For all my new friends who have recently started following this blog.....please start at the very beginning.....it is a good place to start to get the full impact of this fascinating tale.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Off to Jamnagar

Goodbye to Saraya friends

It took us a  couple of weeks to pack up house in Pune and then mum, Munch and I made our way back to Saraya while Sandip moved on to Jamnagar. It was decided that we wait for him to give us the go ahead to join him when accommodation became available.
A few months later it was time for  baby and me to finally make the trip. It was the first time I would be travelling alone with my little girl and I realised that I had accumulated a whole lot of extra stuff - pram, walker, baby things, as well as my own belongings.We did the usual journey to Delhi by train from where we were to catch a connecting flight to Ahmadabad. Sandip would be there to receive us for the further three hundred kilometre drive to Jamnagar.
I arrived at the airport with baby on one arm, bags in the other and grossly overweight luggage, so I thought up a devious plot to save on excess baggage charges. I knew there were people who travelled to Ahmadabad just for a days business, so decided to latch on to one of them and request that we check in together to avoid the excess penalty.
I stared at the line of passengers and spotted an elderly man carrying only a brief case, who was just the sort of victim I was looking for. I went up to him and told him what my problem was, and he without a moments hesitation, said it would be perfectly fine for us to check in together. I gratefully thanked him and we preceded to go through the pre-flight formalities without any problem.
We stood together chatting for a while and I politely asked the kind gentleman if he was going to Ahmadabad on business or pleasure. He looked at me as if I had gone completely mad and stuttered that he was not going to Ahmadabad at all but Calcutta! I realised with equal horror that he had been standing in the wrong queue, which the stupid girl behind the counter had not realised before issuing him a boarding pass.
He immediately grabbed my arm and marched me back to where it had all begun, where he proceeded to bellow at the ground staff that they had checked him onto the wrong flight. They apologised profusely and hastened to rectify their mistake, then patiently waited for me to hand over my ticket as well. The harassed gentleman quickly declared that I was a complete stranger and that he was just helping me out with overweight baggage. I was glared at  disapprovingly, then made to weigh all my suitcases again. While handing over the slip for the amount to be paid,  the lady made me listen to a long lecture on how what I had done was illegal and could get me into a lot of trouble!
On landing at Ahmadabad I was indignantly telling Sandip the whole story, and he had such a hearty laugh at my amazing luck. That I would carefully choose the one idiot who was standing in the wrong queue, that the same moron would be checked in by an inexperienced counter girl and that I would eventually get caught, so would have to sheepishly pay the whole amount anyway. That's what happens when one thinks one is over smart was all he smugly said!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Perilous Journey



