Happy Birthday Daddy!

Once upon a time, there lived a boy. He lived in a large house, in a tiny village, in the small state of Goa, a Portuguese territory in India. He had 3 older sisters and an older brother, but over the years, his family got bigger as 6 younger siblings were born.

An interesting story surrounds the circumstances of how the boy got his name (shared by an older sister). The family had just lost their oldest son (just before the boy was born), possibly to typhoid, at the tender age of 16. He was the boy’s stepbrother and much-loved by all. When the day of the boy’s naming ceremony dawned, he wouldn’t stop crying. All day the house resonated with his continuous crying, until his worried parents consulted the village priest in desperation (that’s what they did in 1938 in obscure Goan villages when children had problems). The priest had a solution (Don’t they always?). He told them the crying was probably because the boy’s brother’s soul was lost and unhappy (Surprise, surprise! I thought the soul was free from all desire? Never mind, what do I know!), on account of him having died young with lots of unrequited desires, and that he was making clear his displeasure over the new arrival because he thought it would mean his own departure was forgotten, diminished somehow. Don’t shoot me, it’s what the priest said!

The solution he suggested was what we here in Goa call taking a ‘Prasad’, not to be confused with the ‘Prasad’ that is an offering to the Gods. This ‘Prasad’ is akin to seeking God’s blessings or permission to pursue a chosen path, a second opinion of sorts, from the expert! It’s an ancient, fascinating local custom, of divine communication! Bits of a leaf from a particular tree (usually the ‘Bael’ (Aegle marmelos) tree, a favorite of Lord Shiva), are applied to different parts of the Idol in the temple with water, while family elders (mostly men) sit around the Deity, and the priest, either poses the problem that has been troubling them or asks for blessings before a major decision is made (buying a house, a car, before a marriage, changing a job, travelling abroad and a million other things!). It really is quite fascinating. The priest frames the question, so that Yes or No is the only answer possible. Then in a clarion voice, he demands that God should make a leaf from the left side of the Idol fall, for a Yes, the right side for a No or vice versa. The questioning goes on as every one sits rapt and praying until a desired answer is obtained 😉 This is serious business and if a Yes is not obtained it could lead to weddings being called off, business ventures abandoned, houses left unsold…you get the picture.

Taking ‘Prasad’ is very much a cornerstone of Goan society, even today, certainly in the GSB community (a class of fish-eating Brahmins and traditionally considered the highest caste in Hindu society in Goa), that we belong to. It was taken after hubby and I decided to get hitched…you know just in case we were displeasing the Cosmos and in danger of bringing innumerable sorrows upon our families (like that would have stopped us ;-)).

So, back to the story then. On the priest’s suggestion, a ‘Prasad’ was taken, after which it became crystal clear that the dearly departed soul of the older brother was indeed forlorn and devastated by what it perceived as a happy ‘moving on’, by the bereaved family. The family was instructed to name the crying boy after this much-adored sibling and to honor annually, a young boy, who hadn’t had his ‘Thread Ceremony’ (a coming of age ritual among Brahmins), as a mark of respect to their departed son, in the hopes that this would allow him to ‘Rest in Peace’. The boy had to be someone who hadn’t been through the ritual Thread Ceremony, because the boy had died before his. And so, Dad is named Ramchandra (Lord Rama’s name), after an older brother he never knew, but apparently resembles! But such are the complexities of Hindu society, that though you may name your children after family members that have passed on to show respect, you may not then call them by that name, for fear of offending them!! (I know! Go figure!) So, there’s another name that becomes for all purposes except legal, the real name! And so, my Dad’s given name is ‘Vasant’, it’s what everyone, who’s allowed to use it, calls him! It’s what my Mom called him, when they married and lived first in Bombay and then in Japan, until she stopped when they moved back to ultra-conservative Goa, where it’s Ok to just holler ‘Aye’ or some such to get your husband’s attention but sacrilege to use his given name (it was in her generation). It’s what his friends (the few he has) still call him 🙂 and it’s what I wish for him on his Birthday – coz ‘Vasant’ means ‘Spring’ and that’s what I want for him as he turns 72…a Second Spring!

Can’t think of one person who deserves it more 🙂

Dad...Then & Now 🙂


Happy Birthday Daddy!

