Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Let's Marry and make merry!!!

Religiously writing for almost a year, what I encounter now is probably the writer’s block bug…The past few days have been the most hectic of my life, probably. I dedicate this post once again to the arranged marriageomania ( Oh No, Cloudnine, Not again!) that has been gripping our family, akin to Anna Hazare and his Jan Lokpal. Indeed I feel a la Anna, my sibling is now happily engaged to the girl of his and our liking! It took us almost a year, eight advertisements in The Hindu, two renewals in Tamilmatrimony.com, Shaadi.com, blah blah blah matrimony.com, few personal  “ bride seeing ceremonies” where the brides were dumped unceremoniously and numerous choice meetings, my sibling is hitched- finally.

The ordeal is far from over. When my brother spends his every living moment live relaying the happenings back home to his sweet heart, we break our heads thinking and planning the Last Mega Wedding of our family. The guest list still in fledgling stage, the list of to- dos and not to dos keeps trailing. We Indians are suckers of lavish weddings and parties, aren’t we? Starting from the choice of dress, jewellery, food, décor, entertainment, conveyance, priest, registration, wedding hall and accommodation, everything is a myriad maze- huh, I feel my head spinning! The food one Uncle likes, a cousin dislikes. The dress code confusions start from the argument if the reception should be North Indian theme based or Mallu theme or traditional Tamil theme. Whatever be the style, we don’t mind ending up dressed for a Halloween in full swing! I have attended receptions where the dusky brides sparkle…ahem…in blaring red designer sarees with kundan and zardosi work, oh, essentially with saree’s pallu draped over the right shoulder- typical Gujarati style!

And the food that goes waste in one of our weddings can feed entire Somalia a day! When you suggest vegetarian food to your relatives ( please note, from here onwards, do read relatives as laxatives, who give you loose stools;)) you see trouble with a  capital T in their eyes. The response is like –  “ What, are you sane? Even village folks have mutton curry and rice!” Oh yeah, add to that brain fry, blood poriyal, mota rice and a potato laden mutton curry where you have to appoint a private detective to find a piece of mutton! I had once attended a wedding of my relative in a remote village down South where I was awe struck watching a few Martians(!) gobbling food. The rice heaped like a mole hill, the curry poured in a well dug within the rice and bone after bone after bone came flying out of the carpet you call a banana leaf!

And to talk about the priests- the lesser said, the better. The well- being of the wedded pair is directly proportional to the number of priests conducting the wedding! There was a priest who made it a point to conduct weddings in haste and sending a XXXL sized food container to the wedding halls for food with the tag line-  “ NO VEGETARIAN FOOD PULEEEEES!”  And the conveyance they ask for is state of the art- two wheelers are a strict NO. NO! Bigger the car, interesting the sermon! The compulsory gifts they ask can range from anything between speaker sets for the Church to notebooks and books for the poor children ( that is perfectly good!) And the EQ is often provided by the poor fathers of the bride and groom who amuse the guests with their spoofs…Oh, for extra spice there is an orchestra who start with a “ There shall be showers of Blessing” and keep on singing. Man, they have nerves of steel to keep the songs coming when the guests simply eye the dining hall. And getting to the dining hall as the first round of food is served, is by itself a martial art that kids these days must be taught at school. It’s a unique mix- match of kung- fu, karate and boxing… dining- fu! You have to elbow your way through a barricade of sweaty guests who are thoroughly fit to win Takeshi’s Castle!

As for arranging the accommodation, there were days when people loved to roll on striped multi-coloured blankets in the wedding halls under the rickety fans. Probably our fathers and forefathers might have attended numerous weddings sleeping on such rugs, bathing in nearby rivers and ponds and attending the wedding. But nowadays there is so much fuss and hullaballoo on stay that we all need separate rooms for families. Booking almost all the rooms in a nearby hotel, people almost come to a fist fight as to who should get the A/C ones and the non A/C ones. Non A/C always goes to the lesser mortals!

 Our weddings are always an effort to show the pride and pomp, a showcase of our way of life and status. What is left behind is the importance we give to the relationship and bonding that emerges in every wedding. We receive a new uncle, aunt, a cousin, a brother, sister, brother in law, father in law and a mother in law. We fail to understand that it is the life- long relationship that matters, not the mutton biriyani we had and the chicken 65 we fought over! No, I am not against such mega weddings…you all read me wrong. Even after all these bugging problems, I just love such weddings for the festivities that bring us all together. Earlier generations had local functions, get-togethers owing to temples and other festivities. They all lived within a square kilometre radius and had the pleasure of meeting everyone almost every day. But sadly, these days, we seldom look beyond our cubicle in office and beside the television soaps at home. Weddings are an opportunity to meet long lost cousins, relatives whom we had only heard of and friends whom we had met decades ago. It is a gateway to new relationships and a bridge connecting distant relationships. So, when someone says their marriage is a simple register marriage affair with two guests, I cannot help but shake my head in disapproval. Weddings are nerve rackers, brain teasers and emotional drainers, but above all, they nurture wonderful relationships MAD (E) IN HEAVEN…So dear brother, MARRY AND MAKE MERRY!!!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Proud to be Indian?- YES!