Mum, Munch (that was what Sanam was now affectionately called) and I left for Pune to pack up house for the posting to Jamnagar. We travelled from Gorakhpur to Delhi by train where my father-in-law was at the station to pick us up. He took us home to Sheikh Sarai to freshen up and say a quick hello to the rest of the family before dropping us to the airport. We unexpectedly bumped into Sandip's young cousin Akash, who was also on his way to Pune to join a college there and who turned out to be booked on the very same flight.
We checked in our baggage and were just hanging around waiting for further announcements when we heard our flight number being called as cancelled! There was an immediate mad rush of humanity towards the counter, all demanding explanations or refunds. I tried to elbow my way through the hysterical throng to get some clarity on the situation, but was quite unsuccessful so beat a dishevelled retreat with a wailing baby in my arms.
In all this confusion we found we had another attachment to our group in the shape of a Mona who was newly pregnant and joining her army husband to give him the good news. She was travelling alone, so nervously asked if she could tag along with us to which suggestion we readily and happily agreed.
After about fifteen minutes of chaos it was announced that those without checked in luggage could board another flight en route to Bombay. I made fluttery eyes at the hassled young man who was waving his arms around, frantically trying to get the attention of  irate passengers, and begged him to let me board as I was alone with my baby. He looked at me sympathetically and told me to quickly identify my baggage and go for security check. He was astounded when I looked over my shoulder and shrieked for Mum, Akash and Mona to quickly join up and we marched past a now glaring attendant to board the aircraft and plonk ourselves into our seats. We had no idea if our luggage had been loaded or not and none of us were familiar with Bombay so were nervous about landing there late at night, but when we finally deplaned we were relieved to see all our bags bobbing along on the conveyor belt. 
The people behind the help desk at the airport advised us to make our way to Dadar from where we would get a taxi to take us the rest of the way to Pune. We trundled off into the night and got a cab without any trouble so settled back for the next leg of the journey.
As soon as the last of the twinkling city lights faded into the distance our driver suddenly pulled over to the side of the road saying we had a puncture. Within minutes another cab pulled up behind us which made Mum and I stare at each other in frozen terror as  thoughts of rape, robbery and murder played havoc in our minds. Our chap quickly reassured us that it was just a friend from the same taxi stand who would help change the wheel. The task at hand was quickly attended to and without further delay we continued on our way.
Our sighs of relief were short lived because as soon as we drove into the winding hill roads of the Western Ghats we found ourselves stuck in the middle of a dreadful traffic jam. We were immobile for over an hour with the truck parked alongside blaring the latest Bollywood music. My little Munch decided to stand up in my lap and dance in time to the cacophony much to the amusement of the scruffy looking men in the vehicle.
Once we started to move again we realised much to our exasperation that our good driver was pulling off the road again, this time to help his mate whom we had met earlier, whose taxi  was now the one with a flat.
By this time we were quite numbed with exhaustion so when the cabbie said he would like to stop at a roadside 'dhabba' for a quick cup of tea we readily agreed. As he swaggered into the dimly lit shack we heard him bellowing at someone in the darkness to bring him some 'afeem'. Mum goggled at me in shock and horror and whispered that we had been travelling all this way with an opium addict. I just told her that he had bought us this far so it would most probably be alright, and in any case there was not much we could do about the crazy situation we were in.
As the outskirts of Pune emerged in the early light of dawn we dropped Mona off at the army base and then Akash was deposited at the bus stand to further make his way to college. We drove into Lohegaon Air Force Station at five o'clock in the morning and had to ring the doorbell vigorously for a few minutes before a sleepy Sandip came doddering out to let us in.
I stared at him in indignation and  demanded to know how he could sleep when for all intents and purposes we had disappeared off the face of the earth. He calmly said he had telephoned Pa when he heard the flight was cancelled and was informed that we had been safely dropped off at the airport. When there was no more  news he assumed we were making our way home and was not worried since he knew I would manage everything one way or another.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Hello Daddy

Hello Daddy

And then it was time for Sandip to come home and meet Sanam for the very first time. She was prettied up in a beautiful pink smocked dress which her Nani had embroidered, and then we excitedly waited for daddy to walk through the door.
When he finally arrived we held our breaths in anticipation, waiting to see his reactions and expressions as he first set eyes on his beautiful little girl. It was such an emotional moment and hard to describe with so much joy, pride, curiosity and amazement flitting across his countenance. We tearfully gazed at father and daughter as he held her close and kissed her all over her little face.
He spent a week in Saraya before we travelled back to Pune with mum in tow. She stayed for a month to help me settle in comfortably, and I was miserable to see her leave since I had become very dependent on her support. Luckily my maid Sabira was a gem which made things a bit easier, but as I was a hands on mum I wanted to do everything on my own, as a result of which I found myself in a perpetual state of exhaustion.
Sandip got back to his busy routine so was not around to help out. I remember feeling a lot of resentment at the time, but then had to quickly come to terms with the harsh fact that real life is quite different to expectations. I had imagined us sharing baby duties and doing things together, but that is one thing the air force did not ever give us the luxury of experiencing. Unfortunately he ended up missing a lot of her early years due to service constraints but I must take credit for adjusting positively to his absence once I got over the initial grumpiness of him not being there.
The next few months sped by and then it was December again which was the time I traditionally went home to be with family. I travelled back with Sanam and we were having a wonderfully relaxed holiday celebrating her first birthday and introducing her to the joys of Christmas, when Sandip called with the news that we were posted to TACDE in Jamnagar. It was decided that mum, baby and I would journey back to Pune to pack up house and then make our way back to Saraya, as there was no accommodation available in Jamnagar at that point of time.

