The engagement tag story

Noon tagged me for my engagement story and I am positive that everyone knows everything there is to know about the OA and my filmy affair. The running away, the tears, the fireworks… but never one to shy away from a tag I shall do it all over again.

I was in the midst of a break up with CB (college boyfriend) and the relationship just wouldn’t end.  Each time we sort of called it quits he would just turn up the next day smiling his huge smile and I’d sigh and figure that maybe there was something left to work on.

Now the OA was my shoulder to cry on through the breakup. In fact he just missed falling into the safe friends-zone (oh come on – the one Joey warns Chandler about?!)!! He patiently listened, didn’t advise or argue. He just bided his time dating other random women and acting like he wasn’t in the least bit interested in me. Or so I thought. He now says he was waiting for me to wake up and realise that he was the man of my dreams. So full of bullshit, isn’t he?!The rest of our office however couldn’t believe we were spending so much time together and still not an item.

The thing with CB finally ended and I was rather shattered. I don’t care what people say, I believe that even if you are the one to ultimately call it quits on a relationship, you are still rather devastated. You invest so much in a relationship and then suddenly one day you realise it isn’t working. You can either cling to it like a leech or have the sense to let it go while the memories are still good. Left single and sad and alone in the city, I hung out a lot more with the OA who was busy studying for his management entrances after office hours.

I was used to colleagues teasing me about the OA but after his impassioned avowal that he would never marry someone like me because I didn’t cook, I naively believed I was off the radar. I looked up to him since he was pretty senior in the food chain at office and was basically such a good guy. I don’t know when idol worship changed to love. It just happened.

The rides to and from office I would say, were where it all began and ended. Since I was the first he generously picked up each morning I’d sit in front while the rest slowly and sleepily piled in to the backseat along the way. We even discovered our very similar taste in music on those long rides.

Some days I’d get ready earlier than usual and so walk down to his place instead of waiting for the kind man to come and get me. Now he shared a flat with three other guys and with my Victorian upbringing I didn’t want to go in there alone. I was definitely not interested in catching some guy roaming around in his undies. So I would send him an SMS telling him that I was waiting at his door. He’d rush down, socks in hand and apologise. So I began to muster up the courage to go in because I hated having him rush down and then I’d sit on the edge of a chair in the living room and primly look away while he shoved his feet into sneakers and rushed around brushing his hair. (yeah okay, laugh all you want!) I think I realised the growing closeness when instead of the usual ‘I’m waiting downstairs’ message I began to send him just this – ‘Goodmorning  :)’ to indicate that I had arrived. He later on told me in a rare moment of mush that the moment he saw the smiley in the message he’d see my face smiling up at him. He has a good 9.5 inches on my 5’3″ so even after the metaphoric looking up ended I continue to look up to him.

Truth be told my mother told me he was interested in me, long before I figured it out. I’m a little slow like that. Practical and worldly wise, she didn’t understand why a young boy who could be getting in a lot more sleep was leaving for office half an hour earlier so that I could catch my shift, and coming out of his way to pick me up and hanging around after office in case I got late to give me a lift home so that I could avoid the dirty, crowded blueline buses.

I told her she had a dirty mind and didn’t understand platonic relationships. She told me she’d lived long enough to know a man in love. I ignored her. Now I eat my words. Mother. You are always right. Well, mostly right, if not always. Throw these words in my face and I will ban you from my blog.

So anyway, mother visited me, caught the OA as he dropped me off, offered him a cup of tea and left, satisfied that even if I did end up falling in love with him, he was a decent guy. She went home and told my dad that she could see it in his eyes but that I was too blind. And of course there was nothing she could do to keep me away from him, because as far as I was concerned she was being an orthodox old lady and there was really no reason to ‘keep me away’ from him. I stubbornly (so whats new?) kept meeting him and ignoring her because she was just an old fuddy duddy, see?

And so it went on. The OA wisely waiting. Me blithely ignorant. Or was I? I am still not too sure. All I know is that I saw him almost every waking minute and it just seemed right. He took a few days off from work and that is when it all began. The frantic SMSes. Willing the phone to ring or beep. Sending messages that you know you wouldn’t send a friend but still not sending anything that could be read as too flirtatious. How many times a day will you message a friend saying – ‘What you up to?’ I mean would you really care to know what a friend, even a best friend is up to, ten times a day, every single day?!!! How about – ‘Had dinner?’ Err… who cares?

A friend who took the ride to office with us called me aside and warned me – ‘I notice the look on his face in the rear view mirror. He’s nuts about you so if you’re going to break his heart, this might be a good time to tell him you’re not interested.’ Break his heart? What did I have to do with his heart? What the hell was wrong with the world and why were they all ganging up against me. Yes, I’ve always had a persecution complex!

Finery and liquor can do a lot to push a relationship to it’s culmination (I’m a teetotaller!). An office party happened and as usual he was picking up and driving a whole bunch of us there. The party was rocking but suddenly it struck me that this man I was spending most of my day with looked really hot when he cleaned up! That he danced like a dream and made interesting conversation. And that when the music came to an end, I didn’t want to stop dancing with him. Yes, you could call me slow. Why on earth was I insisting on setting him up with my best friend when I was single and ready to mingle? And my sales pitch to my friend – he’s cute and terrific husband material! So why was I selling when I didn’t mind buying?!!