India's 64th Independence Day- Ah...here comes another holiday, contemplate most of us. This year left me thinking a lot about Independence and the freedom it gave us. I could see status updates in Twitter and Facebook mocking us as Banana Republic, some seriously putting forth arguments for strong Lok Pal Bill and some questioning what freedom implies to us. Team Anna is fighting for a Lok Pal Bill that includes the PM and the Judiciary and i just can't infer if this is for good or otherwise. What ever, 64 years of Independence and what has freedom given us? A country that shines- look at the number of billionaires...astounding. What about the poor and the down trodden? They still hang on to dear life, surviving on meagre pay and with hopes in the eroding system. Who cares, anyway? The metros are bursting to seams with people, bulging with traffic snarls, congestion and pollution where the rat race is the filthiest one can witness. They say it is "Survival of the fittest", a free for all where there are no steadfast rules and no righteousness. All is fair if we survive. That's it. 

India's map, courtesy Wikipedia- areas marked light green not in Indian control

 Ironically, the issue of Kashmir still remains under dispute between Pakistan and us- now China is happily in the fray. We have lost control of 2/3 of that state and are we bothered? Nah! The US CIA publishes a map marking West Kashmir as part of Pakistan and North East Kashmir as disputed with China, we just are too busy with our soaps to even notice it! Independence Day starts at 9.00 am with a march past of children, flag hoisting, few sweets and cutely pinned up flags. Then comes the "INDEPENDENCE DAY SPECIAL MOVIES" on all satellite channels- starting from Avatar ( Ah! the freedom message movie;)) to Munna Bhaai. By afternoon the pin ups end up in the garbage bins, by evening the hotels, restaurants, bars and pubs have brisk bijinez and the day ends with a brawl and a hearty snore for many of us. Again next day we start honking our horns, spitting our paan everywhere and pissing at every vantage point! Ahhhhh...the freedom to piss at any place you like- that is reallllllll freedom, ain't it?

This year, i happened to be in India after almost three years for Independence Day and was shocked to see the rituals remained the same. It was an extended holiday clubbed with Saturday and Sunday and people made the most of it by thronging picnic spots. I must count myself lucky- i accompanied my little ones to their school for the Independence Day celebrations. Memories from a distant past of my school days, where i hated standing for parade in the hot sun came flooding. As the function progressed with tiny toddlers marching and my little ones participated in a tableu as soldiers i was impressed...The little ones that were supposed to be dead started scratching the ground, bored, obviously! Gandhiji did not like being seen semi- nude in public and he was wailing...Another little one was pointing the gun towards himself and firing! Watching the entire tableu was total Fun with a capital F! 

Scratching the floor- bored!
Look at the kid in the centre- " I point my gun only at ME!!"  
Mummy...i want my shirt...hmmmmm...

There is light at the end of the tunnel, right? The little ones- the Young India! Change is what we are looking forward now- a change for the good, a change that can illuminate the lives of millions in dark. An economic growth that embraces both industrialistaion and agriculture, adequate rural infrastructure development and above all a corruption free nation. Whether Team Anna achieves the Corruption Free India goal or loses the battle to black monied politicos, there is still hope for all of us- we have a new generation of energetic children- our future. Let us inculcate proper values in them and we shall see India really SHINE, in a few decades, perhaps...

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Dirty dark Tamils!

Oh really? I stand before the full length mirror trying to figure out if i really am dark. The darkophobia of those fair and lovely days are back again with a bang! I try to switch on all the lights and check for changes in the result- obviously, drawing a flack. I loved to retort when someone said i was dark, as i was only "dusky". My teen age dreams were always filled with visions of me bathed in milky white complexion. Poor Dad! If he had accounted the Fair and Lovely tubes his darling would have bought, he might have ended up with a heart attack! Ah! Fair and lovely- the God sent magical potion that is supposed to convert Obama to a white man!
Image courtesy- mirroremage.com

There are dusky diva friends who apply anything on their faces- right from egg white ( yuck!), papaya paste, multani mitti and even donkey's milk(!) There are others who always 'dove'd their faces- hoping to whiten their skin and another lot who apply face powders so much on their faces, that would put any whitewashed house to shame! It is not uncommon to see teen age bandit queens who cover every micro inch of their exposed skin with anything they could lay their hands on, starting from duppattas, hand gloves, coolers and even rags! People down South are so obsessed with fairer complexion, aren't we? And here comes the rude shocker- one Ms. Maureen Chao stands up and tells us, we Tamils are dirty and dark. Wow! what a remark from a Vice Consul! A round of applause please....There!