First Birthday and Happy Christmas

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A New Routine

Dadi and Dada

The next couple of months flew by in a haze of exhaustion, struggling  to cope with my new routine. Bottles had to be sterilised, feeds given, nappies changed and sleepless nights walked through trying to soothe a crying infant. Sanam had the appetite of a little bird and preferred to drink a couple of ounces of milk at a time, so naturally had to be feed that much more frequently. I seemed to drift around in an aura of the odour of baby puke no matter how many times I changed my clothes. I always thought motherhood was a mantle which would fall over me naturally once my child was born, but in reality I discovered I was tired, crabby and at my wits end most of the time!
A few months earlier I had read a gruesome article about a woman in the UK who had micro-waved her new born because she could not bear the noise of its crying. On one particularly difficult night when Sanam would just not go to sleep, I gave her a little shake and tiredly thumped her back into her cot, which just made her shriek all the louder. I felt such a wave of panic that maybe I had murderous tendencies hidden somewhere deep inside, so rushed to wake up mother and confess to what I had done. My good old mum was quick to reassure me that it was quite natural to feel impatient once in a while and advised me to curl up in her bed and have a good nights sleep while she took over for a while. That was all the medicine and therapy I needed to feel absolutely fine the next morning.
When Sanam was about two months old I found everything getting easier, or maybe I was just more attuned to all the life changes I was going through. One of the most looked forward to moments in the day was after she would have a bath, when I would bury my nose into her neck and breathe in the amazing smell of fresh baby! My favourite pastime was simply kissing her tiny feet that had as yet never touched the ground. I adored this tiny bundle and found myself gazing at her in complete amazement, still sometimes not believing that she was really and truly all mine.
Sandip's parents made their first trip to Saraya to meet their granddaughter and were completely smitten, more so because she was the first little girl born into the Sud family for a long time. Unfortunately it was also at this time that I noticed that my sweet mother-in-law was getting unnaturally absent minded. When I mentioned it to Pa he said she was just getting older and these things happened. It was a year later that she was diagnosed with the dreaded Alzheimer's disease, which was the most tragic thing that could happen to someone who was the epitome of gentle kindness.


Nana and Nani


Friday, 14 September 2012

Sanam

Hello World!!
 
After hours of labour I was wheeled back into a dingy private room but was too exhausted and emotional to sleep. The conditions in the hospital itself were extremely pathetic and filthy in spite of it being one of the better establishments of Gorakhpur, so we decided to ask for an immediate discharge. I had to sign a form saying I was leaving at my own risk, but knew father's nurse sister Alex and Tara Babu his assistant would look after me in the comfort of my own surroundings.
The first thing I did on reaching home was to put my precious new bundle into her Nana's arms. He looked down at the pronounced dimple in her chin and with his usual wry sense of humour remarked " There is no doubt of this ones parentage!" 
The next thing I did was to book a  call to Sandip in Jamnagar to announce the arrival of our daughter, but the lines were down and much to my disappointment I just could not get through.
On the evening of the fifteenth I was waddling to Dad's room to see how he was doing, when the phone rang as I was walking past. I picked it up only to find Sandip on the other end demanding to know what was happening. I laughingly told him that the delivery was over and Sanam had arrived!This was the name we had chosen for a girl when we came to know he would not be present at the birth. There was a stunned silence at the other end before he excitedly begged for details. I babbled that she was all red and ugly and looked just like him! There was another surprised pause and I realised what it sounded like so quickly amended that she had inherited his dimple chin and I had not meant to imply that he was red and ugly. 
Mum was quite frantic running between my ailing sister, a very ill father and me so I did not get to relax at all, but bustled about exhaustively trying to adjust to the life changing situation that was now all I lived for.The next few weeks were difficult, though both patients recovered and mum and I took turns to change nappies, see to feeds and do the night shift. I would wail to my husband far away that I was fatigued and completely drained of energy and he apologised profusely for not being around to help.
I was so impatient for him to see this very beautiful little girl that we had produced, but had to  wait a few months more for that. He eventually first met his daughter in March 1989 when she was all grown up and three months old.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

