A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for the ‘Blasts from the past’ Category

A mix of childhood and history

Summer

Posted by Pepper on March 13, 2016

I am beginning to smell it. And I can’t begin to describe how happy this makes me. For the first 15 years of my life, summer was always associated with freedom. Because summer came with a special gift, the glorious summer vacations. Summer meant complete abandon. It meant endless hours of play time. Sweaty afternoons. WWF card games. Famous Five and Secret Seven marathons. Special treats in the form of Rasna. ‘Correcting’ notebooks from the previous academic year. Calling out to friends who lived on different floors of the building by collectively ringing our bicycle bells. Playing cricket till we could hardly see the ball. Roller skating in the dark. Taking cold showers. The smell of Cinthol soap. Abundant mangoes. Delicious freedom.

Those were the days of ecstasy. Nothing could pull us down. The heat and sweat didn’t stand a chance. I am strangely undisturbed by the heat even now. Maybe because the heat is still a reminder of my past freedom. While the world complains about the unbearable heat, I just shrug and pull out my tank tops and cotton skirts. I look forward to cool glasses of mango milkshakes and cups of mint flavoured butter milk.

Summer. I am beginning to feel it. And that makes me so happy.

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Posted in Blasts from the past, Small joys | 6 Comments »

Walk back in time..

Posted by Pepper on January 27, 2016

We almost missed making a trip to Mint’s college campus this time. Mint barely showed any excitement to go and that was making me lose my enthusiasm as well. At that time, I decided to drop the idea. I am not sure what made me change my mind just a day before we left Madras, but I began to insist on a quick tour, if not an elaborate visit. I am glad we went. It was an afternoon well spent.

Here are some pictures from the day.

We started with the stadium. Since Mint didn’t seem too excited or talkative himself, I had to push, prod and wring every word out of him. “Tell me stories about the stadium. Did you use it often?”, I asked. “Yes”, he said. Since it was an annoying mono syllabic response, I pushed some more. “So tell me, what did you use the stadium for? Did you run on the track? Or did you play some sports here?”. His response? “No, I didn’t run or play anything. I used to use the stadium as a short cut to go to the other side”. How nice. He used the stadium only because it was a shorter route to get to the other side of campus. I should have guessed.

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Here is the main circle. I got to hear no stories or anecdotes or references about this. Hmph.

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I was really excited about visiting his hostel. I have heard so many stories from him and his hostel gang. Going there was making me feel nostalgic. How strange. Yes, this is me pointing to his hostel name.

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We walked around his hostel for a bit, and then I began to insist on seeing his room. Mint and I become thick pals when he was in college and I really wanted to see the living space he occupied at that time. What place did he go back to after we chatted for all those hours from his computer lab? Yes, there was no internet in their hostel rooms back then. At that time, I used to picture Mint trudging back to his room in the wee hours of morning. I can’t explain it, but seeing his room felt like completing the picture in my head. I had visited his campus in the past too, but I had never seen the insides of his room.

Mint kept refusing. He felt awkward knocking on the door of what was now another student’s room. He thought we might be disturbing somebody who is sleeping? He wouldn’t agree to knock despite my many requests. So we hung out outside his door, talking in whispers. As luck would have it, the door swung open and I almost jumped at the guy who walked out. I blabbered something like, ‘Hi, can I please see your room?”. The poor guy seemed quite rattled.

Mint pulled me back and explained he was Alum and one of the previous occupants of that room. The guy generously let us in. He asked Mint what he did now. I guess we are all curious to know the path our seniors followed. Both Mint and the current student seemed to have some polite conversation going while I was taking in the messy, dilapidated room. There was so much graffiti on the wall. A lot of the occupants had left their mark. Mint couldn’t recall what part of it existed during his time. Like I suspected, the room was making me feel emotional. We thanked the guy for letting us in and walked out after taking a picture.

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While walking downstairs, Mint told me excitedly that back then, he almost never came down the stairs. He always slid on the bars of the staircase. Saying that, he was off, back to sliding the way he did all those years ago. So glad I captured it!

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We also stopped by his department building. I wanted to take a picture with Mint in the frame. Wouldn’t you want to take a pic next to the building you attended all your lectures in, almost a decade ago? I am sure that place contained so many memories. Of professors, classmates, friends, examinations, episodes of goofing around and more. Mint didn’t want to take a pic there with the building name in the background. He thought it was tacky. Okay then. I took a picture of just the building.

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While walking on the campus, I spotted this bench. As usual, I wondered who had scrawled that there, who it was meant for, did the recipient know it existed, that it was meant for him/ her? What prompted the writer to put it down on the bench? Was it genuinely for somebody, or was it someone fooling around?

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We spent time admiring the new cafes that had sprung up on campus, we stopped by the open air theatre, we spotted a few deer, we drove around the other random buildings and finally pushed ourselves to leave. It was our last day in Madras and we had a long line up of things to finish. But like I said, this was an afternoon well spent.

Posted in Blasts from the past | 5 Comments »

The tides of memory

Posted by Pepper on June 3, 2015

Ever so often, I’ve wished I had penned down my love story on my blog in detail. Chapter by chapter. That was such a glorious period of my life. I love soaking in the memories. Maybe I will write about it in sequence someday. Until then, let me just write disconnected chapters. Chapters that come from memories that get triggered unexpectedly by events of my current life. I know I have mentioned this part of our story somewhere on my blog, but for my own reading pleasure, let me put it down here in detail.

****

December, 2006. I was in college. I  was planning to go to Bangalore for Christmas break with my girl pals. That included my BFF, her sister, my sister and ofcourse, me. Since the plan involved 4 people, we kept going back and forth with the travel dates. At that time, Mint who was in India for his annual vacation, kept calling me every other day. He was going to be visiting Bangalore around the same time and he kept begging me to try and coincide our travel dates.

Mint. He was a good friend of mine. A friend who was witty and sarcastic. He was bold and intelligent. A friend who would hit on me and tell me he liked me more as more than a friend. I knew it was all said in good humour. So of course, I would laugh. While I did think of him as a really good friend, I always knew he would forever remain in the ‘friend zone’. It would have been great to meet him in Bangalore and catch up, I thought. But if we weren’t able to coincide our travel, there was nothing we could do. Why did he have to sound so desperate and earnest? Like the world would fall apart if we didn’t meet. I told him I would try my best and left it at that.

Once I had finalised our dates, Mint reshuffled his own dates to match mine. Or so he claimed. I still couldn’t understand why he would do that? Why that urgency to meet me? Anyway, the four of us girls traveled to Bangalore. We were staying in my cousin’s house and having our own fun. My cousin had planned a Christmas party in her house on the day I was to meet Mint. Neither my friends, nor my cousin was pleased with the idea of me going out to meet ‘a friend’ on that day. I tried explaining to them how eager my friend had been to meet me. He was leaving Bangalore the next day. He lived in the US. So I didn’t get to see him often. After bargaining for some time with him and promising to be back in time for the party in the evening, I left.

