A Wedding Affair

Weddings!!! The happiest and the toughest and the craziest time in any family would be when a wedding is being planned. Its mayhem at its best!! Insanity is one thing that could possibly keep one alive through the entire process.

Anybody would understand what an Indian wedding is like if they were to see “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” or “Monsoon Wedding” (the latter being the better choice if you want to see the chaos involved!!) All the discussions…about the colour…the texture and the material of the clothes to be worn on the important rituals...the mandap...decoration...stay...transportation...guest list...food...menu...the sun...the moon...the stars...the lights...what not?!

As the winter sets in the Gujjuland my friends’ wedding cards start knocking at my new found home. There has been plenty of time I have been to my ‘girl-friend-turned-soul-sistahs’ wedding and always returned  with a tired but big satisfying smile on my face. Not anymore. Am sad and outside the circle, may be a bit for too long. 

Anybody’s life can get changed by just a minute…imagine only one minute before you were just “Miss something” and the moment you completed the last phera you are “Mrs. something different”.
If Punjabis can dance then Bengalis can organise impromptu cafe ambience anywhere anytime. And as it was a wedding shower it meant loads of adda with loads of dressing up. And I missed that last minute catch-up this year.  This season I am all connected with their social delight through myriad photos with mehendi, aaltaa, scrumptious delicacies, smiling faces of their families and extended families followed by few calls from the excited friends’ bridesmaids. And with a grumpy face I look at them and my stupid mind flutters in their biye-bari. There’s this invisible second me that whispers “Even I want to be the bridesmaid!”

If you have ever been to a Bengali Wedding you must have noticed, faces as vibrant as glittering sarees, shimmering with layers of make-up, made the bright lights needless. Men in their expensive sherwanis or dhuti-punjabi moving about everywhere.  The women with their fine trousseau thanking God ten times for innumerable reasons it’s not so cold to wrap their heavily embellished selves in expensive – mind EXPENSIVE shawls.

The blowing of the conch shell and ululation by the women gathered at the biyer-mondop and tune of Shanai fills my ear as I write. The smell, oh the smell of fish-butter fry and rojonigondha mixed with the scent of every perfect attire fills give you a different high.

 A scene pops up in my head, a couple of yards away there’s this trying-to-be-cool dude having a rather candid chat with girls probably half of his age. Another group of middle-aged women involved in something what sounded like a boisterous chatter with very fashion obsessed and high on make-up. The obvious topic of discussion among them would be Bengali T.V serials, geomancy, hair and skin care.

I smiled. I am so very much Bangalee by heart. And I never realised that. 

Flicking though the Facebook in my mobile, I leisurely look at my friend’s wedding attire. She looks stunning, more like a Goddess straight from the heaven.  

I miss running all round like a Mad Hatter. I miss accompanying her to the high-profile salon where they charge a bomb for this transformation.  I miss acting like her first-hand whilst she is busy welcoming the guests.  I miss tucking her saree, looking for a pin, holding her veil, wiping her kajal, wiping her sweat (in December!!!), picking up flowers that fell from her pretty bun, snatching gifts from her hands as soon as they were given to her, shooing off unnecessary relatives and friends, checking for safety pins poking in unusual places (hers not mine), wiping her sweat (did I tell you she had a winter wedding!!), frowning furiously at the Pandit who kept on pouring ghee in a roaring fire, making her wear a saree, folding her clothes, counting and tucking away her jewellery, packing the gifts, getting her water, feeding her, taking her phone calls, doing the screaming for her, sneaking her a drink when she needed it and occasionally reminding myself to breathe.
Her smile, her shy glances at her brand new husband, the chaotic giggles, make up removed, earrings dropped, young eyes meeting, exchanging numbers, the hullor , konya pokkho and patro pokkhyo.

I wanted to see and take part in EVERYTHING that makes a Bengali Wedding a BIG, FAT and CRAZY affair.

It must be hard yet pleased to watch her getting married, you know. It was like a part of me had to let go of her. In what way and why I cannot explain. I don’t know why I would have died every time I saw her crying her eyes out over those four days. I don’t know why I would have looked scared to see her in laws, whom she had already known for so long years, as complete strangers. I wanted to protect her, cry with her, sit beside her, hug her and smile with her all at once if given a chance just before she transformed into a beautiful pretty bride. 

In retrospect, I don’t want to remember much about my chipped nail paint, my mismatched make up, my clumsily draped saree and my spectacular absence in photo ops. But. I wanted to cherish the fact of me being there when she needed to be held, watching her smile, I want to guess what she would have hurriedly whispered into my ear right before she was getting married, I want remember how she looked sitting in the make up studio restlessly twitching her fingers.

With moist eyes, as I write this, I remember our sudden outings at CCD and Oly Pub. Her nervous voice just few minutes back when I called. I wanted to experience all of us, the Jing-Bang together at my deserted home, drunken and musically enriched – just before I left HOME.

Homeward Bound

I am at work and am supposed to WORK. Instead, I am staring at a blank document with a blank mind. All I can hear are the sounds of the relentless typing on the keyboard, my colleagues speaking in low voices, phones ringing and the humming of the not required cool air of the air conditioners. I have papers on my desk, a blue pen without a cap, a half eaten bar of chocolate and the cold bottle of water. I lean back on my blue chair and wonder what makes me so melancholic today.

Maybe it is because winter has finally arrived in Gujjuland, without much fuss, without knocking me down with few bouts of cough and unruly cold. Here, the winter is like an imposter, comes out as the sun goes down.