A Bittersweet Goan Diwali

I’m really not in the mood for writing. Crabby & exhausted – mentally & physically from 3 days of celebrations. No, definitely not in the mood for writing, which is why I need to write. Unending rituals, entertaining guests, constant eating, firecrackers, the rush to get stuff organized and then the worst part of all festivities, clearing up after…all fun in short bursts…but exhausting collectively. Also, it has finally sunk in…Diwali will never again be the same. The vacuum left by my brother’s loss will never be filled, and so an undercurrent of sadness runs through the festivities and my heart. I thought I could deal, but the tears come unexpectedly, triggered by seemingly random events, thoughts and things people say or leave unsaid. Sunday was especially difficult…it was ‘Bhaubiz’, a day that celebrates the ‘brother-sister’ bond. Lets just say it’s no longer on my favorite festival list.

Alright…enough. I didn’t intend for a festival post to be morose, and it’s not like we didn’t enjoy, so on to the happier things…Thursday night, the night before Diwali, we set out to survey the ‘Narkasurs’ on display. ‘Narkasur’ is the name of the demon that Lord Krishna killed on the eve of Diwali. He had hidden himself in a fruit that Krishna crushed with his big toe!! Talk about easy 😉 In Goa, it’s customary to make effigies of the demon and burn them early on Diwali morning (4 am), a sort of Indian Guy Fawkes. This year the unseasonal rain put a damper on the event though…the effigies are stuffed with firecrackers and those were wet and ineffective when the time came to light them. Still, we took Ishaan and did the rounds and though he enjoyed himself, he is now going through a ‘I’m scared’ phase! Anything new scares him, from a peacock feather to a demon 😉 Here are a few effigies we saw…rarely scary and often downright hilarious!!

Don't miss the Demon six-pack 😉


Deadly fangs & a serpent!
No neck Demons!
This guy just made me laugh out loud 😀

We spent Diwali morning @ my brother-in-law’s place. We ate different kinds of ‘puffed-rice‘ dishes (another Goan custom based on the assumption that Lord Krishna loved ‘puffed-rice’! Why couldn’t he have loved chicken?), before which my sister-in-law did a little puja for her hubby and daughter, my hubby and Ishaan, who of course was the star of the show. He’s older now and impatiently interested in everything that’s done, which makes him accident-prone and me temper-prone (that’s not even a word, I know!). After the puja was done, we all relaxed and Ishaan got to his favorite activity – playing cricket 🙂 That evening we worshiped the Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi. We had a small puja in Dad’s shop (he sells auto spare parts), as did the rest of the shops in the neighborhood. More rituals, more crackers, more ‘prasad’ (sweets) to eat! Later we had guests and by the time the last one left, it was after 9 and we were all pooped! Granny and Mom had been up and on their feet since 5 am, cooking and getting stuff organized for the puja. None of us was particularly hungry and hubby in fact had a bad tummy upset. We turned in early and were dead to the world as soon as head hit pillow! Saturday was relatively quiet and I took the opportunity to visit my favorite bookstore and get our next Bookclub selection – Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia, among others. It was welcome relief from all the madness at home, what with sick hubby and whiny Ishaan. In the evening I went out again to another favorite – Fab India, for some last-minute shopping.

Searching for his reflection in vermilion water, symbolizing Demon blood.
Are we done yet?

Sunday was Bhaubeez, as I mentioned earlier and hubby’s brother’s family come over. A difficult day for me. My niece did a little puja for Ishaan and they exchanged gifts. I’d got her a neat pair of silver earrings from Fab that she loved 🙂 Then we were off to Goenchin for lunch. Let’s just say Lunch didn’t turn out the way I had planned. Oh it wasn’t the food, which was wonderful as it always is in Goenchin; nor the company. No, it was Ishaan, who had a tummy upset and lets just say I barely got to sample some stone cold starters and a bite of the main course between trips to the loo. I didn’t handle the situation maturely (a polite way of saying I lost my cool and my displeasure evident), and my already frayed nerves reached dangerously near breaking point. Everyone else seemed really cool and calm, which just served to piss me off further…yeah, what can I say…I was just having a really, really bad day. I survived. We all did and back home again, were able to relax. Ishaan of course was quickly back to normal, being his charming entertaining self, making everyone laugh, once again showing off his cricket skills 🙂 The resilience of children impresses me yet again. How I wish I could bounce back like he does. Or perhaps it’s his innocence I yearn for.

The 'brother-sister' bond 🙂

Sunday evening we visited my best friend Beena’s parents and looked through her brother Vinod’s wedding album and video. The album is a book…very well done with gorgeous pictures of the couple among family and friends. We’re in it too 🙂  and it was wonderful reliving that happy time. And then Aunty brought out Beena’s wedding pictures from 18 years ago and we relived a fresh set of memories, from a time when we were all so much younger, innocent and ready to take on the world, unaware and as yet untouched by major tragedy. Good times, happy times 🙂

And so ended another Diwali. Bittersweet and rather forlorn for me on a personal level. But Ishaan had fun, especially with the crackers and for that I am thankful. Next year, I’m thinking of an out-of-town Diwali…might help with the bitters…we’ll see.

