential things. The availability of goods was also very rare and if available the prices were sky high. Because of this, I was given as my dowry the family’s silver and other utensils.