I tore myself away and went and sat in a corner to sort my head out. Was I really interested or was it just the atmosphere and the fact that about 200 other people had been throwing us together? My phone beeped and the screen lit up..’What are you doing in that corner when you should be dancing with me?’

I looked across the lawn and he was standing with a bunch of colleagues and listlessly sipping his drink. I replied…

And so we kept at it. I don’t know if anyone noticed that we were sending messages for an hour. But it made me self conscious. When you’re in love, or when you do something you shouldn’t be doing, you do end up rather self conscious. You think everyone knows what you are up to. And to my mind the whole office knew and was probably reading our messages as they floated across the lawn with the music and the conversation. Finally he sent me a last one…’Let’s get out of here..’

But we couldn’t. We had to give 3 people a lift home. All looked rather disgruntled that we were leaving just as the party was warming up. But nobody wanted to fend for themselves in the wee hours of the morning so they knocked back their drinks and joined us.

We dropped two of them home and only my flatmate and I remained. The tension in the car was thick enough to cut with a knife. I wondered what lay ahead. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and see them dashed, neither did I want to make a fool of myself. And what exactly was he planning to say to my flatmate? How were going to get out of that?

But I needn’t have worried. My husband is a simple man and even then he had a simple solution. Turning to my flatmate he said he wanted to get out of the office party because it’s hard to enjoy a party when you’re concerned about getting drunk and making a fool of yourself. That he wanted to go to a real party now… ‘Want to join us? I’m taking MM to dance with me. She works too hard.’

Flatmate who was no fool and could see the sparks flying, mumbled an excuse and left. And there I was..alone with the OA in the car. Now I’d been alone with him a thousand times before. But it was never like this. I sat there in the darkness of the parked car and knew that the next answer would make a huge difference to my life.

‘Wanna go dancing?’ he smiled gently and now that I look back I can remember the distinct lack of enthusiasm in the voice.
No, I mumbled, wondering again if I’d misunderstood what were simply friendly or maybe mildly flirtatious messages.
I was dressed to the nines and my stilettos were killing me and I knew I couldn’t have danced if I wanted to, so I told him I could barely stand.

‘Coffee then? Drive?’
Sure… I replied hesitantly. What if I were found raped and dead the next morning, huh? I am nothing if not suspicious!

And so he drove and we chatted. And at some point he asked me to marry him. I kid you not. I have no recollection of what he said or how he said it. Simply because I was rehearsing my acceptance speech in my head. And perhaps because on the other hand I was also not expecting this to be the big night. I thought he’d perhaps confess undying love. Who in this day and age proposes marriage without dating for at least a while???!!! My honorable husband obviously.

‘Huh? What?I beg your pardon?’, I jerked upright in my seat.
I’d just heard him say… ‘…. when we’re married…’
Us? Married? Did I just miss my own proposal? Obviously. So full of yourself MM, that you miss your own proposal because you have other things going on in your head…
Apparently I’d just been proposed to. And then the womanly wiles kicked in and I made him sweat. Made him say it all over again. And again. And again. ‘You mean you’re in love with me? So why can’t you say it that way? Will it kill you to say the word ‘love’?’
From the way he changed gears I had a feeling I would be killed if I didn’t stop trifling with him!
‘Well if I’m talking marriage, obviously I am in love with you, right?’…
The age old thrust and parry of mating rituals.
‘Yes, but can’t you ask me properly? What makes you think I feel the same way? Have I said I want to marry you?’
He turned and looked me in the eye with a confidence that gave me my answer.

We had coffee at a 24 hour coffee shop and just sat and grinned foolishly at each other. I was finally at peace. I knew this was what was meant to be. There were no edges. Everything felt like it fitted. I can still see us in my mind’s eye. I in my black trousers, blue silk top and he in his beige trousers and black shirt ( He gave that shirt away to the guard recently and couldn’t figure out why that upset me so!). But for the life of me I cannot remember a single word of the conversation we had.

Sometimes the most significant moments in life catch you off guard. You imagine that when you are proposed to, violins will play in the background. That you will remember the scene and the words exactly. But that’s not how it happens. All I can remember is the dark highway stretching ahead, the glow of the instrument panel in the car and the strong hand that hesitated a moment before reaching out for mine.

I swore that I’d make him go down on his knees but we went through so much hell after wards that the whole knee thing seemed so trite and pale. When a man leaves his family and everything else that matters just to be with you, solitaires, poetry, roses, champagne and romantic dinners are just what Hallmark uses to sell cards. I never did get a proper proposal. I don’t think I care for anything more.

We had a huge engagement party in my hometown. He missed the train even then and came sleeping in the luggage rack of a passenger train but that is a story for another day. The engagement ring was beautiful. A square cut diamond with pink diamonds on either side. And since nothing conventional stays with me, it broke. A train door slammed shut on my hand and the ring saved my finger from breaking. But was squashed and damaged beyond repair. I didn’t get it repaired and I don’t remember the engagement date either. It’s either the 21st or 22nd of December. I must ask him.