Until then…Stay Happy People!

p.s. There was no getting away from President Obama this Diwali! Local media went overboard with their coverage of his visit! Surprisingly International media didn’t seem to think the visit too important…other than a mention here and there, I rarely caught a glimpse on CNN or BBC!! Wonder why?!

p.p.s. This post has taken me two days to write…sigh. Ishaan is becoming increasingly clingy and it’s tough to get even a few minutes of uninterrupted time 😦 Oh Pushpa…where art thou?

Coconuts, Birthdays and a Lizard.

I haven’t been able to write as much I have wanted to this week. It’s tough to find uninterrupted time now. Although I do get the 4 hours every morning that Ishaan is away at school, there are always a million other things that need doing…taking a shower, drinking my morning cuppa, (reheated innumerable times in the microwave until it’s brown sludge instead of coffee), making phone calls, grabbing breakfast and these days, editing the Bulletin for a Pediatric Neonatology Conference coming up on the 30th and 31st October. That last is rather a pain & a major time-sapper and likely to remain so until the Bulletin is finally ready to print. This is my second Bulletin and although I’ve cribbed about the work no end to my dear friend Sushma (who’s responsible for getting me involved in the first place), I’m actually quite content to be doing it 😛 For one thing, it gives me a sense of purpose even if in short bursts of time! And these days, I feel like I could do with a little purpose…or maybe the right word would be ‘structure’…you know what I mean, a framework within which to work, write, think and live. This is an important discovery about myself…even though I’m primarily a ‘go with the flow’ kinda gal, sometimes those boundaries (deadlines if you will), help bring me focus, bring me back to what I need to be doing rather than going with the flow and landing up in Timbuctoo (have no clue whether this is the right spelling and am too lazy to Google it!) for example!! I do that a lot…as all us ‘flowy’ people are wont to do.

See, have gone way off point again…I meant to stick to the point this time but old habits…

Alright then…starting this Sunday, I’ve decided to write every Sunday about the week that was and call it Sunday Stories, although that’s a misnomer (but it sounds cooler than the other titles I thought of which I won’t trouble you with). It’s my way of creating a ‘focus framework’. I don’t know if it will work for any length of time (by which I mean, I’m not sure there’ll even be a second post in this category!), ‘coz I’m notorious for slacking off and drifting along to the next interesting thing or idea that crops up. But I mean to try and so here’s my first post.

Monday was Ishaan’s first day back to school after our road-trip to Mumbai. The crying was back, but I felt less sorry for him than happy for me, ‘coz I needed time away and time alone after the intensive week and weekend, when we were together 24/7! Still, he seemed to do well once in school so that offered some comfort. Wednesday was when my Dad gave us all and himself a massive scare. It was also the day Ishaan’s School had arranged for a ferry-boat ride. Unfortunately I have no idea how that went ‘coz Ishaan is too small to tell me. I’m really longing for him to start speaking fluently now…there’s so much I want to ask him, so much I want to talk to him about 🙂 Thursday & Friday passed pretty much in fugue. We were all shaken by Dad’s near escape and went about our daily routine rather zombie-like. Dad’s visit to the doctor on Thursday however was heartening. No major surprises there, although his neurologist did suggest a visit to his psychiatrist. I think that’s wise…it will be healthy for him to speak to a professional who can help.


My idea of a great Sunday! Lazy Sunday Morning by Anna Lohse.


And so to the weekend…busy by my standards…almost too busy…I like to have a long Sunday siesta (the Goan in me, rearing its ugly head ;-)) and couldn’t 😦 The morning was exciting…my uncle came over with workers to harvest our coconuts. We have 8 full-grown coconut palms in our garden and they must be harvested about 3-4 times a year or else we’re in real danger of gruesome injury & ‘death-by-coconut’, ‘coz they start falling off the trees in a most unexpectedly random fashion! This is easier said than done however ‘coz the specialists, the men that shimmy up the trees like monkeys to pluck them (and then fling them several feet down to earth with utter disregard for what lies beneath), are now a rare and disappearing breed. In Kerala apparently (another coconut-rich state), they’ve started training monkeys to do the job. Goa being what it is, they’ll talk about training endlessly and 50 years later we’ll probably still be relying on the human kind while ceaselessly complaining about how tough it has become to find them! That’s Goa for you 😛

