The evening twilight lit up the entire courtyard with an enthralling shade of orange. Too many things were happening, it just feels surreal. Seemed only yesterday I was teaching her to ride her bicycle on these very grounds. Her little voice screeching “Appa, keep holding the cycle, don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” is still echoing in my head. A bittersweet smile crosses my face. Oh Ammu, time is so unfair. It is already time for you to leave. I fight back tears and look around. The hustle and bustle around me is overwhelming. There’re Srinath and Jeeva setting up the Manavarai in the middle of the courtyard. They do know their little cousin’s obsession with perfection, especially for her big day. Their chithi as usual is fussing over them with a tray of juice. On one side her twins are practising their dance routine for the Sangeeth while on the other end, our all in all Murugan is digging a hole for the pandhakaal(a long bamboo pole with turmeric,kumkum,flowers and mango leaves tied on top, erected during auspicious functions)
“Appa, move please”. It’s Arjun. He’s dragging out the pandhakaal. “Hey don’t drag it. Let me give you a hand.” I said. We promptly take it out and set it upright in its hole.
“Appa I got a call from maapillai’s house. They are on the way.”
“Ok, I’ll ask your mom to finish up dressing up her daughter. Give her an entire day and it still wouldn’t be enough time for her! Wonder what she’s going to do for the Muhurtham tomorrow! Ha-ha!”
As I head into the house the twins come running to me. “Periappa, Paati wants to see you. She’s in the kitchen!” Anamika said while running out.
“Ok,sure. Don’t run around the house you two! You’re going to hurt yourself! And wash your hands, Aakansha!”
“We are in a hurry Periappa. We are yet to rehearse one more song!”
“Ok do it soon. Maapillai’s family will be here soon!”
“O my God! Ok Periappa! And don’t worry; we keep using hand sanitizer all the time!” They ran off. Looking for an empty room to practise I hope.
I enter the kitchen and the smell of the assortment of sweets and payasam arouses my hearty appetite. “Oh Amma! Your hands are doing magic. I am hungry just by smelling it all!”
“These are not for you! It’s for my chellakutty, Anjali.”
“Nooooooo! Ha-ha-ha. Pamper her all you want Amma! Anyway why did you want to see me?” I asked breathing in the delectable aroma around the kitchen.
“I wanted to confirm the Muhurtham timings with you. Lunch can be ready by noon. When will all the rituals from Maapillai’s side finish?”
“ Muhurtham is between 11.00-12.30 tomorrow morning. So, we can be ready to serve accordingly.
By the way Maapillai is arriving in a few minutes. Have you made his favourite masala dosa for dinner?”
“Of course! Specially made for him!” she said, her toothless smile inspiring me as always.
I walked into Anjali’s room and there she was. My beautiful baby girl has already become a bride. Her smile could light up the deepest of caves. My chest is swelling with pride as I look at her.
“Oh good! You’re here! Appa tell me, does this Lakshmi Haram match with my Muhurtham sari?”
As I look over her head, in comes my lovely wife, carrying the box that we’d bought yesterday. “I think it’s time” she said, mimicking my proud smile.
“Yes! We think this would be lovely if our beautiful daughter wears it. We’re so proud of you Ammu!” I said, my voice brimming with pride.
We hand the box of necklace over to her. Her eyes glow in surprise and happiness as she looks at the necklace we bought for her.
“It’s so beautiful!” she breathed.
“How did you manage to do this during the lockdown?!” the astonishment in her voice is really amusing.
“As you say all the time, your appa is your Superman!”
She hugs me sweetly. I am going to miss you, my dear! A bittersweet melancholy fills my heart.
Just then a flash goes off and startles me.
“Priya! You gave this old man a fright!”
It’s my daughter’s best friend since childhood. They have been inseparable for most parts of their lives.
“Uncle! These are candid moments. Just wait! Once I show it to you, you’ll want to frame it and keep!”
“That’s so true Appa! During school and college, our farewell photos were all taken by Priya only. Each picture could tell a story!”
Arjun’s voice shouting “Maaplai’s car has come!” reverberated till our room. As we all bustled to welcome them at the front gate, I couldn’t help but feel content that despite not being able to celebrate my little princess’s wedding with utmost grandeur, this cute intimate homemade celebration gives me solace. All her favourite people are around her, wishing her a lifetime of happiness. Her “happily ever after” is going to start from her home, her Muhurat at home.