Other than Mint, I was also supposed to meet S, a common friend of ours who had just moved to Bangalore. We were to meet at The Forum mall for lunch. S and I were dot on time. While the two of were hanging out, we started bitching about Mint for being so late! What kind of a guy shows up this late? Just as we bitching, he came. After giving a quick hug to S, he came and enveloped me in a big, giant bear hug that seemed to linger on forever. Although I was mad at him, I could feel his warmth and that made me soften.

Since all of us wanted to eat different things, we decided to eat at the food court. We chatted as we ate. It was a good lunch. Shortly after lunch, Mint requested S to leave so that he could spend time with me alone. I was horrified. Now, I know this guy always claimed to like me. It was all said jokingly and I always laughed. But asking somebody to leave so out rightly was rude! S giggled. She turned to me and said Mint had already told her he wanted to hang out with me alone and it had been decided that she would leave right after lunch. Umm, okay.

And then, we were alone. Since we couldn’t stay in the food court, we kept walking around the mall, trying to find an appropriate place to hang out. I remember Mint coaxing me to enter ‘Firangi Paani’, but I dismissed the idea because they had a big cover change and we didn’t plan on ordering anything. It didn’t make sense to pay for nothing. So we just kept talking and walking aimlessly. Until I glanced at my watch and realised the time. OhMyGod! I told him I had to rush back. I had promised my friends and my cousin that I would be back soon. Moreover, I had missed 4 calls from the BFF. She had also sent me two very angry text messages.

I kept telling Mint I had to leave and he kept begging me to stay some more. At this point he did something that took me aback and had me totally stumped. When I declined his request and said a final ‘no’ and told him I was leaving, he went down on his knees and folded his hands in plea! OhMyGod again. The mall was crowded and what the hell was he doing, creating a scene and getting us so much of undesired attention? I was embarrassed. People were staring at us. What a drama queen he is, I thought. He refused to get up until I gave in. I gave in, just to save myself from further embarrassment and stares. This boy knew how to have his way.

After walking around the mall some more, we found a quiet stair way connecting  two levels of the mall. It was silent and perfect for us to sit and talk. We sat on the steps. Conversation flowed. We spoke about his life in the US. My college life in Mumbai. His views on life in general. My views. And so on. It went on for a long, long time. Talking to him was so easy. Sometimes I would notice him just staring at me dreamily as I spoke. What, I asked. He kept telling me it was my eyes. They were arresting and it was hard for him to not stare into them. Right. Good dialogues, I told him. *Chuckles*. As usual, he was offended because I dismissed everything he sincerely said.

When we were both silent for a while, he pulled something out of the little bag he was carrying on his shoulder. “I got this for you”, he said. It was a tiny box. When I opened it, I saw in it a set of gorgeous earrings. He told me he had spent many hours choosing them for me. He made it a point to tell me that he “didn’t get anything for any of his other friends”. Wow. Why did he always treat me in this special way? And why did he want me to know that?

When I was quietly staring at the earrings, he asked me if I would mind if he put them on for me? Umm. I wasn’t sure. Would that be awkward? Instead of answering him, I told him we should go and find a mirror so I could see how they looked on me. With that thought, we tried to find our way back to one of the levels in the mall. We would find a mirror somewhere, we thought.

Instead, the door we got out of took us the parking lot of the mall. ‘Perfect’, Mint said. We can use the side view mirrors of all the parked cars. It was funny. We walked to the nearest car and both of us stood close enough to peer into the mirror together. I pulled out the earrings, and just as I was putting them on for myself, I had a change of mind. I decided to allow him to put them on for me. All along I told myself, I shouldn’t find that awkward. They are just earrings. Why would him touching my ear lobe be a sign of intimacy?

I told them he could put them on for me if he wanted to and his eyes lit up. He brushed aside me hair and put them on slowly and carefully. We continued to peer in the mirror. “Tell me, do you really like them?”. I swore to him I did. I really did. They were such gorgeous little things. “Thank you”, he said. When I told him it was funny he was thanking me after gifting me something, he said he was thanking me for allowing him to put them on for me.

Before I could respond, my phone beeped for the nth time. I had stopped answering my phone because I was too scared to tell my folks that I was still at the mall with my friend. I was supposed to be gone only for around 2 hours during lunch time. It was late evening by now. The party at my cousin’s place had begun. My friends were at her place and I wasn’t there myself, which was awkward for them. They were all furious. I knew I was in for big trouble when I got back. I told Mint I really had to leave. We walked to the exit together and he gave me another big hug before he let me go.

That day after the party, I had quite a fight with the BFF. She said we had planned our holiday in Bangalore together. If I wanted to keep disappearing to meet my friends, we needn’t have come together. I knew she was right and I didn’t know how to explain the inordinate delay to her. I just told her ‘my friend really didn’t let me leave’. She continued being mad at me. That was one of the biggest fights I’ve had with the BFF till date. Some years later when I introduced Mint to her as my boyfriend, her first reaction was “Oh, so this is the friend you ditched us for in Bangalore”. We still laugh when we think of it.

What brought this on? I was cleaning my jewellery box and I pulled these out. The earrings he gifted me on that day. I put them on and smiled as the rush of memories hit me.

Earrings

 

Posted in Blasts from the past, Splashes of Mint | Tagged: | 41 Comments »

Had I known

Posted by Pepper on January 2, 2015

Had I been able to peek into the future, here is the letter I would have written to myself in January, 2014.

Dear Pepper,

We have officially entered 2014. Brace yourself. This will be a very big year for you. I know you have absolutely no idea at this time, but in the next 2 months you will actually consider buying a property, one which will be your very first ‘home’. The idea will first be nothing more than a random whim, but it will gather momentum once you actually start looking. I know, did you ever imagine you would be buying a home in Mumbai at the age of 27? Heck, did you even consider this possibility two months ago? Life is full of surprises, isn’t it?

You will first consider buying a smaller apartment, but as your search progresses, you will be drawn into buying a bigger apartment than you had intended to. Your budget will be bungled. You will take on a loan so massive, you wouldn’t have deemed it even possible a while ago. Until now, you have made yourself used to a certain standard of living and some luxuries, some of which you will have to now forgo. In the beginning, you will romanticize the idea of a less expensive lifestyle, as long as you and Mint have each other.

Be warned though, some rough patches lay ahead. Having lesser money than what you are used to is not romantic in the least bit. It will give rise to a lot of arguments and fights between you and Mint. You will struggle to lower your standard of living. I say ‘struggle’ and not ‘will’, because despite all attempts, you will still not be successful in cutting costs. As a result, you will be very stressed. You will second guess your decision of buying a home at this stage of your life a total of 50 times. Seeing your friends leading carefree and reckless lives will make your heavy debt seem even more painful. There will also be times when you and Mint will blame each other for having pushed the other into buying the house. You will be very mad at each other. And then you will also get over it.

This will also be the year in which your personality will undergo some noticeable changes. Buying a house will be a contributing factor. It will make you a wee bit more responsible. Your focus will be to ‘set up’ the house. You will keep coaxing Mint to take on more responsibilities and do more for the house while he will try shunning it all. This will anger you and give rise to more arguments between you and Mint. For atleast half of the year, you will carry with you the weight of tasks left undone. This will make you resentful.