As we wrap up eleven years…

Today we complete eleven years of marriage.

I look back on the last 11 years and I’m at a bit of a loss for once. How does one encapsulate them?

I gained a husband but he came by himself. No family. No baggage. Not the desi way.

And when the family came, it was not pleasant. But then one doesn’t really expect pleasantness when the resistance to the marriage lead to one party having to leave home.

I’ve cried on your virtual shoulders and said things in public that I wish I hadn’t.

But what’s done can’t be undone.

This year I finally gained the family he was born into. It’s been gradual and I’ve mentioned it to you. But only now am I confident enough to say the words out loud.

It’s been a tough march.

We started off with daggers drawn and things only got worse. Accusations, counter accusations, unpleasant public scenes, harsh words.

We made up and broke up. And then again. It was like the ebb and flow of the tide.

But over the last couple of years we’ve patched things up and done a fair job of it. The patchwork isn’t ugly – it’s like an old handmade quilt. Ratty, but comfortable.

We have our off days, we sort things out.

My FIL falls asleep while watching TV and I quietly get a blanket to tuck around him. We go to attend a family wedding and he looks around at the other ladies and then suddenly turns and looks at me with pride and does something no one has done in years – pinches my cheek.

He makes a rather patriarchal statement regarding the babies and I fight him tooth and nail. One of us usually relents. More often than not, it’s him.

My MIL, on the other hand has grown into a friend. We chat quietly over a cup of tea, exchange family gossip. Plan the dinner menu. Well, she plans while I battle deadlines at work. She has tears in her eyes when she’s leaving and she hugs me, not letting go until the OA gently pushes her towards the car with a reminder that she’s getting late. I love you, sweetheart, she says.

I grin. And we send each other flying kisses at the exact same moment.

The OA says I’m an approval seeker. He’s right. I don’t like it when people don’t like me. I’m Monica.

To know me, is to love me, I say with teeth clenched. And I get back to figuring out what I have to do to make things better. To smooth over the rough edges. To.Make.It.Work.

The last eleven years have not brought professional recognition or accolades. They’ve not brought money.

But I’ve invested a lot of time in this little family of mine. And a lot of effort. It wasn’t easy. Sometimes I chose to fake it until I could make it, but it worked.

I often wish I’d had their blessings when we got married. It would have been so much easier on a young couple who anyway had to make the many other adjustments that marriage demands. I wish the OA had not felt alone and vulnerable. I wonder if he questioned his decision as he signed the dotted line. I wonder how it must have hurt to have my parents stand by us at a receiving line, but not his.

But I’m glad we’re here today. I’m glad I didn’t start off as a welcomed, accepted bride and grow to hate them as is often the case.

I’m glad we started at the lowest point in our relationship because the only way from there was up. Expectations were rock bottom and anything we get from each other today, is a bonus.

People always say the grandchildren bring change. But I think that is unfair to the hard work that goes into making things work. Change comes only when both sides want it and yes, the grandchildren are a good incentive.

But the look in my husband’s eyes when he walks in from work and finds his parents, kids and wife crowded in on his bed, having tea and laughing, is one I’ll not forget in a hurry. For once he doesn’t even chastise us for the biscuit crumbs on the counterpane.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I couldn’t not share this with you, could I?

I’m sure we’ll have our rough moments again, but I finally know what it is to be accepted by them. And this time I’ll have the incentive to work and bring things back to this point.

My eleventh anniversary gift to the OA?

A complete family and peace.

Which is a good thing, because I’m too broke to give him much else this year.

Celebrations!

I realise I’ve really neglected this blog over the last year or two, so time to try and play catch up! First off, the Bean’s 6th birthday. She had just attended a dozen mermaid parties with fake curls, tiaras and mer-tails so she had that playing on her mind when she asked me for a party with mermaids. We chatted about it for a while and I broadened the scope to make it an underwater theme. Not being too committed to mermaids that suited her fine and we soon had a whole underwater theme going.

As luck would have it, I’d just ordered a box from Kukucrate (they make up theme based kits and you can subscribe to them for a funfilled month) for a trial and the theme for the month was Underwater! Such a stroke of luck. The night before the party was spent with the Bean, Brat, and a friend and her son helping me make decorations, wrap return gifts and generally organise things. One of the items in the Kukucrate box was thermocol half-globes that we painted and inserted pipe cleaners into, to make jellyfish. This we hung from a lampshade in the living room and it looked lovely.

Surprisingly I had a lot of blue cushions, blue curtains, blue table cloths and fish shaped tableware so the house was dressed up to suit the theme. We hung green and blue crepe paper cut into strips to look like seaweed and hung up strings of blue and green balloons which burst the moment we hung them in the garden. The children have outgrown their swimming tubes- a turtle and a something-or-the-other that I hung up in the garden. A basket of soft balls was given and the kids had to aim through the centre of the tube. Many of them got it and Cousin K and the OA who suddenly realised they were running out of gifts, began to up the ante. Began to shake the tube so that it was harder to aim at, the kids still got it. Then put the trampoline at the start line and began to make the kids jump on the trampoline while aiming, while Cousin K kept shaking the tube around.

