Sunday, March 19

Yeh jo des hai mera.....

....swades hai mera....

With fluttering hearts and rhythm in our steps, we reached the Melbourne International Airport. Out of the six bags that we were carrying, five were M's!! *yes I know its hard to believe that my luggage was so less but* It was his first trip back home after he came to Australia in Nov 99. And since then tickets would be booked every year, gifts shopped for and then when the time came closer, something or the other would come up and his trip would be cancelled. But *obviously* not this time. =)

There were plenty of flowers and tears at the airport. My parents were surprised that the slim son-in-law that they had expected had arrived with bulging biceps and triceps. And my In-laws were expecting the chubby cheek girl they had seen in the photographs and found a slightly slender girl instead. *no chance of pulling my cheeks now...hehehe!*

The week after in Delhi came and went..... I just remember shop after shop and salesman after salesman.... I was like a little girl in a candyshop when I entered the gorgeous ladies designer stores. I loved every sari they showed me. And later choosing the lehanga took forever....!! Mummy got so sick and tired of the salesmen who were singing praises of pieces that didn't look that good at all that at one point she told him to shut up and let us make our own minds - just in not exactly that many words!

The good thing that I felt in this trip this time was that I didnt get pushed or shoved or rubbed against in Karol bagh like I remember from my previous trips years ago. There was a tape playing on loudspeakers all day about Delhi Police and how girls should not tolerate eve-teasing and inform the authorities if they felt that a guy was misbehaving. Thankfully I didnt have to bear a single sleazy brush from any guy that whole week. It may sound like a silly thing to mention here in this post - but it does make a huge difference to one's whole experience.

Anyways, returning back to the wedding preps. We reached Ludhiana on the 7th - 5 days before the wedding day. Thankfully one of Papa's close friend's lives there and we stayed at his place and his lovely wife helped us with all the remaining shopping. What a relief to have a local show you around and guide you and to do all the haggling for bargains! *what a girl wont do for a bargain!!*

My three brother-in-laws are so cute. It was so funny to see them, how they looked at me from top to bottom - everytime we met. A strange expression of awe in their eyes. They are all in their late teens and thought it was amazing that someone from so far off could have so much in common with them. I laughed at every joke, endorsed every prank, cheered every antic.... it was amazing and I had a great time...never a dull moment with those boys. They religiously came to see me everyday at Uncle's place and would pull me aside to say, "Bhabhi, tussi ghar chheti chheti aao naa. Hor jaldi nahi aa sakde tussi?" (Bhabhi, please hurry up and come home. Cant you hurry things a bit more?) :)

As tradition would have it - the bride and the groom aren't allowed to see each other before the wedding....for about a week atleast. But we had to cut it short to two days as a week was just out of question. So when we finally locked eyes as I walked to the stage on the evening of our ring ceremony - sparks flew! :) It was so strange.... as if I was seeing him for the first time. He just stared, with a small smile dancing on his lips. And when I went up and sat next to him, he just whispered, "Stunning!"

The only thing I remember of those two and a half days that constituted my wedding was -- the Beauty Parlour!! I spent probably more than half of the two days in there... getting all sorts of treatments and makeup done to my hair and myself. But the pictures came good - so I'm not complaining. =)

Then the next day was gone smiling shyly at all his relative's that had come to see the new "Nu"! I was trying my utmost to remember every name and every relation... because after the initial intros at the wedding reception - they were actually asking me, "Haanji, saanu pehchaana?" :] (Do you recongise me?) "Sada naa ki aa?" (What is my name?) -- how silly of me, how could I forget to keep a taperecorder or something to record their names. So disorganised!


Gurdwara Saahib (Golden Temple at Amritsar) was amazing! It was everything it is showed to be in the paintings and the pictures and so much more. I hadn't seen Rang de Basanti before visiting the Golden Temple or I'm sure I would have been singing the Ik Omkar in my head that day......

Traditionally the newly weds have to bathe in the lake and then visit the Gurudwara together. And so I was escorted to the ladies bathing area to take the dip. To be honest, walking around bikini clad ladies on the beaches of Melbourne is not the same as the scene of the ladies bathing quarters in these temples and gurudwara kind of places. This is way waaaay more agonizing and awkward than anything else imaginable. And then the huge gold fish like creatures in the water...... I think I'll stop right here... you get the picture.

