Friday, May 28, 2010

The last of the wedding Trilogy.

The three days went in a blur. There was a steady procession of colorful events with barely a breathing space in between. Dev dauk, seemanti, mangalashtak pheww. I had promised Ruchika that I would write a post daily. But each day I slept only at the crack of the dawn with barely enough energy to crash on the bed.

All that is left now is me, dada and bhabhi and a huge silence. All the guests have left. There is this one unwanted one left , fatigue. We are simply tired. Mentally as well as physically. Yugesh and I readily agreed that we are lucky that there is just one girl. If we had another one, he would have excused himself because of some unavoidable exam and I would have wringed my hands in helplessness citing some ticketing problem.

Today the gate of the house opens signaling the arrival of only contractors coming to collect the payment. No other visitor. We are busy cleaning. There are gifts everywhere.
We had named the wedding as ‘operation silk’. We wanted it to go as smoothly as possible.Sister did a remarkable job anticipating the rush of events. She had neatly packed and labeled each gift and then packed in gunny bags according to clans and cities. I was only left the job of a porter. As each guest left all we had to do was look at his name and the no. and hand it over to him.
She and brother had even got the whole plan of the rooms with the allotments ready. Hence there was no commotion at any given point of time. The entire event took place as smooth as ,ah well , silk.

Now we shall have to do the same with the gifts that we have received. They are overflowing.

As I was sitting in my room checking and replying to my long pending emails ( seventy hours! Well that’s the maximum they have ever been left unanswered.), I hear drums. The hijras , the eunuchs have come to collect their dues. My brother seems to be in a hurry to see them off. He hastily pays them whatever they asked. There are two groups of eunuchs in Bhopal , the somwar and the mangalwar. The don’t encroach on each other’s territory. In the north it is considered auspicious for the eunuchs to sing and dance in a newly wedded’s house. It brings in fertility. Ironic.

The newly wed couple have left for goa to seek the blessings of our kuldevta. Mangeshi, is the god of our clan.

Yugesh has left for Hyderabad. He is doing his internship there. He called up grinning wickedly that it feels like home. He always loved Hyderabad for the rich and diverse culinary varieties. For him home is where the good food is. What a sensitive boy! His charming friend had left a day before. Bhabhi still carried the hangover of the wedding and requested him to look after Yugesh. A red faced Yugesh commented, “ Mom ! he is my room mate not my senior. Looks like you are still in the bidaai frame of mind. I am not onal .”

A marriage is not just the union of two individuals but that of two families. We are fortunate. She has married into one of the most warm hearted and loving family. I judge people according to the etiquettes they display. I must say the entire baraatis displayed such remarkable good manners , we were simply bowled. A relative joked that they not only stole our girl but also our heart.
The youngsters made full use of the dance floor and the DJ. I too was dragged by them. But my embarrassing steps saw me out equally abruptly. No one's loss.

I made a lot of young friends. I see a lot of new adds in orkut and facebook.

There were some poignant moments. Although we are programmed not to display much emotions in public, I do feel a lump in the throat or a solitary tear does find its way out. My most difficult moment was when after the wedding solemnized and she sat with her new family for lunch and we go and fold our hands and request her as Mrs. Bhandare to begin lunch. I just stared numbly. When did my baby grow. Where is that roly poly bundle of energy wanting to visit the zoo everyday. What do I with the memories of taking her in a ‘tempo’ , that cramped elder brother of an autorickshaw, because she felt that it was a better vehicle than our car and eating in front of the lion’s den was more fun than eating on the dining table. Where is the girl who made such a scene when the frock brought on her birthday didn’t twirl and we had to immediately go and exchange it. Now who will roll her eyes in horror at her chachu's ignorance of movies.

But they make a charming couple. Rohan, dapper in his suit, has a very infectious and easy smile matched by onals. They are a treat for sore eyes. I cant get enough of them and so I check with them every half an hour if they want some water. I shouldn’t have worried. The young turks were always there.

