About time I updated you on what I’ve been up to.
Metallica. The biggest regret this side of 30. Bigger regret? The way the media and the rest of the country took a certain glee in the cancellation of the show. We were there guys. Loads of us. What people forget is that there is a certain crowd that goes for Metallica – and almost all of them are over 30! Even my dad listened to Metallica in his youth. We saw so many fathers and sons – reminded me of my brother and dad coming to watch Deep Purple, years ago. We waited for hours on the road, we commented on the flimsy barriers. We walked in and were shocked to hear the organisers tell people that the show is cancelled, go home. At this point nothing had happened. We were all there, just waiting. And then when the crowd roared and asked why, no response came, just a – Get the f**k out, back off Buttheads. Nice. Racism at its best. Of course when the show was cancelled the news, twitter and FB were full of, ‘what else do you expect from Delhi.’ And yet, two days later they reaped the benefits of an F1 with nary a thought of Delhi, filling the same headlines with – India we’re proud of you (not Delhi we’re proud of you, I see!)! Nice. It’s always amusing to sit back and watch people grab credit that is not theirs and heap criticism where none is due.
All of us had planned this ages ago – a big get together culminating in the biggest show of ours lives. A shippie friend signing off the ship earlier than planned, friends flying in from Bombay and London. Others taking leave and catching trains across the country. We had a huge brunch planned at my place and were as excited as a bunch of five year olds at a birthday party, mattresses on the floor to accommodate the extra crowd. Metallica blasting through my house and my kids running around from Uncle to Aunty to Uncle, meeting people they’d never met and building new bonds with my old friends. After the cancellation we went into mourning. I saw tears in some eyes. This wasn’t something we’d expected to experience in this lifetime, so I guess the high and then the low were more than most people could handle. We slowly exited the cordoned off area, men helping ladies to leave first, got into our cars and left, heading home for a quiet drink and chat.
Yes, we got back the money, but how do they plan to recompense us for the time, disappointment and mismanagement?
We took three days off and attended the OA’s colleague’s wedding in Punjab. I love Punjabi weddings. So much fanfare, awesome snacks and fantastic food. I’ve been saying for years that I want to visit the Golden Temple and this seemed a God-given opportunity so we did Amritsar-Ludhiana-Patiala-Ambala in 3 days. It was madness.
At one point, the kids just collapsed over the suitcases and slept. But they were as usual, as good as gold on the trip – it’s only at home that they test my patience, it would seem! Eating whatever was on offer, falling asleep in autos and tempos and thankfully wanting to do their big job only when a bathroom was conveniently available.
We went to Jallianwala Bagh first. I almost wish we hadn’t. It’s stayed on in my mind and I still ache when I remember it. You sit there in the warm, peaceful winter sunshine and watch your kids chase butterflies and it’s a little hard to believe the carnage the place witnessed. A shiver ran down my spine as I walked down the narrow passage leading into it. It was hard not to look over my shoulder for trouble. I’d recommend everyone visit that place once in their lifetime, instead of the Taj Mahal – maybe it should be mandatory for all Indians to go there and spend an hour. Just to soak in the ghosts of the past and know what our country has been through. Because you can read about the crawling order, but it’s only when you walk around the park that your skin crawls with the horror, and the injustice that has gone unavenged. I am guessing even Hell spat General Dyer out. Maybe things would have been different if I were not a mother, but it gave me nightmares after we left the place. I stood there imagining the women shrieking and throwing their children to the ground, covering them with their bodies. I could hear Dyer give the order to shoot low so that the ground was peppered with bullets until the babies were shot through their mothers’ bodies. I was glad they’d covered up the Matyr’s Well because I felt this sudden urge to throw myself into it in frustration. What went through the minds of the people who flung themselves into the well when the shooting began? You walk around the little park and even the warm sun can’t rid your bones of the chill when you see the holes in the walls and the little signs saying – This is where the soldiers fired from. These are the bullet marks. In those few hours I went through a range of emotions, mostly rather violent and vengeful.
I was so unprepared for the Jallianwala experience (why is it that no one who went there speaks about it?) and to make matters worse I was reading Shauna Singh Baldwin‘s prize winning novel, What The Body Remembers. I am ashamed to say I’d never heard of her and just happened to pick up the book at the airport bookshop. It lay by my bedside until I ran through whatever else was there. I had by then lost interest in reading it but about ten pages in I was absorbed and then we left for Punjab. The coincidence was too much. The story of Sardarji whose wife Satya cannot give him an heir, marrying the young, poor Roop who promptly fulfills her purpose and produces a variety of them for him to pick and choose from. I’m amazed at the way a Canadian author takes us back by 60 plus years and places us in their home. Sardarji reminds me of so many Indians who were more English than the English themselves. While a lot of it is about the intriguing and politicking within a family where two women fight for their rights, the backdrop is Partition. And reading about it made my blood curdle. Trains pulling in, just as we’ve all grown up hearing, with blood dripping out of the doors. Dead bodies piled up. Women raped and their wombs cut out – symbolic. I suddenly remembered the petulant little Madrasan’s letter over some silly slight, telling the Delhi boy that his dead grandmother’s ghost would think Partition was less traumatic. So lightly the words were tossed into the great www, with no thought for what Partition actually meant, for the losses and the pain. I was tempted to send her a ticket to Punjab and a copy of the book.