It was hilarious fun and by the end the OA, Cousin K and one other mother who had stayed with her daughter and I, had collapsed in a heap, laughing. The kids of course loved the way the game got tougher and tougher and surprised us with their ability to keep up with it. I picked up some face painting crayons and made tattoos for the kids  - sea themed. I have to say the kids were rather gentle in the way they looked at my handiwork pityingly and said, ‘It’s not too bad, Aunty. You could be a great tattoo artist someday if you keep practising.’ Err, thank you. The OA manned a third corner where the kids were fishing for paper fish on paper clips, with magnets. This too was from the Kuku crate box and very popular with the kids. The fourth corner was a rug with crayons and sheets of sea themed animals for the kids to colour.

The cake was a two tier fresh strawberry cake with crabs and other sea creatures crawling all over it. Fantastic. A lot of the food fit the theme too. I opened up strawberry cream oreos and placed small white marshmallows in them to look like oysters, bought a small fish bowl and filled it with goldfish biscuits, cut a yellow capsicum and studded it with olives to look like an octopus and stuck it in a bowl of hung curd dip. Also had bowls of grapes and pomegranates. And one huge dish of sausages and another of popcorn that was a huge hit. The Bean had begged me with the world in her eyes for Maggi and so for the first time the banned item made it to my dining table in a huge fishy dish. I can’t tell you how funny it was to see the adults dig into it when they came to pick up their kids. I’d honestly imagined I’d be struck off their X’mas card lists.

For the first time this year I politely requested all parents to drop kids and pick them up. We usually like our parties full of kids, parents, a few cold beers and lots of fun. But increasingly I realise kids misbehave when their own parents are around. Left to our tender mercies they play according to rules, don’t push or fight and generally end up being far better behaved. The party ended with a few friends staying back for a drink, the kids sliding into a pile on the carpet and watching some TV and all of us polishing off the simply fantastic cake. Burp. 

Pictures now.

The octopus taking a dip

The octopus taking a dip

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A huge dish of Maggi with veggies, the oyster oreos, sausages, popcorn and goldfish in a bowl

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The jellyfish from the Kukucrate kit hanging from a lampshade

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Green and blue balloons and a turtle shaped swimming tube to aim balls through.

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The kids spent a pleasant few hours cutting out these sea creatures and colouring them. Then we stuck them on a ribbon. It is currently being used as a banner in the nursery.

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Some portions of the house that were in keeping with the blue/sea theme.

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The Kukucreate items that worked with our theme – jellyfish made of thermocol and pipecleaners, and the paper cutouts with clips to fish for with magnets.

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Was most thrilled to find a fishy cushion I’d picked up at Fabindia on a whim.

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For those who wanted to sit by the pool and chill.

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I have more fishy bowls than I realise!

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The tenth anniversary was supposed to be in Bora Bora. But then we had kids and I stayed home and we were wondering if we’d even be in a position to make it to Baroda. ;) Anyhow, the plan is a convoluted one. A quick short trip with my parents to Orchha, on the weekend pre-anniversary, the day off for the OA and I to spend together in our pajamas and then go for a fancy dinner, on the anniversary. And a slightly delayed big holiday with the kids to Bangkok, again, to celebrate 10 years of being US. People did suggest we leave the kids and go, but as I’ve said often, my kids might be good for nothing else, but they’re fantastic travelers. And what are we celebrating at the end of these ten years if not our love and the product of that love.

It was not the best time on earth to go to Orchha but we’ve been wanting to do it for ages and as luck would have it, the weather was great – grey and a slight drizzle. The OA got me books, flowers, jewelry. I thought and thought and thought and finally thunked. I knew what to get a man who didn’t want anything else for his anniversary – a wife who would drive. Yep, I’ve begun to drive and it was quite useful because I’d barely done ten days when I found myself being shoved behind the Scorpio’s wheel while the OA went off to clear up a traffic jam on the highway. I was terrified as I took the wheel, but I guess there is something to being forged by fire. The kids were majorly tickled by seeing me drive and I guess the only thing left now is to not give up as I have before. It’s killing my knees, but I’m going to hang in there.

My parents joined us for the weekend and it was particularly significant for me because if they hadn’t supported us, it would have been just another quick court registry before we got on with life. They’re still quick to support us in our times of need, tell us off if we’re behaving idiotically and basically be the best support system anyone could have.

So, back to Orchha, we stayed in some lovely tents, visited the Orchha fort, went for the light and sound show, drove to Shivpuri and spent a day at the Madhav National Park  - sighted crocs, blue bull, deer, a variety of birds (all mostly spotted by the Brat even before the guide could open his mouth) and much more. Is it just me or are guides mostly picked for their ability to annoy and patronise? Even a lovely boat ride where we spotted more crocs and birds. Back at the hotel the kids spent a lot of time in the pool while I read a book in peace after a long time.

On the last day we drove into Jhansi and visited the Fort and also Rani Lakshmi Bai’s palace. An old lady sat at the door charging us Rs 2 for entry and taking the tickets back as we left, no doubt to charge someone else. A guide wandered around trying to educate us, mixing up fact with fiction and telling us that Aurangzeb died because Ma Kali appeared before him and scared him to death.

