I scratched his ear, like he loved. My old dog sensed my tears, nuzzled me lovingly. The doctor laid him to sleep. Forever. I cried.
I scratched his ear, like he loved. My old dog sensed my tears, nuzzled me lovingly. The doctor laid him to sleep. Forever. I cried.
As I closed my eyes and settled in the flight seat after three long days and interspersed with possibly eight hours of sleep, I only wanted peace and a blanket. Not even food could keep me away from taking my precious forty winks. But as fate would have it, I spent half of my flight time explaining to my septuagenarian co-passenger why his phone should be switched off during air travel, why the passenger seats were so uncomfortable, and that in-flight turbulence would pass. In return, I now know his investment portfolio and that his son insisted on sending his parents on group tours to temples around the country.
But I am digressing. This post is on a friend’s wedding that I was returning back from. No matter how many weddings I attend, watch re-runs of the famed Indian wedding films, listen to our mothers and aunts recount their wedding experiences, seeing a girl being given away to the groom’s family never fails to run a roller coaster of emotions through me. As each ceremony progressed, the bridesmaids gave way to more women from the groom’s household. Conversations changed content from taking care of the bride to talking about the bride and the groom. Guests walked up to compliment the bride as I stood by making sure she’s well-fed, hydrated and stress-free. Everyone wanted a word or two with her, a note of encouragement, a word of advice, blessings for them both, or just a picture together for keepsakes. Our secrets spilled out, memories increased manifold – now we have too many jokes that only we understand, we came closer as we glided through the spotlight together – heroine and sidekick.
The red vermilion is a Hindu woman’s mark of being wedded, seeped with a prayer of long health for her husband and good health for her own self. That moment after the pheras* when the groom adorns his bride’s hair parting with red vermilion is my personal high moment – the moment of truth when the bride and groom have sealed their fates together, the climax of three days of wedding rituals, the Christian equivalent of ‘You may now kiss the bride’!
She walked in for the pheras* with her brother by her side, and she walked out with the groom holding her hand. He kept her calm, tugged at her hand when she cried, wiped away a tear or two himself as she walked tearfully through her family towards the new family who was waiting for her by the getaway car. No matter how strong you remain, the air is so heavy with the sadness of a girl leaving her parents, the happiness of seeing her off towards a new beginning in her life, the hopes of the marriage turning out to be as long lasting as forever and the blessings that accompany the newly wedded. It doesn’t matter then if you’re from the bride’s side or the groom’s. Emotions override family ties, familiarity is bred in the strangest of ways.
Weddings – the grand Indian ones or even the smallest and simplest ones are steeped in emotions in a way that Bollywood films never seem to encapsulate.
Congratulations to the newly wedded couple! ❤ May life be sunnier, happier and lovelier for the both of you, as your ‘starry summer’s dream’ comes true.
P.S. : Apologies for the delay in posts! Blame it on the sister. She takes up too much of my time when she’s around 😉
*Hindu ritual of taking seven vows of the marriage in the presence of a sacred fire
She picked up the toothpick to dot her forehead with white. She was a bride in the film, while her own marriage was falling apart.
He knew the lions were hungry. Meat prices had risen; food portions decreased. Taking Lord’s name, he entered the lions’ rink for his circus act.
He wanted to soar,
To places that were beyond,
The reach of others,
The fancies of their minds,
The places no one went to,
Because they would be alone,
And that is what he wanted,
To be alone, not lonely,
Invisible, not blind,
Peaceful, not wanting.
He couldn’t explain,
Words failed him,
But the feeling grew stronger.
Until one day, the parrot decided,
To break free and soar.
The Sun had just risen,
Water bowls were being changed,
The door was left ajar,
The others stared at it,
But no one made a move,
Only he flapped his wings out.
He turned to see, the cage that
Looked smaller from afar,
Their red beaks and green wings,
Becoming dots in the vastness
Of what he saw.
And that was his moment of truth,
When he was invisible, but not blind.
Yesterday, while travelling in the city, I came across a cabbie who’d creatively put his watch on his rear view mirror. No hassle to keep checking the time, right? Well, I see it differently. Maybe it was his way to look back through time. Ain’t it?