You must understand however, that Mint cannot be blamed if he is unable to cope with the changed you. Remind yourself of the times in which both of you would roll in bed till noon on the weekends. And then proceed to watch movies, while still lying in bed. And only wake up to heat some food and bring it back to bed with you. And then go out in the evenings. Those were the days. The new you always wants to wake up early, spend time cooking a meal, fixing the house, clearing the space and heading out to buy essentials for the new house. You want to fix the lights, buy a bed, hang the curtains, rearrange the living room and more. You go on to grudge Mint when he prefers to lie low instead of doing any kind of work. But if you remember the fact that you are the one who has changed, while he has remained unchanged, you may be a little more gentle with him.

All that said, this will also be the year you will learn to value Mint the most. You will remind yourself a million times of how awesome he is, and how very lucky you are to have him. He will fill your life with so many loving gestures, you will not know how to thank him enough. Like always, you will also be touched by how much he does for your family. And when you get to experience your idea of a ‘blissful’ life, of living close to with your family, you will feel your move back to India from the US has been worth it. Again and again. But yes, you will have to live with Mint’s uncertainty in this regard. He will continue talking about wanting to move back. You will learn to not think beyond a point and live one day at a time instead.

Your health will be more or less okay this year, though you will ignore the deficiencies detected in your blood reports and not focus on fitness at all. I hope you learn soon. This will also be a big year because Oregano will have his kidney transplant surgery and the BFF will get married. Other than that, your social life will get dizzying at times. You will oscillate between whining about it and enjoying it. This will also be the *first* year in your almost five year married life that you will not take any international holiday together. You will have no money but you will still travel to some local destinations. Goa and Kerala will be a lot of fun.

Life has always been full of crazy twists and turns. There’s a lot more in store. Don’t fret. Welcome 2015 with open arms. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Love,

Me

Posted in Blasts from the past, Slices of life | 14 Comments »

Weird and bored

Posted by Pepper on December 5, 2014

So, I am bored. I know, that isn’t a great opening line. But when I am this bored, how am I expected to come up with a more interesting beginning? I am in Pune for work. I decided to skip the official dinner and drinks this evening (blasphemous, I know), and instead walked back to my room in the hotel, changed into my pajamas, climbed into bed and did what? I watched ‘Gopi Kishan’ on TV. Yes, that funny movie of our childhood. When I mentioned this to my friend on phone, she laughed and said, ‘You’re weird, you know?’.

*Yawn*. If this is weird, I like being weird. And what does weird even mean? The dictionary defines it as. ‘strikingly odd or unusual’. Unusual happenings can make our life more interesting, I believe. When I thought about it some more, I came up with a a list of recent events that can be classified as ‘weird’, and perhaps, interesting.

Event 1: Last weekend, the sister said she wanted to eat a burger from the newly opened Burger King. I groaned. I was never a big fan of Burger King when we lived in the US. But they were the only ones to offer a veggie patty, so we did go there now and then. It was always our last resort though. Anyway, since the sister had never sampled their burgers, we agreed to take her there.

What do we find when we go there? A ridiculously long queue that went across the entire length of the food court. Wha?! So many people waiting in line to eat from Burger King? Really? I almost giggled at the thought of some American catching sight of this and feeling a combination of shock and amusement. It was crazy! Indians are so fascinated by any chain that has been operational in the West. What is more? Since the sister really wanted to eat from there, we joined the spiraling queue. Had somebody told me some years ago that I would one day stand in an hour long queue to grab some food from Burger King, I would have laughed out aloud.

Event 2: A few days ago Mint discovered that his wallet was missing. We looked for it everywhere. He had it with him in the car that morning when we left for work. I dropped him off near some flyover on the highway and continued to drive towards my office. By the time he reached his office, he knew it was missing. I searched for it in the car quite thoroughly, and then let him know that it wasn’t there. He went back to the flyover where I had dropped him to make sure it hadn’t fallen there while he had gotten down. He couldn’t find it there either. Somebody could have very well taken it.

We obviously blocked all the credit and debit cards immediately, but I was annoyed because his wallet contained his driving license. With that missing, I become the sole driver until he figured out what he had to do to get his license again. After a day or two, we got a call from some unknown number. The guy on the other line said he had found Mint’s wallet on the road. I asked him which area he was in. He said he was calling from some town a hundred kilometers from Pune.

We were quite taken aback. Pune? How did the wallet even get to another city? All his credit and debit cards were safe in there. The cash was missing. Somebody took the wallet to another town and just threw it on the road? That doesn’t make sense. No, we still don’t have the wallet back with us. Why not, is another story.

Event 3: Now this one requires a back story. I lived in a 3 bedroom apartment when I was studying in UK. It was originally leased out to 3 of us girls. 2 of the girls had already moved out and I was living all alone for a considerable amount of time. When the lease was about to expire, I started packing up since I was going to be moving out too.

P was with me at that point and while clearing out one of the bedrooms, we were shocked to find a laptop lying in the crevice between the bed and the wall. It looked like somebody had deliberately hidden it there! We called up M, our flatmate who had previously used that bedroom. She said the laptop wasn’t hers and had no idea of how it came there. It was quite well hidden and I couldn’t blame her for never having seen it.

We didn’t know the password, but we used some software to unlock the laptop. Our home was quite close to campus and had been rented out to many students prior to us. If we could, we wanted to pass on the laptop to its rightful owner. We managed to unlock the laptop, but unfortunately we found no data or information that would connect us to the owner.

So we started browsing through the pictures. What did we find? Nude pictures of girls making out with each other. *Cough* We went through the entire list of albums, not because of our penchant for sleaze (no, really), but because we wanted to see if we could identify any of the girls in the pictures. Fine, I admit, those nude pics of those Brit girls became good fodder for us for a few days. We really are angels, but like I say, the halo sometimes does turn into horns.

Finally, after a lot of scanning, we came across a resume in one of the folders. It didn’t contain any phone number, but we found an email address. We mailed the girl saying we had found a laptop that we suspect was hers. Could she come to our place and get it?

Sure enough, they did come. I was all alone at home and when I opened the door, I realised they were the same girls in the pictures! I tried to brush aside thoughts that reminded me of the fact that I had seen all of them naked. Focus on the matter, I told myself. They told me the laptop had gone missing 3 years ago when they lived in that house. It was apparently stolen. I didn’t say much, just handed it to them.

It obviously left us with a lot of questions. Were they speaking the truth? Had it really been stolen, or had one of the girls just hidden it there? If yes, then why?  If it really had been stolen, then how did it reappear in that room? This felt like a thrilling mystery. Too bad I couldn’t pursue it.

Anyway, after all these years, I got a friend request on Facebook from one of the girls a few days ago. It came with a message that said, ‘Need to talk’. It took me a while to place her, and when I did, I was confused. What does she want to talk to ME about? Why is she adding me? Anyway, because I have always been a curious cat, I accepted her friend request. Only to find that her profile no longer exists! She deleted it? After telling me she needs to talk? Why?

