The Big Fat Indian wedding ….

Its a match made in heaven…an Indian princess and a Colombian lad meet in the fashion streets of Milan…and die for each other! Their wedding ceremony had to be one straight out of a fairy tale…and every bit it was.

The elegantly bordered pastel coloured invitation placards with accompanying Haldiram boxes spoke of the the tasteful extravaganza that awaited at the functions.

The festivities began with a welcome dinner cum Christmas party for the Groom’s assemblage. The chilly barren farmhouse was transformed as if by magic into a cosy classy discotheque, a glowing haven amidst the severe Northern cold wave.

This was followed the next day by the Mehendi and Tilak ceremony. Mehendi is one of the sixteen adornments or Shringars of the bride. Its auspicious fragrance and cooling effect are supposed to bring good luck and health to the newly weds. Tilak is the official acceptance of the groom being a perfect match for the bride. No wonder this ceremony was turned into a village fair by the wedding planner with bangles, bindi and floral jewellery stalls.

By evening the Sangeet showcased well choreographed dances from both sides of the family. However, the stage was set on fire when for the finale the romantic couple waltzed to a melodious intimate tune.

The next day began with a five star breakfast buffet. Then everyone was ushered for the Haldi ceremony . In this an antiseptic turmeric paste is applied to the bride and groom by all present to purify them for the upcoming union. After much music and jovial shananigans we proceeded to our rooms to get ready for the afternoon marriage ceremony.

Amidst the chant of Shlokas, in a pink-white floral Mandap the couple took their seven Pheras signifying the seven vows of togetherness. The whole ambience resonated with the sanctity of marriage. While the guests were happy to show-off their Ray-bans.

Finally, the Royal Reception. It was grand with ice sculptures for decoration and the Shillong Chamber Choir for performance. With over a thousand invitees, it had everything from the huge three tier cake to an infinity smorgasbord that had dishes from all corners of the world!

Phew! Just attending this gala wedding left me exhausted, God save the organisers.

In our day to day mundane lives, once in a while we get caught in such fantasy, and I am glad to have lived my chance. But in my government hospital where everyday I see pain and want, where money can make the difference between treatment and life or suffering and death, such splurging does make me smirk!

The gift of time …..

Life is time, that is,it is the stipulated time we are given on this planet earth to spend the best we can given our conditions and resources. That’s my philosophy of life .And I had to form one because of late there was a question I would often dodge, and when asked to write I would look over my shoulder hoping no one is looking! That ominous question is — what is your age?

I sometimes wonder how did a confident vivacious twenty something relegate into a stuttering timid tricenarian. The answer lies in unfulfilled dreams and unattained goals and the feeling that time is running out to ever achieve them. Confronting this wish list rips apart my picture perfect life on Facebook and Watsapp and reminds me of time wasted and decisions regretted. Such thoughts always push me into an abyss of darkness. So everyday I tighten my safety harness with positive thoughts and a page from a wide selection of self-help books.And they work ! Trust me.

Everyone has a story. Mine is first basking in the feeling of having plenty of time at hand and then panicking , buck up — time is ticking off ! Then a friend jokingly commented — life is like an ice cream,enjoy it without too much analysis,no matter what it will melt.

It made a mark.And I sat to make a list of all the little things that made 2019 great — seeing my one year old niece for the first time, enjoying snow for the first time in my life, glittering get-togethers and a wedding, my happy patients, my blog, a pair of danglers…..a collage of the best memories of the year gone by — maybe just a well dressed photo session. This will be milestone down my nostalgic path. It is the gift of a passing year to me. And I am glad a new year is beginning….

Its time to Hygge ….

Another winter! It inevitably takes me to my Shillong days! Shillong has a perennial winter feel, at least it did in my childhood days. All round the year we used one blanket and in the colder months we just doubled it with thick cotton quilts.

The better of part of our winter vacation was actually spent in Shyamnagar near Kolkata, comfortably with the maternal side of my family. But the November, February and March months were also chilly enough to enjoy the honeyed sunshine and a steaming cup of coffee.

Christmas is in the air there at this time. The whole city is donned in lights and holly leaves. I remember going to dinner parties where I would satiate myself with a variety of cakes and pastries, my favourite being lamingtons.

However for me the real pleasure of this season lies in the ways we can warm not just our bodies but our hearts by indulging in “hygge.”

