It was all Yellow

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Rarely resting upon her nose, her eyeglasses lay idly beside her antiquated phonebook. It's hard to picture my grandmother with those spectacles. She never wears them, or you could say that she never made a spectacle of those rimmed things. But then, there are those few times she makes exceptions. One, when she reclines on a sturdy wooden chair, near an open window in the living room to read newspapers that occasionally enticed her with their promising ‘matrimonials’. And occasionally it was also for that secret pleasure of hers-  the sight of the aftermath of ‘matrimonials'- a vindication that comes gilded in gold on some art paper.

It was a strange pleasure that she secretly relished year after year, almost by habit. And just like the tradition of visiting letters in my ancestral house, her old habit refused to die. You see, the walls at ammachi's have had its times with some pallid colors, there have been a few curtains with questionable prints, and there’s this huge granite dining table that is now covered with a plastic sheet to withstand the antics of all the grandchildren. But then, defying all the changes was the letterbox. Strangely hung as high as a crucifix, it was at a height that really made you curious about what secret it harbors. Somewhere in a corner, it was something that my grandmother tiptoed to read the fresh batch of romantic hopes of the season. And during those months of unfettered marriage marathons, the letterbox had files of ivory envelopes that stacked up more than bills. And though this tradition was not celebrated like her Easter duck entrees, her children grew to pass by that pillar, bespectacled too, stopping to read about the weddings they were to attend. But a few of her grandchildren’s eyes now grew cloudy at the sight of another vanilla colored invitation.
Just until a cocoa colored one sat in the box.

I may have made a spectacle. 

Accept the Except 

The invitations were freshly printed and bundled up in some desolately crumbled newspapers. Carrying the package cautiously, I was pricked with excitement and my feet relentlessly tapped away in the elevator. As I slowly untied the knot, the newspaper undeservedly found its way to the bin, there sat the tower of invitations.
Absolutely splendid.

A few days of stamp licking, calligraphy experimentations, and many post office visits later, the phone rang.“ Atheena, why have you designed a caramelized invitation card?” Fantastic, now I was in a stickier situation.
Splendid? Absolutely.

There were more that followed, “It’s too tiny, there’s no gold, and it’s too thin.” How can I forget, the ultimatum, “There’s black in a wedding invitation?” Pardon me, dark green is also meant to be deceptive. Oh how much I love Malayalee weddings, if there’s anything that can exceed the guest list, it’s the rapid multiplication of opinions. But amidst all of this, it was one truly overwhelming moment where we all got together to make this wedding happen, ruled by the supremacy of Mr Brown and Ms Sunshine.

Turning over a new Flap

January, it’s that sprightful month beautifully chilly with wedding fever spikes. There’s this odd sense of sadism when the New Year rings in with an influx of invitations. I thought the theory of flocks only made sense with migratory birds, apparently not. I made a count once; I attended nine weddings once, just in January.  Do the math, and it goes 9 times 400 glares.
There’s the bling, the anarchy of blinding sequins and the relentless bhavanji* border reincarnations. Nonetheless, invitation cards like being either something just pasty white or a flamboyant chunk of temple-bordered saree.

Whenever my dad and I see invitations that could pull off as a pseudo- clutch, we imagine trees under chainsaws wailing,” Don’t make me tacky.” That might have been slightly dramatic but it led to a very odd promise somewhere in 2014. It was a mundane evening with me eating the forbidden fattening spoon of Nutella and my dad having some crackers. In that odd cracker and chocolate moment he said, “One day, we’re going to make a wedding invitation simple. No glossy paper, rhino stones and vectors of some random bride and groom.”

Two years later, sitting in a room of an ageing apartment that reeked of Ludovico’s chords, I sketched something.  Designing it wasn’t easy. One because my brother, the groom, shopped for his tuxedo faster than the rate of me preparing a basic layout, and that I promise, is not an exaggeration. No one truly seemed to give a squat about the sheet of paper, no one except the Photoshop icon on my desktop. It just yelled, “ You better crack me up, Miss Wilson.” And though it seems trivial, the invitation was finally what set the mood for the wedding we all cherished.

Let them have Cake

My brother just said, “ Brown like Amma’s chocolate cake and yellow like lemons.” I fancied that brief, the rest of the associations involved me snooping into their love life. For someone teased him as the closet romantic, my brother and Neenu lived a few thousand miles apart and he still expected pigeons to be on a caffeine diet. He wrote handwritten letters, that too in cursive. He had the habit of signing off with swanky tails and spurs. Thus the monogram was none other inspired by his penmanship. While on the other hand, Neenu always loved lilies, and since it was a garden party, which I called the Midsummer May-scorching night dream, dark green made its way. I stuck to Manila paper with a slightly higher gsm for the invitation to give it that personal touch of his letters. For the envelopes, the chocolate color was juxtaposed with a praline colored inner cover.

