Sunday, May 25, 2008

To B or not to B

Once in a while, you sit back and look at life. Then you start thinking, hey, I’ve seen it all, nothing can surprise me anymore. And then you get hit over your head by a bloomer.

Yep, I am guilty! I was sitting in that chair for some time when yesterday I got what was coming.

It was ten years since I saw my child hood friend A. It was a chance meeting at the bus stop. A looked very different but I was able to recognize him in a moment. Meeting old friends is always a great experience; we laughed, joked and swapped some old stories. When suddenly he asked… “Hey! Did you hear what happened to B” I am somewhat of a fatalist, and god forbid, but the next question that escaped my mouth was “is he dead?!!”. I am not trying to justify myself here, but the way A asked the question, I really thought B was done for.

“No Da!” A replied, “But then, it is as almost as good as if he is….”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“He is Gay man!”

God forbid again, but the next thought that crossed my mind was “Oh, no!”
I: I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was C, D or E.
A: E is gay dumbo!
I (sputtering): eh.. ah… oh.. ooooooh.
A: Yep, Oooooh. You said something about not being surprised.
I: No, not surprised… just… ah “Swept Away”
I: So, B is gay…. Hmm..
A: That’s not the bad part…. He is Gay and he is telling the whole world he is! I mean, just think of his parents.

I was left thinking for a moment, well that takes some courage!
I: Hmm… if he is, he is. Nothing to do about it. It’s better to accept it I guess.
A: I dunno… makes me feel squeamish
We had a bit more of chit chat before parting.

I was left thinking about B by the end of it. B was not a close friend. We were in the same class till high school. B was not somebody that I would think about often. Maybe once in like every six months, I would wonder where he is, whether he is doing well etc. Turns out, that he is doing pretty well and is very successful in life.

I remember once, his mother came to school for some reason, I don’t remember her face, but I was left wondering, how she was taking this. But, somehow I feel a lot of respect to B. To be different and to accept it, takes a lot of courage. Especially in our ‘close-the-door-wipe-it-under-the-carpet’ society. Hats off to you dude!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Antony - Engagement

Should I call it a bus or a moving wild life reserve? “Udayam” had it all, mosquitoes, bed bugs and even cockroaches! On top of it, we had to wait an hour for some guy who couldn’t make it on time. Traveling to Kerala from Bangalore has never been more horrid. I was thus manically depressed by the time I reached home, bereft of sleep and covered with sores all over me.

The mana-sammatham (engagement) of Antony with Ammu was slated for 11 May 2008. Engagements are the sole responsibility of the girl’s family as per Syrian Christian traditions, so I didn’t have any heavy duty stuff to do this time around.

Antony was looking cool as ever (There seems to be some genetic disorder in my father’s side, nothing kind of “shakes” them. I’ve actually seen the family *laugh* and crack jokes during funerals!!). Amma, on the other hand was nervous and I was at the receiving end. Through much of Saturday, we crossed swords for the silliest of things.

Kasavu-Mundu and Jubba was what Amma ordered for Antony. I did not like the Dark Maroon color for the Jubba, but was proven wrong when he put it on. It suited him very well. I picked up a trouser for myself, but when paying time came, Antony “magnanimously” offered to pay. If only I had known earlier!!! Talk about lost deals.

I, with my typical hard working nature volunteered to look after the drinks department on D-Day. There was some competition from Appan who wanted the same post, but I won finally.

Sunday (I hate Sundays!!)
As usual, Amma forced me to church and that too at 6:30 in the morning! Relatives who were supposed to reach by 8:30 did not reach (as expected) so I stayed back and waited for them while the other three left for Kottayam. That was a good decision, Amma with all her pent up nervousness was sure to eat me alive, if I had gone along.

The Toyota Innovo, Appan had arranged was spacious and comfortable. I was joined by 4 talkative aunts and a silent uncle. In those 2 hours of journey, I heard more gossip about my family than in 2 decades. But, most of it was truly funny and we (me and the uncle) laughed all the way to Kottayam.

The church and my mother’s eldest sister’s house share the same wall. Thus, the house was a natural choice for all the ladies to change into their fine silk saris. As long back as I can remember, Antony was very much capable of dressing by himself. But today, the photographer deemed otherwise. I and other cousins were supposed to dress him up. Hmm… sounded nasty! But then, we thoroughly enjoyed “man handling” him. Antony, who was not too sure about his mundu tying skills, judiciously put on a belt above it, causing much amusement to bystanders.

He looked very handsome at the end of it all. Then came the second round of photos. Amma and Appan were asked to face the camera this time. Appan was game for it, but Amma was heard murmuring something about photographers in general. Next was my turn, fortunately younger brothers are not considered hot photo-able material and I was spared fast (The envious claim that it was coz the camera man wanted to keep his “standards” but then, you know better!)

We could walk to the church, but Appan decided to drive and keep our “status”. At the church, the girl’s family was waiting. I rushed outside to take some photos. It was 12 in the afternoon and sweltering hot, so I prudently decided to switch on the car a/c for Antony, lest he melt in his own sweat. What was not so prudent was that I forgot to idle the engine and when Appan found out that the a/c was running on car battery, he blew his top. I was left thinking “There goes the Menacherry-family-acting-so-nice cover”. In a moment’s notice the girls father was seen shouting at his son, seems like both families had shunned their “best behavior” formality.

The church function was short and sweet. Like always, the priest mixed up parents, families and edavakas while announcing the engagement. There was a beehive of activity immediately after the function in the church. It was the priest who blew his top this time, announcing over the mike that this was a church and that proper decorum was to be followed.