I strongly recommend the book to those who care for a good read. An absorbing, well-researched, beautifully written book that seemingly incidentally gives us an idea of our history. It makes you appreciate the hard won independence and freedom a lot more. And yes, lets call it freedom because it was nothing less than slavery. And in all that catching of trains and buses I also read Indu Sundaresan’s The Splendor of Silence. Again, it tells of a lovely story between an Indian girl and an American soldier, set in pre-Independence days and I’m afraid I’ve rather childishly gone off the British. Childishly because its long past and there is really nothing to be done about it now, is there?
I also find myself unable to read any fiction about contemporary India. I’ve tried, dragged through ten pages and then realised my heart is not in it. Doesn’t help that most of my friends and acquaintances are writing books and I am unable to read anything in this period and feeling really bad about it.
Anyway, next up the Durgiana Temple. I was quite surprised to find that it was an exact copy of the Golden Temple but somehow didn’t hold the same attraction. What broke my heart was that they had a troupe singing inside the temple and three little kids dressed up as Ram, Sita and Hanuman, dancing to their music in a tired, dispirited way. They couldn’t have been older than 6, faces painted and eyes dull, they moved slowly to the music.
The Golden Temple was beautiful as expected but madly crowded. It was a Saturday and the entire world and it’s wife were there. Somehow the peace I was seeking eluded me in the mad rush. We did find a quiet corner to sit down, but I wish we’d gone on a less crowded day – I’d waited too long for this and was slightly disappointed not to get the calm I was looking for. Even so, it’s one thing off my bucket list and I can die a little easier.
The last day at Patiala was spent shopping like a maniac. I did the kind of thing only I could do – realised that I had packed two gold left foot sandals. I had to wear my rubber slippers under my saree, the OA horrified at his reputation being ruined. We managed to find a shoe shop at the last minute and pick up a pair of plain gold slip-ons with a slight heel. I felt really guilty shopping after having spent the previous few hours buying up every phulkari dupatta and patiala salwar I laid eyes on. And then promptly and rather absent-mindedly left all the shopping behind at a store. Only to make a mad rush to collect it since we were leaving at 5am the next morning. Leave it to me to take a merely packed trip into the realm of absolute hysteria.
The one place that didn’t impress me was the Wagah border. Again perhaps because it was too crowded and I hate crowds. I didn’t see the point of the screaming and shouting of slogans on either side. What did give me a lump in the throat strangely, was the most innocuous thing – a road sign we passed on the way to the border saying, Lahore 24 kms. As if to say it was the most natural thing on earth to drive down to Lahore for lunch with friends. I have made so many blogging friends from Pakistan that I couldn’t believe they were a bare 25 minute drive away. So close yet so far away. I felt such a range of emotions on the trip that I was close to becoming a basket case.
Speaking of crowds I’ve become really weird. I find myself no longer just uncomfortable in crowds (be the pubs or places of worship) but in one on one conversations. Is it me or do people just stand too close now? I find myself moving further and further away from people and it seems like everyone is doing it. Maybe my boundaries for physical space are just changing.
We also ended up befriending a Japanese family at the wedding. They had two kids, around the same age as the Brat and the Bean and it was the most heart-warming sight to see them play with each other. Proof that you don’t need to speak the same language to communicate. They made up their own strange gibberish and fell about laughing at their own clownish-ness. We found out that they were booked back via Delhi and had nowhere to stay and so invited them to spend the last 8 hours or so before their fight at our place. They were a little surprised by our willingness to invite strangers home but happily grabbed the offer, grateful that they didn’t have to spend that time touring the city in a cab to while away time. And so we’ve made some new friends.
The weeks ahead promise to be busy with my knee getting worse, as winter sets in. The good dermatologist tells me my hair is probably falling due to the lack of Vit D and calcium. Apparently it all comes back to that deficiency. And here’s the cherry on the cake – I might have a hole in my ear drum. Why God, why?!
The kids are flourishing with me at home and are turning more social than ever, to the point of being painful! Walking up to strangers and talking to them, introducing themselves and generally giving me nightmares over their safety. They insist on hugging everyone they meet. I’ve become a regular fixture at the bus stop and the two kids have taken to jumping off the last step of the bus into my arms, something my knees can’t take but my heart won’t let me stop. Somedays motherhood threatens to fill me up to bursting point and I smile into the warm winter sunshine and forget my various aches and pains. Life is good.