The average Indian's first exposure to a choultry starts days before (or if you're lucky and the hosts are exceptional planners, a few weeks ahead) when a stiff cardboard booklet with impressions of Hindu gods & godesses, inlaid gold or silk, an intricately woven tassled bookmark attached, and a loosely-attached translucent piece of folded paper otherwise known as a wedding invitation, arrives in the mail, requesting the pleasure of your company at their doorling son/daughter's muhurtha.
Once opened, a barrage of titles, salutations and acronyms greet you - Hons., Sri, Srimathi, Rev., Lt. Col., etc.
Further down in fine print you are likely to see something like Sapthagiri Choultry, 2, off Old Madras Road, opposite Yeshwant Chambers, behind NGEF, EG Puram, B'lore 54.
Putting your astute Robert Langdon skills (see author: Brown, Dan) to use and with a little help from Google Maps and your driver Hariharan, you discern the location of the most auspicious matrimony. An opportunity to majaa maadi!
On the big day you set out with your parents, in-laws, nieces & nephews, neighbors and friends to partake in the feast at said choultry. Upon arriving you are seated in the main wedding hall while observing a slightly disheveled priest with a ponytail and pot belly loudly chanting undecipherable Sanskrit verses while pouring ghee into a pyre and puzzling the bride and groom along with most people in attendance. In between the daylong rituals occasional bursts of a bevy of musical instruments fill the air - veena, manjeera, ghatam, dholak, and the singularly most jarring instrument known to man, the nadaswaram...known to bring elephants to their knees.
After a few rain showers of rice, nuts, sweets, ekc. hurled by the crowd on the married couple you are ready for the main event, the saapad or traditional South Indian meal. For this, sections of the crowd make their way into an adjoining area of the choultry where an army of servers bearing buckets of culinary goodness await, ready to splatter your plate or banana leaf with the day's specials.
Post-meal, you make your way into the outdoor wash basins and bathrooms, bemoan the lack of soap or towels, and head back to the main hall to pay your respects to the bridal couple and their families.
Then comes the wait - the greeting lines would put voting booth lines to shame, but when you get your chance you make a quick dash for the altar, remove your shoes, wish the louly bride & groom, take an awkward picture with the starving couple, and then scurry off for filter coffee or chai in yet another adjoining enclosure of the choultry.
Once done and after you've exchanged pleasantries with the bridal party, their grandparents, their grandparents friends, colleagues, and random government officials, it is time to depart with a full belly and a mouthful of supari or saunf, only to repeat the process next month at another choultry. In a land of over a billion people, weddings are aplenty!
Sowmya: Yes baba, was it a lou marriage or arranged marriage?
Sathya: God only knows. When I asked Amma she told it might be an exchange marriage. Where is Sapthagiri Choultry?
Sowmya: Oof! Isn't that far away, bang opposite Yeshwant Chambers in EG Puram? Hope it isn't bejaar!