Haldi Kumkum, Ambedkar Jayanti …a slice of Amchi Mumbai

Looking for inspiration every morning to get out of bed? Do you wake up early morning saying “let me go for a run”? I do not do any of these things knowing I should. I know that I have so much to be grateful for and we all do. But I am never content. Always looking at what I don’t have and how I can acquire. It could be a skill, a habit, a trait, an art, a thing or more. If nothing , then I am looking at which new holiday destination I can go to. Don’t know if this makes me restless or gives me a purpose in life. When one thing is accomplished, I seem to move on without even acknowledging myself for a job well done. What I have realised is all this is okay for myself but my fear is that I am expecting this from others too, in an unconscious manner. I don’t want to have too many expectations from people but even there I am upping it. Am I getting more disappointed? Not at all. Though I am a little concerned if people are feeling the pressure with me. Gosh, I am sounding so lofty even while writing this. It is like I am perfect and are the people matching up ongoingly?

Mumbai is really bright and beautiful at this time. It has fresh light green new leaves on all the trees. There are yellow flowers blooming. The chirping of the birds is heard more. Gudi Padwa has unleashed a series a festivities in the neighbourhood. Our entire lane is lit up with fairy lights from a fortnight and they are on the full night. The loud speakers start at ten pm and definitely no BMC guidelines are followed. For Ambedkar jayanti, There was a procession of the people in the Chawl.  The men and women wear white new clothes. Ambedkar party flags are in everyone’s hands. The ladies and young girls wear Navari sarees or the 9 yard sarees with a Peta, Pagdi or turban.  The were doing synchronised lezim dance. It was so graceful with Dhol. We had seen them practice for three hours every night before the event in the playground, after finishing all their chores. The week long celebrations included games competition, singing, group dance competitions. Three chawls right next to each other vie for the first prize/ the winners trophy. This year the MC ( Master of ceremonies) made the wrong announcement. He declared a winner, realised his mistake and then declared the actual winner. All hell broke loose. He was accused of cheating. The faux winners whose name was declared first started abusing and fighting with the actual winners. Women and men got into the fight. Police was called at 4 am to settle the matter. All  this happening right across us, as we blissfully slept in our air-conditioned comforts. The judges were asked to show the marks/points given to each contestant. Everything was checked and calculated again. There was no mistake  found in it. The MC apologised but the seeds of mistrust and anger were sown. I felt bad for the children who had to witness this fight by the adults whether they were winners or losers. Chain whatsapp messages abusing the winners started getting forwarded amongst the Chawls. Wonder why we have prizes in any game or sports? I know one institute called ‘Primrose’, which gives Prize to every participant no demarcation whatsoever. We need more ‘Primroses’ in this world.

Next day’s ‘Haldi Kumkum’ ceremony in the Chawl was cancelled as the tempers were flying high. ‘Haldi Kumkum ceremony is for married women. Turmeric and vermillion is put on the forehead of married women. The ceremony includes making Rangoli, design on the floor with colours and rice powder, playing traditional Marathi games, singing traditional old songs. There is a small return gift which is usually a ‘ Shringaar’ item given, like ‘Bindi’, Green bangles, or a earrings. Political parties in Maharashtra do ‘Haldi Kumkum’ ceremonies to gather the women voters. It is not just an event in rural areas but in cities too. At home, Haldi Kumkum is done to welcome the married women. A Married lady is worshipped as a form of Goddess Durga. It is held in the evening. The lady of the house invites 8,9 or 11 women to her home. Puts Haldi Kumkum, gives them milk with dryfruits to drink, some snacks and sweets. This Ram Navmi, I went for Kanya Puja with my children. The hostess had cooked a lavish South Indian meal without tasting and it tasted perfect. While cooking for the Prasaad, the food is not tasted by the cook or anyone else till it is offered to the God and the Kanya i.e. the young girls called for the Puja.  Seeing and experiencing the Divinity in human beings is practiced in every ritual. She applied Haldi, Chuna and Kumkum on the feet of the children. The toes and the front of the foot was covered with this auspicious paste. Chuna is calcium carbonate which is used for orthopaedic purpose. Turmeric has antiseptic properties.

