Sunday, February 3, 2019

Kolkata Marwari Wedding - An experience to share!!

If there is any place in this world where food is the centre of universe for every individual. That has to be Kolkata. When my better half craved like a pregnant woman for his Kookie jar pasrty, Jhal Muri, Gundi paan, kachori sabji and other unending list. I used to find him crazy. But coming to Kolkata, I understand its not him but everyone in Kolkata who is a foodie by DNA.
These 4 days we spent in Kolkata, where we literally had 5 meals a day has left a little bit of Kolkata in me. As much as the people love their street food here, they are also connoisseurs of international cuisines. (I never knew I can really get something scrumptious in Japanese food being a vegetarian myself)
We were in Kolkata to attend a wedding. And again nothing comes close to the variety this place gives in terms of people. From a rebellious "I JUST NEED TO WEAR MY ATTITUDE" (read underdressed) to obscenely overdressed (read I NEED TO FLAUNT WHAT I HAVE!).
Though I am blindly biased towards Mumbai as a fashion capital, but I couldn't get off my eyes of the ethnic jewelry and pastel lehengas girls wore. The big bold Kundan beads to red emerald work in diamond, it is all right from the movie scenes. Infact movies cannot match the novelty displayed in Marwari weddings. People really take dressing up too seriously when it comes to wedding and every time they don’t shy away from trying something new.
Another thing worth mentioning was the decor for each function. The theme with proper color scheme, the props, the center pieces etc ;All very well coordinated and tastefully done. I never doubted the taste of my hosts though. But I am sure, there was a big team behind all the impeccable planning and execution.
The Mehndi and Sangeet function theme was pastel olive green with bright yellow drapes hanging all over. The dry branches and hangings decorated with fresh bright flowers fell just right with the decor. The humble round white Chinese lamps hung all over the roof gave a groovy element to the whole trendy decor.
There were canopy’s hosting women, drawing mehndi on the hands of men/women as part of the tradition. Every individual demanding a different art work. Some on the palm, some arms( baajuband) and some on the wrist(bracelet). Some wanted just a flower in the corner of the palm, some wanted intricate designs all over and some writing names of the people they love. There is a fun tradition of writing each other’s name on the hand of bride and groom with Mehndi. And then post wedding, another tradition to find the name in his/her hands. The darker the mehndi, the deeper the love for each other. Though, logical people like me will blame it to the body heat and not the endorphins secreted in love.
And Sangeet is more like close family dancing to convey their wishes to the bride and groom. The theme this time was inspired by Bollywood. All Uncles, Aunts, Mom, Dad, Sis-her friends, cousins, even the dog of the bride participated in the dance medley. I am sure, most of them were dancing for the first time on stage. But who cares, we have to show our love and DANCE LIKE NOBODY'S WATCHING.
The bride and groom also danced their heart out and looked the cutest. Love was in the air and all our hearts melted looking at the young bubbly couple who couldn't get eyes off each other. Moments like these remind me of those carefree days when it was only "EK MEIN AUR EK TU".

The music and songs played were also very different from what you hear in Bangalore and Mumbai weddings and clubs. They were more hindi slow beat songs where everyone can shake a leg without thinking about their two left leg issues. And literally we danced all afternoon. The whole atmosphere was upbeat and everyone grooving with the music. Age no bound.
The surprises had just begun. The whole day was kind of a dance and music day with cocktail dinner planned for the evening. And we Indians love to hangout in weddings. Meeting with the extended family after long years, talking about all the good ole days, reliving memories from the past, laughing on the same age old joke which we had shared for all these years, pulling leg of that one aunty/uncle who is always sporting to make a joke of themselves and secretly enjoy the attention. And another element which is also a tagline of a popular chain of Cafe, INDIA RUNS ON CHAI is just apt.
Combining these concepts, there was a “Hangout Adda” planned. Share bazar wali chai (Believe me this is the how this famous chaiwala is recognized; Indeed the second most famous chaiwala after our prime minister), malai toast, street bhelpuri, pani puri, pav bhaji, churan wala (yes separate counter serving varieties of churan, aam papad, boor kutt, jhuara, etc), moong daal chilla counter, english tea counter and also a panini counter. And epic was, four Thai masseurs waiting to give you an amazing foot massage after all the dancing in the afternoon. There were low seating, round tables and nice 90s numbers playing in the background. I could say this element was a huge differentiator for me from other weddings.
The cocktail party started 8 in the night. And as the name suggests, there were Bride's favorite, Groom's favorite, Lady's special and some other amazingly named cocktails. The cocktail glasses were beautifully dressed, with a bow for Groom's favorite cocktail and white TUTU skirt for the high champagne glass for Bride's favorite. I could see the details with which the cocktail menu was designed. And the 2 male and 2 female bar tenders had a different swag of their own. They amused kids with throwing the bottles up and balancing at the middle of a 45deg tilted hand and threw ice cubes in the air from one glass to another. Guess they take their craft very seriously. You name it and they had it.