The next day after our return from Amritsar, we went to his 'pind' (village). It is about 2 hours drive from Ludhiana on the banks of Satluj and is the most beautiful place I saw in the trip. I had specially asked for the swaying fields of Sarso (mustard) - the gorgeously blooming yellow flowers dancing side to side in the cool wind. I had to get my DDLJ pictures.... and this was my chance!! =) I ran around like the Bollywood actors and pulled out fresh white radish from the fields, playing with the village kids. One girl in particular grew such a liking for me in that one afternoon - that she wouldn't let me go when we were leaving....
The lunch in his 'pind' was extremely tasty with all the fresh ingredients - cool lassi (buttermilk) and oodles of makkhan (butter) in everything! The bowl of daal that they gave me was half full of daal and half makkhan - and no matter how tempting it looked I had to say - "No thanks! Mae inna makkhan aaj tak kade vi nahi khaaya" (I have never eaten so much butter in my life) and I pushed it towards M and he ate it with extreme delight.

The next evening we visited the much acclaimed 'Haveli' restuarant in the outskirts of Jalandhar. The restuarant is setup in the midst of a mock-village. Full with a potter, a puppeteer, balloon men, tailor, jeweller and all sorts of arts and crafts and things one would expect to see in a typical Punjabi village. The camel ride around the village that I took with M was the best and funniest bit. My shrieks are recorded in the handycam as proof!

The last two days in Ludhiana were our 'Maintenance Days'. We went to the Dentist, the Optometrist and the Ear Doctor. He eyesight had impaired a bit spending all those hours in front of the monitor while I still enjoy a perfect vision! *touchwood!!*
The solution that the dentist used to scrub my teeth with was the most sickening, horrible tasting thing ever! And being my very first trip to the Dentist of my life, probably made it worse. When he was finished with it and allowed me to gargle I couldn't resist and exclaimed, "Urgh! That was so disgusting!!" And his sharp assistant retorted, "You dont brush you teeth properly naa thats why we had to do it for you!" *grrrrr!*

Finally.... the morning came when we were leaving for Kanpur. My hometown. My first visit since Jan 01 and M's first visit ever..........

Saturday, March 11

Hum to hain pardes mein......

.........mere des mein nikla hoga chaand.

As I finally find my feet in this new life...... with a new life partner and a completely new take on life - I struggle to find the words. The thoughts are clamouring to be poured out... but everytime I find a few minutes to come here and attempt to type something up, I am faced with a strange *blank*.

I don't know where to begin.... how to begin..... to document this strange transition =>

- from bare hands to those scrawled with henna

- from empty wrists to those brimming with bangles red and white - the bridal 'churaa'

- from a barren forehead to one marked with the deep red of the sindoor and the glistening bindi

- from vacant toes to those circled with toerings

- from a younger daughter to the eldest daughter-in-law

- from 'Didi' and 'Beta' to 'Bhabhi' and 'Nu'(Bahu)

- from being my parents 'little Princess' to *his* 'Queen'

- from ......
.......being so much to being so much more!!!

If I started today from where it all started, from where 'we' started, then we all are going to be sitting here for a long long time. As my dear mates and girlfriends know already how I love to tell each and every story without omitting the smallest of details....... so lets just do a quick recap.....

This story starts when I had just celebrated my 18th birthday in Nov and was the *bholi-bhaali* kudi like Juhi in QSQT. =)

Nov/early Dec 00 => Me visits A's *friend* home as A is helping Me and my sister to shop for gifts for the first trip back to India. A mentions a family friend "M" who is a 'young 16 year old who works almost every night and goes to uni in the day'.