D Day

My little miracle just an hour old
In September 1988 I returned with my parents to Saraya where I restlessly and impatiently wiled away the months in anticipation of D-Day, which was the fifteenth of December. I could manage to speak to Sandip in Jamnagar only once in a while, since getting a phone call through was always a complicated procedure in those days. 
My sister Juliet had came down from Lucknow to be there when baby came, but fell seriously ill so was of no help. At the same time my father was going through one of his bad spells and I overheard him ordering his assistant in a weak voice to keep him going  till his grandchild was born. I went into labour in the wee hours of the fourteenth and left with mother for the railway hospital, which was an hour's drive away and supposed to be one of the more civilised facilities in Gorakhpur.
Labour - nothing that one reads or hears prepares you for the hours of body wrenching agony that have to be endured. I have an unusually high threshold of pain but despite that found myself groaning aloud every so often. I lost complete track of time with baby in no hurry to make an appearance and at one point desperately announced that I had had enough and wanted a Cesarean. The doctor looked very startled and remarked that I was not even screaming so why couldn't I bear the torture a few hours more?
What really infuriated me was one of the nurses who insisted on continuously stroking my leg and humming "Sungmarmar ka badan". I growled at her through gritted teeth that if she commented once more on my marble like body I would get up and personally hit her over the head with a bedpan!
At exactly seven forty five in the evening my baby finally decided it was time to enter the world. " Its a girl" the doctor announced and I felt such a surge of joy and relief that I promptly burst into tears. The same thigh stroking nurse sympathetically clucked and said "Koi baat nahin, agli baar ladka hoga". I did not have the energy to tell her that I had longed for a daughter more than anything in the world and was just feeling completely overwhelmed.
The doctor then asked if I would like to hold my little one before she was sent off to be tidied up and I was handed over this fragile, naked, ugly, beautiful,  helpless little body who in an instant filled the deepest core of every fibre of my being with awe and adoration. Then she was bundled up and taken out to be introduced to her grandmother who off course also wept with delighted emotion and was immediately surrounded by a bevy of sympathetic nurses reassuring her it would definitely be a grandson next time around.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Labouring On

Sandip at the FCL graduation while I laboured on (literally) on my own

Once we got home and spent a couple of hours excitedly discussing what the unexpected news of  my pregnancy meant to us, I found I was overwhelmed with the most awful feeling of nausea. I struggled through the rest of the day with a pukey face and Sandip laughingly teased that he was not looking forward to seeing this afflicted expression for the next few months. As it turned out those few hours were the only time I ever felt the dreaded morning sickness, so I presume it must have been more psychological than anything else.
I was warned by all that I might have complications because of my past medical history so was advised to  take things very easy. Inspite of everything I was one of the lucky few who never had any problems besides the constant craving for "chumchum" - a sweet I never had before or after those nine months. I would sit at the dining table and devour a kilo at a time, then gaze pleadingly at a very bemused husband and demand "More chumchum!"
I planned to go back to Saraya for my delivery and Sandip said he would like to be with me in the labour room, an idea that did not sit well with my father, since he was of the old school of thought that certain goings on are best left unobserved by the male species since they can get quite gruesome.
Six months later we got the news that Sandip's name was one of those chosen for the prestigious FCL(Fighter Combat Leader) course run by TACDE (Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment), that was conducted in Jamnagar, Gujarat which was considered to be the Top Gun school of the Indian Air Force. I was initially quite dismayed since that would mean he would be nowhere around in my final few months, but when he volunteered to refuse the course I straightened out my depressed face and assured him I would be just fine.
It was at this time that my parents had come to Pune, since father had to undergo a hip replacement surgery at the renowned Sancheti hospital. It was decided we would all travel back home together once he had recovered from the operation and let  Sandip go off to Jamnagar, where he would be for the next six months.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Could it be?


This is one of those few pictures in my album which I kept only because I remember my exact thoughts at the time it was clicked!
"Is it possible I might be pregnant?"
Me, Harish Masand, Ruheene, Ingita Kothiyal, Lily Raha, Sandip and Malini Masand and someone whose name I can't recall
I was a few days late with my period, which I thought was a bit unusual since I was normally quite punctual in such matters. When I was ten days overdue I began to chew my nails in tension and after two weeks apprised Sandip of the situation. He gently admonished that I had been told by the doctors that I could not conceive, so should not get my hopes up unnecessarily. I waited another forty eight hours then hesitatingly asked if we could go into town and have a pregnancy test done, just for my own peace of mind.
In those days we did not have any kind of instant home prediction kits and so we drove into town on the bike looking for a lab which would do the needful. We spotted a sign  atop one of the buildings on Main Street and trudged up three flights of stairs into a dingy and seedy looking room.The technician gave me a bottle and when I handed him my sample he disinterestedly told us to come back in a couple of hours for the results. I was so anxious that I told him we would rather sit there and wait. The young man must have sensed our tension because in half an hour he waved us over with the outcome of the tests.
He handed the paper over to Sandip and I found myself concentrating on my husband's expression instead of looking down and reading the report for myself. I saw a strange smile break over his face as he looked up at me and announced "Its positive!" I could barely believe what I had heard and we stared at each other in shock at the unexpected good news. Once we had gathered our wits we started down the stairs and I had a very concerned voice in my ear telling me to walk slowly and carefully, as he guided me down the steep steps with a protective hand under my arm.
After driving home at a snail's pace we sat in silence for a while letting the enormity of the news sink in. We also decided not to make any public announcement until we were sure all would be well. Memories of my miscarriage were too fresh in our minds to take anything for granted at that point of time.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

