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A two-week trip in India is not that long at all. Too short to get properly acquainted with the way bread tastes so different (yet delicious), but long enough to fall ill in that special and agonizing way (chills, diarrhea and puking, it’s a party!).
Brevity aside there are some details I can’t leave out:
1. I am too fat for rickshaws. I knew this was true, because from what I’d seen, three Indian women could comfortably fit on rickshaws, every day, pretty much all the time. But when my sister (my THIN sister) and mother took a seat and I joined them in the middle, it did not go as planned. More like my ass bones were digging in their thighs, which they were not very happy about. I myself was terribly upset, ’cause no one wants to be upstaged by their native folk. But fat and upstaged I was. Apparently I need one rickshaw all to myself, complete with a pillow for my achy fat back, and a platter of Indian sweets since I guess all I do is eat all day. I can only hope that the abundance of fast food chains in India will fill out the thin girls in years to come (thus supplying me with faux self-esteem upon my future visits). I can only hope.
2. Textile shops are full of young boys who are experts in the trade of women’s wear! Indeed, go to any decent textile shop in India, and they will seat you in this room (sometimes with bench seating, sometimes cross-legged on the floor), then welcome in the throng of adolescent boys. The boys never say a thing, but as you mention different colours of saris you’d like to see, they reach towards the shelves lined with clothing, throwing down option after option. They then remove the fabric from the clear packages, draping each one against their bodies. I never would have imagined 14-year-old boys draped in saris, but it helps when they’re in that “middle” phase of growth, when the shoulders aren’t yet too broad. The smaller the shoulders, the more we can envision ourselves in these very saris. So yay for boys draped in saris, who were crucial in my purchase decisions.
3. Indians effin’ LOVE their gold. I could have sniffed this one out from my very own upbringing, as my parents have always been obsessed with melting down and then re-casting their gold. From chandelier earrings to big fat man-rings to huge necklaces, gold is the ticket! And in India, there are so many freakin’ gold stores. Sure, you can call them “jewelry” stores if you want, but when you enter inside and wonder if the sun is shining bright at high noon? You’ll decide for yourself that there’s ass-loads of gold on display. What I liked most is that the jewelry store owners TREATED us like gold, if you don’t mind my use of a horrible pun. They had little boys working at the shops, and they would run out to the restaurant next door, to bring us fresh tea in glass mugs, or Sprite, or sweets, or whatever we desired. Meanwhile deep discussions on melting and re-casting ensued. That part I found a little boring, but I knew it was important. In fact any Indian cause for celebration (engagements, weddings, birth celebrations) involve the gifting of gold, even if you don’t have money. An absence of gold-gifting is frowned upon I’m sure, so skip your meals for a month, but you sure as hell better have a stockpile of thick and golden man-chains (or possibly anklets, for those uncles who live life outside the box).
It seems fitting to end this year’s blogging on the topic of gold, not because my blog is golden, but because it’s Christmas, and there’ll be golden foil-wrapped chocolates a plenty (three-inch belly expansion predicted).
And on that note, I hope everyone has a festive holiday. I shall return sometime in January, with the same URL but a different theme, since I tend to get repulsively sick of myself.
Happy New Year and thanks for reading. See you in 2010…
Continuing on with my Indian travels from 2006: we traveled up high into the mountains, in a quest to see the Dalai Lama. It was a spiritually awakening experience, but I’m pretty sure I don’t write a blog to be “spiritual”. So let’s get back to the freaks (which sometimes includes yours truly)…
In today’s installment, the freak-man came in the form of a party guest, as my parents decided to throw themselves a housewarming party. This was different from my visit in 1995, where all we did was squat at the abodes of various family and friends. But now my parents were rocking their very own vacation home, which they now visit once a year [’cause Florida doesn’t work as a winter escape for Indian people, since we aren’t good at swimming, and since women in bikinis are scandalous—and usually gross. Seriously, I’m wise enough to expose myself strategically, why not you?—Angry feminists, please exit my blog at the door on the right, because I don’t care, and ’cause I DON’T need to show off grossness to prove I love myself. Would rather take my cues from the super-hot women in Hollywood. Thanks.]
Hmm…I lost track somehow.
Oh yeah, I’m recalling the preparations for party night, which actually weren’t that hard…because of all the specialized servants. Now my family isn’t rich by any means, but in India the dollar stretches far like a piece of chewed-up gum, it’s fabulous! I don’t find the variety or abundance of servants to be inappropriate (floor-sweeper servant, laundry-servant, dishwashing-servant, shirt-ironing servant), since “servantry” creates jobs, and the low cost of living allows for a comfortable existence.
OR I’m trying to prove that we weren’t really running a sweat-shop. Take your pick.