Well be that as it may, my uncle who owns farmland can still his hands on this rare breed with relative ease and helps us out. It’s a very interesting sight. The climber (known as a ‘padeli’ in local lingo), is usually a wiry sort of guy, often smelling of alcohol at 9 am 😛 He uses his hands and a twist of rope and shimmies up the palm just like a monkey would do, carrying a sharp sickle either tucked in his shorts or sometimes between his teeth! Up, up he goes, until he’s up among the coconuts and we lose sight of him. Then a shower of coconut missiles begins, and every time one hits the ground, it’s like a pistol-shot!! They’re like cannon-balls – deadly dangerous, breakers of glass and heads! He also pulls off dead leaves and lets them fall to earth with a loud ‘swoooosh’. It’s an engaging performance 🙂 Once he’s done with one tree, down he comes and tackles the next. All this for about Rs.25/tree (that’s just 50 cents!!). It’s a risky business…death is a constant threat, from falls and occasionally from alcohol! Methinks, 50 cents is a truly piddly amount for a life-threatening profession like this one!! For my part – every time he climbs up and down the tree, I say a little prayer for his safety. Our trees are only about 20-30 feet high, but the traditional variety in Goa are double that height and more! All in all made for an interesting way to spend a Saturday morning for Ishaan and I 🙂

Unfortunately the video was taken with the camera in vertical position and try as I might, I can’t find software to rotate it. So I’m sorry about the horizontal orientation and any cricks you may develop in your neck! Trust me, it’s pretty impressive when upright! Oh and ignore my Granny’s rather sinister voice at the end 😛

Have included a great one from youtube so you know what I’m talking about!

In the evening we attended a cousin’s 21st birthday. It’s been a long while since I attended one of those. It was fun for a while, but I’d forgotten how exhausting parties like this can get, especially with a hyperactive 2-year-old in tow! Ishaan had a blast…he played ‘balloon-football’ and ‘balloon-cricket’ with the other kids, downed unhealthy quantities of coke and had undisclosed sips of beer, ate little cheese biscuits by the dozen (do not judge me too harshly dear friends, I was tired to supervise his food choices too closely! After all a little soda & cheese never hurt anybody!),  danced to the deafening, and I mean deafening, conversation-thwarting music, and in general ran amok!! He made friends with a darling little girl who was very obviously born to dance! She twirled and flounced her satin frills in the most delectable manner 🙂 By the time the cake was cut at 10 pm…and the kids had finished rolling in the confetti, we were all ready to call it a day. A quick dinner and we were back home and in bed by 11.15 pm with Ishaan falling fast asleep in the car, and me trying hard not to, on the way.

And so to Sunday, and a triumvirate of events…Dussehra, a favorite aunt’s birthday and Sushma’s birthday too! A happy, auspicious day 🙂 Dussehra symbolizes the victory of good over evil for millions of Hindus. Some celebrate it as the victory of Rama over the demon-king Ravana, while for others it is the victory of the Mother-Goddess Durga over the buffalo-demon Mahishasura. A huge chunk of Hindus, worship the Goddess Durga in their homes for ‘Navratri‘ – nine nights – of fasting, feasting, dancing and rituals that culminate in joyous celebrations and immersion of the Goddess, on ‘Vijayadashmi’ or ‘Dussehra’ (vijay = victory, dashmi = tenth day). For Hindus, this is one of the most auspicious days in the calendar and there’s a scramble to buy new homes, new cars, new jewelery (an Indian festival without the customary gold-buying is unthinkable!), begin new ventures and celebrate old ones, and in general make a fresh start.


The Goddess Durga in Slayer mode!


We had lunch with Sushma at her favorite restaurant, Delhi Darbar in Panjim. She’s well-known there and the owner joined us, wished her, took a picture and gave her a gift! It was very amusing! Ishaan made friends, again with an adorable little girl (Do I see a trend here?), who walked straight up to him and gave a hug much to his surprise! He’s begun now to show embarrassment by blushing and staring sheepishly at the floor, in a manner that makes me laugh and want to smother him in kisses, all at the same time. I often do both 🙂 They ran around the crowded restaurant, making a nuisance of themselves & causing much embarrassment to me (hubby and the rest were supremely unaffected, saying, ‘He’s just a kid. let him be.’), but to the credit of the diners there, were pampered by one and all. Ishaan fell asleep once again in the car on the way back and the rest of the evening was spent in relatively quiet at home…except for the lizard we tried to murder. It happened like this. I slid open the wardrobe door and suddenly there it was…a house lizard with beady black eyes, dashing for cover in………..uuuuuuuuuuuugh in my wardrobe!!!! I screamed and yelled for hubby to get rid of it while removing myself to another room and barricading it! Half a can of pesticide spray later, it wobbled drunkenly down the staircase, stopping briefly halfway to let go its thrashing bodiless tail…..YUCK!!!! Then it continued its weird somersault down the staircase and disappeared somewhere I couldn’t see. Good riddance – I have no patience nor sympathy for lizards and their ilk. I don’t know if it’s dead…don’t think so. Probably skulking somewhere growing a new tail. Uuugh!