The father in law came to me many times and assured me that things were going fine and not to worry. We shall adjust. We are family. Wow. What did we do in life to be blessed with such wonderful people. This is one of my favorite moments.
Ruchika, you were never missed. Because you were always there. Please educate me though. Two weeks in USA and yet you managed to call exactly when the wedding was solemnized. HOW? I always find the lines busy when I really need them. You are a doughty girl. Keep it up. Onal will always miss your exuberant presence.

when we visited Indore for their reception, i was told that many had saved mementos from them, the tiny cute pots with akshata to bless the newly weds with. why doesnt such ideas come to me. i get hold of a few cards from both families. nothing else!

The whole wedding is moving in front of my eyes like a kaleidoscope. But expressions fail me as my hands freeze on the keyboard. maybe I am overcome partly by fatigue and partly by emotions.
There are some moments that no camera can capture , no pen can ink.
They are there cocooned in the deepest crevices of my heart. But words fail me.
When emotions come in flood, the words are lost somewhere. Coherence goes out for a toss. And what we get is a rag tag post like this one.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Mehendi Ceremony.

My name is not Sanjay. Neither there is any Mahabharata going on. But there is a very sweet girl in Texas, USA. I am trying to recreate the wedding ceremonies for her. hope this partially alleviates the pain of missing the wedding of her dear brother.

Today is the last ceremony before the wedding. The mehendi ceremony. After this ceremony the bride doesn’t step out of the house till the wedding. This is considered to be one of the sixteen adornments for decorating the bride.

Mehendi or henna is a herb whose leaves are plucked, dried and ground and then mixed with eucalyptus oil and a host of other things and then kept for a while. This is applied mainly on the hand and the feet. The skin in these parts contain high level of keratins which bind with lawsone the colorant of henna.

Three very talented artists came from Rajasthan. They carried an album of designs, some Arabic, some rajasthani, some others. Once the ladies selected the designs, the album was promptly sent back to the brief case and locked. Their designs are zealously guarded. Imitation is not the best form of flattery in this profession.

It was mesmerizing to see them sketch expertly and with breath taking quickness. There was no referencing. All they had were skilful hands and a photographic memory.

They travel everywhere in India. It was surprising to note that they do almost three thousand hands and feet every year. Their next destination is Hyderabad followed by pune. Wow. Real trotters!

Finally Yugesh and I did our wedding shopping. We both purchased kurtas pyjamas for the wedding. The range of Kurtas are amazing thanks to all the daily soaps. Yugesh is in two minds. He wants to wear the suit and doesn’t want to wear. Sounds weird. Well that’s Yugesh for you. He wants to look dapper and doesn’t really know what would look nice.

We are just a few hours away from the ceremony. The guests have started arriving. Yesterday picked Yugesh at twelve at night. He came from Delhi by Rajdhani and looked subdued. Cant really blame him its really energy sapping – this heat.

As the reverse countdown begins , the nerves are showing. Every one is testy. I didn’t sleep last night till four am. If I don’t get sleep today I would definitely pop a sleeping pill. Got a very early morning roll call.

But we were having our share of fun too. The ladies with henna on their hands and feet looked totally helpless. Even drinking a glass of water was hard work. Lucky they had the services of the domestic help. The men folks are no male chauvinist. But they are all lazy pigs. The best comment came from my brother as Bhabhi came balancing our evening tea precariously. He looked at her with feigned gratitude and said, “ Oh you shouldn’t have!”

Who said chivalry is dead!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gruh yagna - the colorful official flagging off.

Some one asked me how would I describe India in one word. I thought for a long time. Would it be diverse. Or large? rainbow? multicultural? So many adjectives came to my mind. Finally I simply said,"colorful."

This thought came to me yesterday when we were performing the gruh yagna , a precursor to the wedding.
It is a ritual meant to appease all the stars in the planet and is a must before any auspicious occasion. It ensures that no star in the planet creates any hurdles.
I marveled at the riot of colors. Onal was dressed in a beautiful flaming orange saree wearing the elegant mandavani , a string of pearls on the forehead. Her papa looked dapper in a red dhoti and her mom elegant in a burgundy sari.
The decorations with the leaves gave it a very soothing touch.This was just a yagna.

Now just another three days to go for the wedding. I can visualize a riot of colors.

I too have decided to add some color and get out of my stuffy suits for a change and make a fashion statement. Planning to wear a dhoti and a kurta. Friends are all amused. Many are predicting a malfunction. I am convinced. I want to go ethnic.
can't rule out last minute jitters and reverting back to same old suits. years of practice cant just go away.