I had to get up on stage for the announcements but I excused myself by telling Appan that I had to take care of the drinks dept. Turns out that I had underestimated my family a bit. By the time I reached, my dear cousins had all but finished the last drop! I ran back so as not to miss the food. The food(especially the non-veg part) was great! I had multiple helpings of almost everything.

Now, the only thing left was to talk to my chedathi. This was the first time I was seeing her and we had never talked before. But as events turned out, we could exchange hardly two words before the photographer whisked them away in search of soft green grass and huggable trees in true Bollywood style.

Punch line by a dog tired Antony at the end of it all: “Now I know why people don’t marry more often!”

Next in the itinerary was the visit to girl’s house. It went off pretty well with no protocol gaffes. With this final diplomatic victory under the belt we set back home. Which left me thinking, “It was over so fast!” The enormity of the fact that one new member is going to join the family now hit me. But somehow, I know that this is going to work pretty well, you can just sense it.

Paapi pokunidam pathalam
-Hell is where the sinner goes – Old Malayalam proverb
The bus back did not have any bed bugs or mosquitoes, but with me inside it, something was bound to go wrong… It had engine trouble near Krishnagiri and could only go at 30-40 kmph. We reached Bangalore a good three hours later than usual.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sibling Rivalry

Either, Amma actually loved both of us equally or she was good enough not to show any special love even if she had it. Whatever it was, we did not have much sibling rivalry. Come to think of it, it had nothing to do with love; it was her mode of punishments that imbibed in us a touch of socialism. It was a no holds barred tongue lashing most of the times, but when push came to shove she never shirked to take the stick to our bottoms.

I was at the receiving end more often than Antony for the simple reason that I was more “saintly”. I don’t want to bore you with all the mischief I did, but then one instance stands out. By the way, it was NOT MY FAULT!! It was all Amma’s doing. Appa had just bought new furniture and cushions and Amma being an expert at sewing started stitching the cushion covers. Long hours were spend before the sewing machine and finally one fine morning she completed the task, put on the cushion covers and patted herself on the back for a job well done.

Now, if she had just put the cushion cover on the cushions, all would have gone well but as fate would have it, she also put me and a scissor on top of the very same villainous cushions. Friends, Indians, countrymen, I ask you, is it not the gravest offense on the part of the parent to put a child and a scissor on the same cushion? It was a tough decision, but even in that tender age I was my mother’s true son and never shirked from doing what “I had to do”. I took the scissors and very carefully (and exactly like my mother) cut the eeny weeny threads that were so annoyingly holding the two parts of the cushion cover.

I felt like a liberator and if I knew about George Bush then, I would have likened myself to him. In my mind, I was liberating the Iraqi people and granting them democracy. But my mother (read Jihadi) was as usual playing spoil sport with my grandiose plans. Antony, the greatest spy and backstabber ever, was the first to notice what I was doing. He immediately called Amma’s attention to the liberation.
I’ve never seen Amma that angry before or after that incident. Minus the frothing at the mouth she looked really really mad. And the only reason she wasn’t frothing was that she was screaming at high pitch at me.

Suddenly she calmed herself (don’t kid yourself, it was the calm before the storm!)… and asked Antony to bring a really big stick. Normally, he would have bought something two inches thicker and longer than stated requirements. But, sensing her mood, he first brought in a very small one and secured a nasty pinch(?) (My memory fails me here, I tend to remember only those atrocities committed against me) for the same. I don’t want to go to the details but as Rowling puts it in one of her Harry Porter stories “So-and-so’s buttock was never the same again”.

Hey, I am wandering from the point, my point was the there was hardly any Sibling rivalry between me and my bro coz of my mother. But boy, those golden days are over! Look what she did yesterday (which incidentally was my birthday too). I was rudely woken up in the morning by Amma. I was supposed to supervise the cleaning paripadees going on at the house as part of my brother’s engagement. Hey! What happened to good old “Happy Birthday monae”?

Then came breakfast, wherein I was lectured thoroughly about stuff that was to be done… again no “Happy Birthday”. That’s when Shyam called up and wished me. I said thank you and Amma finally picked the cue. With a beaming face she said “Happy Birthday!” I didn’t feel too happy, but I smiled anyways and said “Thank you”. After all, I was not some 10 year old kid, breathlessly waiting for my presents.

While having lunch on that very same day, I noticed a packet of expensive chocolates that Amma had put in the freezer. Normally, I would have devoured them all, but then a voice in my head held me back, “Hey! you are 26!, show some maturity and concern for other people. Don’t be so selfish”. I restrained myself with great difficulty, thinking “during dinner I can share it with Amma and Appa, it would be a good birthday treat. Not the best, but then good enough for 26”. After all she has so thoughtfully kept these chocolates for me.

Dinner came and dinner went, but no mention was made of any chocolates. Finally, I swallowed my pride and asked for them…
I: Ammae, let’s have the chocolates in the fridge, let’s make it my “birthday treat”.
Amma: What!! Are you crazy, I have kept it for a better occasion like say, Antony’s engagement.
I(Dumbstruck): what! At least did you buy a cake, on the way back from office?
Amma: No, I was too busy.
I: You mean, I don’t even get to eat a single chocolate on my birthday? And no cake either!
Amma: Don’t be so childish, if you open that packet how will I give it to our guests during Antony’s engagement?

Sibling rivalry is born! 26 my foot! I decided to be childish and devilish….. Boy! Is she in for a surprise when she opens that packet! And this time, there gonna be no stick…. After all, I am 26 and “un beatable”