With the onset of the harvest festival, Pongal, the wedding season begins. Eligible bachelors and girls are in great demand.
When traditional astrologers recognise only nine planets in a mortal's birth chart, the son-in-law is referred to as the tenth planet — in jest. It enters the zodiacal chart of a man when his daughter gets married.
To propitiate this planet, the girl's father offers sreedhan and palliatives like electronic goods and motor vehicles to the groom. The planet's relatives contribute their mite to cause trouble to the bride's family during marriage. The groom's uncle or aunt tells the bride's father, “The coffee served in the evening tasted like the concoction served to cattle. Ensure that the best first degree coffee is served to us early in the morning.”
Many methods are adopted not to allow the ‘ Damaad ' to be a good augury to the bride's family. Either the dowry is found inadequate or the bride's jewellery is found too meagre to match the status of the groom's family.
In one marriage I attended, a mischievous girl hid the groom's shoes when he went to the temple to pray before jaanavasam . The tenth planet walked barefoot to the wedding hall. His father was very upset and considered the loss of footwear a bad omen. The footwear was restored by the girl who pinched it, after the groom shelled out some money as was done in a famous Hindi movie, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun . His father said the bride's family had “thieves” in its lineage. The bride's father bristled at the affront. An ugly confrontation developed. A good samaritan informed all concerned that the girl lifted the idea from a movie. It should be considered a joke and everybody should laugh it off. The groom's father could manage only a smirk.
Poor or middle class families feel the impact of the tenth planet even after marriage. During Diwali and other festivals, it has to be appeased with more freebies or help for buying a motorcycle, or car or a house.
A relative keeps saying, “My son-in-law loves tea. My daughter also took to tea. Now we are also drinking tea on a regular basis, instead of coffee.”
A neighbour said: “Our son-in-law likes the house spick and span. He hates cockroaches and cobwebs. Before his visit, we thoroughly cleanse the house so that he is happy.”
The likes and dislikes of the tenth planet are carefully analysed and every effort is made to keep it propitiated. Married daughters and their parents can be peaceful only if it is happy.
Because of the hardship and hassles caused by it, many families stopped with a single male child and no daughter. Consequently, nowadays many boys are not able to get brides.
The father of a well-qualified, well-employed boy told me that for the last two years he had been searching for a bride for his son. A girl's father told me that his daughter was earning Rs. 12 lakh a year and that he could discuss an alliance only if the boy was earning more. Looks like the tenth planet will soon be genderless. Brides may don the role of the tenth planet in the coming days. A little bird murmurs in my ears that it is already in vogue.
(The writer's email ID is: mailpsubramanian @gmail. com)