Monday, October 12, 2009

A Thousand Times Over

Sometimes I wonder why I do what I do. It just makes my life comparatively more convoluted than that of those around me.

My friends are busy planning a lunch for tomorrow while I am busy planning my ten day whirlwind visit home, to UAE. Their hands are busy flipping through menu cards whereas I am busy checking my ticket and passport.

They are asleep in their comfortable beds anticipating the start of the sudden holidays whereas I am turning and tossing around in bed mentally reviewing to- pack and to -do lists.

The next day as I glare cheekily at the immigration officer who has decided to take his own sweet time to stamp my passport I wonder if he is actually memorizing my details or something.

That done, waiting in the lounge in front of the boarding gate for two hours does nothing to soothe my back which is on the verge of going on strike against the grave injustice I am meting out to it. Can't blame my spine and seats of learning… I subjected them to the torture of staying still and ramrod straight for four fifty minute lectures earlier in the morning. Poor them…. And then my arms that last exercised when I went swimming four months ago, cry out in agony when I haul my suitcase around. As I make my way to the plane, 'goodbye and happy holidays' SMSes that flood my cell phone confirm my hunch about my friends being busy watching movies back to back or doing something a million times better than ending up with co-passengers who snore.

An hour later, when the lady sitting next to me manages to stop snoring and, I manage to pay the courtesy visit to my long lost friend sleep the steward decides on an impulse to stomp his way from one end of the aisle to the other. Nice… he scared my reticent and shy friend away. It is 10 in the night and the plane is an hour late. Nora Roberts does nothing to ease the cramps in my legs which are the result of sitting in an auto rickshaw with one leg over a suitcase for an hour and 15 minutes to reach the airport.

My stomach is grunting and emitting low rumbles that reminds me of a growling dog with its hackles raised. I think the last time some food soothed my innards was at 2:30 in the afternoon. How I wish the plane would take off and the crew would serve me some chow. It is now exactly 12  in the night and the air traffic control finally decides to be gracious and permits us to fly high.

Finally, after 4 torturous hours the plane decides to land itself at the Sharjah Airport thudding all through the runway and then some more. No jolt or thud ever made me so happy. If my back had hands the clapping and cheering would resemble the crowd at a FIFA final because I could finally stand straight, after more or less 8 and a half hours of remaining seated.

As I wait at the luggage carousel, mentally counting the appearance of a particular suitcase for the 10th time in a row I wonder why am I doing this, when I can manage to be snug in my lumpy bed in Bombay and wake up late the next day looking forward to an outing with my friends. I finally spot my bag after a wait of almost 20 minutes and stop short of whooping in glee. I just realized that standing doesn’t agree with me either. I push the trolley with my bags outside the airport almost breaking into a sprint, all I can dream of is going home ASAP and crashing into my cozy bed. HELLO UAE. Imagination becomes reality.

Next day I wake up groggy and ravaged with jet lag. Once again I dwell on the sensibility of my decision to not study in the UAE where my family is and moving back to India to pursue my higher education. Compared to this hassle of travelling every 6 months and the whole rigmarole of packing and having to keep adjusting to my surroundings and two totally different lifestyles the former would have been a better choice. Add to that the miserable feeling of not exactly belonging to any of the two places in particular, I feel like I am stuck in a limbo. As I wallow in self-pity and depressing thoughts of this variety early in the morning, the phone rings. I pick it up and hear my little cousin's chirpy voice.

“When did you reach?” She squeals, "Early this morning honey" I reply

“I am dying to meet you! I wanted to be there to receive you  at the airport but I had tuitions this morning. I am so glad you're here, I missed you!!!" says she.

At that particular moment, it became as clear as crystal to me why exactly I have been doing this whole travel gig since the last two years despite the aches and pains that come with it. And especially after spending the last 2 hours writing about how obnoxious travelling back and forth is.

I have, and I would travel to any remote corner of the world a thousand times over just to hear a loved one tell me that.

Yours recuperating from jet lag


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sisterhood of strawberries and chocolate

I resemble a sleep deprived zombie. Okay! That doesn’t make sense because zombies are dead so they don’t need to sleep… Simply show’s how much sleep deficiency I suffer from….I can’t expect anything better from any other human being woken up at 4:30 in the morning to be told about having a new baby cousin.

Girl or boy? I mumbled, my eyes closed, still heavy with sleep.`

“Baby girl” came the reply. “ Hooray!” I muttered with enthusiasm that was supposed to resemble India winning the cricket world cup but it sounded like I was snorting in my sleep…..I sank back into the world of slumber.

That night I met my new baby cousin for the first time and fell in love with her…. I am forever falling in love with babies… nothing new or novel about the same. And when they all cross the age of 3 they turn out to be brats and break my heart….. I am like women in an abusive relationship. I still can’t let go of my sweethearts….