These were the greats of our country. For Rani Lakshmi Bai to do what she did, when she did, was commendable. And now her personal palace lies in ruins, the gardens overrun, a smelly toilet left open, paan stains in the corners and the rooms empty, covered in cobwebs, the building falling apart. So little is left of a life as magnificent as hers, what do you think will be left once we pass on? We don’t even have a legacy such as hers. No poems, no stories, nothing.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s rousing poem (she happens to be from my part of the world!) on the warrior queen came rushing back to mind and even as I wandered around the decrepit building I felt the tears rush to my eyes. Khoob ladi mardaani woh toh Jhansi waali rani thi. I began to recite from memory to the kids, the OA joined in and my voice broke – we both looked away, embarrassed at how overwhelming it was.

It was a rushed trip, all this covered in a mere three days, including the drive. So much of this beautiful country left to see, so little time. And now, photos of the trip.

Different views of the Orchha Fort. Simply stunning.

Different views of the Orchha Fort. Simply stunning.

Because I couldn't take anymore stairs.

Because I couldn’t take anymore stairs.

The light and sound show at Orchha.

The light and sound show at Orchha.

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Can you spot me and the babies?

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The Bean admires the view from a jharokha.

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You can almost hear the sound of payals down this corridor.

Our hotel was built around ruins. The gardens were stunning.

Our hotel was built around ruins. The gardens were stunning.

A ruin right in the middle of the Madhav National Park.

A ruin right in the middle of the Madhav National Park.

The Bean falls asleep with my hat on her face, as we settle the hotel bill.

The Bean falls asleep with my hat on her face, as we settle the hotel bill.

The OA tries to make up for me not being able to take the stairs by describing everything to me. This is why I married him.

The OA tries to make up for me not being able to take the stairs by describing everything to me. This is why I married him.

Loved this train track running through Gwalior, people hopping on and off as though it were a bus.

Loved this train track running through Gwalior, people hopping on and off as though it were a bus.

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The aangan in Rani Lakshmi Bai's palace. I'd love to sit here with a book. I wonder if she ever got to enjoy it in peace.

The aangan in Rani Lakshmi Bai’s palace. I’d love to sit here with a book. I wonder if she ever got to enjoy it in peace.

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The Brat’s 8th birthday was one of the most rushed plans ever. I was supposed to be travelling on a shoot and back in time for his big day, but I was only coming back late night on the 4th and didn’t think I could get everything ready for the next day. So we planned for the next weekend. And then the shoot got cancelled and we decided to let him have the pleasure of his party on his birthday and everything had to be rushed forward by a week – crazy! We hadn’t thought of anything other than the cake and the rest were quickly thrown into place.

Now that the kids are old enough for organised games, we picked a version of Pin the tail, in this case, on a dino. The OA decided to draw a T-rex for his son and I was as usual, shocked by how good an artist he is. He is my favourite example of eldest son primed to become CEO and nothing less. Free of social pressures and patriarchy, this man who never picks up a pencil other than to teach his kids, would have been a good artist. If nothing else, the peace on his face when he sketches, says something. If I could give my husband one thing, it would be a fresh start. One where studies took a back seat to the many talents he has, be it art or cooking or sports. Anyhow, lest you think I’m a fond wife gushing, check this picture out. He drew it without erasing anything and then let the kids colour it.

The T-rex being sketched by the OA. The Brat coloured it after his father was done.

The T-rex being sketched by the OA. The Brat coloured it after his father was done.

I have become the official tattoo artist after the Bean’s party and have been painting themed tattoos for the kids. Most of them take one look at the tattoo I’ve made, shake their heads sadly at me as though – You poor deluded woman, you call yourself an artist? And then walk away without a word so as to not hurt my feelings. They all came back for seconds, thirds and face painting after a while.

The food was deviled eggs, pancakes, fruit, popcorn, sausages and Maggi – again, since the Bean had asked for it, the Brat had to, too. We made little signs and stuck them on ice cream sticks that were dug into lumps of Plasticine – saying Carnivorous and Herbivorous to mark out veg and non-veg food. We also made up funny names for the rest like Primordial Slime, for the Maggi and Oviraptor Eggs for the devilled eggs. The kids had a lovely time and the OA and I actually finished cleaning, sweeping and swabbing the floor by 9 pm and got into bed in time to watch a few episodes of our latest obsession – Homeland. The Brat got an insane number of books, most of them on animals; clearly his friends know him well. :)

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The OA working on his masterpiece.

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We moved pots around to create a jungle entrance to our place.

We moved pots around to create a jungle entrance to our place.

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The OA’s T-rex fruit salad is almost ready. We added some pineapple and mango to the watermelon.

'Oviraptor' eggs!

‘Oviraptor’ eggs!

Pancakes

Pancakes shaped like dinos, with marshmallow eyes. These were a hit. 

The cake was fresh mango and sprinkled with cocoa powder. The fossil was fondant.

The cake was fresh mango and sprinkled with cocoa powder. The fossil was fondant.

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Some need a little help with conquering the ferocious T-rex.

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G’pa gets in on the action while a bunch of pint sized contestants distract him!

