Come on over. Come on. Sit down. Yes, you can use that chair. What’s there? Papers? Put them on my bed and use it. Feels good to be back with you guys. Help yourself to the juice and katchoris. Yup, got them on this trip.
Voice1: So how was it?
Voice2: Did you meet all your friends?
Sorta yes, sorta no. The ones I wanted to meet, I didn’t, and the…
V1: But you at least called her?
(I smile) I had others whom I wanted to meet as well.
V2: yeah, yeah. But did you call her?
Nope. No point in doing so…
V1: You are mad… seriously.
V2: I think he did the right thing. She is married and …
V1: So what?
Guys, please. There are other things in Bombay. I bought loads of books. My bag of 6-7 years started tearing under the weight. I might not take her around anymore. I need to find a good seamster to take care of her and…
V1: You mean your bag?
V2: Why anthropomorphise everything, E? It really gets painful at times…
(I smile again. Very few pleasures match smiling amongst friends)
V2: So what else did you do? But wasn’t she supposed to come to the wedding… with her husband?
V2: Fine, sorry.
Naah, nothing to be sorry about. I really have nothing to say on that matter…
V1: Sing us a song, E. Been a long time…
V2: No, no. Tell me what happened first. Did you have…
V1: Later. A song, E. I really don’t like your voice, but it sounds right when you sing… 🙂
Hmmm. Which song?
V2: How was the wedding? Did you spend some good time with her?
Hmmm. I did… Which song? Ok.. (clear my throat) ummm…. UMmmm… ummMMM
V1: Forget the shruti. Sing.
(I smile. Helps me to get into the mood of the song)
Translation: (translations adhere to the original inasmuch as providing a similar effect)
Do take my gold, and my fame, if you must
You can have my youth if you so do will
But do give me back my childhood showers
My little paper boat, the fresh rain’s thrill
It hadn’t rained when I went there. The first thing I asked the coolie was “Paaus padla, kaa?” and he shook his head. I watched Dadar station glow with a tarnished light and I knew not the reason for the dullness: a changing city or my eyes longing to see a city I left behind. It was still as alive as I had left it, for it wouldn’t change no matter how many people came and went…
I reached home and nearly hugged my friend’s parents (let’s call him S). I really love them and they love me with their entire family and relations! I checked on his grandmother who was always ready to ask me about what I will eat as soon as she had dispensed the usual questions about my well being and my mother’s and my sister’s (and now her kid).
“Dosha lega kya?” (Will you have Dosa?), her Mallu accent still strong as the white of her hair and her resolve to take care of her daughter and her grand-daughter…
“Abhi nahin, ammamma.” (Not now, granma).
Made a few calls and let people know I am in the city. Everyone invited me for some meal or the other! And then they blame me for growing fat. “Saala, mota ho gaya.” (Dude, you’ve grown fat).
I was invited to my dear friend’s haldi and mehndi. I had to remind her that I was a guy and guys aren’t usually invited to haldi and mehndi.
“Arey baba, sab chalta hai. Tere saat koi problem nahin. Mom ne khud kaha.” (Oh dear! everything is acceptable. No issues with you. Mom specifically said so herself.)
I wasn’t sure whether to feel happy at being so close to her or feel embarrased for not being treated like other guys were! Most of Thursday was spent in travelling to Charni Road and spending time with her and reminding her that she was the one who hurried it up and we could have got married had she waited!!! 🙂 Her aunts joined in on teasing us!! It was fun and I was fed katchori, gulab jamun and some other sweets.
“Ye unke ghar se aaya hai.” (This sweet is from the boy’s family)
I was teasing and playing a prank on my friend S’s fiancee. Now that, I will tell you later.
V2: No, no. Tell us now.
V1: Ok, continue…
I spent most of the first day in reliving Bombay as I knew it once. I sang Country Roads while passing Elphinston station and stopped to look while crossing Bombay Central.
V2: Kaalee phukat senti (unnecessarily sentimental)
No boss, you wouldn’t understand it… Its Bombay.
She, who, lived here as old as the road
She, whom we children, called granny
She, who wrapped fairies in sweet songs
She, whose wrinkles of years so many
And who, try as much, could forget them
Her fresh long tales filling nights so tiny
I spent most of my day on Friday sleeping. I had received an interesting call in the morning and was happy. I slept through most of Friday trying to rid myself of the jejuneness that days of walking in the heat and running around had filled me. I was also preparing myself for the long night.