She was tiny, wrapped tight with a cute bonnet on her tiny little head, not serving its purpose at all since I could see her thatch of dark black hair peep out as if playing peek a boo. Eyes scrunched shut, unaware of the racket spewing around her she lay motionless and serene looking like an award winning photograph.
 I was lost in thought wondering in bewilderment about her smallness. I actually guffawed loudly when an uncle of mine held her with as much trepidation and care as Horton{!%7Dwhen he held the speck . Him a 6 foot 80 something kilogram giant and her, a 3 kilogram mite. I am sure I chuckled loudly because I was rewarded with weird looks from my relatives who were until then busy clucking around the baby like nutty mother hens….. I felt like a dartboard…

She was so small. I wish small had a synonym that clubbed petite and cute and cuddly in it… I need such an adjective to justly describe her. I was petrified to hold her when I was asked if I’d like to by my aunt. And I didn’t in fact for the fear of breaking her or dropping her prevailed over my maternal instincts.
But imagining the so called tiny baby in the now deflated stomach of my aunt made my petite doll remind me of an Alsatian in a terrier’s kennel.

I am the older sister to 7 children including this fledgling, 6 of who are cousins. I’ve been privileged enough to see them all as soon as they were born, but I’ve never ceased to be amazed by how an actual live person can be so small, so petite, so perfect, so tiny, so dark……

Dark?????? My blissful line of thought was broken by the superfluous ravings of my family around me.

“Yes, she’s dark!” piped in a grandaunt

“Yeah, like her dad” chipped in another

“Some kids gain colour after a few days.. yeah she’ll turn out pretty and fair as she grows up.”

“ Oh! Yes! They grow to resemble the other parent, so maybe her mom’s traits will surface in time to come.” Grunted a granduncle with the air of a genetics expert.

The new mother looked apologetically at these people as if the baby and she had committed some crime. They made my doll sound like a blurred photograph.

My mind reeled into flashback

13 years back

“Mommy, why am I not as fair as you?” Does that mean I am not pretty? Does that mean I’m not yours?”
That was a five year old child’s predicament to a mother who didn’t know how to let her baby know that she was beautiful and meant the world.

5 years from then

“What is blushing? I read it in this book”

“That is when some one feels shy and the blood rushes to their cheeks making it go pink or red”
“Do I blush?”
“ No! honey with your skin tone it’s not possible or maybe its not visible. You can observe your brother if you want to. He is fair.”

2 years from then

“You, young woman are so different from everyone in the family… Your head’s always buried in a book or you’re in your own world… Apt to be called the black sheep, you are! {laughing in the background}

Back to the present 2009

Dear baby,

You don’t even have a name yet but they have already tagged you with a label.

I can’t say this out loud to you because, well you can’t understand{ the same stands for the rubbish these people are blathering and thank god for that}. But I hope that these thoughts flow from my heart to yours.

You’re not fair like mommy because you look like daddy and he loves you a lot. He’s darn good looking too, that’s why mom fell for him.

You’re every bit your mom’s. Basic genetics states you receive one of your parents’ skin tones. Daddy rules in that department.

You’re the prettiest thing I’ve set my eyes on in the last 18 years.

You’re gorgeous as hell, heaven too. Boys will queue for you…. It’s only obvious since Naomi Campbell, Bipasha Basu{a famous dusky indian supermodel and actress} Rihanna and Beyonce are so much in demand.

Of course you blush! Just like any other human. And when you do you are like creamy coffee with saffron sprinkled over it.

Anyone wanting to apply a fairness cream on you later in life can go take a hike. We are not interested in contributing to the ever increasing sales of fairness cosmetics industry in the nation of India.

Majority of the CEO’S, Oscar winning actors, statesmen, and writers have been the odd ones out in their families…. The black sheep… hahahahaha

Americans and Europeans run the risk of sunburns to achieve your skin tone. Young girls who resemble milk chocolate bronze themselves because bronze is sexy! You’re less prone to sunburns and skin cancer. Last time I read the traditional religious stories{and I believe I am well versed in them] lord Krishna was dark and he had around 16,000 wives and still waiting I think. Draupadi
{ }
was queen to five handsome kings!!!! She was dusky too…….

You’re siblings if and when they come might be fair…… So what?????? They might be pretty and so are you… They are the light, fresh, sunny, golden mornings people find adorable. You’re the moist, misty, mysterious, glorious star strewn night that people find gorgeous and alluring. I never heard people say only mornings are beautiful and nights are not. You might not be peaches and cream…. But you are strawberries and chocolate………

We Indians bicker about racism in the west. Maybe we should check out the situation in and around our vicinity first.

Lastly, I love you. We are sisters in more ways than you’ll ever know.

Yours sweet as dark chocolate