Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

This Indian love-and-marriage thing

This love and marriage thing in India. Rather overwhelming. And how it has changed and grown like Topsy. Today I was looking at a picture of a happy couple (they chose each other, thank God) cutting their wedding cake. It's all there: the knife held together, face up for the photo, beaming parents conducting the event. When did the cake enter into a wedding in Kerala? Cakes were strictly for evening tea on the odd occasion when revered guests turned up - about twice a year.

   I HAD to do a flash back to the occasion when I was 'cabin'd, cribbed, confined' and handed over. There was a big rice sadhya (feast), with two-thousand guests - that was absolutely every one my father knew at work or at home, all the people down our street and then some other streets. They ate on banana leaves laid out in lines along with thin thadukku (grass mats) in the panthal (covered area) outside our house. The women ate inside, also on the floor, on those ubiquitous banana leaves. The whole thing was over in one evening. The ceremony itself took ten minutes.

   Missing: three-tier cakes, fancy receptions with alcohol flowing (though there was a little furtive and committed drinking at the rear of the house). Missing also the three-day ceremony, which starts with the henna ceremony for the bride and girls, when their hands are decorated with intricate patterns, then the pre-wedding ceremony of close friends dropping in to a small celebration, then the wedding itself. By which time there must be a sense of surfeit and emotional exhaustion. I hear in some cases the wedding is a five-day ceremony. I am inclined to agree with the notion that there should be many days of heart-searching before tying the knot, but in less public ways.

   It is now de-rigeur to hold hands with your partner in public places, though kissing in public is for the future. And old couples, long married are also seen with their arms round each other in photographs. How sweet! In my time, a public display of affection was considered embarrassing to all, especially those watching. Facebook has much to answer for - we shall soon have all of them kissing in Facebook photos, that is after running round a few trees, Bollywood style.

   I can hear my family saying, 'sour grapes.' I must be jealous. Perhaps. the only thing in all this that pleases me is the fact that more Indian men and women choose their own partners now-a-days and the caste system is taking a back-seat. Now, if this behaviour of choosing one's own partner extends to India's villages, that will be something to celebrate.

   I think it is time for me to leave the stage to the young, bubbling ones and just enjoy their happiness and self-assurance. Must stop comparing. Except so much money is wasted on the weddings these days - if only that money could be spent on health-care, education or care of the disabled...

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Hay Effect


I have, for many years felt that this was something I wanted to do, but it always happened when I watched some scintillating author like Will Self or similar on the T V, talking with obvious confidence about books, writing, the soul and the state of the economy. I am the devoted acolyte, swept away by the power, not only of words, but sheer hubris. I tried reading a book by Will Self after one such occasion, but soon realised neither my vocabulary nor my cognitive tools were up to it.

   But there were many others, almost by accident, there on T V, authors and thinkers talking to the anchors, the plastic rose waiting in the wings to be offered at the end of the interview. Again, I would say to myself - next year, must get organised. However I had no idea where Hay-on-Wye was - somewhere in Sussex? Lake District? This year I struck lucky. One of my long list of Book Clubs, which help me to push my demons away to the corners of the  bedroom at night, offered to take some of us to Hay if we wished. Peter, one of the organisers, patient, considerate and relaxed, did everything. He booked hotels, arranged vehicles, kept us all informed. It was easy. All I had to do was get myself to Barons Court BP Connect, ( nearly messed that simple one up, but was rescued by son.) and the rest was in his hands. And how safe and gentle those hands turned out to be.

   When you arrange to travel with four others in a car, for three-and-a-half hours, ( I had googled Hay and knew how far it was now) you know you are letting yourself in for captivity in the company of strangers. I was pleasantly surprised. They treated me like heirloom China n deference to my age, but they were interesting, with varied backgrounds and opinions; the hours went quickly. I did not close my eyes once.

   At the end of the journey, again my expectations were limited. Peter had booked me into a B and B, called Sunnymount. I envisaged morning trips down the corridor to bathroom queues, small plastic cups in the bedroom tray, never quite enough to hold a big, first-thing tea. But the room was light-filled and fresh, the bathroom was mine alone for the duration and the tea-tray was generous. The mug of tea could turn my morning battery on to full.

   Denise and Bob, who run it were slick and pleasant. I loved the breakfast room, where we met up in passing for a cooked English breakfast. Denise foresaw every need of a paranoid old Indian woman: pillows enough to prop up my neck to read, multiple electric outlets to charge phone I Pad etc and T V and radio if all else failed. The tariff was way below what I thought it would be. I can't wait to go back next year.

   In passing, I started the first day at Hay listening to Anthony Beavor on the Ardennes Battle. It was the kind of talk in which you expected the sound-and-light system to show all on a back-drop. Beavor merely talked, but I had read his Second World War , two years before, and loved it. He had this anecdotal touch, which made History come alive. (And his 'o' sound was a delight to listen to; it was a parody of posh.) I had bought the hard copy, read the first 25 pages and then downloaded it to Kindle. It WAS heavy; I wilted, my arthritic fingers sagged - on Kindle it was perfect, Interesting, long, filling in gaps in my understanding of that era and its torments.

   I listened to many interesting talks at Hay, disagreed with some - but all were provoking.  My poor brain was bubbling, waiting to say something, do something, think a little differently. All in the next blog, starting with Hariri of the SAPIENS fame, the depth of whose intelligence and the level of engagement with the audience, was never surpassed by anyone else, Tom Holland, with no satisfactory answers to the Terrorist threat, Carol Black on occupational illnesses, Kashuo Ishiguro... I am sated. I have to tell everyone everything. Look to my next excited tumble of words.