Or maybe because I miss November in Calcutta. I miss the feeling of Durga Puja, Kali Puja, BhaiphoNta being over, the familiar feeling of approaching Christmas, the trips to Vivekananda Park for phuchkas. November used to bring the sunlight in my small balcony back home where Maa used to put the blankets out for sunning one last time before winter finally arrived.

My boss gives me a look with an arched eyebrow, may be its time for me to write – write about the boring job scenarios all around the planet followed by the humdrum of ‘Global Warming’. I smartly don an idiotic ‘opppss... I did it again’ minus Ms. Britney’s glam-doll-lollipop-sucking –duck-faced look and pretend to work, as my mind takes me to the lazy evening in Oly Pub.

It’s just a matter of a week. A week in my city. The time when my city dresses up, puts on some make up and spreads her arms a little wider to take in the maddening crowd. Unstoppable of energy bubble that bursts only after rueful New Year’s Day.

It’s been a while since I’ve been this homesick, it really doesn’t go too well with my feelings now (yeah, one more time, word is sucha bitch). I wanted to have cha and fish-finger in a crowded premik para of Nandan.  Wander mindlessly around the JU-r math whilst munching muri-alur- chop.

The mild winter breeze, grey skies, over bearing crowd, traffic snarls followed by the bells of cycle rickshaws. And the horns. And now, a list of my ever loving old-maiden Calcutta:

The CNG autos. The low floored buses.

The mouth watering rasogolla at the neighbourhood sweet shop.

The familiar smell of warm toast in the morning. The tinkle of a spoon against a tea cup. “You still prefer black?”

The endless fish curries. The waiting for biriyani.  The mutton rolls.

The plans changed. Times not kept.

The doorbell ringing in the morning. “Didi, aajkey oi baari tey ki hoyechhey jano? ” (“Do you know what happened in the other house this morning?”)

The news bulletins on CPM, TMC. The heated discussions on politics, ideals and beliefs.

The new literature festival. The book fair missed.

Smiles, laughter.

The walks around a park. The life that seems a little troubled. A friend’s shoulder. A patient hearing.

Evenings spent with relatives. Neighbour’s lives. Gossip. Smirks. Laughter again.

Shawls and sarees. Kashmir emporium. New Market.

Sitting by the side of a mighty river. Staring out into the open.

Dreams had. Dreams lost.

Peace. Home. Hope.

Heartache. Soulmate. Best friend.


Back back BACK... you NOSTALGIA

I have spent a good part of my life in Kolkata where if I am honest, everyday has been a battle, and am still surviving. A fight for justice, a fight to love, a fight to give mercy when I have been hurt, a fight for a seat on a crowded metro or even a fight simply not to be cheated or taken for a ride by a local taxi driver. As a fighter or at least one who has had to fight to survive life in Kolkata, I have been very well equipped with weapons of war. I have a clenched jaw and a hard face that appears without my permission and a struggle to trust, a healthy fear of men who stand too close and some sweet evasive moves to ward off potential harm both physical and emotional.

I had an over-exaggerating urge to move to a city where I can thrive all alone, may be without much of these fights! The following next few months were again loaded with fights - this time with the inner demons. A battle between the two worlds of letting go! A world full of a 'brand new start' of a branded bandwagon and the other one was full of 'high hopes'. A random hunt for the 'grooviest' city and the fat cash - it continued. 

So! one day, quite unexpectedly, I chose a city where I was yet to make a bond with - Gujjuland - MY Dreamer's Gujjuland !!!! With all the stories that I heard, I made a collage of that place.

After much debate, calling my travel agent for another thousand times, checking and re-checking my checklists, folding forms, booklets, tickets, and much after carrying my favorite perfume - I landed in a city full of colors, loaded with religious differences, contrasting shades between the old and the new and a guy (whom I lost years back on a chilly night) named 'The lotus-eater'.

He took my hands and showed me the city through his eyes. Gujjuland doesn't fit seem to fit the bill at all, with it's everlasting demand from me to remain strictly alert all the time.

Season changed and so did my troubled bubble. With a lavish terrace and 'hand-picked' friends and luggage of boredom, I started venturing out in the city like a lousy traveler. I fueled quite UN-consciously, every curious eyes, every peculiar smiles from the colored crowd. 

...time evaporates and here comes Garba, the dancing act of men and women alike in mulch-colored clothes shedding all inhibitions aside. I've never been to a Bollywood movie set, but am sure there's nothing remotely dissimilar between them apart from the vanishing act of few super-stars.

As they danced and cheered with the 'taal' of 'dholak' , I stood there dumb-fucked with droopy eyes, buzzing head and heart-wrenching thoughts of my long, lost beloved 'Kolkata' . Whenever I am away from Kolkata, I impose a total media ban on anything related to the Pujo, taking a leaf out of the Government of India’s Ostrichian principle that if I bury my head in the sand and censor the flow of information about a certain thing, then that thing ceases to exist any more.

I was writing my puja post too. And it was very personal, and beyond the first three sentences I just couldn't go on (right words are such a bitch) and I was in a state of high-middle despair. It's Ashtami, dammit, when will I finish it and put it up? Which is when it occurred to me that I needn't, really, you know, put up a puja post. It's not a Pujabarshiki that I publish. Sit back. Hit 'save as draft'. Relax. Is okay.

Instead, I picked up my cell with teary eye and called " The Baul In Denims"...