In Jharia, if one of us had a fall, Mom, Chachi, Granny or Sitaram whoever was at home would immediately apply Haldi powder. We never even had a Savlon or Dettol antiseptic at home in a house of six children. Only home made remedies were used. For a sprain, warm dough of  atta haldi and oil was applied with an old cloth. Alternatively one could use onion crushed and warmed, applied on the wound. All pain was gone with this. Gauri Bai made a powder for digestion and some dark bitter syrup for cleansing the blood. Any stomach pain, we were never given deworming tablets. Our Doctors did not prescribe medicines if rest and fluids could cure us.


One more guy to see

I met him at Sea Lounge. He came in a bit late. He had driven straight from Pune. No expressway in those days, so it was a long arduous drive. There was a plaster on one hand which means he drove his fiat car with just one hand. I was already impressed. He looked well traveled. He had not bothered to comb or clean up. His hair was wind ruffled and his eyes were enigmatic. He spoke good English. He knew where my hostel was. He did not ask my hostel timings or if I could sneak out at nights or some dumb questions. He just spoke normal. Was tired but wanted to make it for this meeting. He was older to me and looked it. Most guys I had seen before that looked wet behind their ears and I just could not connect with them. This one had seen the world and knew his way around. In my mind he was dashing. I liked his no nonsense and no pretense spirit.

I was quite thrilled with him. He was from South Mumbai and we could talk common things. He asked me if I had a boyfriend and I remember saying No one of relevance or importance. I could see the satisfied look on his face. Marriage with this guy would be so exciting. He was looking at me as if he owned me. After the meeting, we came to know that he was seeing a girl from the same hostel for a long time but she went back to her parents and our man was heart broken. After long, he had agreed to see a girl in the arranged marriage context.I was okay with his past.My parents for some strange reason were quiet and not pestering me for an answer. We decided to meet him again. The meeting was scheduled and then we realized a some more things. His mother was into black magic. Now that was scary. My folks had the contention that she will not do black magic with her own son or daughter in law. These arguments with Mom and Dad happened outside the hostel gates. They would be in hushed tones but were very traumatic for me. It was this typical stuff that you are the eldest of six kids and if you don’t get married, how can we fulfill our responsibility of getting the other five married. It was me who was the barrier to other children s wedding in the family.
I said No to the guy. His sister called on the hostel phone to convince me. My parents had seen me say Yes to a guy for the first time . They were unhappy about these skeletons tumbling out before I was married to the guy.In the mean time,the guy s family had announced to all their relatives that the engagement is fixed. When they saw me slipping off after an almost positive answer, they thought this would be a good way to pressurize me. It was quite a messy situation but I was adamant. My parents had to pacify the middle lady who was a rich relative and someone to be kept in good books with. Those days I could not discuss this with hostel friends or my guy friends. Friends and work were the two saviours which kept me going.

New Age Organizations

I am so scared of ruffling feathers while writing. All that I write is from my life and people from my life also read what I write. Am hoping they do not think otherwise. This is not a place to settle scores. I d rather do that in person, if I ever have the courage. When I write, the fear starts from what others will think. It  does not happen when I read or cook or swim or go to my children s school. Its not easy to listen about my writings from my friends. I am happy they are reading but I am also apprehensive about changing their perception about me. From yesterday, my friends are joking if its the right time to call. Humour has that power to remove the significance of our lives and our views.

I am not someone who laughs a lot. I learnt that early at work that a serious face is what you have to keep. So if at your desk at work you are caught smiling by any of your bosses, it is assumed you are not working. A smiling face is appreciated only at the reception and no other part of the organization. The management then thinks you are not serious about your work if you laugh and joke. Nowadays even receptionists at big offices have a scowl on their faces. Its the part of the corporate philosophy which says we mean business. Visited one in one of these fancy new glass towers. I realised it was like walking into a morgue. This was not even a place of national security or something but the atmosphere was so heavy. All dark grey and chrome. Only the hiss of the airconditioning plant. Pin drop silence. No open plan layout. Different rooms for different departments and one department cannot enter another as your key card wont work. Even JJ hospital has more life than this office. How do people work in places like this? We are throwing away all that is good in our ethos to ape the West and it is so sad. No oneness in the organisation, no openess. These are rearing grounds for competitive people. Then the organisation without even realising creates Divide and Rule. This will always harm the company in the long run. But who am I to judge? A mere housewife who worked for some years of her life.