Weird.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts, Blasts from the past | 15 Comments »

‘…the bonds that define us and shape our lives, and how the choices we make resonate through history’

Posted by Pepper on August 26, 2013

“Will you learn to speak my language? My ‘mother tongue’?”, I ask Mint, every now and then. He has answered that question numerous times, so I don’t quite know why I keep presenting him with the same query. His response is simple – He will learn if I truly want him to, though he sees no sense in learning it, because we hardly speak the language amongst ourselves. Heck, my own sister cannot speak what we call our ‘mother tongue’. So what utility value does it have, he asks me. I cannot really answer that question.

Growing up, two questions always made me feel very unsure and to be honest, embarrassed. The first being – “What is your mother tongue?”, the second, “What is the name of your native village? Where do you come from?”. How I would struggle to answer those. Growing up in India, most of my friends either spoke Hindi, Marathi, Gujrati, Sindhi, Katchi, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam, Kannada, Tulu, Konkani or Bengali. I spoke none of those. The language we spoke was not recognised, or even heard of. And this made me feel like a misfit, more than once. When it came to linguistic or regional bonding, there was no one particular group I belonged to.

When I do peep into history though, I see a heritage so rich, it makes me proud. My community hailed from two districts close to Balochistan in Pakistan, I am not going to name the districts, because together they constitute the name of the language we speak. The language is exclusive to our community. And considering how very small my community is, any mention on the web will mean a guaranteed end to my anonymity. The language is a mix of Hindi, Sindhi, Punjabi, Urdu with a uniqueness of its own. It also has a Multani dialect.

Some say an earthquake caused my whole community to migrate from their current location close to Balochistan to Karachi. Karachi, is where my whole community thrived and flourished. My grandparents from both sides were born there. Some of my mom’s elder siblings too, were born in Karachi. People from my community set up businesses of their own, did well, earned riches and established a name for themselves.

My childhood is full of real life stories set in Karachi. My grandparents would tell me with pride, about the huge mansions they owned there, the streets on which they played, their education and growing up years and all of that. But the best story was that of my great grandfather. I could see the pride with which my grandmother spoke about her father, how he studied and went on to become a reputed judge in that area. How famous he was! I would hear this story almost every afternoon.

They have terrifying memories of the partition. How they left behind their land, their mansions, their riches, and how they were forced to flee. Imagine leaving behind all that you owned, being forced to move to an unknown land and start afresh. My grandparents told me stories of the horror they faced when men chased them with shining swords in their hands. How they tried locking their gates so that angry mobs could not enter, how they hid behind doors with chili powder in their fists, how they sought refuge in their Muslim neighbours’ homes. I am unable to imagine the terror my grandparents underwent.

And then, people from my community, including my grandparents, moved to Mumbai. Some made it via sea, some covered the journey sitting on the roof of the train – owing to lack of space and availability of tickets. But yes, they came to Bombay. My whole community moved here. They started afresh – with no belongings.  It is because of this move that I have all my relatives in this city. I had my grandparents here, my uncles, aunts, grand aunts, and my parents’ siblings and cousins, everybody is here. Not only me, but my parents too were born in this city. This has been our home. So when kids in school asked me the name of my native village, I didn’t know what to say. Bombay, apparently was never an acceptable response. Everybody had to originate from some other place. Calling Karachi our ‘native place’ would never have worked either, because my classmates would then be aghast by me not being an ‘Indian’. Ofcourse, I know better now.

Like I said earlier, we are small in number. The older generation that actually lived in Karachi is dying. There are very few surviving aunts of mine who have actually witnessed the partition. Those stories are dying. My language is dying. A lot of people have married out of the community. We’re a liberal lot, but at the end of the day, it makes me sad to note that my people and the language will become extinct. And this is more because the language has not been passed on from one generation to another. People in my community choose to speak to their kids in Hindi and English, instead of teaching them the beautiful language that we can actually call ‘our own’. My parents are guilty of the same. I have always been spoken to in Hindi and English..that is just sad. When I question my parents now – they don’t even know why they did it.

I did manage to learn the language though. Just because I grew up hearing my parents conversing with my grandparents. I am not very fluent, but I can manage to speak. The sister on the other hand, can only understand. She fumbles too much while trying to speak.

We have a rare and precious possession in my ancestral home. A picture of my great, great grandfather!

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I’ve wiped out his name. The text at the bottom says, ‘Died on Monday, the 6th October, 1919’. Many times, I’ve looked into this picture. He represents my past. You can see my image in this picture – quite symbolic, isn’t it?. I wonder who he was, what his life was like, and how he were to feel looking down at his great, great grand daughter. How very different our lives are.

And this is my favourite evidence of the honourable man that my great grandfather was. This book belongs to the British era. A rusty copy is owned by my community.

the past 2

the past 4

It takes me back in time, to an era that was so different from the one I live in. This is my history. I am proud to have inherited those genes, and definitely proud to be the great grand daughter of this man.

The title of this post has been taken from the snippet of  Khaled Hosseini’s book ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. Because what they say is true. The bonds of the past shape us and define our lives, and the choices we make do resonate through history. So when I ask Mint if he will learn my language, I can’t deny the fact that it has no utility value. It really doesn’t. But perhaps I want him to learn it just to preserve that culture, that connection, those memories, those people and my history. He is the only person I can hope to acquaint. Because at the back of my mind, I do know that my future children will not have an opportunity to learn the language. They have English, Tamil and Hindi to learn. Forcing another language on them does not seem right. Beside, they will have almost no exposure to the language. It is a choice I made by marrying somebody who comes from such a different culture, caste, region and background. I don’t regret the choice. But sometimes, when I do think of my past, the realisation that it may not be passed on makes me feel a pang. A strange pang.

Posted in Blasts from the past | 59 Comments »

Sounds of the past

Posted by Pepper on January 11, 2013

It is just another evening at home. We’re all busy doing our own thing. The song ‘Yeh hai reshmi, zulfo ka andhera na ghabraiyei‘, plays in the background. Every now and then, we sing along. I wonder, how is it that we choose the same lines to sing? Ah, music makes you bond. In that moment, we’re all involved with different chores. We are seemingly disconnected. There is no conversation. But there is that one connecting melody that we are all tuned to. That one common moment in which we all pitch in and sing along. I smile as I think of it. Music is a shared connection.

My phone rings and I turn down the volume. A friend is aghast. She has never heard of the song we are listening to. She asks me why I am listening to such ‘old and boring’ songs?

Well, I have grown up on a staple diet of old Hindi songs. I started listening to English music only during my early teens. My early childhood memories are full of old Hindi melodies. Perhaps, it is the obvious consequence of being born to parents who swoon over Mohammad Rafi and other such legends.

Visiting family and relatives was an integral part of our childhood. The family was spread across the city and it would invariably be night, by the time we would leave from their home. My parents always carried night clothes for the sister and I. Many times we would fall asleep at the said relative’s home. We would then be carried to the car, and carefully laid on the back seat. I have hazy memories of the sister and I, lying bundled in the backseat of our Maruti 800.

