Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Village Trip

Recently I attended my cousins wedding in a small town in Maharashtra. I rarely get to meet my cousins as most of them live in remote towns in Maharashtra. My daughter refused to come for the wedding stating a standard teenage syndrome- Boredom!!!.
The wedding was a far cry from the sophisticated planned( almost perfectly choreographed)events that we see in cities. The rituals are more elaborate, chaotic, loud speakers are too loud, food is simple( not fancy), sarees are shockingly bright( bling) and band baaja has local flavour. This one had an ochestra playing with one charlie singing away 70's songs. Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed this wedding because; I got to see a part of my folks who I have never met in last 17 years, there was a lot of warmth extended by village folks. Most people are gracious hosts and will embarass you by their 'adara thithya'( hospitality). I say embarassed, because we( city people) can never match their hospitality, not in warmth and certainly not in the time aspect. The rituals were fun, I got to wear the green bangles, 9 in each hand, applied mehendi to others, did  welcome aarti to the bride, I also helped her dress and apply make-up.
Meeting so many cousins bought in fond memories of my childhood days, when I spent my vacations with these or other cousins.This was the time when middle class wasn’t bitten by tourism bug, at least not to the extent it has infected today.  Today most families are nuclear and whenever they get a long weekend or vacations, they are spent in seeing some part of country or abroad.  During our time,  Summer and Diwali vacations meant dividing them between Nani’s place, Dadi’s place, Weddings in family and the balance breaks were spent at various uncles and aunties houses. We were a nuclear family and lived in Pune for larger part of my childhood and growing up days. I was blessed to have 5 massis’s and 1 mama on my Mom’s side. On my dad’s side there were 4 uncles, so holidays meant  FUN.
My Massi’s (aunts) lived in joint families and between them and their families they had at least 8-10 kids, hence visiting them was one big party time.  Sight-seeing close by places were a part of the holiday program and no we did not crib going to temples, weddings (even of not –so- closely related people). I guess, our parents didn’t give us much choice. The days were spent playing- various games and evenings were spent going to local sight-seeing places. Bhel, Paani-puri and Mewad ice cream was a treat. End of that vacation was also waited upon as the party who hosted us would gift us a dress material or money. This also was eagerly received and those clothes were worn with great pride and love( though on hindsight I feel there was a beauty in being ignorant of dressing sense or fashion sense). 
Looking back I felt, I felt I looked odd one out, distant in my cousins or may be I felt I was. My clothes were way too different and probably made me most under-dressed person there. I remember in my early 20’s I worked away from home, tried hard to stand out, moved away from relatives and yet when I met them after so long, I realised that I was trying to blend in..what was happening to me..why was I trying to belong to something that I was so away or was always trying to be different from. Is this the 40’s syndrome..or is it called Mitti Ki Khushbu( just like NRI’s who suffer from India pangs).. this trip has left me with a very confused state of mind..What was I seeking..does this happen to others? Whatever it was, it left me happy and rejuvenated one level for sure.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Life is beautiful only if you choose to see it so

Some times, some stray incidents happen in our life to create a paradigm shift in our thinking. This incident was about 10 years back. It was blazing warm sunny Saturday. I was working in JWT then. Some unfinished last minute emergency and hence I was travelling by train all the way from Thane to Parel. I managed to get a window seat, now that is a luxury in local trains in Mumbai. I always prefer travelling with train simply because it’s quick and you get a feel of people. Soon I got lost in my thoughts and was brooding over management of some expenses. It was financially a difficult period for me as Rajesh was out of work.
I saw a woman with small children sitting opposite me. I was lost in my home loan, bike loan and aspiring for a car loan calculations. Thoughts fly and so does time and I had to alight at Parel station. As I ran up the flight of stairs, noticed one child who was about 3 years old struggling to climb the stairs and the same lady from my compartment was almost on the top of the stairs holding older child in arms. I was annoyed with the mother for abandoning such a small child, he could have easily fallen through the railings and that too on rail tracks. What kind of careless mother she was? etc etc. I held him up and climbed the stairs and caught up with the mother. I was about to tell her my feelings and also give her a mini lecture in polite words but stopped to catch my breath. It is then that I actually noticed  her, a frail 26 year old housewife, simple saree, sans any fancy mangalsutra. Just a few black beads strung together in a thread. She looked tired and gaunt and was perspiring from all the effort. She put her 6 year old on the landing...the older child had a scarf tied on her head and was bald, pale with eyes protruding and had a surgical mask on the face. She looked at me with gratitude. I was tongue-tied and appalled, felt stupid...of course she had come Parel’s Cancer Hospital and the older child was a cancer patient and hence had to let the younger one climb stairs by herself.
I smiled feebly and deposited the child with her and walked away briskly..And suddenly all my problems seemed much smaller to me. I felt much smaller in front of that woman who was struggling to do everything to save her baby.
I still have tears in my eyes and can never forget the pain in her eyes. I learnt that day, if you feel unhappy about yourself –Just look around and then thank god for all the things that you have!!!