Ten

Ten years ago this day, I was standing barefoot in my parents’ living room, wearing a grey and orange teeshirt and faded jeans, signing away my bachelorhood. The OA stood by my side in jeans, a white collared tee, lanky and pale, doing the same. I had dark circles after nights of worry. What if the inlaws showed up and dragged him away, kicking and fighting. Okay, so he was legally an adult and couldn’t be dragged away, but did we need that tension?

Within the next 24 hours we were married twice over and no one but we could dissolve it. I finally breathed a sigh of relief and began to live the life I’d dreamed of.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I truly have lived the life of my dreams. Married to a man I love, having two terrific babies with him, and writing, writing, writing as much as I please. Also reading, gardening and traveling. Sigh.

There are moments in life when you wonder if you made the right choice. Low moments, moments when you doubt yourself, when you second guess, when you feel your chest constrict with panic that it’s over. This is it. You’ve made your bed and it might be uncomfortable. We all have them. But with the OA, the blinding realisation that this is the best thing that could have happened to me, comes back time and again.

Was it Byron who said, Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart, ‘Tis woman’s whole existence? Well, I hate to say it, but in our case, Byron was wrong. For me, yes, love, the OA, my babies, my home, are my whole existence. But I just lucked out because they happen to be the OA’s entire existence too.

This is the man who if he does succeed in waking up at the crack of dawn, will help me get the kids ready for school that day, rather than hit the gym. If he gets out of work early, he’s ringing our doorbell rather than catching a beer with the guys. His weekends are spent rearranging the heavier flower pots and cleaning the fans. And once he’s done that, playing football with the kids or reading to them before he takes his wife for a movie or a walk around the complex. I say this not as praise, but as a matter of fact. This is the man who chooses to centre his life around us. The man who shares my dream. Admittedly in his dream he wasn’t hanging quite so many pots or changing curtains so often. And just maybe, his dream might have involved some mountain peaks conquered and some bungee jumping, just as mine involved some travel and some being-Editor-of-a-magazine-at-25. But the basic theme of a home, children, and quiet evenings spent in a tangle of limbs while we all eat chocolate and watch Ice Age 2 is one we both share.

Years ago there was a competition on the blogosphere that I refused to enter for fear of the Furies coming down on my head. Which one is better, it asked – love marriages or arranged marriages. On this momentous occasion I’ll rush in where angels fear to tread. My head says, eventually we all end up in the same place, doddering old fools walking into the sunset. My heart says, No.

In this day and age I see no reason to get married unless you meet that one person who makes your heart skip a beat and your knees go weak. I don’t believe there is a right time to get married when you should start seeing suitable people of your caste, community, age and socio-economic status. We’re not cows meant for breeding who must get married before it is ‘too late’. It’s never too late to find the right person. I’d rather stay single than marry someone because the time is right, our bank balances match and his family likes mine. Acquiescing to the person you’d find it most comfortable to live with is not my idea of the good life. Falling so madly in love that you feel your heart constrict each time he walks into a room is a good start. Particularly if 10 years later you still feel it.

I come from a mixed background. I have Tamil, Bengali, Garhwali and Chinese blood. What does that say to you? It says that for the last 4 generations my family has chosen to follow it’s heart and not just marry because it’s the right time and the right caste. They’ve waited, for the right person.

If you’ve read my blog for more than 4 years, you know I’ve had a tempestuous relationship with my inlaws. It’s only fair that I tell you that things are far better now. Am I the daughter in law they’d have chosen themselves? Good Lord, no. Am I the daughter in law they’re fond of when they visit and see the happiness on their son’s face, their adorable grandchildren and a home filled with love? I think so. I look forward to my MIL’s voice now and the way she says Hello sweetheart, the warmth apparent even over the crackly, static-filled phone lines. My FIL however, is a story for another day. What? This is a real love story, not a filmy one where everything falls neatly into place. It’s been a long journey and it’s not been easy on either side.

But it’s been worth it. Everyday I ask myself if I’d do this again. Every morning I wake up and ask myself if there’s another face I’d rather see on the pillow beside me. And everyday the answer is clear. If I had to do it again, I’d do it. With one hand tied behind my back, blindfolded.

Admittedly I fell for him because he drove well (hah! you didn’t know that, did you?) But he drives like a cab driver on cocaine now so that reason is struck off. I now love him because he’s gentle, patient, kind, and all the things that one would look for in a wife. Yep. He’s my wife and I love him. Today as we complete ten years of mostly blissful, sometimes frustrating, wedded life, I thank God for the broken road that lead me straight to the OA.

People sometimes ask me what my kids could do to break my heart. I don’t know – I’d make my peace with them being beach bums too. But what would kill me is knowing that they ‘settled’ for someone and didn’t fall head over heels, tumble down that rabbit hole into love, the way we’ve done for generations. That they didn’t find that soul mate. That one person who sees right into the core of them, sees them for what they are and loves them for it. I come from a long line of love. And although we own no house, little money and not very much jewelry, the OA and I have this wonderful legacy to pass on to our kids and I very much doubt anything could top it.

On this tenth year, dear husband, allow me to remind you of the nervous, breathless, almost offhanded way you proposed to me  - So, we may as well get married then?