It is during these night drives back home, when soft old music would be played. The music always seemed calming. Listening to it over the years, made it seep deep into our young, half asleep and subconscious psyche. Now we love it.

Most of my friends have not heard many of the songs I have grown up with. The sister was telling me the other day that a classmate of hers borrowed her iPod. It had a lot of old Hindi songs.  On seeing her playlist, she made a face and asked her, ‘Is this your mom’s iPod?’. I don’t know what the implication was. If we listen to that music, perhaps we are too uncool. Oh, never mind.

Posted in Blasts from the past | 35 Comments »

Ice, ice, baby!

Posted by Pepper on January 3, 2013

I have always expressed my dislike for Winter very openly. The cold winds accompanying the low temperatures would make me tremble and whine. This year, winter decided to not grace me with its presence. Ofcourse, Mumbai does not have a winter. And what do you know? I found myself longing for it. To add to my longing, were some old pictures taken by Mint. This is the icy winter of Ohio. Isn’t it pretty?

Winter1

Winter2
Winter3

Doesn’t it make you yearn for a crackling fire, a good book and hot chocolate laced with cinnamon?

Since I was in the ‘I miss winter’ mode, I bounded up to my mom and told her ‘Mama, I miss winter. I know it sounds crazy, but I miss the icy pavements, the icy air, the icy ..”

Her reaction? “Okay, I get it, you miss ice. Why don’t you go outside and have some kala khatta?”

Eh??

But then I said, what the hell. Even if that sounded ridiculous, slurping on a kala khatta wasn’t such a bad idea. So today evening, I did just that. For old times sake.

Posted in Blasts from the past | 35 Comments »

The ‘Just Married, Please Excuse’ Contest

Posted by Pepper on August 27, 2012

There are certain blogs you like so much, you end up lurking around them silently because, err, their brilliance is intimidating. Happens to you? No? Well, it happens to me. Y On Earth Not is one such blog. Yashodhara is full of wit and humour. I’ve been reading her silently for a while. And now she has written a book! What a treat! I simply can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Here is my entry for the contest she is running.

When Mint and I decided to get married, we knew it would be hard. Hard to convince his parents, hard to organise a wedding in which the families would not kill each other due to the differences, hard to convince his parents.. Oh wait, did I already say that? I was beginning to wonder if his parents’ approval would come around the time of my retirement. Thankfully after a few hysterical months, they agreed to (GASP!) let their son marry me – a North Indian girl from Bombay!. His mother wept for days because of my inability to produce crisp dosas. How was she to face the rest of the family members? Her would be daughter in law was a disgrace. Despite it all, they gave in and the wedding date was fixed, along with plans of getting me enrolled in classes that would teach me the art of making perfect dosas. (Hah, little did they know!)

It was a particularly stressful period for me, because while we were seeking Mint’s parents’ approval, I was also bribing my supervisor and begging him to approve my thesis. By the time both the approvals were granted, I was exhausted and drained out. I had to start shopping for the wedding and the thought of it added to my misery. Mint on the other hand, was reveling in the joy of shopping for himself. Yes, such guys exist.

Of all things, he was most excited about his impending shoe purchase. He spent hours after work, hunting for that perfect shoe. After scanning malls and showrooms for weeks, he found something he really liked. The style, the fit, the look, everything appealed to him. Before he made the purchase, he called me up to tell me he was in the process of attaining shoe induced nirvana. When he told me the price, I almost suffered a stroke. I calculated our loss. If he spent that much on that shoe now, we’d probably be bankrupt for generations. However, he told me this was a one time buy, for probably the biggest occasion in our lives – our wedding! So it would be worth it. I fearfully agreed.

The wedding day arrived before we could blink. We had had our share of loud parties in Bombay, and now the actual wedding was going to be a quiet affair in Chennai. We flew there a day earlier. Since I was the first amongst my friends to get married, the girl pals were terribly excited. I could see them making some sinister plans, but I was too occupied and tired to care.

What I did not know was that the girls were hatching evil plans to steal Mint’s shoe during the wedding. For those who do not know, this is a ritual in a lot of North Indian (Or Non South Indian) weddings – The bride’s sisters and friends steal the groom’s shoe and only return it to him if and when he loads them with cash. Do not ask me more, that’s all I know. The thing about a ‘North meets South’ wedding is that a lot of customs are unknown to both the sides. Obviously, our true blue veshti wearing South Indians had no clue of this shoe stealing custom. So the usual tussle that happens between the girl’s and guy’s side over the groom’s shoe did not happen.

During the wedding ceremony, the sister and the girl pals tried hunting for Mint’s shoe, but they were unable to find it. So they went up to Mint’s brother, Oregano, and asked him for Mint’s shoe. A puzzled Oregano asked them why they needed it. They told him they had to perform some urgent puja  and worship the shoe. Indian wedding customs are known to border on the ridiculous, so he believed them. He went to fetch the shoe, and came back to inform the girls that Mint had two shoes lying there, one were the slippers to be worn with his veshti, the other pair was a Western formal that seemed quite expensive and new. Which one did they want to worship? The girls told him to bring the new, expensive looking shoe ofcourse. He returned with Mint’s precious new shoes and handed it to the girls who couldn’t believe their luck.

They giggled, high-fived and hid the shoe in a safe place. Very soon, we were declared married, and we emerged out of the mandap, relieved to know we were done with the ceremony. The moment they had a chance, the girls surrounded Mint and asked him if he wanted his shoe back. I could see the colour draining from his face, as he asked them, “You guys took my shoe?”. I knew how expensive that shoe was, and how much he loved it, so I suspected he would pass out of shock. I was gearing up to call the ambulance. Before more damage could be done, they told him they would return the shoe only if he handed them the cash they wanted.

“But that shoe is already so expensive! Now I should pay you guys more money to get it back? Who invented this custom?”, he almost cried. “Baby, darling, just be a sport and give them the money. It’s a well known custom and you should play along”, I told him. He sulked some more and then agreed to shell out the required money. Pleased with their victory, the girls hugged and congratulated us once more, counted the cash before putting it away and left for Bombay the same afternoon. They had no time to hand the shoe back to Mint. So instead they told him where his precious shoe was lying. He could collect it from its secret hiding place.

After socialising, eating and socialising some more, it was time for us to leave the wedding hall and go home. Mint ran to the room in which his beloved shoes were hidden. “Under the brown sofa” is what the girls had told him. He bent down to grab his shoes, and to his horror, there were no shoes there! He came back to tell me and I was as horrified. We couldn’t afford to lose those shoes! Who asked him to buy shoes that could pay for our wedding itself?

A few phone calls were made to the girls who swore they” kept it there only”. The sister who was still around was as shocked to see them missing from there. So now we had to deal with the mystery of the missing shoes! I could see Mint was not pleased. Would he slap his lawyer on me and ask for a divorce right away? After all, if I had friends who held him ransom, took the money and decided to flee without returning his priced possession, I couldn’t be trusted.