The sight set my thoughts rolling. I started thinking of the past year I’d spent in the city I still haven’t been able to call my own. What would I have done differently? One thing for sure. Explore more of the city for what it is, than for what I think it is. I’ve always associated Bangalore with malls, restaurants, pubs and a lack of street lights! Well, I’m not entirely wrong because yes, that’s what you find at every corner, every cross in each damn area! But there’s more.
I saw a different side of the city yesterday. Urban theater – a terrace of an office building transformed into a place the aesthetics of which exuded a calmness and freedom that transported me into a world far away from reality, in a good way. The trees in the surroundings looked prettier, the skies felt closer, the Sun softer. The walls were painted over, quotes written in the choicest of corners, paintings and crayoned papers hung around. Tango, salsa and yoga class posters were hung around. Yoga mats were piled up in a corner. A month’s schedule written in hand pinned up beside a Harry Potter quiz sample questions. My, my! The sample questions were so difficult, I wondered what the D-day paper would be like!
We settled in bean bags, on beer crates, in plastic chairs, floor mats, basically whatever you could lay your butts on, while the play went on. An interactive audience, giggled smiles, a spunky 44 year old female volunteer and a charming cast and producer! There was something artistic about the people too – the coloured hair on the women, the long hair on the men, the casual and carefree dripping from the skirted women and kurta-ed men. This felt like an out-of-Bangalore experience.
I’d want more of this. And less of the no electricity, no water, no street lights, malls, restaurants, pubs Bangalore.
As I sweat in the Bangalore heat, while doing absolutely nothing apart from just breathing, which you would all acknowledge is a very crucial, and from what I know the most important factor for our existence, I think back of the vacation I recently took. And promised a second post on.
In my mind, as I say the word, Valparai, I close my eyes to be welcomed to memories of our four wheeler rushing through the short winding roads through hills, while green stems and young branches fell out of line by the side of the road, swaying to greet us. We are rushing past them, honking at each hairpin bend, serpent turns, waking us out of the slumber of hill travel every now and then, fascinated by the depths which greeted us to our right and the heights which beckoned us to our left.
I see a kaleidoscope of butterflies pass us, yellow this one. My reflexes are too slow to brandish the phone camera for a shot of them. I simply close my eyes to capture the moment. Sometimes, I wish I had a pensieve to keep these memories untouched. But in its absence, National Geographic will have to do. The Sun, which at the base of the hills was unforgiving, seemed to be playing hide and seek with us as we travelled upwards closer. The clouds ran helter skelter, giving us a peak a boo of the scorch every now and then. It was almost lunch hour when we reached the outskirts of Valparai and unbelievable as it may sound, or read, there was rain, just like Google weather had predicted! Bless technology and the genius minds that worked behind it.
Valparai is so untouched by commercialization, that it was difficult to find a place to stay. We ended up finding a place that seemed like it had been vacated after its occupants had packed bags and moved to the city for better earnings. They offered us a single room for ten people when actually advertising as a home stay! I wondered how the others would react for I was already prepared for a little adventure. Standing at the crossroads of the little town, I sighed audibly with relief when I looked up at the three storeyed building, catching the occupants of the top floor room, my friends, look out at the tea estates as far as the horizon permit, with enthusiasm and unwavering excitement.
The evening that we spent there has to be my most memorable in quite a while. Walking through tea estates, and (this time) long winding roads, with no vehicles to honk at us, no bikes to rush past us, no traffic at all, paradise was not even on my wishlist then. We sang as the sun set, clicked photographs of trees that formed patterns different to each of our eyes, posed by the side of the road wanting to post pictures online but never doing so, because we knew words would fail to describe the serenity we felt then. And we also didn’t want to lose those minutes buried in the phone. That says a lot about the place, doesn’t it? We saw people though. Some smiled at us knowingly, others gave us a pass, ignoring us as a brief little intrusion in their small town. A shopkeeper asked us our religion, offering a temple, mosque or a church to visit around accordingly. He chatted with us for over five minutes, but did not once try to sell his wares to us. So much for calling it a small town.
As I stood by the the window of the balcony, my nose was pressed to it, my breath frosting the glass around my lips, I saw the winds outside swirling, droplets of water being bullied into submission, lights from the night lamps streaming through the air, making the paths of water borne air above the road, visible.
I yearned to step outside of my house and go play basketball in the rains, with the people below, kids I presumed. Their shrieks of delight floated uptil a dozen or so floors above. Instead I did something better.