They say that some marriages are made in heaven. I used to feel its clichéd. Not anymore.This one looks like as if the gods themselves sat and matched the horoscopes house by house and planet by planet.

Onal was chatting with her fiancé and he jokingly asked if she would cry while leaving the home. Onal also jokingly told him that like a true desi heroine she would run back frm the car’s open door and hug her mother and start howling.

Her fiancé’s rejoinder was an absolute cracker. He told her that in that case I will leave by car. You can catch a bus or train and come. My eyes were moist. Damn ! he is as sensitive as us. He could hae just walked into our family. I remembered the time when I was leaving to join my first job and mom became a bit emotional at the station. I pretended as if I wasn’t even related to her. Mother never forgave me for not having any ‘daya’ ‘maya’ ( love and affection in Marathi).

We are giving the wedding preparations a final touch. Which in simple English means doing things we had totally forgotten. Close friends who know my management skill advise me that the biggest service I could render is by staying away. No work means no work gone wrong.

Some last minute cards to be posted, some last minute changes, some extra flourishes in the decorations. Something is always amiss.

We do not want anything to go wrong. But already the wedding has lost some of its sparkle. The live wire sis- in-law had to leave for USA for her studies. She could be the life of the party. Its sad she had to leave. But that is life. You win some you lose some.

She has ordered me to arrange for her to see the wedding live. Hope we can do that.
Everyone is asking me when do I return to USA. I haven’t planned. This is the real war. This wedding.

Returning is child’s play.
All you have to do is by a ticket, duck weepy relatives and sit inside the aeroplane long enough till your butt feels like a ton of bricks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Non English Songs which were a hit.

This is a very depressing week. There is nothing to rejoice. The Maoists have attacked a bus and there is little we could do except begin the blame game. I would still offer my support to the HM.Its a tough ask and he looks to be the best among the available.

The central government has completed its one year with nothing to show. We were out of the world cup even before the super eight.

To lift the sagging mood, lets talk about music.

I have been thinking of compiling some great non English songs which were hits and were the chart toppers. Couldnt be a better time than now.

Here are some of those lovely songs which have entertained us and even inspired our Bollywood Music Directors.

1. LA BAMBA : This delightful Mexican song was one song which took the singer and the song to the Rock and Roll hall of fame. This Ritchi Valen Song even “ Inspired “ our Bhappi Lahiri to remake it into a bollywood song. But this post is not about remakes so I am going to give it a skip. But it can be viewed on the Youtube. The movie is Afsana pyar ka and the song is aashik deewana hoon.

2. LAMBADA : I have already mentioned about this Brazilian song in one of my earlier posts. So will give it a skip.

3. MACARENA : can anyone forget this brilliant song which became the anthem of the 90s. This song is the best debut album of all times in the USA. Even people with two left feet could dance these easy steps. Plagiarism? well! dont go too far. ask the indian idol!

4. Ketchup Song : This song is so melodious that it became a hit with young Tanmay even when he was just three years old. A big smile used to cross his face whenever this song was played. I predicted that he would have great taste in music. Sure he didn’t disappoint. The next song he took liking to was ‘ choli ke peeche kya hai’ Now he likes ‘ Bidi jalaye le’.!

5.ITak tak Mo : I am sure many guys may not have heard it. But it is one of my favorites. It is a Filipino song. I heard it when I was in Thailand. Loved it ever since. I know the Papaya dance became much more popular. OK I will add both here. But that doesnt change my opinion Itak tak mo rocks!

There is always constraint of space and bandwidth. There were other songs as well. Like the German Luft Baloon or the Korean song. Maybe I will post them some other time.
The popularity of all these songs goes to show that Music doesn’t need the knowledge of that language.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

the wedding countdown begins.

