Monday, February 11, 2008

Happiness ...

I had gone for a friend’s wedding to Amalner.
Amalner is small town in Jalgaon district in Maharashtra. The married women still wear large pearl studs in their noses. The village is divided into four quarters, one end where families of the Maratha caste are collected and another end with people of the Sonar (goldsmiths) clan are in majority. There is also an area where the Muslim community is concentrated. Wealth is in abundance and its show too.

In the narrow alleys of the town, you can now see Maruti 800 cars squeezed inbetween scooters and rusting bicycles. And here amidst this chaos, my friend positioned a shamiana, where loud music played for the better part of the night before his wedding. This was street - it was created was public use. It was developed to enhance interaction between unknown people and create bonds. We share and joys and sorrows. This was the most joyous time of my friend’s life and so everyone was happy to be a part of it. Imagine setting up a shamiana, along the road in Mumbai. You would have half the town honking at you from their cars and very soon the police would come knocking at your door.

For my friend of course, this was a DJ night. ‘A DJ night’ in a place, where majority of the public - participants in the wedding as well as on-lookers - would not know the full form of DJ. But as for my friend, well, he is now a Bombay-iite. He is a regular at the discos. He savours Fosters and Sula. And so what if the wedding party was insisted on being held at Amalner, the life of Bombay’s highlights could be brought down here as well. Never matter the charm of the twinkling lamps in his home’s window and colourful rangoli outside his doorstep. The remixed lavanis, those little boys with chest open shirts and the hip thrusts of half drunken men overwhelmed that all.

It was the wedding of a city returned boy. And so it happened the way he chose it to. Going by her town’s norms, the bride-to-be refused to join in the fun. She decided to have her own little party a few metres down the road, but ‘separately’ outside her ‘own’ home. But, once in their own surroundings, the women let down their hair. Watching even grandmas do an enthusiastic jig, not once, but again and again - was definitely pleasing. Who would say, that in an ordinary circumstance, these ladies don’t even lose their composure. The educational values and talents are all kept aside, once they get married. Thereafter, there is only one goal: to build a family and keep in together - ‘happily’. But in this atmosphere, they had a chance - to dress-up, dance, laugh and break free from those reins and that too without an objection from anybody. Neither their husbands and in-laws, nor their neighbours and sister-in laws; for right now they were like sisters in crime. The one phrase that defined this all was: A permitted path to their (until-then) overshadowed desire for liberalism.

There was one particular lady who did catch my attention though, when I saw her moving in a finely choreographed style to the music. She knew her steps and worked her toes in precision. Around her, the young girls followed. A little kid came running upto her every now and then. But she was not deterred. She would grab him in her arms and move along, never the less. She shied away from the camera lens, though. Some times I even saw her standing aside, with a man, who had the same kid in his arms. Later I learnt that he was her husband. The kid was her child. Then, she told me, “I used to be a folk-dance teacher. But now I am very busy with my little boy.” The friend’s family and her family had shared this common street for many years.

In small towns like these, neighbours and close friends are all a part of the extended family. They must help in washing vessels at the end of a feast, but at the same time they are made a part of the fun, whe the bride is adorned with jewels or when the room for the wedding night is decorated!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Paanwallah

He plays a lively role
In everybody’s life
With a shack that he throws open
On the road side.

Saffron-coloured powder
Marks his earlobes and forehead;
His dhoti-kurta, a striking white
But fingers are dotted red.

“Kulkatta” he says with pride,
When I ask,
About his roots, which reflect
In the expert movements of his hand at the task.

He lays the betel-nut leaf
A maroon paste spreads over it unevenly
Layers of gulkand, supari and sauf
The last of the ingredients are only sprinkled

The paanwallah smiles and chats as he prepares
This traditional betel-nut delicacy
Wrapping up the leaf, he dips it in syrup
And feeds you the first bite, as part of his proficiency.