IT was not joyful drumbeats and rhythmic cymbals at the wedding in Alappuzha district in Kerala, no, t’was the sound of huge cooking vessels, dishes, water kettles and serving spoons being brandished and hurled in the battle for the extra pappadam! And at a celebration, generally one of happiness and joy, three were badly injured and fifteen wedding guests booked by the police!
The brawl started when some guests at the reception, asked for an extra pappadam-the much sought after crunchy, savoury food item-during any wedding feast. An argument ensued when the servers were instructed not to heed the request. Soon more joined the altercation as guests broke into two groups. It escalated into an ugly scuffle with people attacking the servers and even each other with chairs, tables and cooking utensils, while women screamed in terror. What a sorrowful memory for the bride and groom! Pappadam is a savoury no Malayali can do without, and is generally an unlimited offering at household events, parties, receptions, anywhere. It is so irresistible that as soon as it is fried, diners start nibbling on it, even before their meal, and once the meal is served, every mouthful has to be accompanied by the joyful crunch of the pappadam!
It’s a tradition, a part of the lifestyle, and no meal tastes good, unless accompanied by this fried savoury, till one hotel owner, looking at maybe his profits, decides to restrict the number each guest could have, and all hell broke loose. The host or caterer decided to break a tradition, and had to pay for it. In a country like ours, it’s traditions that keep us bound together, and these traditions should not be fooled around with.
There will be many who will say, that certain traditions should be done away with, for the sake of common good, but here’s the thing; to break a tradition, doesn’t come with taking something away from the mouth of a guest, but done in a gentle way. Maybe, someone announcing in a jocular manner that since cholesterol is bad for health, the host for the sake of the health of his guests is going to restrict the number of oily items. There would certainly be some good-natured grumbling, but ultimately taken in the right spirit.
Bullying something through always ends in disaster, as in the Battle of the Extra Pappadam. Likewise, whether we have a majority in Parliament or in state assemblies, any implementation of new laws without dialogue and consensus ultimately ends tragically. We’re seeing this happening recently in bills passed quickly and also withdrawn when citizens react sometimes violently. Muraleedharan, the Alappuzha caterer, now in hospital, the host, and the bride and bridegroom, I am sure, have something to tell our leadership, in what they’ve learnt from the Battle of the Extra Pappadam..!