I was pinching myself. God please say it’s a nightmare.
There I was standing on the railway platform with my sister and twelve bags! Twelve bags! I felt like the sheiks in Dubai with many wives, many many children and many many many bags – minus the many wives and the many many children.
I had suggested that we book it in the luggage van. Everyone looks patronizingly at me. I am tired of hearing people say, “ This is not America. Things are done differently here.”
It was no one’s fault. The gifts kept adding and so did the suitcases. The wedding is in Bhopal but we had to order quite a few things from Gwalior.
My sister was getting all agitated. Shatabdi stops only for three minutes. How on earth do we board with all this luggage. I assured her not to worry. But, I hate to admit, my legs were feeling like jelly.
The BSP vicepresident was coming from Delhi. His supporters far outnumbered our suitcases. A state minister was going from Gwalior. How would we muscle our way in? I was repenting. We should have taken some low profile train. This was turning into a disaster. Sister had already suggested that we take a taxi. But the heat felt like a dragon breathing. I was just not mentally prepared to travel around ten hours by road.
Finally we did make it by a few nano seconds. The BSP leader made it quick. He seemed pretty eager to dunk his head into the waiting marigold garlands and the minister who was boarding the train was patience personified. His attendant and the gunmen , however, stared at us angrily.
There was a muslim woman on the station wearing a burqa. I had felt pity for her then for wearing it in that sweltering heat. Now I felt jealous. I could have swapped her burqa for one of my suitcases. I am glad the few foreigners who were in , thought it funny but not funny enough. The stray dog on the road caught their fancy. Thank you mangy dog. If you ever make it to the cover of any magazine I promise I will buy it.
I have one suggestion for our Railways minister . The over head bins are just not enough. Many foreigners who visit the Taj and orchha carry huge bags too. Maybe , like the british trains, a luggage compartment with shelves can be added near the doors. This would make the travel much more comfortable.
The TTE was a pleasant man. He asked me cheerfully in Marathi if all the things were onboard safely. I sheepishly explained that it was my niece’s wedding. He nodded in total understanding. He had a daughter too. Girl’s wedding works like magic in India. Even strangers offer to help. That is one thing that separates us from the rest of the world. The caring and sharing.
Whether it is a happy occasion or the death of some one , the Indianness binds us all.
We stacked our stuff on two vacant seats. The TTE assured that the train will almost empty at Jhansi and we will have at least half the compartment to ourselves. I was grinning. My stupidity was a blessing. So finally it turned out to be a good decision.
I must compliment the Railways on the quality of food and the crockery. It has improved tremendously. The waiters are very warm and friendly.
We again felt the dragon’s breath as we alighted in Bhopal. There was not much tension now as this was the last stop.
I thanked my stars that I have only one niece. It’s now just Another nine days to go for the wedding.
Once the celebrations are over, the enormity would be sink in.
Onal’s pretty younger sister in law has left for the USA to pursue her masters leaving a void in their home. Soon Onal would be filling that void leaving a larger one at home.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An open letter to Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Dear Dhoni,

I am miffed. No I am not angry. Just miffed. Its not about getting booted out of the world cup. Well you win some and lose some.

Besides I admire you as a player and as a captain. I cannot forget the way you single handedly won the semi finals in the IPL and again your captaincy in the final where you set Pollard brilliantly to win the match. Though your critics say that Mumbai lost the cup in the semifinal itself when Harbhajan hugged Nita Ambani and lifted her up. A furious Mukesh Ambani, it seems bribed his own players to lose so that this is not repeated again.
He angrily even wrote to the BCCI President demanding that he fire Harbhajan for poor vision. He couldn’t differentiate between lifting the trophy and the trophy wife? A copy of the letter was also sent to Harbhajan’s school.

But the BCCI President Shashank Manohar wrote back that he was busy cleansing the system off Modi. After removing him from the IPL , he now plans to write to the Oxford to remove all the words with Modi in it. He has sent his list. I could only read Modify and Modicum when it was being posted. He calls it “The Shashank Redemption”.

The school, meanwhile, replied back that they follow the highest standards. No student is passed or failed till he appears for the exam. They are still waiting.

No. I am miffed because you blamed the late night parties for your performance. I am miffed because you didn’t mention what the hell you guys were drinking. If I have a drink , I don’t even feel the effect the next day. And you guys are feeling it effects even after two weeks. Now this isn’t fair.

Is it that the Mallya guy is adding some more of his olla la la lo olla le in your drink. Reminds me I must sue this Mallya guy. He is responsible for us losing out. Its not your fault that every time a short pitched delivery was hurled you guys started dancing the olla la oh olla le song. This man had brain washed you guys so much.