Literally it is the Danish art of creating a cosy atmosphere and enjoying the simple things despite the cold and gloomy weather. Acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or in company, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special is hygge . It is a mindset about relaxing with friends, enjoying homely meals with family or cherishing our free time.Though commercialisation has transformed even this feeling into a cosy home decor . But one can feel cosy just watching a movie in bed or having a private dinner with parents and siblings. The feelings of contentment and gratitude fill us with such immense positivity that it makes life,at least temporarily,a box of chocolates. Valuing our relations adds happiness to our existence and are assets in themselves.

Well winter does bring its own problems — working in the kitchen and washroom become a pain,even for the maids one has to arrange for as much hot water as possible. And its very difficult to keep the children warm and fully clothed. They inevitably run outwards, catch the cold and then its upto you to spend sleepless nights giving the meds on time and comforting them.Nonetheless whether we like it or not winter will make its annual appearance, only varying its severity.

Maybe it’s the warmth or the closeness of dear ones or the me-time, the shot of endorphins is real! So three cheers to some hot drinks, a soft blanket, a favourite author, pampering the soul , tending to the heart, nurturing some close ties — whatever it is that brings hygge to your winter!

Our green sofreh spread….

It all started with a simple thought… food is the source of our sustenance. Food is the source of our health and immunity. And if we delve deeper into the subject of food history, food emerges as the driving force for rise of civilisations, entwined inseparably with different cultures and religions. And even in this modern era amid the complex web of comfort and knowledge no matter on which rung of progress we are, food is still the basic of all necessities.

Today I want to focus on how it is also the source of our emotional bonds. I have sometimes wondered where does this old as time custom of inviting people for meals on happy and sad occasions arise from. But naturally we are subconsciously thankful and friendly towards someone who fulfills one of our primitive needs. Sharing meals with friends definitely leads to closer ties — remember the school tiffin time and the hostel ‘ghar se kya Laya?’ days!

As dinner is the only meal that we eat together as a family I decided to work a bit on it. We have our dinner in the bedroom in front of the television — the big bad giant in our dinner story! Nonetheless I procured a large green cloth to spread on the bed and then put the plates. I decided to cook a healthy and delicious main course. And as I started filling this cloth-spread I was just brimming with enthusiasm. So I added a beverage — chilled in the summer months and milk-tea or coffee in winter. Then came the fruits, dessert,salad,chutney,papad and sometimes a starter or side dish even!

This has become the centre piece of our home time now and I am glad the kids also look forward to it.

When I was searching for a word for that cloth-piece I came across this beautiful untranslatable Persian word ‘Sofreh’. A Sofreh is a traditional Persian table cloth, it is in fact a connotation which is far beyond a piece of cloth spread for serving food. All family members gather around the Sofreh which is spread on the table or on the floor during meals. Special things are put on the Sofreh on special occasions and festivals. Tradition commands that elders sit at a higher level and commence eating first.

“May our Sofreh be always adequate and wholesome. May we be ever mindful of the pleasure and good fortune of a bountiful Sofreh.” Amen.

The Saas Bahu Saga…..

Its been a stressful week. And I have sourced the stress — its my efforts to appease my dear mother-in-law. I have tried everything from modulating my voice to modifying my opinions to running errands till my feet ache — but I think it’s the incompatible nature of the relation that transcends all generations and all cultures — that ends in frustration on both sides. There’s a joke that a boy brought home three girls and the mother commented that its the girl in the middle you want to marry right? The boy was surprised that how come his mother knew his heart without his telling anything. The mother replied—Well I instinctively disliked her!

I owe my kitchen skills and domestic intricacies management skills to my mother-in-law. But with time I have noticed that too much of advice sounds as a taunt to my ears. I think as girls are getting married at a more and more mature and opinionated age, this rift is only going to widen.

And there’s always the comparisons that rankles most … the comparison about how the other ‘Bahu’s do all the household chores without uttering a word! Comparison regarding whose parents give the more expensive gifts. Comparison between how ‘at your age I was so much more active and organised.’ And of course there are no comparisons with the daughter of the house, who is out of the world altogether!