In the invitation, I wanted something personal about Joe and Neenu. Knowing that that their goodbyes were always difficult, I was pleasantly surprised when Neenu told me that he used to sing the classic songs from the 80’s. Just like they said their good byes with a song, I wanted the guests to have something memorable of their wedding. Behind the printed floral panel were the lyrics of one of their favorite songs, Better Together by Jack Johnson.

The invitation card was petite (slightly smaller than A5).  Thus the greatest challenge lay in fitting the text, especially because it had to be hidden under the floral panel. While flipping over the band, you could read the invitation and also the lyrics. But with the long list of names, required indentations and some very unexplainable text, the one phrase that was more common than LOL was “ Make the font bigger.” Everyone loves the game: let’s stuff elephants in a fridge, dear tailors, I empathize.  I just kept on hearing we want them bigger and bolder. (Let’s make this a slogan for modeling agencies, shall we?)

At some point, I was afraid that this wish for a bigger floral card would made it look like I snipped off someone’s cushion cover. I tried explaining this to mom with an example of why sumo wrestler wears minimum clothes, “Ratios, “ I said. Well, I can say, mom’s dilated pupils were certainly in ratio with mine. Somehow a truce was called and the type was increased a point size, to 12.5 pts.  Plus it was Ammachi approved- she could read it without her spectacles.

The selection of the color palette involved my camera being nosy in the oven. Mom would just grunt at my oddities. She just looked at me standing on dining chair arched towards a slice of cake, “ I hope the invitation is yummier than my cake.” At one point we just started speaking the language of desserts, “ Should the color be Belgian chocolate, oatmeal cookie brown, Hobbs ginger cookie or roti brown?” Clearly, we gave food some thought. The yellow? Well, that came in fast as a hello.

Sister Act 

Chocolate brown mousse sounds great, just until you look for textiles of that color. I thank my mother’s sister, Reshmy who knows the winding streets of Chikpet, a street market in Bangalore, like her children’s shenanigans.  She looked at the invitation and said, “ Well at least it’s not jute, I am tired of seeing those invites.” It’s kind of true, if you look through an archive of Christian weddings you could basically cut up all the flower girl dresses that will end up looking like Kazimir Malevich’s white on white painting.

As for Chikpet, it does two things to you, question what’s the concept of a maze and also make you wonder how many people in the world spin cotton and silk to make our over populated country happy?
For the boys, we kept it simple with chestnut brown trousers and praline colored shirts coupled with coffee colored suspenders and bowties. Seemed simple till the cows derailed us, while we were asking around for a store we just heard, “hazri.” After half an hour of hopscotching on cracked pavements, going in few circles we landed at a dilapidated and forsaken store that had Hosiery written on its board. It was promising; it had a century old sweater hung up there. Now couldn’t we just stick to black bow ties? It was by sheer luck someone asked what we wanted and we landed up in another store that just had the perfect shade of bowties.

For the girls, the yellow raw silk wasn’t a challenge but when it came to brown, there was just that quizzical look. We were always handed maroon or deep vines. But somewhere by luck, we found that rich coffee brown. For Riya who was the bridesmaid, we found some lace and we had to show the invitation to get it dyed exactly the color we wanted. After 12 hours of travel on the train, we land back home and I could only laugh my butt off when the first comment was, “ Why are the kids wearing a nun’s robe?”

Whoopi, let’s sing. 
I will follow you 
There isn’t a brown so deep 
A shade that is so high you cannot keep 
Keep me away, away from this love 

Staple it all Together 

Despite how the yellow was too bright and how the brown was having its monastery moments when the wedding day was nearing, the colors weren’t daunting anymore. In fact, to my pleasant surprise, a few of my mother’s friends called up to say that they liked the invitation. Pinning up the invitation on the refrigerator, we had discussions with the wedding organizer, Nazeer. Straying away from the floral garden show, we opted for some minimalism. My brother and I decided we’d settle for a wooden dance floor, benches and a stage with huge haystack chandeliers. Instead of making the yellow so obvious like every typical Indian detergent ad, we just wanted it in elements. From the floral print on the bridesmaid’s blouses to the bouquet to the table centerpieces and cake topper, yellow made its way into the arches and the altar arrangements.