I am also miffed because we Indians are known for our hospitality. How then you guys didn’t take care of the Gayles and the Pollards. They looked pretty fresh and in fine fettle.
No Mahi, this isn’t cricket.

I am miffed that you made me do the unthinkable. Damn I was praying for the Australians to win. Can you imagine me praying for Austalia!!!!!!

WHAT NEXT? Rooting for a Pakistani captain ?

Its not a joke Dhoni. Brace yourself. This guy Shoaib Malik is bored playing ball boy to his wife Sania Mirza. So he has sent his resume to the board.

The VP, Rajiv Shukla is excited. He wants to tell Madam that a Muslim captain will fetch more muslim votes. We any way lose most of our matches. But our party will become stronger.

So consider yourself warned. If I were you, I would approach Sharad Pawar.

Cheer up mate. World cup is not the end of life. You should be happy now. You have more time now. More time means more money. The ad makers are waiting.

As that Mallya guy says, “ olla la la la olla lu”


Yours etc.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The empire strikes back.

The elections are just over in the UK and expectedly the UK Stock market crashed and expectedly the stocks of our politicians rose. It’s a hung parliament and all the three parties are looking for expert guidance and who but the veterans in India. All the three parties are having serious and confidential meetings. When they say confidential, they mean confidential in the UK. All that has changed now with many Indians having been elected. The leaks have started. I reached there before the BBC. BBC would like to know how to suck up, err manage. Now I may not be a big sucker like the NDTV but I am not stupid either. I protect my contacts.

India and the UK share a long history. we have common problems. They want to ,but can’t rid of their Queen, we cant get rid of our Raja.
With the coalition era, we will only come closer. But that could be the subject for another post.

Here are some excerpts from the meetings.

Meeting one. ( 10, Downing street ) : Gordon Brown is chairing. “ Ladies and gentlemen. Not a bad election. We should have been totally licked. But now we have a sneaking chance. All we need is some expert advise. If we had taken this advise before, we could have even avoided the expenditure scandal.” Its agreed the PM of India can help.
Here’s how his conversation with PM Singh went.

“ Hello Mr. PM. old boy. How are you mate? How are things your end.”

“ What can I say I am just an ordinary PM. Not a bigshot. Not a DMK or NCP minister. what can I do. No one tells me anything.”

“ come on. You surely has some talent managing such a huge coalition.”

“ You don’t know how it is to manage Indians. You are lucky to have all foreigners in your party.”

“ Pardon?”

“ British.”

“ But you will be glad to know that we have some Indians also now Mr. PM.”

“ Consider yourself sunk then. Lucky you have no Italians.”

“But you surely can give me some tips”

“ Share. Share your responsibilities. we share our responsibilities. Madam takes credit for all that goes right. And I get blamed for whatever that goes wrong. This way there is no overlap”

Gordon Brown was speechless. Only if Tony had been this clever. But Tony didn’t go to Oxford!

Meeting Two ( Nick Clegg’s residence). Heated discussion on whom to contact. They want the Operators ( euphemism for wheelers and dealers). After all THEY are the King makers. They got to extract their pound of flesh Some want to hire Laloo Prasad as a consultant. But Nick Clegg is adamant. “ Guys, his specialty is agriculture. Animal husbandry to be more precise. We need some Hi-Tec.operator.
How about contacting that ageing rockstar. The old man wearing sunglasses all the time. His protégé has some talent in the very contemporary telecom industry. Now the problem is how to contact them. They even speak English in Tamil.

One Indian MP suggested send a million pounds to him, his consultancy in advance. He will manage even without communication. How do you think he is managing the communications ministry. Smart people these Indians.

Meeting three ( David Cameron) : There is no debate there. There is a consensus. The conservatives are the BJP of UK. Getting power after 19 years. so it must be the king maker Chandra babu Naidu.

“ Hello Mr. Naidu. We need your advise. We think we are ready to form the government”

Mr. Naidu is agitated.

“ Don’t talk about Reddies. As if one Reddy wasn’t enough, now we have the Redddy brothers from the neighbouring state. Damn this clan should be banned from politics. I will assure the people of AP that this will the first reform I will do.”