Talking about the theme of the Cocktail Party. The function was in a huge closed hall. The pathway to the hall looked like a red carpet event entrance. There were frames with flowers and lamps highlighted by glamorous yellow lights. The bird of fire flowers looked amazing on those frames hanging right upto the bottom.
The hall itself was kept dark with LED screens on  the wall opposite of the stage. And projectors projecting the remaining two sides. With LED I assumed something will be presented on screen. But later I understood it is for the animations and to change the designs and change the mood with every playing song.
Food stalls were placed out in the open space. And this time, it was international cuisine at your disposal. Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, American, Spanish and of course Italian. Some delicacies like Vegetarian sushi rolls with wasabi, drum melted cheese with fruits and exotic vegetables, sautéed fruit bowl; I had tasted for the first time. The desserts were also exotic with caramel sauce served in dropper, mud cake microwaved in coffee mugs and innumerable others.
There was a popular singer called with his band to entertain the crowd. He sang quite a few popular Bollywood numbers for couple of hours. But all I was interested that time was the amazing food. So I decided to go for the love of food over my love of dancing. When we were about to satiate our food desires and calling it the night. We were told that the AFTER PARTY is just going to begin.
We weren’t sure what is left for the after party. Music checked, dance checked, food checked, drinks checked, socializing checked. All to-do list for a great party was over.
So we kind of pushed off to our rooms and kids changed into their pajamas. But then the two of us went down again. This time the stage was on fire. Literally! There were two bartenders juggling with glass bottles lit on fire. It always works with glass , fire and duos. And what I love about live performers is the connect they make with the audience. I guess not every talented person is a performer, hence for a live performance its very important that you are connecting to the audience and making them a part of your performance. And these two gentlemen on stage did just that.
After the fire act was over, the DJ took over the stage. And oh man!! What numbers they played! The whole hall became a dance floor and I couldn't believe how we all danced almost 7-8 hours in the same day. Guess the foot massage really helped to keep going. Finally with great resistance, I was pulled back to the room. I definitely missed my gang of friends with whom I can dance forever. But I have to give it to Mr Sarawagi to try and keep up with my madness. He knows my love for dancing and even though he doesn't dance at all. He still shook legs with me for the longest he has ever done.
Fortunately, there was no early morning rush. So we dozed off for long and then got ready for some traditions before the wedding.
The mustard yellow theme with marigold flowers and leaves all over suited the Haldi(Telbaan) tradition aptly. This tradition is to beautify the bride and groom with oil and home made face packs. Right from the eldest of family to the youngest, they have to apply this on the groom. And the slightly twisted version of it nowadays is to add juices, fruits, milk and beer on top of all the traditional stuff. And its no more only for groom, the whole family plays holi along with the groom. Alot of animation involved here. But I was feeling bad for the designer clothes women wore which would need double dry cleaning after that heavy dose of turmeric and oil on it.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Avani's dose of the day!! Motivation!

Having a free spirited child at home is an amazing feeling. Everyday u learn something from them. But at the same time, handling their tantrums, temperament, moods, likes and dislikes is a mammoth task in itself. The day to day activities are sometimes not so routine with such kids. And no prizes for guessing who in my house is that free soul.

Last Monday, I wake her up in the morning as usual at 6 am. She refuses to get up. After a stern voice, she budges a little.
Mummy: Avani, get up. Be quick. It's Monday and weekend over.
Avani: Why?? (with a big frown) I don't want to go.
Mummy: Going to school is not an option.You have to go to school every day. We had alot of fun over the weekend, so stop complaining and get ready.
Avani: (with lot of earnesty) Mom, tell me what motivation I have to go to school. I have no motivation at all to go to school. It is so boring.
Mummy: (hiding my smile) It's ok. Whatever it is, you have to go to school.