By this time, my aunts and all my grand aunts were buzzing like bees. It was a bustle in the house coordinating all the dresses that came from different tailors to finding the perfect nude colored shoes for the flower girls, and also sorting out the floral arrangements at home. My aunt, Maria, once came home with a huge wicker basket, “ We’ve got a problem.” I had a laugh when she said she couldn’t find the perfect yellow, we finally settled for canary. There she twirled the crepe papers and embellished it with some brown beads and made stunning flowers. Cleaning up a few jars in the kitchen, she placed them in the jars laced with some brown ribbons. My cousin sat quietly as my aunt measured the size for the hairclips, corsages and embellishments for the belt trimmings.

On the wedding day, she surprised us when she made a customized ring cushion with a print of the lilies on the invitation card. Just before my brother was ready to go to church, she pinned a boutonniere on his tuxedo.  She always had a flair for making things personal, this time, it was a miniature white lily encased in a bronze mesh. 

Along with a surprise also came in a few blunders. Of course there had to be something, and that happened to be the wedding cake. It was quite obvious that we were not settling for a yellow cake or then would have looked like Homer Simpson. But more disturbing than that would be the frosted showpiece cakes, you know the ones with the marzipan Botox.

So we ordered a naked cake filled with vanilla crème. Trying to be in sync with the theme, I sketched a two-tiered hazelnut chocolate cake, encircled with garlands finally topped with some vibrant yellow chrysanthemums. My mom and I decided to hide the cake from Joe and Neenu during the wedding ceremony, you know pleasantly surprise them with a missing cake. Well, the prank was on us at the end of the day. When the MC was making the announcement for the cake cutting, we had a plan to hide it for a minute, just until I got a message. “Emergency: the cake looks like a jungle.”

Plan of action? My cousin Meera, the MC, had to create an ultimate distraction. My aunt gave it the quickest makeover. That (a long pause) was piece of cake. But in the end, it was a cake, that all of us whole-heartedly enjoyed, I even have a snap of my nephew having a sneaky bite into it. In the rush, amongst the cheery guests, clinking glasses, a lot of tatter, there were a few moments that couldn’t escape the corner of my eye. When I saw my nieces poking each other with gerberas, my cousins swirling the yellow streamers and the little ones playing with their bowties, I just knew, a wedding is always a personal story.

And when the skies darkened, the picture perfect faces gradually grew a little tired but complacent. The late night stole the colors and the music melted into mellow tunes. As our guests started to leave, the lawn became a new wonderland. We took off our towering stilettos. Hand in hand, we walked with our closest ones to the dance floor. We paired up and broke into a slow dance under the canopy of the warm lights.

May 1,2016
It was all yellow.

Thank you to my family for entertaining every whim of mine. My aunts Reshmy and Maria, and sister Riya for making the wedding come to life. Nithin George, for being the candid photographer ( and Fathima  ( for bugging me to write this story. Finally, Quadregal Infotech for helping me start up this blog platform.

*Ammachi- South Indian word for grandmother
*bhavanji: a type of golden thread border found on sarees


  1. Lovely piece of writing. Could picture the whole wedding scene with unwavering interest.

  2. Atheena well done great job. congratulations for your new venture.

  3. Great job Atheena.
    I was super tired after the long flight of 20 hours from Doha to Dallas to Canada, but once I started reading, I couldn't stop reading till I reached this area.

    Great going and looking forward for more.

    1. Good to know you reached home safely, I was a little afraid that the story was long, but reading your comment was a relief.
      Do catch up on the blog, there are more stories to follow:)

  4. I didn't know our chubby athu had become soooo big to write a blog. But loved all the words and effort that made your dream come true your brother's wedding.great work.

    1. Thank you Reshmy aunty, you know how all of you have motivated me to write stories, so cheers to more about our big fat family!

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  7. You amaze me every time with your writing! You have the exact magic the reader feel the words! I am glad that you started blogging now I have one more place to land up when I feel like relishing a good read :)

    1. Thank you Chetana, always a pleasure when you can experience a moment with words.

  8. A wedding journal that takes you away like the raving winds whispering the tales behind the big day.

    1. Thank you Meera now we have something to look at during their anniversary. Cheers

  9. This was the most amazing thing i've read in a loooong time!!.. it made me look away from maathus homework!!! That , my dear, is saying a lot!!!! Pulled me in and kept me submerged. Loved every single word!!! Like i say... keep flying and soar higher, sweetheart!

    1. Thank you so much! I hope I create some more distractions in the future :). Loved the comment, made me laugh, you've always got a sense of humour.