“ but what do you advise us?”

“ Do what you guys are good at. Divide and rule. Separate Scotland and send Gordon Brown there. Your problem is solved. we are trying that in AP. Separating Telangana. But the only problem is I am not British. So like a typical Indian politician I support one day and oppose the other .”

Brilliant! Why didn’t we think of it before.


I have information, again from my confidential sources, that all the three parties have agreed on one point.

They have made Indians in charge of all the horse trading. They are born to do it.

Meanwhile all the Indian MPs are dreaming another dream within a dream.
“Some day I will become the PM of UK. Got to play my cards carefully.
Soon ……….. very soon………. .”

If Chandra Shekar could manage, Deve Gowda could manage , Why not me? after all I have only the British to contend with."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Non Resident Maharashtrian!

Last year I had to attend a world conference in Austin, Texas on Animation. I was finding it hard to locate my client in the sea of people. There were people of all assortment and sizes from almost every part of the world.I was surprised to see that I couldn’t see a single Indian.

Suddenly I saw them. An Indian couple! I smiled warmly. As I introduced myself, I was taken aback as the lady asked me , “ You Ghaati?”. For the uninitiated, Ghaati is a derogatory term used by the non- maharashtrians to describe maharashtrians.

“ Well Mam, when I am in India I am part Ghaati, part MP ka Bhaiya and part Andhra Anna and I am proud to be all of them. But when I am abroad I am just a proud Indian. Plain and simple.” I said it in my most saccharine coated voice.

Either she was a great actress or pretty dumb. I couldn’t see any change in her expression. “ I am from Lucknow”. She replied. My mind raced back to the last time I visited Lucknow. It was at least a twenty five years back. but the memory is still etched. Its my favorite story.

As I came out of the station, I saw a lot of Tongas, the horse carts which are now extinct. I suddenly had a child like impulse to try this new transport. I enquired with the owner of one of the tongas, a frail old man in a checkered lungi, kurta and skull cap, if he was going towards my destination ( I forget the name).His reply simply floored me. I may not be able to do justice in the translation.
“ huzoor tonga aapka hi intezaar kar raha hai. Tashreef rakhie.”
( a crude translation sir, the tonga is only waiting for you. please step on).

Raj Thakeray is a lucky man. He never had to haul his lazy ass to work. If he did, he would know what is an occupational hazard. That there are as many maharashtrians working outside maharashtra as there are non maharashtrians working in maharashtra.

I have seen a sizeable maharashtrian population in Hyderabad as well as Gwalior. I am proud to say that although they have retained their cultural identity, they also have made an extra effort to join the mainstream. Their children speak fluent telugu, enjoy the telugu movies and are an intrinsic part of the social fabric. The locals have reciprocated well by accepting them whole heartedly. Hyderabad is perhaps one of the friendliest of cities. Gwalior was a state of the then Scindia kingdom so its easy for the maharashtrians there.

I spent almost a decade in Nagpur, Pune and Mumbai. My business partner was a north Indian. It was pleasant to see our neighbors almost ignore me when he accompanied me. They always made that extra effort to see that he was comfortable. But their attempts at speaking hindi was hilarious. One lady had even confessed that whenever Mr. Sharma phoned, her hands became all sweaty!

We later moved; He to Hyderabad and I to USA. But even today he swears by the hospitality of Maharashtrians. His partner jumps at any opportunity to do a project in Maharshtra. One of the proudest moment was when a CEO confessed that he hired me because he had a high regard for maharashtrians. Coming from a hyderabadi, this was the greatest tribute.

I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in Pune. In my opinion , it is one of the most sophisticated cities in the world. ( I doesn’t hurt that it has the tastiest vada paavs does it?).

By a strange coincidence, the last time I was returning from Miami, my co-passengers were both maharashtrians. We ended up talking about our feeling of rootlessness.

I sometimes get confused. Today am I a maharashtrian or just a marathi speaking manoos. what about my tamil friend born and brought up in Mumbai who when mentioned 'home' knows of only one place.

Isn’t being an Indian or a good human being no longer enough?

A food for thought for the narrow, parochial school of thought.

My best wishes to every on Maharashtra Day!