Dec 00 => Me meets M at A's party. M is shy, just plays romantic Boyzone songs on the music system all evening. Me thinks, "He's a kid - probably just intimidated by me - better leave him alone".

mid Dec 00 => Me meets M at A's again. Chats. Compliments M for being such a hardworking 16 year old. M is shocked!! He claims to be 18, becoming 19 in 2 months. OK. Continue chat. M interrupts, he insists that he'll show his passport next time as proof. OK. Continue chat. M interrupts again, still cant believe that Me had thought he was 16. OK. Continue chat. M interrupts yet again, he will definitely get his passport next time to show Me. OK - FINE. Me thinks, "What the....." *rolls her eyes*.

end Dec 00 => M helps A, sister and Me during shopping. He carries bags as the girls shop frantically during the Christmas/New Year Sale. All this time - he only gets a Nike cap with the "N" and Me foolishly exclaims, "Thats like 'N' in Nupur" and M smiles and nods knowingly! Me blushes and walks away.

early Jan 01 => Sister and Me fly to India. Sister gave A and M a contact no. for India just incase.

mid Jan 01 => My friends come home to see her and giggle and catchup with all the goss that everyone has missed in the past months. M calls. Sister gives phone to Me and Me in her naïveté give the phone to one of her girl friends - who just giggles on the phone. M says to them, "Look after *my* Nupur". They giggle some more. Me has no idea why they are laughing!!

12 Feb 01 => Sister and Me return to Aus. Me smses M from Sydney that she's coming. M comes with G *friend* to pick Sister and Me at the Melbourne Airport. On the drive home M confesses to Me in a whisper that he missed her terribly. Me smiles and looks away.

13 Feb 01 evening => Sister and Me unpacking. Me in her room, with handsfree - talking to M. Talking about anything and everything. Clock strikes midnight. M pops the question. Me replies, "I don't know". M says that he wont hang up or let Me go to sleep till he gets an answer. They talk some more. The question again, and topic change and the circle continues. Around 5.30am (free talk time ends at 6am) M cant take it anymore. M wants an answer - NOW. Sleepy Me whispers "Yes". M happily hangs up and lets her sleep - plans of the day ahead already swimming in his mind.

19 Feb 01 => Me is worried. She admits to M that they are culturally very different and they are very young and are just being naive and silly and it'll never work blah blah. M is heart broken and so is Me. They stop calling each other - day and night like they had been. Only Hi's and Hello's.

26 Feb 01 => M's birthday. He invites Sister and Me to his party. He greets Me with a heartbroken and gloomy face. They eye each other all evening. M takes Me to the beach behind his house and talks. He says it will all be okay - they will make things work - together.

end Feb 01 => Silent pact - M and Me will be *close* friends and will talk to their families once they are on their feet.

Jul 01 => Sister and Me move to a new place and Sister talks to M if he wants to be their housemate as he is looking for a place to stay as well. M is thrilled and agrees immediately. Sister and Me's parents in India, agree reluctantly only because they have spoken to M over a phone quite a few times and Sister claims that he is a great guy. M calls Me's Mom religiously once every fortnight, God knows what the two talk about!!!!

Aug 01 onwards => Happy times. Bad times. M and Me find each others queer and annoying habbits. Laughter. Fights.

Dec/Jan 03 => Me goes on a study exchange to Washington DC and then visits Canada and England on her way back to Australia. Meets some long lost family friends that her parents insist she meet to help/guide her around the *foreign* countries. An *Aunty* in Leeds, UK, with a 25yr old son, particularly likes Me. She introduces Me to all her relatives/friends etc.

Feb 03 => Call from Me's Mom in the middle of the night. The *Aunty* from Leeds is visiting India the following month and she had some very excited conversations with Me's parents. Me's Mom asks her if she likes Leeds!! Me tells M - he panics. He calls Me's Mom and tells her his intentions. She laughs - she knew!

April 03 => Sister and Me go to India for Sister's wedding. Me returns to Australia and moves in with a girlfriend from her uni and M with his mates. Phone bills skyrocket again. Hard times. Strange times. Laughter. Fights.

early Nov 04 => Me's Brother is about to come to Australia. Me and M are excited. They decide to move back together like before except this time its Brother instead of Sister.

Dec 04 => Brother comes to Australia. Happy times. Hard times.

Early 05 => M and Me's families in India finally meet. *Fingers Crossed*!! All goes well. Only confusion is - where will the wedding be? Kanpur? or Ludhiana?

May 05 => M's cousin comes to Australia. House is now packed to capacity. Happy times. Hard times.

Late 05 => Ludhiana is chosen as the venue for the wedding with a function later in Kanpur as well. Wedding preparations in full swing!

1 Feb 06 => M flies back to India for the first time after coming to Australia in Nov 99.........