I slid open the windows of the balcony, that kept the water borne winds out and was welcomed to winds so cold, no air conditioner could compete, the freshness of ice and spring combined! The hair at the nape of my neck stood in attention, out of excitement.
Back home, whenever it rained, torrentially as it was looking to today, my sister and I would sit at the window sill, legs hanging out into the dark, lightning flashing us time and again, shrieking in delight at every wave of wind that whipped through us.
As the water hit me, wave after wave, I shivered in excitement, and cold, but nonetheless not agreeing to go back inside! After all, the heat of so many days needed more time with the rains to sod off!
Staring up at the skies, blinking at every lightning flash, I felt the water seeping to the roots of my hair, the sides of my neck. I stood with my arms by my side, shaking but not willing to go into the house again. I looked down at my feet after a while. I was soaking wet from the top to bottom! Giggling, rubbing my arms, I slid the balcony windows shut, greeted with warmth in the hall. I’d missed the rains. I missed my sister more now.
As another three day long weekend came up, the crowd of Bangalore, like me, decided to move away from the city to the surrounding hill stations where temperatures dipped and the real feel was more in the fresh early 20’s rather than the tiring late 30’s!
What do you expect when seemingly an entire city starts to move away from it? Well, apart from a lot of money for the tolls and travel agencies? A lot of traffic! So much so that at 2 AM, we were stuck in traffic for almost an hour. Well, a lot of people got to see a SpiderWoman on the top of our vehicle! Shh. Well, the vehicle carrier was lying unused. It must have been lonely and sad.
The SpiderWoman was tired after her two minute stint. After all, greater responsibilities requires greater power! So what would the next stop four hours later be for? Food! Breakfast combined food with ogling at a cute little bundle of joy, who was peeping out of his father’s arms and watching the early morning bustle at the road side eatery while his mouth hung open and eyes remained wide and bright.
The places we crossed, cities, towns all seemed to wake up the same way. The faces change, but the places remain the same – similar yet different in ways a traveler can’t distinguish in passing but only admire. The lone milk vendor on his cycle, the newspaper guys distributing the morning’s load, the vegetable sellers lining up for a swift morning, the jogger here and there, the early risers already on their way to work, more men, less women, more elders, no children, some yawning, others charged for the Sun’s next rotation.
A full belly and long travel dozed me off to sleep! I woke up next to find myself away from the cities and into the forests of the Western Ghats! Not to mention with a ‘Nearly Headless Neck’ and an almost bursting bladder.
We stopped to answer nature’s call at the open air toilets provided by the Forest Reserve at one of the checkpoints, and lo behold! Their grit was eye opening! And their ways, harsh reality.
Let’s break this down for you. The gritty stuff? Well, their toilets were not gender biased – all unisex. Go figure, how! The harsh reality? Well, only 1 out of the 10 toilets had running water available. And when I say running, I mean 24X7 running, because the tap was broken beyond repair. Just like the 10% among us hold 99% of the wealth and waste it because they have no idea what to do with it.
What do you think when at an elevation of 340 metres, the heat is blistering and burning your skin but Google Weather reports that the 3400 metres’ elevation which is your destination is expecting rain? Well the obvious one is, ‘Google must be wrong. Finally!’. Apart from the obvious, I came up with, ‘Is it really possible that this same high and mighty Sun and sky will be shy and cloudy in another hour and 3060 metres?’. And after that I hit my jackpot!
‘Did the women of India really choose to cover their heads and faces with their attire because the
men culture wanted it or because the women wanted to save themselves from the heat, the open countryside is subjected to? As if breathing fire wasn’t enough, they’d have to let it simmer their skin too.’
Looks like some of the heat got to me too!
From the distant lands,
Galloping on his horse,
Came the knight of her dreams,
Dusty and tired,
A freshness in the soul,
Heart bewitched, smile dazzling.
Months ago, when they had first met,
A city damsel, she was no match for him,
A guard of the royals,
Splendor befitted him, royalty trusted him,
She a prison woman, rugged hands,
With twinkling eyes and a happy heart.
Today, free of shackles, they stood beside,
Just two people, watching,
The Sun go down, one more time,
As he knelt on his knee and asked,
“Will you rescue me?”