So that’s my week in summary…It’s already Monday as I post this, but that can’t be helped…got to go with the flow…Have a good week ahead and stay away from coconuts and lizards!

The Elephant God Cometh!

By the time I got around to writing this post, he’s actually come and gone (figuratively speaking), at least from our home, but elsewhere he stays and his presence continues to hallow the atmosphere 🙂

For those who may not be aware, once a year, Hindus celebrate the birthday of Ganesha, the Elephant God (and my absolute favorite as far as God’s go!), with much pomp and devotion. Here in Goa, we call it ‘Chavath’ in Konkani (the local lingo) or ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ in Marathi. What I love about this time and this festival, is that it is not a somber time of introspection and contemplation (although there’s nothing wrong with either), but a happy time…a time of celebration and joy, of music and crackers and of sweets in obscene amounts!! It’s also a time for family…for gatherings, catching up, setting aside petty quarrels and much enjoyment 🙂

@ Hubby's house in Priol, Goa.

The festival is a veritable feast for the senses – the many faces of the God, each revered and beautiful (here in Goa, every family has a traditional Idol design that has come down through the generations and they stick with it); the musky fragrance of burning incense mingles with the sweet fragrance of flowers; garlands in every color, bright red hibiscus (Ganesha’s favorite), deep orange and bright yellow marigolds, and blue orchids, adorn regal Idols glittering with ornaments, often of real gold and silver; the sound of music and voices raised in prayer blends with the cacophony of children playing, people laughing and bursting crackers; the place of worship is richly decorated with colorful streamers, flowers, lights, ‘rangoli’ art, and over the Idol from the ceiling hangs the ‘matoli’, a wooden frame from which hang fruits and vegetables, an offering to the Lord; from the kitchens…comes the smokiness of wood fires burning, fragrant odors and the sizzle of foods cooking, the voices of women bantering and the soft swish of their silk sarees, the metal clang of copper vessels, as the food within is vigorously stirred and made worthy for divine consumption. Each home is alive with excitement, busy with preparations and hallowed with devotion. It is an auspicious time, a happy time, a time for quiet reverence but also for noisy celebration…a time to welcome at last, ‘The Bringer of Joy, Destroyer of Woe & Remover of Obstacles’, The Elephant God, Ganesha into our hearts and homes!

@ Dad's ancestral home, Amona, Goa.

I have wonderful memories from childhood, of our family moving to our ancestral home for the duration and us children playing incessantly, gorging on sweets and lighting crackers! We enjoyed as only children can enjoy, free from all care and worry. Must confess however, am not much of a cracker person now (hate the ones that make deafening bangs that are for some reason attractive to the rest of the world), except for sparklers! This year was no different! It was special, cause this is Ishaan’s first festival and ours too in a long time in Goa. We had three homes to visit, hubby’s, Dad’s and Grandma’s. In Goa, most families (although not all), celebrate the occasion by bringing home an Idol of the God and worshiping it, usually for 1 and a 1/2 day, but some for 5 and others for 10 days. This year, all our family was celebrating for 1 and a 1/2 days which meant we had a hectic schedule trying to visit every house while seeing to our own! But that’s part of the fun of festivals, at least while they last; the aches, pains and festival-fatigue set in later 😉

@ Grandma's childhood home in Khorlim, Goa.

We had a wonderful time with Ishaan. He discovered a love for firecrackers! He’s fascinated by their colors and excited by their motion 🙂 He’s not into loud bangs yet thank goodness, although how long that will last is difficult to say. It’s a male thing 😛 He’s not into sweets either (like me) but he is definitely into Ganesha (again like me!) 🙂 He had a field day pointing out pictures of him to us in the newspapers, on hoardings and on TV 🙂 Although for the most part, he ignored the Idols he visited, he dutifully joined his tiny hands in prayer when asked and he enjoyed showering the God with puffed rice once the immersion process began! As for the actual immersion – he thought the God was off for a bath! We traveled everywhere with his cricket bat and ball, indeed it would be impossible not to. His obsession increases with every passing day!