Once the preparations were made, I chose the appropriate jeans and casual shirt, along with the most complementary shade of eye shadow (I refused to wear Indian garb while in India for some odd reason, whereas now I am addicted to wearing saris in Toronto. Weird.).
And then came the guests. Before I get to”freak-man extraordinaire”, I must make one small confession of my own freakish ways.
It’s just that…one of the first guests had volumous hair, sparking white teeth, and symetrical features that would’ve put Mr. Jude Law to shame.
I was totally crushing.
Until five minutes later when I found out he’s my second-cousin.
Eww…I know. Look away I’m hideous.
On the other hand “to err is human”.
So please let’s keep on going.
Next the door opened and in came the neighbours. I immediately recognized the woman and her three-year-old daughter, as I’d met them before and the kid actually liked me! I liked her too because she named me “Barbie doll”, and when someone compares me to an unattainable ideal of the female form, I smile.
The one I’d never met before was the three-year-old’s father. I can only describe him as an “almost man” of hobbit height (four-feet eleven inches…I think). He also had the hobbit-trait of extremely hairy feet (Indian people don’t wear socks), though his ears didn’t point at the tips. I normally wouldn’t be so scathing in my physical assessment of another (ha), but due to his behaviour it’s entirely deserved.
It started with an instant glazing of his eyes as he looked in my direction. I can’t be sure what other type of glazing or bodily liquid came into play, but luckily I never found out. Next was his smile, revealing a set of jagged random teeth (random as in several missing here or there).
And then…he decided to talk to me. I was busy making paper airplanes for his daughter, and that’s when he took his moment to strike.
“I speak English very good.”
I awkwardly smile.
“I speak very good English.” He sits down next to me.
I do not acknowledge.
“I can speak so much English.” Our thighs make contact.
I REPEAT, thigh-contact. Or more accurately, “half thigh” contact, since his midget-leg was half the size of mine, and so he sat near the front of the couch seat.
Half-thigh harrassment or not, I was in no mood for unsavoury advances, particularly not from this hobbit who was raised on the shady end of The Shire.
So I totally ditched the kid (whatever, I’ll be nicer when I’m a mom), rushed through dinner, changed into my pajamas, and…started to watch TV.
With the meanest expression ever.
And no one in India ever messed with me again.
And neither would you…or would you?
I have two sets of memoirs from India. One from 1995 which I already wrote about, and one from 2006 which I’ll write about in my last three posts of ‘o9.
So what kind of difference does eleven years make? The difference in India’s economy, commercial development, and fast food choices is irrelevant to my discussion. I’m talking about the difference in ME that eleven years makes.
First time around? Fourteen years old, metal-mouth, obsession with wearing flannel shirts (even in summer), long greasy hair parted down the middle (for extra ugliness), relaxed fit jeans that taper at the bottom, no make-up and no eyebrow-plucking mechanisms in sight. I hope the imagery is sufficient, as I’d rather punch my own uterus than post a picture.
Eleven years later? Twenty-five years old, agreeable teeth, form-fitting but full-length shirts (I passed on the baby-tee trend of ’06), shoulder-length hair cut by a professional (though still a bit ratty), low-rise, wide-leg jeans, my obsession with mascara/eyeshadow/lip gloss in full force, and (THANK GOD) a penchant for eyebrow maintenance.
Nowhere between these lines should you conclude I went from ugly duckling to swan. That’s sort of the point of today’s post. The truth is I was MAYBE a six out of ten on a man’s hotness scale in 2006 (maybe a six and a half now? Sweet). I’m not entirely sure how men’s hotness scales work, but I assume they use one scale for models and celebs, and a separate one for us regular chicks. I say this because all the non-celeb hot girls would max out at a three out of ten, if it was “one scale fits all”. Okay then).
So with nothing eye-popping really going on, I was expecting to be left alone by everyone but monkeys while in India.
On the other hand, it’s not like the source of disturbance wasn’t primate (I don’t mean that since humans descended from monkeys, I mean that because a lot of time men act like gross-ass monkeys).
It began only two hours after de-planing in New Delhi. As a preface, eighteen hours of sitting in a vacuum makes one rather gross to the naked eye. And in our state of grossness, our uncle piled us into the van, for an eight-hour drive to his house in the village.
By hour number three, it was 2am so we pulled into a pit stop for some tea. This place was everything you’d expect from your average truck stop, except for the blaring music, and dozens of cots outside.
Cots filled with beady-eyed Indian men, enjoying tea and pakoras while they stared.
Oh how they stared.
I probably caught about twenty different men in the staring act. Did I mention how gross I looked? Also I was fully dressed. Jeans, t-shirts AND a hoodie. Well boy did that hoodie get zipped up fast. That night I learned that Indians in INDIA are so much more overt than Indians in North America. Like if you catch a brown man leering at you in Canada, he’ll keep on staring for two or three seconds to make it awkward, but that’s about it. In India though they’ll get even worse if you catch them staring. Like lick their lips and shit.