Dark- that i can understand, but 'dirty'? All people i know from Down South take head bath every morning. There is one Ms. Cleanomaniac in our office who washes, scrubs and even scales out her hands every time before and after eating. Another one washes, rewashes and does the same tiffin box till the sides start squeaking and pleading her to stop! Taking a head bath every morning after applying coconut oil everyday is almost a sacred ritual to us. Our turmeric, amba huldi ( curcuma aromatica- kasthuri manjal), herbal bathing powder ( personally dried, gound and applied by grandmas) and shikakai- all sweet smelling aromatic cleansers that we use in tonnes- and still there is someone who can say we are dirty??? Conservative Mothers don't even entertain bed coffee sans brushing...

Picture of US Vice Consul Ms Maureen Chao- courtesy google images

Is it the pot calling the kettle black? Nah! It is Chao calling Tamils dirty! Fair skinned foreigners who don't brush, but chew a mint every morning, who shower once or twice a week....my, my...Ms Chao must get her facts right before throwing stones on us. Would it be unfair if we protest against her remarks?  I hope not. Let them call her back- the last thing we need is a racist US Vice Consul in our Tamilian Soil.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Get-together to remember!

After a short hiatus, i am BACK! I love reading travelogues. Now the time is ripe to write one, i hope. Back from a short vacation with my friends in God's Own Country, i am indeed blissfully happy. We were a five families, two spinsters( temporary) with an army of little children and two bachelors, all alumni from a Chennai school. The journey started with a bang for me. Two little children and a BIG BAG on tow, i embarked on my adventure. Though i wrote, rewrote and checked about a hundred times my checklist for the journey, i promptly forgot water bottles for the journey. The train started moving and my daughter cried- " Amma! I want water right away!" Then started a frantic search which turned futile. No sign on water anywhere in the train either. Tactically i lulled her to sleep with a story and slept peacefully my little angel, till the next station- Karur. Thankfully, my coach halted near a stall and i could sneak out of the coach for a bottle of water. I had to shake the sleeping angels to give a few gulps. Landed at Thrisur Railway station at 4 am, where my dear friend Prasoon was awaiting us. My daughter would have traded places with anyone on the train to travel straight to Ernakulam!

Prasoon's chaai...was so soothing in the gloomy rainy morning that i sipped two chaais straight away. After fresh up and head count, we proceeded to Allepey by train, where few more of our friends joined us. It was all fun till we entered the house boat. Trust me, travel by a house boat is by itself pure ecstasy- peace, tranquility and fun, as usual! Our houseboat was bigger- five bedrooms in all, a kitchen with staff, foyer, deck with large dining area. The kids running about, the waters lapping at your foot, the translucent blue waters beyond...and a few friends playing cards on the deck, reminiscing good old school days...what more could one ask?
A neighboring house boat on sail

Karimeen fry!!!
As the boat sailed by, we stopped at boat stops, akin to our bus stops, small shops selling trivias and docked for the evening. Still feeling gluttonous from the lunch of "karimeen" fry and rice, we had fun playing dumb charades, the little ones playing twister. As we retired for sleep in the air-conditioned bedrooms after dinner, we never felt we were in the waters...As the early morning rays filtered through the curtains and touched me, i lay in a lazy haze, glancing at the pinkish blue waters and the water birds smooth flight. Never in my life i had such a beautiful morning!

Early morning capture of Vembanad Lake

With almost heavy hearts we had to disembark...sigh* We landed at a resort in Allepey. A game of water polo ( was it the name? No idea!) and a hearty meal, we headed out to the beach. Little ones building sand castles, bigger ones playing football and frisbee- the fun was just unlimited! A surprise Birthday Party for our friend Triju's daughter Tanisha was thrown...The bash became HUGE success, due to the high kids turnout who had a field day blowing and breaking balloons. We enjoyed a superb dinner of Malabar Parottas, Kappa, Chicken pollichathu, pathiri and pots of hot kattan chaai- Heavenly!
Birthday Bash of Tanisha

My dearest friend Bhuvana who shared rooms with me was in for a rude shock as my alarm blared and woke her up at 6 am the next day. " We are on a holiday girl" she had said the day earlier. We lay awake talking of sweet old schooldays till 2.30 am and when my alarm woke her up at 6, she was sure looking for a cudgel to thrash me!!! Another motor boat ride in the waters of Vembanad and a look at the Nehru Pavilion from which thousands would watch the Annual Nehru Cup race on 13 August, we wound up the tour. 

The Nehru Pavilion, Vembanad

My hunger for little fun with long lost friends, craving for good Kerala food and eons of peace- all satiated, i am raring to go for the next trip! And hereby extending my special thanks to all those beautiful souls who made this all happen- meticulous planning, thoughtful execution and above all, the SPIRIT OF FRIENDSHIP all through. Lucky to be together with friends on Friendship Day!!!