Firstly, at the age of 6 I hardly knew what MOTIVATION stands for. And not having motivation to go to school was out of question. Though Avani enjoys going to school, but as a brat she always cribs about getting ready in the morning.
More than anything else, what amazes me more is the way she puts across her points with logical arguments and data points. I stand dumbstruck with her logics most of the times
And then in the evening I hear a cheerful voice...

Avani: Mummy, I finally have a motivation to go to school now.. we have started practising for Culmination day now.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


She opened her bleary eyes when the cat, all seven pounds of squirming flesh, climbed onto her belly. Squinting into the sunlight streaming in from the open window, she discovered that she was now the weary possessor of a pounding headache, and at some point, had managed to lose both a tooth and a spouse.
It was only when the pain from her heart ache settled; she actually realized the pain of that broken tooth. Her mind was blank and could only feel the inability of her limbs to obey the commands of her brain. The cat has been hungry from last 48 hours while she laid almost brain dead after the hurricane which hit her on that night.
That night could have been like any usual night in her life, but it wasn’t. She has known about the unalleged relationship he had with other woman in his life. The lipstick marks on his shirt, the long strands of hair in his car, the mid night calls and the business tours on weekends. Everything gave her all the clues she needed to know. She could have confronted him. Stopped the grey scenes behind her back and questioned the integrity of his so called dotted husband. But all she did was sobbed in her pillow every night.
Anita was a confident, modern woman. She worked in an advertising firm where she handled adversities day in and day out. Beautiful, stylish, down to earth, happy and positive woman. She was everything a man would wish for. Aryan had wooed her for a year before she said a yes. He was head over heels in love with her. When they got married, it looked like a fairy tale life to her. There was never a moment of sadness or loneliness in the house when they were together. The mere memory of the funny faces he made to make her laugh brought a smile on her face every time. But that memory now has an added partner to it. A pearl drop of tear which doesn’t stop at one.
Human brains work in different fashions when we come across such unusual situations. Situations where we have never imagined ourselves into. Things which we always thought can never happen to us. It was no different for Anita. If it was any friend of her who had been in her situations, she would have all the solutions to this. But when it was on her, she could not fathom what to do?
She had replayed the scene in her mind several times. She wanted to confront him and ask him if it is true? More than he lying to her, she was scared of what if he accepted it was true? What if he told he doesn’t love her anymore? Worse! If he wants to leave her and go to the other woman! What will she do without him? She was so madly in love with him. What if the hologram of his love shatters? It might be a façade, but her whole life was based on that false façade. She wasn’t ready to hear the truth yet.
She started living in denial. Like her beloved pet-Lucy, she thought closing the eyes will make the world a better place for her.
 She woke up early every morning, prepared his favorite breakfast. Tried to keep his things ready every morning. Called him at work every few hours. She  called their close friends home to bring back the old times back, when he couldn’t stop praising about the food she made and how amazing she looked. In  fact, she stopped going to work. She wanted to give it all to save her relationship. But little did she know that she is carrying a one wheeled carriage on her feeble shoulders.
Aryan knew the attention was unusual. He was a bit alarmed but tried to obey the requests of his changed wife. He had been a charmer all his life. So he reciprocated with his usual flirtatious behavior. He thought it’s a passing phase, so little did he mind the extra attention from 2 women in his life. The initial high of being the universe for two women at the same time and being wanted; Soon faded away. He wasn’t able to manage being in two boats. Keeping up with the demands of one woman is tough and he was doing it for two.
The guilt of cheating on his loving wife had just started creeping in. He wished he could keep both his wife and new found love of his life happy together. But he soon knew that he might have to choose one. He has to decide on one and break the bad news for the other.
Men actually think very differently about relationships. They give it their 100 % when in love, but they come out equally 100 % when out of it. The once a very casual flirting had grown up to an affair. And that adrenaline of being in love and exploring a new unalleged facet of life was too tempting for him to ignore. But as the Newton’s law says, everything has an equal and opposite reaction. It wasn’t a casual hook up anymore. He has got addicted to the new life now. And now he was trying to figure out how he could blame Anita for letting this happen. Clearly, there were no major issues. They were quite in love, the respect, the space, the companionship was very much there. But is that really enough to stay happy with a person 24*7? Or humans constantly want to evolve, explore and engage in something new, something more exciting, something which the rules do not approve of.
Yes, Aryan clearly had no regrets about cheating on his wife. Because he belonged to the generation where Open relationships are ok. Of course, if it was Anita thinking on the same lines. He would have never forgiven her. A man can never forgive or forget his woman cheating on him. Because the mere thought of his possession being caressed by another man runs a shiver down the spine of any man. Woman is considered to be more imaginative but the imagination of a suspecting man can embarrass God on his creations.
Anita had called twice to check on him. His lungs had started fuming smoke after finishing 2 packs of cigarette in last 4 hours. He had been procrastinating this day for months now. But this was the ultimate night where he could no more be a hero in her life. He has to tell her the truth.