As the days went on I grew to accept the staring, but soon I would learn that it could also have its perks.
Like in our second week, when we visited one of India’s craziest bazaars.
This place was jam-packed with humans, goats, scooters, rickshaws, and the occasional car that was brave enough to squeeze its way through. Let me return to the men on the scooters. Because there was so much traffic, scooter-men had plenty of time to stare at my triple-layer-clothing-covered boobies. But instead of turning away or crossing my arms, I’d simply stand there staring back, loud and proud. And his scooter would slowly advance, with him still staring glazed over.
Until he’d hit the rickshaw in front of him.
Ha. Leering leading to traffic collisions, good times. The whole thing reminded me of that line from the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”:
“If you can stop a man in his tracks with a single glance, THAT’S when you know, that you’ve learned the true art of Geisha”
Or maybe that wasn’t even a line from the movie. I don’t remember too well since the movie was pretty boring and I dozed off multiple times.
But anyway the constant leering made me feel like a powerful Geisha, albeit a brown one.
And that’s a good thing.
As the memoir continues I’ll discuss the repulsive married man in India who tried to make a play. And gold.
It was probably August, when I first started writing about my big sis’s wedding.
Well many bloggy interruptions and build-ups later, I bring you the final chapter…
…After epic preparations to make myself look hot in the Indian way (see last week’s post), I arrived at the reception hall by 6:45pm. Since the bride and groom wouldn’t roll in for another two hours, all eyes were on the first families. I’ve experienced this phenomenon as well when attending other weddings. It’s like you suddenly become obsessed with the bride or groom’s family: what outfits they’re wearing, how their hair looks. And if they toss you a glance or even a smile, you feel special.
At my sister’s reception a similar fawning occurred, as people were practically pushing each other for a slice of my attention. It was weird, because normally I don’t even like these people. One of them tried to touch my hair and I almost punched her.
Yup, I was definitely channeling a Naomi Campbell style of self-importance…
Before I could throw my cellphone at any unsuspecting heads, the party ended for me…only fifteen minutes in. That was the moment when the stress of emceeing hit me like a truck.
We did have a couple of wedding assistants for the day, but since these blondies were experiencing their first ever Indian wedding, they were more excited about being in pictures vs. helping me organize the evening’s events.
I was so preoccupied I couldn’t even enjoy the array of appetizers! (which in Indian world, is as much food as two normal dinners). I managed to down a few bites of something that would normally be delicious, but the nervousness made me nauseous. So from then on it was straight up gingerale.
After that, my brand new brother-in-law who was also my co-emcee dropped a bomb:
“Wahhhh…I feel sick and I can’t emcee with you. Sorry. Good luck.”
I later realized his illness was in fact a pansy-like shyness, since at 1am he was dancing it up like a party animal.
And so, rather frantically, I wrote in the edits.
Time flew by but my sister kept calling to tell me she was running late, and then more late still. The extra time made me all the more frantic, and it didn’t help when the lowly plebian “after-thought” guests kept approaching. Like it’s none of your business when the bride will get here! Just go sit down at your table in the back with the shittiest view!
When my sister and her husband finally arrived, and finally finished with photographs (and when she finally adjusted her tiara for the twentieth time…pfft), I ran to the podium to get things started.
And it actually wasn’t so bad.
I mean aside from having a shine slick on my face from nervousness and constant sweating (I do NOT want to watch that wedding video), I was charming. And funny. And confident. In fact, for a whole week following the wedding, my parents, parents’ friends, and relatives kept complimenting my performance. They said I reminded them of Indira Gandhi. The Indira Gandhi who was assassinated in 1984. Hmm…
With the stress of speeches and announcements mostly over, a new kind of stress came upon me:
-trying to kick the damn kiddie performers off the stage.
This army of boys must’ve kept on performing for something like…twenty minutes? It was song after song and costume change after costume change, with their stage mom standing next to me, yelling them along, and lining up the next coloured turban for the clothing switches.
To the audience, it was a show that wouldn’t end. Behind the scenes it was my sister and her husband screaming at me, telling me to shut it down.
So umm…I engaged in a yelling match with the stage mom. Tantrum style.
She said the many songs were a part of the package deal. I said she would still get paid the same amount, but people were bored, so throw these kids in the van and move along!
She said no.
And she was scary-looking.
She then assured me we had reached the last song, and it would only last two more minutes.
Well it was TWO more songs and SEVEN more minutes.
When it was over we forgot all about it, but if made the reception less than perfect, and for that I feel permanently scorned.