We looked for the shoes everywhere, with no luck. Mint had already changed into his jeans. Me? I was seen running around, climbing onto desks, jumping down from chairs, squeezing myself into corners – all of this in my wedding attire. This comprised of  a heavy silk sari, an artificial braid that kept slapping my ass each time I jumped, jewelry that pulled me down with it’s weight. I had pulled up my sari so I could walk around swiftly, making visible the cycling shorts I had worn inside. I think I represented the perfect picture of a new bride. Not. So when I bumped into my MIL’s mom in that state, I just smiled and scurried away.

After spending a few hours there, we decided to go home since there was nothing else we could do. At home, Mint was a picture of misery. I kept trying to console him, and he kept getting mad at me for trying to console him. It looked like he was determined to stay miserable. That got me mad, and that was our very first fight, after being declared man and wife. I screamed. He screamed. Ah, Holi was being played with our true colours hours after our wedding. I am sure my inlaws sobbed some more and wondered how we would stay married to each other, if we would..

By next morning, we had both cooled down. We decided to take serious action. We would go back to the wedding hall, deploy a search team, investigate all possibilities, complain to the management and perhaps even go to the Police. I am pleased to tell you, this story has a happy ending. We reached the wedding hall and walked up to the reception. We told them the unfortunate story of the missing shoes. Would they be able to do anything to help us out?

They asked all their cleaners, if they had spotted any shoes lying under the brown sofa in the groom’s changing room. One of the cleaners there said he had seen them, and had put them away in another corner since he was cleaning the said area. The staff on duty in the evening, had seen them lying abandoned in some lone corner that we had missed looking at, and had put them away under lock and key. We thanked them profusely as they handed the blasted shoes back to Mint.

It’s been 2.5 years since then. Each time we talk about the incident, we laugh till we cry, while Mint hmphs. Oh, he never dared to wear those shoes again. Makes me wonder what he plans to do with them. Perhaps I should consider putting them up in the showcase in our living room, with a message that says “In memory of all the laughter and drama that ensued on 25-03-2010

Posted in Blasts from the past | 64 Comments »

Sights and sounds

Posted by Pepper on December 22, 2011

A bumbling, unsteady walk. Me knocking down a jar of dal placed on a shelf within my reach. The sound of my mother’s voice in the background. My earliest memory. What did she say? I try hard to remember even today. It doesn’t come to me.

The name ‘Disney Land’ written in big blue letters at the entrance of my nursery. The nook at which we all hung our bags. My yellow coloured bag with a Donald Duck printed on it hanging there in a corner.

My father holding me up in the air the day I wore a frock with apples and pineapples on it. “You will always be my pari”, I can hear his voice.

The face of that lady. The one who led the cow to our building gate everyday. I hear her announce her arrival by shouting “Aee gaay waaliiiii aaa”. I see myself sitting by the window on the 3rd floor along with my grandmother. We throw her a coin and watch her feed the cow a fistful of grass.

I see myself trying to complete a panda puzzle. The face of the panda clear in my memory. The foot of the panda missing because of a lost piece.

That gulmohar tree. A burst of red outside my window every year during the monsoon. Me wondering if the branches of the tree will enter our windows if they allow it to grow.

My grandmother peeling potatoes with a knife. Her hand working skillfully. The long peels starting to spiral beneath the potato.

The paan stain on the staircase. On the second floor. The shape of the stain resembling a star.

Watching my sister crawl up to me. Her grubby hands pulling my hair. I hear myself scream.

My mother sitting behind me, trying to pull back my hair into a ponytail. Me trying to wriggle out of her grip. The sound of her voice telling me to cooperate with her, or else I will be late for school.

Wheel shaped designs on a packet of ‘Peppy’. The bright red pack of ‘Picnic Pops’. My asking my mother to buy me ‘Rasna’ during the summer vacation.

I see myself entering my school bus. I hear voices telling me “Girlie, this seat is caught”, each time I eyed an empty seat. I remember thinking those girls who catch seats like that and don’t let me sit are mean.

My parents complaining about the leakage in the balcony during the rains. I see that spot. A wet patch. Drops of water hanging on to it. I remember observing the drops getting bigger and then falling to the ground, creating a puddle on the floor.

I keep getting hit by random sights and sounds of my childhood. I see flashes of my past whiz by my senses every now and then. The memories contain vivid and graphical details. They connect my present self to the child I once was. I smile.

Posted in Blasts from the past | 68 Comments »

Reviving the past

Posted by Pepper on December 20, 2011

I was messing around with my blog and I ended up deleting some old posts accidentally. Those posts were precious to me. Thankfully, I had a copy elsewhere. I am not the kinds who can break ties with my past very easily. So I am going to be reposting the posts that were deleted. This is one of them. If you’ve read and/or commented on it earlier, you can ignore it. I am posting it again only because I want it to a part of my blog.

When embarrassing memories return..

I ache for my family and that is no secret. I have phases, where in I miss one particular person the most. So at times, I long for my dad more than the others. Other times, I miss my bratty sis. These days, I’ve been missing mama. And her goofy behaviour.

My mom would be the perfect nominee for the ‘Goofiest mortal on the planet’ award. If only such a category existed. This post is a tribute to her looniness – something I’ve inherited from her, something that has caused me a lot of embarrassment.

Let me flash back to my teenage years. I had been bitten by the fitness bug. Every evening I would go running in the park close to home. On my second day there, I noticed a guy running alongside. I thought he was bestowed with exceptional looks. He seemed totally drool worthy and I enjoyed my time gaping at him secretly. That motivated me to keep the evening runs going and even helped me ignore the muscle ache that followed the runs. What helped was the fact that unlike other parks, this park wasn’t very particular about the direction you ran in on the track. So I’d make sure the ‘hot guy’ and I ran in opposite directions. This way I would be rewarded with a glimpse of his face on completion of each round.

After a few days of silent admiration, I went home and told my mom all about the hot guy in the park. She got equally excited and said she was curious to see the guy I was raving about. So the next day, I took her to the park with me. This time we were walking at a steady pace and waiting for the said hot guy to appear. I saw him approaching us, finally. I gently nudged mom and whispered, “That’s him!.”

Unfortunately, our taste in men didn’t match. When he was close enough and she had had a good look, she scrunched her face in disapproval, pointed at him and said in a voice loud enough for the entire park to hear, “CHEE! You find THIS guy hot??”

Mother earth, swallow me now! I prayed. I was too embarrassed to glance at who I thought was the hot guy and see how he reacted. Since I could think of no possible remedial action or explanation, I just held my mom’s hand and started to walk away from the scene with lowered eyes and burning ear lobes.

Needless to say, I stopped going to the park for my evening runs thereafter.

Posted in Blasts from the past | 59 Comments »

The end of an era..

Posted by Pepper on August 14, 2011

I am sad. It had been a good Saturday until now. We went for a movie and then for dinner. We were having fun, raving about the chocolate martini, chatting with each other, commenting on the other diners and generally having a good time. We got back home in good spirits. I was getting into my pajamas when I heard Mint call out to me from the living room. “Your favourite actor passed away”, he said.