Many of us must have heard it at least once in their marriage time — you are just like my daughter. But the subconscious difference of being one and being ‘like’ one is known to all. Once when we were all quite small, my sister and my cousin sister were playing Ludo. As my sister began to lose she cheated, they broke out into a squabble and my cousin told me to judge the situation. Looking at my sister, I didn’t have the heart to scold her, so I jumbled up the Ludo tokens and told them to start a fresh game. Well that’s all the fairness I have been meted out too.

I know a friend whose marriage ended in a divorce and the world knows Bahubali and his tragic doom when these Ego Wars take a dangerous turn.

But I must emphasise the good note too — there are many a times when I receive a lot of cooperation,domestic help and support, and at times even warmth and appreciation from my MIL. And as my husband rightly points out that she is your ‘Saas’ and she is a very good one when it comes to the notorious North Indian ‘Sasuma’s so don’t try to make her your best friend!

Of late, I sometimes envisage a scene — Ricky and his wife have come to meet an older me on a holiday— I am glad at the love and understanding he has found. I catch a glimpse of genuine concern and respect for me in my daughter in law’s eyes! Will such a day really come! Only time can tell…..

The monthly ritual….

It is really strange that even in this era of feminisation how little we openly speak of this integral part of all things female.

When I first started my monthly ritual I was confined to a room without windows for 3 days on a boiled diet! Then on, during my school years the first two days were reserved for total rest, coffee and Mills and Boons!

The peri-menstrual syndrome afflicts every women in varying degrees. The bloating, low mood and the exhaustion are universal. I instinctively know it is that time of my cycle when I start getting irritated at the things which I otherwise waive off with a smile like my children’s antics or the maid’s complaints. A very positive person otherwise , at that time I can see no hope at the end of the tunnel. And I am sure it happens to ladies all the time, some do and some don’t realise it. So there’s a joke in my house — whenever my sister or sister-in-law come to me with their emotional tangles I start with ‘when is your date!’

Today’s well informed generation knows very well that it is the oestrogen-progesterone interactions that cause the monthly bleeding during a female’s fertile period. But it’s not just the bleeds, this hormone duo, in the nanogram quantities can create havoc in the female body and mind.

In Assamese culture, menarche is celebrated with the girl being wedded to a banana plant — Kela Bau. In most cultures the menstruating lady is not allowed to enter a temple but they do not permit entrance in kitchen also, I think in a way it gives the lady the much needed rest at the time. Even the Goddess is revered as bleeding during Ambubachi.

The Red Dot Movement is a commendable campaign to raise awareness regarding proper disposal of menstrual waste. And the Pad Man movie is an eye opener for the Indian scenario. I was glad to see sanitary napkin dispensers and incinerators in many girls colleges and airports in Gujarat.

Well the point of all this discussion is just to break the ice. God made Men and Women equal but different. And we should respect those differences. So at home and work we all can show a little understanding and kindness “Un Dino Mein” shhhh…..finger on your lips!

The Shillong Flashback…..

For a few years now I have not been able to go back to Shillong for Durga Puja. For me its all about the Navratris and the ‘Kanjak’s now.

But never do I miss home and Shillong as I do during this festive season! My pensive mind seeks solace by wading through the past — the memories glisten….

Our wooden house in Laban, Sylhetipara. My grandfather in his blue stripped pyjamas always cleaning or mending one thing or the other. I dearly hold in my heart his affection and advice — ‘never minus, always plus.’

During the Puja at least one day our whole extended family would hang around and feast together. Even my grandma would go pandal hopping, as much as her health would allow.

I remember the clear sunny mornings and the autumn breeze that would drift into my room as soon as I opened the bedside window — hinting the subtle approach of winter! Unforeseen afternoon showers are also very common in the ‘abode of clouds.’ How can I ever forget the pitter patter of raindrops on tin roofs and how it still thrills me!

We would go till the Polo grounds accompanying the Bishorjon procession after the morning rounds of Protima Boron and Shindoor Khela to bid our farewell to the Goddess on Dashami. Oh the emptiness that crept into the air as soon as Ma Durga’s face submerged under water! We hardly spoke to each other on the way back . But the next morning my mother would cheer us up by beginning the next year’s Puja plans!

Of course I also remember the curfews — for days and even weeks at an end. And also the ethnic discriminations which still exist. But still thinking about Shillong twangs a chord of my heart — much like an unfulfilled love story — you always remember it but know it was not destined for you!