The 'Matoli' above the Idol

This time as an added treat, the family gathered at a private estate afterward, and had a wonderful ‘Day After’ party! It was relaxing, fun and essential 🙂 For many (me included!), it was a relief to finally be able to eat chicken and fish again after a break of…only 2 days 😉 (We are all vegetarian for the duration of the festival, out of necessity I might add, not choice!) The way we fell on the Chicken Cafreal (excellent!), you’d think it was two lifetimes not days! But this is Goa, and 2 days without fish are as two lifetimes to every self-respecting Goan 😛 Indeed, my uncles (much to the dismay of my bone-tired aunts), always came home with a fresh catch, from the river where they immersed the Idol! The fish was then prepared and dinner eaten with much satisfaction usually after midnight. Nothing’s changed! I was reminded of Bali and how the locals offer fried chicken to the God! Perhaps Goans should think of offering fish, the way we all go on about having to turn veg for a day and a half 😛

All too soon, the festivities are done, for us at least, and life goes back to routine. But memories remain, of pleasant, happy times that linger, long after family has dispersed and the feasting ends. My only regret is that I couldn’t quite take all the pictures I wanted to, but it’s hard to take pictures when you are busy enjoying yourself and looking after an exuberant two-year old 🙂

Saying Goodbye

And so…looking forward to next year, another festival, more happy memories…

God Bless!

Wedding Tales:Leftovers!

This is the last post in the wedding series. 5 posts for the 5 days I was away seems like a fair trade! Just had a few things I wanted to share, leftover from posts 1 through 4.

My voyage of discovery:

1. I can survive away from Ishaan (barely) for 5 whole days. He can survive away from me, quite happily however, for the same amount of time 🙂

2. Reruns of ‘Charmed‘, a series I enjoyed, are showing on AXN @ 6 pm 🙂 A fact I discovered in Hotel Elite in Tiruvalla!

3. Not every wedding is about garish bling, overdressing and an overt display of wealth! Some can still be tasteful and straight from the heart 🙂

4. There’s nothing quite like steaming hot mutton biryani 🙂

5. The jury is still out for train travel in India. For me travelling First Class is not a luxury, it’s a question of survival!

6. If a destination is well-connected by air, fly! When it’s not, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

7. When buying sarees, less is more 🙂 Also applicable when buying, eating, thinking food 😉

8. Train travel is much pleasanter when one is lucky in travel companions and the views gorgeous 🙂 I guess that applies to all travel in general!

9. I discovered a side of myself that was not paranoid about sharing personal details with fellow travelers and actually enjoyed the interaction with people I would never have met otherwise 🙂

10. When in need – Ms. Blyton never fails me 🙂

There’s a moment from the wedding I want to share. I had just finished greeting Auntie outside the church while waiting for the bride and groom to arrive, when I heard an urgent, excited voice calling out my name, ‘Harsha? Is that you, Harsha?” and as I turned, I found myself enveloped in a bear hug! It was Reena’s (an old school friend) Mom and she was thrilled to see me and I was happily surprised to see her after all these years, nearly 2 decades! She cupped my face and said the best thing anyone can ever say to a woman a certain age – “You are looking so young dear!”, and she obviously meant it 🙂 She looked amazing herself and we went over to meet Uncle who didn’t look a day older than when I saw him last! He then went on to call his daughter, my friend Reena and arrange an impromptu phone conversation! What a wonderful thing to do! Moments like these are what Life is all about 🙂

And that’s it for the trip and the wedding. I’ve enjoyed reliving my memories through the blog and I hope you guys have enjoyed reading as much as I the writing 🙂

Now…back to routine…or maybe not…Ishaan starts play-school on Wednesday…should be fun…for us both 😉

Wedding Tales: The Wedding!

And so here we are on the morning of 26th August 2010, D-day for Vinod & Liza…and of course, it’s raining…not just a light shower in passing, no, this is ‘have to get the umbrella out while cursing the weather’ kind of rain! Uh huh! ‘Coz even the Heavens cannot contain their happiness! Well be that as it may, makes me kind of anxious about the photography session scheduled for the morning (which to all of you that are wondering, I found out later, went off without any major glitches).

We have more of those excellent Idlis for breakfast and are soon all decked up (Well I am! sort of ;-)), and ready to leave. Luckily an auto is close at hand and the hotel security guard, escorts me to it, sheltered under his large umbrella 🙂 The Church is just 10 minutes away and we arrive early, before the bridal party.

We mill around, making small talk with a few people we met yesterday at the house. I love that there is no garish display of gold by the women, in this gold-loving state! They are soberly dressed and indeed in Goa, nobody would ever guess they were gathered for a wedding 😉 Many of the men are in traditional mundus. I’m looking forward to the ceremony. I have wonderful memories from Beena’s marriage, of a short and sweet, musical ceremony, and I’ve carried those haunting notes with me ever since!