The door bell rang. Anita shifted towards the door with a big but nervous smile. Her 6th instinct had made her restless with something which was coming. The denial mode was constantly being challenged by her common sense. The romantic lights of the living room, the fragrance from the scented candles which she had lit all over the place. The beautiful blue orchids which she had brought specially to  complement the lavender fragrance of her diffuser. The aroma of the buttery dal makhani which filled the kitchen and the dinning area. The bottle of Chiraz wine which brought back all the intimate moments of their relationship. The deep clevage spegatti blouse she wore along with the chiffon blue saree and those diamond earrings which he bought on their first anniversary. On any other night, it would have been the most immaculately planned romantic night. But in spite of all the perfect setup, it was not a perfect night. There was a nervous energy in the wind. The only thing normal in the room was the furry green eyed Lucy who was unfathomed of the pain her worthy master is going to give to her mistress.
When he entered inside, Anita quickly hushed the cat inside the room. She wanted to give him undivided attention and wanted to magically clear all the cracks on the mirror of her broken relationship. It clearly did not make things easier for Aryan. But he was determined. He quickly rushed to his room, freshened up and came out to the living room. Anita gave  her a welcoming smile, but he ignored. He straight away declared, ”I need to talk to you!” Anita’s heart could have dropped out of her mouth if she would have not rehearsed this a thousand times in her mind earlier. With a calm face she asked,” What is it Aryan? Can we not have few glasses of our favorite wine before we spoke?”. He squirmed. “No Anita. This is very important. I wanted to tell you this for long, but I didn’t want to hurt you.” Anita’s heart was now beating at a speed faster than a running train. She could hear her heartbeats clearly and was wishing this was a BAD dream. She secretly pinched herself. But it wasn’t a dream!
“Anita, I really  care for  you. You are an amazing person. But I think you are not happy in this relationship. I don’t think I am giving you enough of what you deserve!” Aryan played it safe. Anita broke her silence, ”What do  you mean? Talk clearly. Do not talk in riddles”. She didn’t know where she gathered the courage from. He continued “ Anita, lets part our ways. I don’t think it is working.”
Anita had heard these words a million times in her head in last few months, but when they actually exploded she felt nothing. When a flickering light suddenly extinguishes there is a strange silence in the dark room. She felt a similar silence in her heart. She would have shouted and screamed at him. Blaming him of infidelity. Blaming him of sleeping with the other woman and breaking all the promises he gave her while they tied a knot. But when the pain is unbearable, the only thing that it could be expressed is by silence. She could not react. All she wanted was to be silent.
Aryan felt worried. The usual reaction which he had expected was not there. He was prepared for the fight, the question and answers. His homework covered the points he would use in the blame game. He was also prepared to walk out of the house if things went out of control. But the silence made him worried.
With lot of courage, Aryan mumbled. “Anita, you are an amazing person. Just that we are not made for each other. Understand. It is good for both  of us. You deserve much better!” Anita did not blink. Aryan thought that he will give her some time. When he comes back  after 4 days from his Malaysia trip, she will be normal. And then he can start the formalities.
So he left immediately from home to avoid any further guilt cropping him for doing this to her.
Anita saw him going, but it felt like a trance. All she could do is go to the table, pick up the wine bottle and thrust all the poison inside the bottle in her throat.
Next when she woke up, all the curtains of the house were pulled apart. The glass pieces of wine bottle were all over the floor. There were blood foot prints all over the place. Her long strands of hair were cut unevenly and her mascara smudged all over her face. The food smelled rotten and the howling cat noise made her head spin. God knows how many times she had hit the wall and fell down on her head. All she could recollect was she wanted to kill the ANITA she hated so much!!