MiG-29



Rajiv Gandhi with Harish Masand and Sud in the background at the induction of the MiG-29
28 Squadron moved lock, stock and barrel from Tezpur to Pune in 1985 as one of the units chosen to convert to the newly acquired MiG-29 aircraft. The high tech fighter was shrouded in mystery with no one being allowed to see it until it was officially inducted by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi later in the year. We ladies had discovered a vantage point on the main road to town where we managed to sometimes catch a glimpse of the lethal looking machine as it was taking off and were thrilled by its menacing hooded appearance which was different to any of the other jets we were familiar with.
Harish Masand was the first Commanding Officer of the squadron and his wife Malini and I quickly took up where we had left off in Gorakhpur, much to the initial puzzlement and later resentment of the rest of the crowd who had no idea that our friendship was an old one.
Once the fleet was officially part of the Indian Air Force life got extremely busy for the officers who were out of station on temporary duty for most of the next year. We ladies had to manage  on our own for most of that time, which was not too difficult as Malini ensured we were well looked after. Not that the husbands were not sorely missed, especially in crisis situations - a couple of children went into hospital and were discharged, a few bones were broken and healed and one of the ladies even had a baby, while our magnificent men showed off their flying machines over the length and breadth of the country!
I was in a happy place until someone would ask me when we were planning to start a family. I would always react with a nonchalant shrug and calmly reply that we were not in a hurry, but these casual remarks had the ability to really depress me. I had not felt the need to confide in anyone that the doctors had told me that I could never have children and was still trying to come to terms with the inevitability of their diagnosis.
And then one month I was a few days late with my period.....

The ladies of  First Supersonics 28 Squadron with some of the young officers - Malini with the big handbag next to me in the white kurta with little Ruheene ( Malini's daughter) in front of us

Friday, 10 August 2012

Pune

Banyan trees on Poona streets

When I had recovered from the physical and mental aftermath of the miscarriage I joined Sandip in Poona, or Pune as it is now called.
Much as I had loved the three years we spent in the wilderness of Tezpur it felt good to be back in civilisation. The Air Force Station in Lohegaon was on the outskirts of town and we found ourselves back in temporary accommodation. This time it was one large room which served as drawing, dining and sleeping quarters, with a narrow passage attached where I unpacked the essentials to set up my kitchen.
Poona had a strange old fashioned quaintness to it. Many of the houses in the cantonment area had been built by the British and  maintained their original charming facades. These were heritage constructions, built on spacious grounds, surrounded by well maintained gardens. One of the very first things that I found fascinating were the majestic banyans that lined almost every street, with their gnarled trunk like roots dropping down to the ground. These trees take years to attain this magnificent size so I am guessing most of them would be over a hundred years old.


 
One of our favourite haunts for a quick bite was Marz-O-Rin, a timeless landmark which people have been returning to since it was first set up in 1965. The chicken sandwiches and cold coffee were to die for and I have many a time tried unsuccessfully to replicate the unique flavors of these simple items. The aroma of freshly made Shrewsbury biscuits wafting out of Kayani Bakery on Main Street lured me in to buy a box every time I was in the vicinity.The exotic cheeses from ABC farms quickly became a favourite indulgence, and was the first time we experimented with new and exotic flavors being familiar with only good old Amul till then.The Place was where we went back time and again for a vast choice of the most succulent sizzlers.