Uncle had a lot of stories to tell me before I left for ammamma’s place. She had insisted that I have breakfast at her place and…
V1: Aapam and stew? 😮
(I smile for the taste hasn’t yet left the roof of my mouth) Hmmm. Fresh hot aapam and stew. She kept making it and dropping it on my plate. At a point I had to run away from fear that my stomach would burst. It was wonderful. Amazing that something so simple can be so delicious and lasting.
V2: Lucky bum. I am coming with you next time.
Any day. Ammamma likes to feed as many mouths watering at her dining table as can be seated there. This time, like every time, was better than before…
V1: Enough. Don’t make it worse for us.
(I smile) Then we were going over the recent incidents in the family and how she was settling to her grand-daughter marrying a non-Mallu. I didn’t take the kid’s side because she had already gotten things her way so I listened to what ammamma (which basically means mother’s mother) had to say.
“Dekho na. Pehla ladki shaadi kartha humare ghar mein aur… dekho na.” (The first girl to get married in our family of this generation and look at what she is doing.)
“Ammamma, choda na. Aaj kal to…” (Granny, forget about it. Nowadays…)
“Choda naa. Ab kyaa kar sakta hai? Ab yeh bhi (and she pointed to her other grand-daughter) aise karegi to kya bolega?” (Forgot about it. What can I do? What can I do if this girl too does something similar?)
I simply went over and sat at her feet. What she couldn’t say, she combed into my hair with trembling fingers… At least some of it left her. She soon was back to her cheerful self.
“Haircut mangta hai tereko. Par aise bhi achcha dikta hai.” (You need a haircut. Still it looks good on you)
I returned to my friends place and had lunch with uncle and slept. I woke up and had a quick shower. My friend who was getting married called me and demanded that I come over. I got into my north-Indian formals and remembered to carry the gift I had picked for her. It was basically a large glass bowl and a few packets of pot pourri (dried flowers and leaves which give off a sweet fragrance). I needed a haircut…
To walk out in the scorching heat
To larks and those jays and chasing butterflies
We’d marry our dolls and fight over it
High in our swings jumping far from watchful eyes
And those little trinklets of copper and bark
Those deep scarlet marks of broken bangles and cries
The wedding was fun. I was running all over the place and then settled in with the bride helping her arrange her hair and helping her sister get her bangles in the right order. It was fun. The 3 of us were the only ones in the chamber and had a wonderful time…
V2: Tereko andar kaise choda? (How did they let you in, there?)
I dunno. They just let me. Her mom and aunts told me where she was and I walked over. It was so sweet. One of her aunt, who seemed to be very fond of me, comes over later and says “Most gifts are coming from his side. You go now and give the gift so that things look balanaced.” I was so touched. Without a formal word I was part of the “girl’s side” and I was so happy that I jogged all the way to the stage where the couple was receiving guests. She introduced me to him:
“This is ——. I told you about him, right. Remember?”
“Of course. Nice meeting you. Whenever she spoke about her gang you always seemed to be in it. Glad to meet you finally.”
I was glad to meet him too. Smart guy. Fits her well. I smiled and shook hands and clicked a few pictures together with them. I later realised that I was standing at a foot’s distance from the couple…
The rest of the gang came in with their husbands and “would-be”. It was great fun. We joked nearly about everything.
“Hey, —–. Aise saal ko ek bar at least aaya kar. Aise hans ke kaafi time ho gaya.” (Hey, –(me)–. Do come to Bombay at least once a year. Been a while since we laughed like this.)
Felt nice to be considered thus, esp. without trying to. I watched all of them in their marriage. All of them glowing or tired. And then I turned to look at her on the stage. She was radiant. A fine damsel in blood red and colour turning to a softening pink on her cheeks. She was happy. I was happy.
It was so funny watching all my friends married. One of them wasn’t so I told her “You and I are the only ones left. Let’s get married.” She said “Cool, my parents have also come. Why don’t we go now and talk to them.” I ran a mile away from there!
My friend’s fiancee, D was also at the wedding and I was given the responsibility of taking her back home. She was looking pretty as ever.
Few more pictures… few more memories… greater distance creeping in…
It was nice. Didn’t feel like eating much and then I picked up D and went back home. Dropped her at her place and walked into the house at 00:45 hrs.
V2: What? You stayed up that long?
Fine fine. Laugh away…
To drag our feet over smooth high dunes
A castle here, a hillock there
Our innocence filling every picture and tune
Our life of toys and dreams
In a world of joy, relations none did prune
Wasn’t it beautiful, that life of ours?
V1: I love the way you end it, that song, in a hushed whisper… really nice.
(I smile) That song is pretty much my song too…
V2: Our song
Yes, our song…