I gulped. Not wanting to believe it was Shammi Kapoor, I asked him, “Who are you talking about”. He said it. I was horrified and I promptly logged on to read more. More headlines confirmed the news. I was heart broken.

Shammi Kapoor has been my most favourite actor. I love all the old movies he acted in. I could never like any other actor from that era the way I liked him. He was, rather is, a true legend. But that is not the only reason his death upset me so much. I had a personal connection with him.

My uncle,  who is my dad’s elder brother has been a kidney patient for a while. He needed dialysis three times a week. I would tag along with him when he would go to Breach Candy hospital on his appointed days, just so I could be around him during those painful times. That is where I met Shammi Kapoor for the first time. He was suffering from a kidney failure and was under the same doctor as my uncle, Dr. Gandhi. I would see him every time I went to the hospital for my uncle. He would be lying on the next bed. Once my uncle was pleading with me to get him a glass of water. I was refusing because kidney patients have to drastically cut down on their water intake. That is when Shammi Kapoor looked up to us from the next bed, smiled and asked me if my father troubles me all the time. I realised he was mistaking my uncle for my father, but since I do treat my uncle as another father, I didn’t bother correcting him. I was surprised by the casual way in which he initiated the conversation. He seemed so humble and down to earth. I grabbed that opportunity to talk to him. He asked me my name. We had a good conversation and I told him how crazy I was about all his movies.

The next week when he saw me, he called out to me by my name! To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. My dad was around this time and the look on his face was priceless! I spoke to him for just about a minute. But I have never forgotten the joy and the pride I felt at that time. I would see him every now and then, and each time he would wave out to me, calling out to me by name sometimes and stopping to talk to me if he could.

My uncle had a kidney transplant at one point. After that he no longer needed the dialysis. So we stopped going to the hospital, and that was it. I didn’t see Shammi Kapoor again. But each time I would see him on screen, I would smile. I think he was a fantastic actor and a wonderful human being.

There are a lot of songs of his that I love, but I am putting up the one that is closest to my heart. This one is a childhood favourite. Each time I troubled my parents and refused to sleep, they would pull out the video cassette and play this song. My dad would put me down and stroke my hair for a few minutes after the song would end and I would sleep without a sound. I don’t know what it was that did the trick. Perhaps it is the video of the song, in which all these adorable kids are being put to sleep? Or the soothing words maybe? Either ways, this one is an absolute favourite.

Posted in Blasts from the past | 27 Comments »

The joy of rain..

Posted by Pepper on June 7, 2011

It has been raining in Mumbai. And every time I talk to the sister, she makes sure she rubs it in. To add to that, I see so many people on Facebook putting up a status talking about the rains. I am jealous.

I’ve had a different relationship with the rains during each stage of my life. When I was little, there was some special joy in playing in the building compound during the monsoon season. Because we’d be out looking for earthworms in the mud. If the downpour happened to be too heavy, I wouldn’t be allowed to go down to play. My mom would lay out an old rug on the floor, and give me a few jigsaw puzzles to play with. I remember sitting on the living room floor during dark evenings, hearing the thunder as I tried to fit each piece of the puzzle.

When I was old enough to travel to school alone, rains took on another meaning. I associated the rains with damp, soggy socks and smudged labels on text books. My dad would drive me to school in the mornings, but I used to come back by myself in the bus. Every time I walked back home from the bus stop in the rain, my aim would be to prevent my school bag from getting wet. My dad always told me to wear a rain coat, but I thought that was too uncool and childish. I preferred carrying an umbrella. As a result though, the school bag dangling from my shoulders on my back would be exposed to rain and the labels would get smudged. The bags only claimed to be water proof, they never really were. So during rains, I started carrying the school bag in the front instead of the back.

Once in college, I started associating heavy rains with holidays. Most of the time, I used the renowned Mumbai local train to get to college. If the rain got too heavy, the tracks would flood and the trains would stop operating for a while. The college would mostly declare a holiday to prevent people from getting stranded.

The 26/7 floods in Mumbai did drill some fear in my mind, especially because I had some first had experience and struggled to get back home. But despite that, my deep rooted love for Mumbai rains remains unshaken.

Here are some of my favourite rain songs..

This particular one is a childhood favourite.

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And this one. I think my love for dancing in the rain grew immensely after seeing this song. I love Kajol’s shorts.

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And this one. What a wonderful melody!

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This one is another good meldoy. We would mostly listen to this song while walking in the rain on Marine Drive. Sigh! Those days.

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And another one.

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And this one, if you want to dance.

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Which are your favourite rain songs?

Posted in Blasts from the past | 64 Comments »

Wedding Mania – The marriage ceremony

Posted by Pepper on March 14, 2011

After the reception, we were asked to proceed to the hotel in which the wedding ceremony would be held. My in laws had booked  a couple of rooms for us because it would be most convenient to spend the night there. By the time I got into my pajamas, it was 1 am. I had about two hours to sleep. I think I had just fallen asleep when the alarm rang. It was time to wake up and take a shower. The beautician who was to get me ready would be there in some time. I remember groaning and asking my mom for the nth time, if I could get married in my pajamas?

The lady arrived as soon as I was out of my shower. This time, I decided to do the make up on my own. I didn’t want my face to have layers of gaudy colours. The sari was put on. And then came the dreadful part – my hair do. She first added the extension. A long braid. She then placed some circular, metallic object on my crown. Then came the thick and heavy string of flowers. By now my head felt so heavy, I didn’t think I’d be able to look up ever again. But we weren’t done. She went on to add more metallic decorations to each segment of the braid. I think my head in isolation must’ve weighed more than the rest of my body.

After I was ready, Mint stepped into the room wearing his veshti. This time it was my turn to look at him and laugh.

At around this point, I realised my mom was seriously ill. She was nauseous and weak, and couldn’t even stand. The ceremony was to start soon. Somebody rushed her to the hospital, so that she could get a shot that would mend her temporarily. I tried to keep calm and told myself she’d be okay.

The ceremony began at 7 am. We had the Nalangu first. Oh, what the Nalangu really is, what relevance it has to a wedding and what it symbolises, I still don’t know. I asked Mint, and he didn’t know either. I wish somebody had taken the time to explain all these rituals to me and my clueless family. All that happened at this time is that I got another shower. Of turmeric strained rice grains. People came upto us, and generously poured a handful of them grains on to us. I don’t know how the rice made its way to such confined places, but I had yellow stains all over my lingerie.

By the time the Nalangu was over, my mom was back from the hospital. She didn’t seem okay even now. But we didn’t have enough time to look into it. We had to move on as per the events, since we couldn’t afford to miss the scheduled auspicious time for the wedding. I had precisely five minutes to change into another sari, click a few pictures and get back to the mandap. So imagine the level of panic!

The wedding ceremony began. We were sweating it out in front of the fire. I was extremely uncomfortable through out. My hair, due to the metallic decorations on the braid was getting caught in the embroidery on my sari blouse which was full of intricate wires. As a result, I had to keep my head bent until someone untangled it for me. This happened every few minutes and I kept feeling that annoying pull.