This blog was written for the contest Write India 2 by Times of India.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Work life balance

I get a lot of messages on Women's day! And this year too, I was flooded with messages. Some forwards, some customary, few personal ones and some very encouraging. Among the forwards, a typical picture of a modern women with many hands depicting various roles women play in their life caught my imagination. Then another picture with some Work life balance gyaan appeared!
These pictures kept me thinking for a while. Thinking about multiple things. One was, do we women really like to be super women or we just dont have a choice but to manage our career and family aspirations together. But at 11 am in the night, I have no mood to be a feminist and present my thoughts on being a super woman.
The second thought was, Work-Life balance!! The word which is kind of a mantra which all of us want to achieve. But can we really achieve a balance in our lives? Well, I have my doubts!
So then I thought , "Then how do I see this work and LIFE being managed?". And immediately I was reminded of a picture where a juggler is juggling with 6 balls in his hands.
Then I tried to interpret, what does that mean in this context? What does each ball stand for in my life? 
I feel, the six balls are HOME, FAMILY, WORK, CHILDREN, HOBBIES and HEALTH.
HOME includes household chores which are irrelevant but needs mammoth attention for a proper functioning of any house. From electrician to grocery everything!
FAMILY starts with husband and then the extended family. Your social life and close friends.
WORK ofcourse irrespective of whether you are working out in office or running your own setup or even working in a NGO. Everything we do as a profession comes under this umbrella.
CHILDREN! I have kept it as a seperate ball, because they are a seperate ball game altogether. When you are a parent, you have no rule book. You evolve every day and face new challenges everyday. And this I feel is the MOST crucial of all the balls to be handled.
HOBBIES is what makes you happy. The ME time which is the most understated.
And last but not the least, HEALTH! We talk about both mind and body health here!
If I have to give you an analogy. CHILDREN, WORK and HOME are glass balls. HEALTH and FAMILY are wooden balls. And HOBBIES are made of paper.
So for any juggler, its impossible to keep all the balls in hand. At any point of time, maximum 2 balls can be kept in control. And rest 4 should be in air.
As you must have guessed, the first ball to fall down for not so alert juggler would be HOBBIES. It is not a priority for you and the moment the pace of life increases, we drop that ball are constantly struggling. Sometime HOME takes the priority and other times WORK gets crazy. You have to select which  ball you will hold and till you hold that ball, the other needs to be floating in the air. When you have someone ill at home, you cannot work in office. Vice versa when you have a deliverable in office, you cannot socialise at the cost of your work. We always compensate for the other in the due course of time. I remember working late nights for almost couple of months and then when my daughter was starting her school for the first time. I almost worked only 4-6 hours a day in office. So there is no correct way of work life balance i feel. 
But the moment one ball of WORK and HOME remains in air for too long, we burn out. This is the time when many men choose WORK and women choose HOME as per their natural instincts. Nothing wrong in choosing one over the other, but somewhere the feeling of sacrifice, discontent creeps in. Men realise at some point they had missed out on family life and women feel there was a lot of sacrifice which they made. But eventually its how we juggle the balls.
CHILDREN is another glass ball which is kind of the most unpredictable of the lot. You are juggling perfectly between HOME and WORK. But suddenly this ball spins and changes the pace of everything. The moment kids need you, all the balls go in a closet and u suddenly forget how to juggle. HOME is in a mess, WORK becomes unimportant, forget the HOBBIES/HEALTH and FAMILY. Its true that, once u r a parent you are always a mother first. The wife, aunt, daughter, sister, friend roles take a back seat and ur mind is one track.
If I had the power to set the pace, I would give equal weightage to all. That is the most sustainable model. It will ensure your physical, mental and emotional happiness. 
BUT we dont live in an ideal world. So keep juggling and taking care of all the important things in life. And when you are tired, take a break and start afresh!!