D.Rajkumar never misses a chance to add to his cachet of wedding cards, a collection that chronicles the absurdities and inventiveness of human nature

‘This match is fixed, but it is legal’ proclaims the opening line embossed on burgundy and gold paper, shaped like a cricket bat. Though nothing to do with the gentleman’s game, the style and shape are obviously an avid cricket fan’s way of summoning friends to witness him walk up to the ‘pavilion’ to begin a ‘new innings’ with umpires and cheerleaders in attendance. The ‘no replays, live only’ is warning enough!

A wedding invitation is officially shouting from the rooftops that you are hitched. Though it marks the beginning of wedding preparations, it is soon forgotten, long before the knot is tied. But to D.Rajkumar, an economics teacher from Tiruchi, the scraps of paper are artefacts worth preserving. With a collection averaging around 300, the principal of a private school in Pudukottai has cards of every size, shape and material, spanning three decades.

Non-prosaic hobby

Rajkumar may look every inch the prosaic academician, but his hobby of collecting everything from invitations printed on fuss-free white paper to elaborately handcrafted designer ones, tracks the absurdities and inventiveness of human nature. Spreading out his cachet of cards on floor of his drawing room, Rajkumar says he has always been a collector. “When I was a kid , I collected stamps, sourced from pen friends all over the world. Later, I collected newspapers recording historic events.” But why wedding cards? “It started with a card I spotted in Bangalore that had a layout of the neighbourhood around the venue, with directions and landmarks illustrated vividly. It may be commonplace today, but it was a novelty in 1980. I decided to keep it and soon came across two interesting cards that slowly grew to a collection,” he points to two of the most original in the sachet.

Printed in the form of a newspaper titled ‘Thirumana Thanthi’, the first grabs eyeballs promptly. With wit written all over it, an announcement styled like a news report is followed by a weather forecast predicting showers of blessing, an interview with the groom, and an artfully introduced ‘bride wanted’ notice for the next in line in the family! Appearances are indeed deceptive proves the second, a flimsy yellow affair, likely to be dumped without a second glance. Created by a possible film buff, the invitation is designed like a yesteryear movie poster, announcing, ‘Bose’s Kalyanam’ with production house, supporting cast, studio, music et al.

“I’m not aware of the histories of ninety percent of these cards,” says Rajkumar who never misses a chance to look out for wedding invitations on drawing tables in homes and offices. “When I ask people if they are going to keep the card, they often say it would end up in the junk; I simply collect what may be thrown out”.

Tracking trends

While the smallest card is in the shape of a palm-size traditional fan, the latest item is an oversized book running up to a whopping 200 pages. “I wonder if even the bride and groom had the time to read this,” he chuckles, The card has photographs, description and history of rituals, tourist attractions in the city and random health tips!

From tassels and satin ribbons, clocks that denote time, gold lettering, silhouettes of couples, and 3D, he collection records trends that have come and gone; departures from tradition that have become the norm. Rajkumar’s fondness for nuances shows in the display- a trendy one opens apart like the flowers of a petal, an auspicious seeming one comes embedded with grains of rice dabbed with vermilion; another has photographs of the couple designed like stamps with a postmark bearing the venue. Some wedding cards are preserved for the tales they tell like that of a bride who used the card as a canvass to showcase some of her paintings or a family that cut costs with three weddings announced in a single card.

More than style, it is the words that intrigue Rajkumar from cheery ‘Come, stir up the celebration, to a tongue-in-cheek ‘drink to us at your own expense’, printed on cards. ‘Life has been grand but things have to change,” is unmistakably a reluctant bachelor’s call, who goes on to add greater responsibilities await him including naming household chores and nurture his bride’s hobby - street side shopping. A 1994 card is designed as ‘pages from Madhav’s diary’, noting engagement and wedding. “Remember these are from the era before computer generated designs and downloadable ideas,” notes Rajkumar. “Today people don’t mind spending on cards to make an impression. But in yesteryears they clearly banked on creativity.” One that Rajkumar cherishes is a handwritten card he designed along with friends, as a research scholar. “It was for a couple who had a love marriage and a small budget. One of us drew the lines, the other made designs, another wrote out the message in Indian ink.”

So what about his wedding card? “Mine was simple,” he admits. “Just our names, the venue, time and date. Ends with a ‘please do come’. What a wedding card was essentially invented for.