The rain eases and the crowd begins to build up as Uncle and Aunty arrive. Vinod follows accompanied by his 3 sisters and closely followed by his bride 🙂 I catch a glimpse of her as she alights from the car and I like what I see 🙂 She is shyly smiling and gorgeous…her cream bridal saree shimmering and the diamonds she wears catching the light that’s beginning to filter through the clouds!  The bridal bouquet adds just the right touch of color 🙂

We enter the church and find seats in the family area. It’s quite large and in the pews we find a little booklet that describes the ceremony. Unfortunately it’s in Malyalam! Still, I slip mine into my purse as a souvenir. Almost immediately the music begins and the wedding party begins their slow march down the aisle. The page boys lead the way, followed by Vinod with Uncle and Aunty and the sisters follow with their hubbies. I watch Beena walk down the aisle with Biju and my eyes fill up…it’s a moment…you know what I mean 🙂 Blessy and Santosh follow, then Bindu & Johnson with baby Sarah fast asleep in his arms 🙂 They all look radiant and happy…all is as it should be 🙂

Then it’s Liza’s turn…and I can’t take my eyes off her as walks down the aisle on the arm of her proud father. Instinctively I know, she’s the right match for Vinod and that they will be happy 🙂 Maybe it’s weddings in general or this one in particular, I’m enjoying watching the world through my favorite rose-colored glasses! She joins Vinod at the altar and the ceremony begins. It’s in Malyalam, but that doesn’t worry me in the least! There are 16 priests!! The officiating priest wears a black cassock, another wears red and the rest are in white. The choir begins a hymn and the church is filled with the sound of soulful music. I am mesmerized…by the music, by the solemn incantations of the priests, by the evident faith of the congregation and the obvious spirituality of the moment. It is as I imagined…only better, a thousand times better 🙂

There are some similarities between a Hindu wedding and a Syrian catholic one. They have a ‘thaali’, similar to our ‘mangalsutra’, literally translated as ‘auspicious thread’, that women wear as a symbol of their married status. Like the western ‘wedding bands’. The groom also gives his bride a saree, which she changes into after the marriage has been solemnized. Beena does the honors for Vinod, draping the stunning, red & gold kanjeevaram gently on Liza head. All too soon (or so it seems to me, ‘coz I’m used to the endless litany of rituals that constitute a Hindu marriage :P), Vinod & Liza are man and wife and a photo-frenzy ensues! The reception and lunch are at another venue, and we find a ride with Biju’s brother 🙂

The venue, St. Johns Metropolitan Church is a stunning piece of architecture, constructed by British architect Laurie Baker, in his hallmark eco-friendly style using red bricks and tiles. The lunch is a sit down affair and the mutton biryani is steaming-hot and mouth-watering! I am in foodie heaven 🙂 On the stage facing us, the newly weds sip coconut water from a single coconut (droll), cut a cake, light a diya (I love that!) and settle on their red velvet thrones 😉 They eat too, which is a total departure from Hindu weddings, where the guests first stand in long queues to wish the couple and then stand in even longer queues at the buffets! The couple and close family, almost never eats before 3 pm! Here, there’s wishing but somehow no long lines although there are hundreds of guests. The function draws to a happy close by 2.30 pm, by which time, we’ve mingled, eaten, wished the couple, had our pictures taken and are ready but loathe to leave. We have a train to catch at 4.45 the same evening.

I have another moment on stage. We wish the couple and I ask Vinod, if he’s still nervous. He’s so obviously relaxed, with Liza by his side, his arm over her shoulder holding her close, leaning gently into each other that his answer is a forgone conclusion 🙂 “Not any more, Harsha”, he says, drawing his bride closer, ‘Not anymore”! That’s my boy 🙂 Liza’s smiling and saying, “Hey! I was nervous too, you know!” I leave them like that…wrapped up in each other, standing on the threshold of a vibrant, happy journey together and my heart is bursting with joy…coz what can possibly be better than spending a lifetime full of love, family and the company of loving friends!

Here’s to you, Vinod & Liza…May you find Happiness wherever you go 🙂

And here’s to my favorite family…I Love you all! You ROCK!!!!

And to Beena…my friend, kindred spirit, my sister…I have only this to say…Love You Hamesha 🙂 You’re the Best!

Here are a few pictures from the wedding…

Wedding Tales: The Day Before…

You’re going to have to bear with me…the wedding proper is still a post away !