Yep. And now that we are, we may as well stay this way.

Here’s an old, cheesy one for you.

The “Just Married, Please Excuse” Contest

So, the very funny Yashodhara of Y On Earth Not, has a book out. I expected nothing less from her. Although how she managed three kids, a job and brought out a book, will always be a mystery to me. Titled Just Married, Please Excuse, it is pretty much autobiographical, telling the tale of Yash and Vijay’s courtship, and the early years of their marriage. While I’ve had the pleasure of learning her voice through her blog, nothing prepared me for the book. Kahani mein action hai, emotion hai, aur drama bhi hai. I’ll admit I wasn’t too excited before I picked it up, because hey, I read her blog… I know how this story ends. But it’s a whole different thing to have the gaps filled in and handed to you in the form of a book.

I read it through the night, fully knowing where it was going. And I guess that is the triumph of her writing. It keeps you engaged and amused to the very last page. I’m not going to tell you anymore – so buy the book.  What I will do though, is tell you a story of the OA and I, just after we got married. But before that, some stories from the week just before we got married. This is an entry for a contest she is running and since I love Mamagoto’s food enough to sell my kids and park myself there for a lifetime, I’m participating in the hope of winning a meal. Yes, I’m cheap like that.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that the OA and I had a rather filmy love story. Dashing Hindu boy meets shy Christian girl. Pursues her until she gives in. Suddenly realises he should have been working on his parents instead of her, but it’s too late. Boy’s parents dig their heels in, boy decides to follow his heart and the girl. Boy and girl struggle to put him through post grad college and true love triumphs.

This is where this story begins. Convocation was over and as he tossed his cap into the air, I felt a surge of pride. We’d done this without anyone else. A lot of other students had significant others attending, but they also had parents. We were a lonesome twosome with no adults (I still thought of myself as not-quite-an-adult) there for us. Our wedding was a week later so his parents were at the height of their outrage and mine were busy organising the event.

The next day we had a train to catch back to my hometown. Two heavy suitcases dragged to the gate, friends hugging at every step, congratulations being shouted out (he was the first getting married straight off campus), plans being made… and we were late for the train by, oh.. about an hour already.

As the cab pulled in to the station we heard the train whistle. We had it all planned. He’d rush ahead and pull the chain to stop the train. I’d follow with the coolies and the luggage. He raced off and I started running, urging the coolies to keep up. We jumped down on to the filthy tracks, clambered on to the next platform and repeated the exercise until we reached the correct platform. As I clambered on to the last filthy platform, my hands a mess, my teeshirt filthy, the train jerked to life and phlegmatically began to pull out. I screamed for the OA, frantically looking up and down the platform. He was nowhere to be seen. And then I saw him wave in my face as his coach flashed by me. “Throw me that suitcase,” he yelled. And I made the coolie throw one in. The train chugged on, picking up speed and I made the coolie throw the next one in to another coach. By now the OA was far ahead, while the other coolie was running alongside, collecting his earnings and giving change. I kept running along, realising (to my horror) that the end of the platform was nigh. I might have made a jump for it but the heavy bag on my shoulder would weigh me down. I needed someone to pull me into the train. But the love of my life, soon to be husband, was riding a train and disappearing into the sunset – without me.

And then, DDLJ style, a hand shot out of the coach and a stranger’s voice called my name. It was not the OA’s hand – the OA’s ugly, stubby fingers cannot be mistaken and this was a beautifully made, strong brown, male hand – but I didn’t care. I grabbed hold and the hand pulled me in with little effort, just as the platform came to an end. I gasped in relief and looked up at my rescuer in surprise. Who could he be? He was the OA’s batchmate and had taken the liberty to help when he saw me in need. I thanked him profusely and headed off to find the OA and tell him what I thought of being thrown over for a couple of suitcases of books.

Of course, being the OA and I, we were as disorganised as ever and the reservations had been done too late, with the result that we had only one berth to share all the way back. The last couple of days in college had been stressful and he looked exhausted, so I generously forgave him and obligingly squeezed myself into a corner so that he could get some sleep. The hours flew by and we pulled into another station. He opened one eye and I asked him, solicitiously if he’d like a cup of tea. He nodded, turned over and went back to sleep. Telling myself that the poor man needed some TLC, I headed off to hunt for some tea. I found one chaiwala eventually and he was mobbed. I waited my turn and as he handed me my cups, he said, “Madam, isn’t that the train you were on?”

Were on??

I turned around to see the train was pulling out of the platform and leaving me behind, for the second effing time that day. Flinging down the hard-earned, steaming cups of tea, I ran along the train again, the speed just that bit too much for me to risk my life. I hoped and prayed that the OA had realised I was not on the train and was looking for me. I should have known better.

Once again, a voice called my name and the now familiar hand popped out. I grabbed without a thought and jumped on to the train. The OA’s friend had seen me get off the train and realised I’d not got back on when it started. I pledged my firstborn to him and rushed to wake the OA and tell him of how misfortune was following me. He opened an eye, heard me out and then, disappointment writ large on his face, said, “You mean you didn’t get any chai?”

