Sunday, December 23, 2007

Welcome To Eeendiya!

Selva, Serap, Ayse and Gursel

This is the week of the guest. I have lost count by now of the number of people who have passed through our house in the last few days. Everything that could possibly go wrong has gone wrong but then it's all part of the fun I guess.

The Turks arrived on Thursday. First Gursel and his wife Serap (his "new" wife as everyone keeps referring to her, since he was earlier married to Aysegul who could not make it this year to India) in the morning followed by Selva in the afternoon. Gursel and Serap arrived minus their luggage and it took three days and umpteen phone calls to Emirates Airlines to trace their bags. It was Id so all the offices were closed on Friday and earlier nobody seemed in the mood to work. Finally yesterday the airline office said the bags had come but that Gursel would have to personally collect them from the airport. When he and Serap returned from the long and tiring trip to the airport Serap fell quite sick with the usual vomiting and diarrhoea. Also they came minus their sleeping bags which had been apparently filched from their rucksacks.

As for Selva who arrived on Thursday by cab, it took her two and a half hours to get to our place because the cabbie didn't know where Mahalaxmi temple was - which is one of the landmarks in Bombay so apparently they kept going round in circles till they finally found their way home. For a Bombay cabbie not to know where the Mahalaxmi temple is, is like a cabbie in London saying he doesn't know where Buckingham palace is, or a Parisian taxi driver saying he has never heard of the Louvre. But that's how the modern day taxi driver in Bombay is, and anyway what is important is that she got here in one piece and was glad to see us.

Walter, Dustin, Tara, Anja
Meanwhile the last lot of guests, Walter and Anja who had returned from a five day trip to Benares and were supposed to take the train to Goa along with Anja's daughter Tara and Walter's son Dustin, discovered at the train station that their tickets were not confirmed and they had no seats after all so all four of them landed up here at past one o'clock in the night. I was in bed but the Turks were still chatting on the balcony, so I presume they got some kind of welcome and they slept in the drawing room on the floor. They have now decided to fly to Goa.

Serap is better and everyone is just lazing around while I sit at the laptop. We will soon be ready for lunch. Tomorrow the Turks and I (along with my parents) are headed for Neredu 2 so you'll hear from me after the 12th of Jan when we return to Bombay.

Merry Xmas and all the best for the coming year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Modern Indian Wedding

I am not a great fan of large scale gatherings and generally avoid things like weddings and funerals. Not that I have anything against people marrying or dying – it’s got more to do with my increasing unwillingness to compromise on what I wear and what I mostly like to wear, regardless of where I am, is blue jeans or some kind of variation on the theme. You get the picture. It is ages since I shopped for wedding wear, the last time being when I was shanghaied to Bloomington Illinois way back in ’92 to attend my brother’s wedding. Having finally got there of course I was mighty happy to be part of the scene but that’s another story. Since then there have been other occasions but when pressured into attending a wedding or party I find myself increasingly doing it on my own terms. Which means showing up in casuals in the midst of dazzling silver or gold embroidered apparel overlaid with sequins and making up for it with a glittering smile (adequate metal in my mouth makes this quite feasible) and good behavior if necessary.

A few days back I was quite pleased to be able to be part of a wedding without actually having to attend it. The neighbor’s daughter was getting married and the first I heard of it was when I saw the foyer of our building being decked up with roses and multi-colored garlands, and a huge pandal being set up on the lawn. I must say, this speaks volumes, either for my status with the neighbors or my inability to remember functions to which I’ve been invited. My friend Marlis’s excitement was palpable. Her jaw dropped when she discovered that we would be able to watch an entire Hindu wedding ceremony from our balcony upstairs without having to trouble ourselves being sociable to a large number of people who had gathered for the event.

So this was when I discovered what a modern wedding is all about. The bride’s people had gathered in the compound and were milling around the gate to receive the bridegroom whom it took over an hour to get to the venue from about two hundred yards down the road. According to tradition, he was accompanied by a regular brass band belting out wedding standards which perforce included a slightly off key version of “Come September”. The elderly photographer fumbling around with a bulky SLR and a bagful of lenses, seemed almost redundant. Each person in the bride’s entourage happened to be touting a digital camera, some of whom even photographed my friend and me grinning at the spectacle from the balcony.

“You see how hospitable and welcoming India is,” I said to Marlis. “We organized this event especially for you. I mean they could have had the wedding a couple of weeks before you arrived or some weeks later but it is your happiness that counts.”

Finally the bridegroom arrived, perspiring and now and then pushing aside the veil of flowers which was obviously asphyxiating him, but in good form nonetheless and swinging and waving his hands to the tempo of the music. By now it had switched to a kind of Bhangra to which a party of elderly turbaned men, part of the baraat, were kicking their legs and waving their arms with gusto.

The actual wedding ceremony was mercifully short – not more than about an hour and a half long, during which time the bashful couple circled the fire seven times, exchanged rings and took part in umpteen other rituals to cement their union. (“In Germany the whole thing lasts less than twenty minutes” said Marlis). At the end the bride and bridegroom were pronounced man and wife and the guests slowly made their way back to the entrance where a silver horse drawn carriage awaited the newly weds.

In style the young couple clambered in and prepared themselves to journey off into a new life together. I got ready myself, to wipe away a tear when the bride suddenly whipped out a mobile from I don’t know where, maybe from under the folds of her ghagra or from a handbag hidden from sight, and started yakkety yakking with fervor before the coach had got going. I wondered how her newly acquired husband felt about this and whether I should start feeling sorry for him, considering the bride’s first action on getting married was to commune over the mobile. I needn’t have. He pulled out his own mobile from out of the pocket of his jacket and busied himself with it as well as the coach slowly pulled out of the driveway. I played around with my digital camera wishing desperately I could capture this scene for posterity but it was too dark and they were too far away for my flash to have an effect.

”Oh what the heck,” Marlis said later with an indulgent sigh. “You never know. Maybe they were really talking to each other.”