Afterward everybody danced and ate the night away. Somewhere along the way I forgot to eat dinner. I REPEAT, I forgot to partake in a spectacular Indian buffet.
I was too busy being instructed to take candid pictures, or hoarding cupcakes so my sister could bring some home. Or making sure the kitchen staff sealed up the top tier of the cake instead of serving it (which they almost did).
I did get to eat a cupcake though. My one meal for the day.
On the negative side, I forgot to bring home the metal tiered cupcake stand (which was rented…oops. We never were able to retrieve it. A thieving kitchen worker is the only explanation).
And also I lost my sister’s camera.
Well I never said I was a PERFECT maid-of-honour…
[So I think I’ll finish the ’09 blog with some memories of a recent trip to India. After that a brand new blog theme on the way for 2010—back to basics, that’s all I’ll say for now. I hope you don’t lose sleep over all the suspense of not knowing (even though I know you will…)]
So I continue with the wedding that wasn’t mine, in my attempt to give my noble readers the full “Indian Wedding” experience.
Will the story conclude here? Will there be a final post? Well I’ll just write and see, because I’m literally transferring “real time” brainwaves into word count (adventure baby, that’s why I blog).
We left our bride and groom in a park for some lame-ass “gaze in distance” photos, and the rest of us rushed back home for the main event.
And yes, there is a major main event before reception time.
For the bridal side of the family, it’s where the groom returns with his wife, and he has to be “let in” by all her female family members. It starts with a big satin ribbon tied across the doorway, plus a bunch of cash (and maybe jewelry) he has to offer up, before we’ll ever let him in. On the groom’s side, he’ll then take his wife to HIS house, so she can be welcomed by his clan (again involves cash, Indian sweets, and middle-aged aunties patting her on the head).
Since bride-chick was my sister, I’ll stick with OUR side of the happenings.
In simple terms, he offered up fistfuls of cash, and complimented me and my cousins just enough to get his chance to cut the ribbon.
Although the scene inside the house was a happy one—my family, extended family, and lots of middle-aged aunties craving one-on-one access to the bride—there was a very ominous undertone:
-the taking of the bride
In other words, after some tea and Indian sweets, the husband quickly ushers the bride from the house; back into the limo and out of our lives.
I’m not going to go into detail, since I prefer to be invincible robot-girl who laughs at those silly “emotion” things, but let’s just say that seeing my mom and dad hug her, and watching all of them cry? It killed me!
By the time it was my turn to hug her, I was already in tears.
Never in a million years would I have thought the removal of my sister from my life would bring me anything but joy. In hindsight the crying still feels weird and unnatural. Basically it makes me feel dirty so I’m moving on.
Once she was gone, my aunties hauled ass to the kitchen to console my mom. Meanwhile the hair and make-up girls had arrived. Almost instantly my tears dried up, as I imagined how awesome I wanted to look, and how these girls would help me get there.
Overall I was pleased with their work. They curled my hair in the sort of coils I’d never known, and they provided me with KICK-ASS eyeshadow colours. The sort of eyeshadow that would’ve NEVER worked on the street due to its gaudiness, but for an Indian wedding it was perfect.
I also had the girls apply fake lashes, which I had never tried before in my life. I didn’t NEED fake lashes, and in fact most girls seem to envy my lashes the way I envy big-breasted girls (thanks God, that’s a totally fair trade). But I sort of wanted to look my best…to show my sister she’s a moron.
I know that sounds horrible, but when she found out I was getting my hair and makeup done, she was not what you would call supportive:
“Why don’t you just put on a tiara and call yourself the BRIDE!” Followed by her running into her room and slamming the door. Exact quote.
To add to that, she’d been a big time “B word” for weeks as I’d catered to her every slave task. Overall, I knew how stupid she was to think I could ever upstage a bride covered in jewels, so I just wanted to stretch it to the limit to prove her wrong.
And also, I’m vain.
Once my make-up was done and I’d been properly wrapped up in a sari (which due to its embroidery was ten times heavier than a regular one), I added the last detail:
I’d been wearing heavy earrings all week for the various pre-wedding events, but these were like cinder-blocks attached to my earlobes. And they had to be, because the wedding reception was the last hurrah. I was so afraid that by the end of the night my earlobes would stretch down to my shoulders, like how you sometimes see on the tribal women in National Geographic.
But alas, my earlobes still have reasonable elasticity, and are as juicy and biteable as ever (what?).
Well it seems that my stream-of-consciousness has brought me to the end of this post, leaving one more installment for the insider’s view of the reception.
And even though I speed-type blog posts and publish them without much thought, I am not omniscient. As in I DID do a proofread for grammar.
(and if I still missed a bunch of grammar-type stuff, well I’m a moron…)