At that moment I deeply regretted not having managed to get the chai. I could have flung it in his face.

And yes, dear readers, I married him inspite of that. Shoulda married the other guy. He’s married too, now, by the way. Too late.

————————

But picture abhi baaki hai mere dost.

The night before the wedding we were a raucous household. Family from all around the world was staying at our place and of course the OA too. He had to be, considering he had nowhere else to go. He was part of my mehendi, I was part of his cocktail party. As we called it a night, happy and exhausted, my Uncle who was down from Australia after a gazillion years, recklessly volunteered to make breakfast and his desi favourite, mango lassi for everyone. But he needed some help. The distinct lack of enthusiasm from the rest of the family didn’t deter him. Finally, the OA, drunk as a skunk and always up for anything food related, offered to help. Yes, you can always tell which ones are not related to us by blood, because they enjoy cooking. No one in my bloodline is a happy cook! Heck, that’s why we live in India and hire people to do it.

Anyhow, he woke up at the crack of dawn and began to help Uncle. I, naturally, after all that   train-chasing, was getting some much-needed beauty sleep. An old family friend came by to see us in the early hours of the morning. She was too old to attend the wedding and reception at night, and wanted to wish us in advance.

Ma settled her into the living room and said she’d just sent someone to wake me up and I’d be awake and down in a minute.

The lady nodded understandingly and said, ‘What about the groom? Where is he?’

Oh, said Ma, he’s in the kitchen.

Right, said the sweet old lady… ‘having breakfast, I suppose?’

No, said Ma. She is honest to a fault. “He’s cooking it.”

It would not be an exaggeration to say the old lady almost fell off her chair.”Look, I know his parents are against the marriage, but surely you can’t treat him this way because he has no one standing up for him!”

I still split my sides laughing over this one. And yes, of course we cleared that up.

—————-

Now while the idea was not to ill treat the OA because no one was standing up for him, we’re not the sort of family to stand on ceremony and give him son-in-law treatment either. And that is how he found himself on the railway station with my brother, at the ungodly hour of 4 am, picking up family coming in on a delayed train. Everyone was pulling their share of weight and I don’t think either we or he, even considered doing it any other way.

My grandmother and her siblings arrived and my brother introduced the OA by name to them. They weren’t particularly enthusiastic in their greeting and the OA and my brother put it down to age and exhaustion on their part. A lazy red glow spread as the sun rose and they drove home in silence until my granduncle asked my monosyllabic brother if he could take him to visit his old college, in our hometown. This is how the conversation went.

Granduncle: I studied in this city, 45 years ago. Do you think you could take me to see my old college?

Tambi: Actually Thatha, we’re pretty busy with the wedding arrangement and your college is on the outskirts of the city. We may not get the time.

Granduncle gesturing towards the OA: What about him? Can he take me?

Tambi: No, Thatha, he doesn’t know his way around the city. He’s not from here.

Granduncle, looking disappointedly at the OA: Oh I see. Is he here to attend the wedding?

Tambi (master of understatement) drawls: I sure hope so.

Yes, yes, granduncle realised his faux pas later, but this story has given us many a merry evening.

—————————-

And now finally, so that I don’t get disqualified on the technicality that I’m not married during these tales, I’ll share the honeymoon one.

When I met the OA and fell in love, I was rather in awe of him. He was older, wiser… and I thought he’d take care of me. Yeah, Sound of Music hangover. And to his credit, he mostly does. Except for when he doesn’t.

Poor as church mice, we took a bus from Delhi to Manali for our honeymoon. Hopes of a knight in shining armour were dashed to the ground rather rudely as the knight stuck his head out of the bus window and emptied his the contents of his stomach across the hill roads. I watched curiously, wondering how he could throw up more than he’d eaten in the last 6 meals put together. The only explanation was that he’d thrown up his intestines too. But I dutifully got him water, washed his face, begged someone to give us the seat up front and tried to (wo)manfully raise my shoulder as high as I could to give him a head rest. Too drained to care, he slept. Around us other honeymooning couples billed and cooed and necked. I adjusted the smelly puker into a corner and resigned myself to a rather unromantic couple of hours.

Half way through the night the bus stopped. It was eerie. The sounds of the jungle came closer. I woke up and being the nosy person I am, checked out the bus. There was no reason to stop. No roadblock, nothing – and the driver was missing. I waited for someone else to make the first move. Three old ladies, sisters on a holiday together, hobbled off the bus to get an explanation. It turned out that the driver had decided to strike because he was being made to work overtime and not being paid for it. He laid out a blanket off the edge of the road and was snoring before we could say ‘Manali.’

The old ladies realised they needed numbers and came back to recruit from the hordes of youngsters in the bus. Shy young brides looked up at their husbands in awe as the men got up and stretched and swaggered, ready to get down and take on the lone driver. One of them called out to the OA to join them. He opened half a bleary eye and chivalrously volunteered, “Let my wife handle him. You won’t need to send anyone else,” and went back to sleep.

Yes, yes, ladies and gentlemen, I still honeymooned with him. Not just that, procreated and continue to live with him. A silent, suffering woman, that’s me. The only good that came of that night, is that we still dine out on that story.

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