Where were we? At Hotel Elite waiting for hot water…which arrives half an hour later. Showered, refreshed and unpacked…we head out to explore the shops around. The Hotel is on a main street, within walking distance from the train station, from the Church where the nuptials will be held and from a shopping mall called Celestium, which is where we end up…unsurprisingly 😛 I buy a few ‘Onam’ sarees for Mom, Granny and myself and one fabulous ‘Kanjeevaram’ to wear to my cousin’s wedding later in the year 🙂 We also get a tiny silk ‘mundu’ (the traditional dress worn by men in Kerala) for Ishaan! This is the first serious bit of shopping I’ve done in a long time and it gives me a welcome high 🙂

Then we head to a restaurant, strangely called ‘Phosphorus’, and settle down to get some dinner. And this is where I meet Vinod (the groom) for the first time in 18 years with his 3 brothers in law, who are busy trying to get his outfit sorted, with the wedding just a day away! Seeing Vinod after all these years, clean takes my breath away! I remember him as a lanky, scrawny boy, my best friend’s little brother, full of mischief, with an impish grin; someone we tolerated and often labored to avoid so we could talk in peace 😛 (Sorry Vinod! We were teenagers! You understand ;-))

Vinod today, is a tall, young man, no longer scrawny, indeed rather well-built and prosperous-looking ;-). He wears glasses that add to the gentleman demeanor and gravitas, just like his Dad. That’s the thing…he’s turned into a spitting image of his Dad, which I tell him, is a huge compliment 🙂 He still has the impish smile though, perhaps somewhat tempered at the moment, by the fact that this is his last day on the planet as a single man 😛 He’s understandably a little nervous, and I try and assure him that everything’s going to turn out fine. He’s working in the US now and complains about spending just 2 days in the last 2 years in Goa, a place he loves dearly…certainly more than I do!

They leave in a bit to get on with their tasks and I wait with bated breath for Beena to arrive. She does and it’s an emotional reunion, followed in the usual manner, by non-stop chatter, while the hubbies look on bemused 🙂 I tell her I shopped for sarees and she chides me for using my two hours in Thiruvalla so efficiently without her expert guidance 😉 We exchange notes about the kids and I’m over the moon to learn that Kevin has done exceedingly well in his O levels 🙂 That’s my boy! Too soon, they have to leave…a million things still to be done and as we say goodnight, I promise to help as much as I can in the morning.

GJ Villa...Family Home

The next morning after a breakfast of the most luscious Idlis on the planet, we walk to GJ Villa, the family’s ancestral home and again I’m in for a surprise! The whole place has been renovated…the driveway now extends to the house with a porch, where a white Mercedes awaits adornment. It’s the wedding car! Inside, all is new and shiny, smooth marble floors and ornamental wooden pillars. But the core of the house remains solidly unchanged…it’s Aunty’s exuberant welcome and bear-hug that envelops me as soon as I enter and Uncle’s quieter yet equally heart-felt handshake and smile! I meet the remaining members of the family and the children, including the youngest addition – cherubic baby Sara with her placid nature and darling smile, am shown the house, am duly fed (that’s Aunty!) and finally whisked away upstairs where Beena and I dig in our heels and iron their stunning, richly hued, ‘Kanjeevarams’, debating minuscule creases and ironing techniques! Later she blows balloons, while Kevin, Blessy and I, tie them up in bunches that will decorate the porch. All the while, there’s non-stop chatter and an easy flow of conversation. I manage a tête-à-tête with Kevin which as always stimulates and rejuvenates me 🙂 We discuss anything and everything, which is how it’s always been with him and me, (ever since he was a little boy), from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which he is reading and enjoying at the moment) to his plans for the future.

The house that love built 🙂

Late afternoon, I take a break and promise to return for dinner, when out-of-town guests and family members are expected to arrive. And so I spend another fabulous evening in the company of a family that has loved me since I was a school girl, laughing, drinking wine on the tap (a contribution from an uncle who’s come all the way from New Zealand!) and gorging on all manner of goodies, especially the Kerala ‘halwa’ a sweetmeat that both hubby and I find hard to resist.

We call it a day, rather early. Tomorrow’s the wedding and they have an early, 6 am start. Everyone needs to be dressed by 9 am, when the photographer will arrive to take pictures. The wedding ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11 am and we’re all hoping the rain will stay away for once! Hubby & I have decided to go straight to the venue, so we can catch an extra forty-winks 😛

As we leave, the fairy lights in the driveway twinkle gently, and speak to me of happier times still to come, when the new bride comes home and takes her place in this loving family, where I too make my second home 🙂

And tomorrow…tomorrow is the Wedding!!!