Suddenly, the background music became dramatic, and I realised it was the thali wearing time. Even after that was over, the rituals seemed to continue. At one point, I asked Mint in whispers, ‘Are we married yet or not?’. He looked around, considered it for a moment and whispered back. ‘I think we’re married’.

The ceremony went on for some more time, covering all the elements that are quintessential to Hindu Indian weddings.

Finally, after what seemed like a tiring journey, we were declared married. Phew.

I like this dramatic way of putting sindhoor. Look at the way his hand comes around me.

I have no idea what he is doing touching my feet. I was about to put my hand on his head and bless him, but I stopped myself. Not too many people would have thought it is appropriate. Or funny.

Count the garlands. Don’t ask me how much I weighed.

The moment the we got done, Mint ran out and changed into his jeans. That gave me the bright idea and I asked if I could change into my jeans too. They said I couldn’t. I had to enter the in laws house in all my glory. I was pretty annoyed. Mint’s veshti was not half as uncomfortable as my sari, jewelery and troublesome hairdo. But well, what had to be done, had to be done. At least we were done with it all and could call ourselves married.

Posted in Blasts from the past | 52 Comments »

Wedding Mania – The reception

Posted by Pepper on March 7, 2011

For some reason, the in laws wanted to have the reception before the wedding ceremony. For my folks, that concept was rather unheard of. But eventually, they did agree. The mania, in a rush to surface, began even before we left for Chennai, where the reception and wedding ceremony were to be held.

We were to reach Chennai a day prior to the reception. On the morning of the departure, I was woken up by mom at 7 am. We had our flight in the next few hours. The moment I opened my eyes, I felt the world around me spin. The  bed I was lying in had turned into a fast paced swing. The walls seemed to be tilting and oscillating, going back and forth. My head felt like it weighed a thousand tons and every object in my vision was doing a dance of its own. It didn’t take me too long to realise that I was terribly dizzy. To make matters worse, I had to deal with severe nausea and ended up retching and throwing up uncontrollably. As expected, my sudden sickness at such a crucial time made my parents hit the panic button.

Medicines were ingested, prayers were said. We left for the airport. I felt weak and limp, but tried to wobble on my unsteady feet. We landed in Chennai. My father in law, along with my family took me to some doctor. Severe vertigo he said, along with low BP. He asked me to take complete rest that day, told me to follow a particular diet, and give me some pills. Hopefully he said, I’ll be okay by the time I have to get on to the stage.

We reached my hotel room and I was made to sleep. Slowly, the other guests started arriving. Seven of my close friends flew in from Mumbai. Everybody was given strict instructions to not disturb me. So I don’t have much of an idea of what happened that day.

The next day, the day of the reception i.e., I woke up feeling a lot better. I still felt weak and had occasional bouts of dizziness. But the nausea was under control and I thanked God for that.

So yes, the fun now officially begins. In the afternoon I was whisked away to the hall in which the reception would be held. Two women arrived to deck me up. The make up was put on. The sari, a very Non-South indian-non silk kind, was draped. It felt heavy as expected, but more than that, it felt a little odd. Like it hadn’t be draped the right way. The pleats seemed formless. I made the usual blunder of ignoring it then. My hair was then tended to. The women insisted I add volume by doing a simple blow dry and leaving it at that. I wish I hadn’t agreed. My mane looked like it had been awkwardly inflated and puffed up.

Once I was ready, the photographers arrived. And then came the painful part of taking pictures. These guys insisted I pretend to be the loony, docile and coy bride that I wasn’t. He asked me to cup my face in my hands and smile and do things I had sworn I wouldn’t do. The worst part was that those guys spoke only Tamil, with a few words of English. My attempts to communicate with them were futile. So I gave up and tried my best to cooperate. But each picture would take about five shots to get right. Because every time I’d end up laughing hysterically, instead of flashing the shy smile that I was expected to. A senior photographer was called and he told me ‘Medum you be laughing too much. Please be sad’.

After a few minutes, the sister came in giggling and told me the guests had started arriving, and my recently taken mock shy bride, falsely coy and blatantly artificial pictures were being displayed on the huge screens in the hall. I was horrified, but more than that, I felt sorry for the guests.

Mint came in, took one look at me and laughed. I should have guessed what a sight I was. Or was it my agonized expression that made it so funny? I don’t know. Take a look at one of the pictures.

And then we were called on to the stage. I needn’t say what followed. Every Indian who has gone through a reception, or even witnessed one will know it already. We had to stand there, faking a smile, developing a serious jaw ache for what seemed like eternity. 1200 guests. Each one wanting to take a picture with us. At one point, after going through the while process of standing and smiling for an hour, I mustered the courage to look at the queue waiting to get on to the stage. All I saw was a slithering python, sliding towards us in slow motion. It brought back the dizziness.

Now this is the worst part – there was a fan standing right behind where I was on stage. The result? A few sections of my hair going wild and flying in all directions, as though experiencing euphoria that comes with the first taste of freedom. This kept annoying me no end, and I constantly pushed away the stray strands that made their way to my face. But I hadn’t even seen the worst part. I realised how awful I looked only after seeing the video. But the rest of the world could see me when it was happening. Why couldn’t anybody come and switch off or take away the fan from there? For them, the whole thing only seemed comical and my in laws laughed as they saw the video. Me? I am still pissed and still trying to forgive the world.

I continued smiling on stage and reached my endurance limit. Unfortunately, I could do nothing to escape it. How can any human keep that smile intact, every second for hours? It was as though the world would explode the moment I stopped smiling. Understandably, the back began to ache, the weakness returned and brought with it a an added sense of grumpiness. At some point, the smile was replaced by a murderous glare. All I had to do was sprout an extra pair or arms, hold a blood soaked dagger and stick to my tongue out and I’d have the world falling at my feet in worship. They’d think Goddess Kali herself has descended on earth.

And oh, the videos. The amazing animation, special effects and graphics of the video definitely deserve a mention. On all the screens present in the hall, people could see interesting scenes being played out. Animated characters driving on the highway, and pointing to big hoardings with our pictures plastered on it. Our faces replacing fruits and flowers and hanging off trees., big hearts coming together with our faces flashing inside.  There even was a shot in which my head splits into ten segments and hovers around the atmosphere, before coming back and becoming a whole. I thought the video guy must’ve been a genius to think of this. Wonder how he knew that is exactly what I felt was happening to me.

I was truly glad when the evening came to en end. The only good part of the whole deal was Mint. While we were both standing on stage, he put his sense of humour to good use. Through gritted teeth and forced smiles, he’d whisper his comments to me. Comments that would be so amusing, they’d make me pray I don’t seem like the lunatic bride due to my sudden bursts of laughter.

The food this time was great! Unfortunately I was too exhausted to have much of an appetite. I  tasted everything and we had the customary pictures of the bride and groom feeding each other. And more pictures with family in the end. I was relieved when it was all over, but anxious all the same. Early in the morning the next day, we had the wedding ceremony.  Till then..

Posted in Blasts from the past | 45 Comments »

 
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