I wanna be a friend

How do you draw lines in friendship? Should one set boundaries in friendship? Why do we say Friends are forever and stuff like that. I am apprehensive about giving even my phone numbers to friends. As in, they think it is all right to call me when they feel like. That does not work with me. I don’t enjoy chatting on the phone when I am sending children to school or when I am eating my meals or when maids have walked in or when people are at home etc. I also do not expect my friends to understand what is family time or school or maids time. Once friends have the phone number, I cant say “Call me at these times and not at these.” Do not blame them as they call when they feel like talking. This is less with women friends and more so with men friends. Married Women friends  are all tuned to timings without even telling them your schedule. Its the men friends who somehow don’t get it and do not understand. It is also not that I do not have men friends in my life or my phone. I have a problem here. I want the relationship to go my way. I don’t want the whining nor the dining.

I have men friends who have known me since childhood or my teens. All are happily married with children. But the ‘not telling wife’ nonsense goes on in their lives. Each marital relationship is different. Men are more fake in this than women. Men have an advantage of being able to digest all and not having the need to puke all. Women want to talk about every new thing they come to know. Men are cool players in that matter. Another thing I feel is so many of them veer conversations towards attraction. I am not cut out for that. I  sure like compliments but I do not like these hidden agendas which one can see through. Some men think that is the only way to talk to women and it works best for them. Some men think thats the only language a women will understand. And as this is not about bashing my male friends, I can say some women might like this kind of conversation.

No one has set these laws of wedded life. It is about how far will you flirt or how far will you go. A married man/woman will come across attractive friends/ old flames, the question is will you give in? It also comes to seeing in our growing up years, were we having friends of both the sexes and what kind of friendships did we have.  In small towns like Dhanbad, we hardly had co educational schools. In spite of co-ed schools, the men would fall for girls from the only girls school. It was just the society which was so restrictive that men and women were not allowed to sit, talk, play or study together. If I saw a boy three days in a row, then I assumed he liked me and I liked him too. You never ever spoke to the guy. And then you grew up.

I studied in an all girls school and all girls college.

Love at first sight

When we were going through the arranged marriage bit, we as in me and my folks, we used to see a lot of guys. Sometimes two or three in a day and every single day. Once we had to go to some address in Bandra. It was monsoons and we knew all main roads but the bylanes of Bandra were unexplored. We hardly ever reached a meeting on time. And those were days of no mobiles and we d just have an address to go by. So after a lot of hunting, we find the house and building. It was a beautifully done up apartment with soft yellow lights, plants in the windows and the pitter patter of the rains. the mother was there..beautiful and peaceful unlike all those aggressive boys mothers. She said her husband was in Bangalore due to business. The boy talked well. His younger brother was quite a cool teenager. He did not talk to me alone as in another room. That is a big hint for the girls parents. It means the boy did not like the girl or to put it politely, the boy is not interested in your girl.

We came out liking the house and the mother. All were a bit quiet as the boy had not spoken to me in a separate room. That’s the main interview room and its a do or die situation there.You have to clear that round. Then we came to know that the father had a factory in Bangalore and a second wife n family there. We felt bad and left it at that.

While driving past, I remember seeing a guy and there was instant attraction. I must have stared at him for a good two minutes while he bought something at a paan/ cigarette shop. The car moved ahead and he was still in my mind. At the next signal, a bike came near the car window. a small chit of paper was thrown in very discreetly. No one came to know of it.Those days we didn’t carry bags or purses to these meetings.When I reached home, I saw it had a phone number. No name, just the number of that guy. Never tried calling it.

That was youth. Where I could fall in love easily at the first sight and fall out of love too.

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