Shopping for fresh vegetables and choice cuts of meat in Shivaji Market was something I also enjoyed immensely after the rather shrivelled up produce we used to get in the east.My favourite lady vendor, much to my dismay, was convinced that I looked like Indira Gandhi and always greeted me as such! Chandan stores was where I did all my more fancy grocery shopping much to the disapproval of friends who preferred the older and more staid Dorabjee's.
The weather in Poona was also a welcome change from the humidity we had lived in for the past three years. The climate was moderate and except for April and May when it was bearably hot, the monsoons arrived and cooled things down. 'Kissing Rain' was what my mother described the constant gentle drizzle that brushed one's face as, which is particular to the rainy season in this part of the world. We did not own an air conditioner and never felt the need for one, as however warm the days might be the evenings and nights were always pleasant.
We stayed in our temporary lodgings for only a few months before being allotted a flat and the usual opening up of familiar household knick-knacks made it into a cosy home. I was lucky enough to inherit a wonderful maid Sabira, so all in all was very content in my new environment.



Saturday, 4 August 2012

Despair



The secret regions of my heart are filled with a strange unrest -
     making the harp strings of my soul strike discordant notes
     that send meaningless messages to my brain.
My eyes keep their eternal vigil on shabby crumbling milestones
     that flicker by with terrifying speed - shabby milestones
     that mark the countdown of my inane existence.
I look for you along the way but I know - I know
     that the roads I take
     are not roads that you would care to travel by.
So I hurtle around my own crazy orbit
     regardless of the cold bleak galaxies and vast spaces
     that surround me -
Not yet quite realising that I am lost - back where I began -
     filled with unrest -  striking discordant notes -
     hearing meaningless messages -
     and left blind by my futile vigil.


Thursday, 26 July 2012

'Baanjh'


Sud and I had decided to wait a year before planning a family. When we thought the time was right we excitedly got down to business, only to discover nothing was happening and there was no good news to announce. After a few months went by I began to worry, but was convinced by the ladies who knew it all that these things were unpredictable and I should not stress. "Don't dwell on it" I was repeatedly advised, which just made me want to bop them in their smug faces as it is like saying "If you don't think of a green elephant I will give you a million bucks!" Taboo images are all that keep one preoccupied  - even if it is just the brain working in overdrive to keep visions of exotic animals or in my case babies at bay.
After a year of disappointment I began to do the doctor rounds and everyone I saw reassured me there was nothing wrong with either of us and we should just be patient. I would have my fingers crossed every month and when there was the tell tale sign of 'no luck' I would weep in my husband's arms. We would go out to parties where I would see mothers feeding their tiny tots and come home in depression. My neighbour in Tezpur produced a little girl and I went across with gritted teeth to do the needful 'oohing' and 'aahing', only to be told in no uncertain terms that she would rather I  not pick up the child since I was a sterile 'baanjh' and so might put the evil eye on her little one. 'Baanjh' is a derogatory word used for women who cannot have children.
Then there were those knowledgeable biddies who came up with the most fantastical suggestions of what I should do to conceive. Strange contorted positions were recommended, times of the month and in which direction to face were suggested and I was even given a vial of Sai Baba's supposedly holy ashes to do unmentionable things with. My poor husband went along with all my bizarre requests with a helpless and worried expression, though he stopped short of actually telling me that maybe I was behaving in a completely daft and irrational manner.
The strange thing is that I am not a superstitious person by nature but had got to that desperate stage when I was willing to try anything, anyway, anyhow. When I did finally conceive, only to miscarry a couple of weeks into the pregnancy and was then informed that I could never have children due to complications that ensued, I felt a strange sense of relief that the whole situation was now out of my hands.
The other paradox was that I had never been a particularly maternal sort of person and always preferred puppies to babies. I could  never bring myself to 'cootchie-coo' other peoples newborn bundles, but being told that I would never have one of my own was soul shattering. Even then it was more the idea that Sud would never be a father, or that my parents would be deprived of grandchildren that was more heart breaking than anything else.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Ill Health and Goodbye


The last year of our tenure in Tezpur saw both Sud and me suffering from ill health. He developed a bad allergy, which I was convinced was caused by something in the lush greenery of the countryside. Some folks suggested it might be the cats, but I argued that in the 'basha' we had lived closely with the animals and not faced any problem. It was much later, when I did more in depth research, that I discovered that sensitive reactions have the potential to build over a period of time. My poor husband was in dreadful shape with severe respiratory problems and  had to be put on steroids as a result of which he could not fly. I have never kept another cat since then as he is now so touchy that he immediately begins to wheeze even if a feline is innocently prowling somewhere in the vicinity.
We had started planning a family as well and I conceived only to miscarry a few weeks into the pregnancy. I was admitted to the Military Hospital were the doctors did what they had to do, but I found  the bleeding would not stop and I was running high fever accompanied by a crippling back ache. When I returned for a consult I was told I had an infection and was given the usual antibiotics. I did not feel any better and was in a miserable and weakened condition when news came that we were posted to Pune, to the new MiG-29 squadron that was forming there. I sadly said my goodbyes to Tezpur in a sorry and debilitated state as I followed a silly tradition of my own every time we moved, of making a quiet round of the house saying thank you walls, thank you kitchen, thank you chairs, thank you beds while touching everything one last time.
I decided to take a break in Saraya where it was diagnosed that I had a ruptured uterus. The doctors said I would never be able to conceive as my fallopian tubes had been blocked by scar tissue resulting from the severe infection that I had endured for so long.
It took months for me to recover from this ordeal though I was in depression at the idea of not having children. I was never a particularly maternal sort of person, but once I was told that it was an impossibility, the hankering for offspring naturally and irrationally grew into an obsession. I narrated woe begone dialogues to Sud saying he could marry again or leave me, because I knew he would have made a wonderful father. He glared at me and told me to stop being melodramatic as he claimed he loved me and did not particularly need or want a baby making machine. He was always supportive and understanding, though I must admit I did wallow in self pity for quite a while after and made his life quite miserable.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Dulangmukh, Kaziranga, Shillong

View from the quadrant and the only fish we saw
Once every few months Sud would be deputed to go as the Range Safety Officer to Dulangmukh, which is where aircraft would go for live gunnery practise at the range there. I accompanied him on one of these trips and after flying to the remote and now defunct airfield of Zero and then jolting along non existent roads, we reached the crude living accommodation that was there for the RSO's. We spent a lovely few days where I would go with my husband to the quadrant in the early morning and watch in complete fascination as the pilots did their firing and bombing routine. I remember the thrill of having Amul zoom cheekily low and announce over RT that he could see I was wearing a blue sweater! We took long walks into the dense jungle and along the Subansari river which is the largest tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra. We had enthusiastically carried all our fishing tackle but unfortunately discovered that this waterway was so polluted that only  small dead fish floated along its banks. We  would return to our humble lodgings in the chill of the evening to happily snuggle into cosy sleeping bags never once complaining that there was no electricity, running water or any other kind of  modern day comfort.

Kaziranga
We drove to the Kaziranga wild life sanctuary which was about 80 kilometres away on our trusted Yezdi bike and that too was a wonderful experience. We were there  in the breeding season so all the animals had babies and it was thrilling to see them roam free in their natural habitat. Besides plenty of deer and wild elephants we did get charged at by an indignant and protective mama rhino who was looking out for her little one. The 'mahout' yelled blue murder and threw his 'ankush' at the angry creature who put on the brakes in confusion at all the noise giving the elephants time to do a right about turn and move respectfully away. When my mother visited a few months later we made another trip to the game reserve and this time stayed with friends at one of the tea estates. I think that was one of the only times I wondered if maybe I had married a man in the wrong profession!

Waterfall in Shillong and the tiniest baby elephant I have ever seen in Kaziranga

We did the drive up to to Shillong as well which was the longest bike ride I had ever undertaken. I remember my back felt quite broken by the end of the 250 kilometre journey since for some reason I stubbornly insisted on carrying our rucksack instead of listening to Sud's suggestion of letting him put it on the fuel tank in front. I was wearing my dark glasses all the way and was most horrified to see I had got badly tanned except for under the goggles so ended up embarrassingly looking like a raccoon. We only stayed here a couple of days and it was only years later when we were posted to this beautiful part of the country that we could explore it more at leisure.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Life in Tezpur



Lalima, Me, Umesh with Antara, Cooper and Sud  ready to play Holi

In the mid eighties life  in the Air Force was relatively simple. The only ones who owned TV's and VCR's were those who had the good fortune to have done a tenure in Iraq.We bought our first TV just after Indira Gandhi was assassinated in October 1984, as we would have to walk down to the mess to watch the latest news which was quite an inconvenience. I remember looking forward to Hum Log, Buniyaad and the Sunday film which the servants and their kids would all congregate to watch with us. There was also an open air auditorium where we logged every single movie that came, either sweltering in the humidity, huddled under umbrellas in the rain or freezing in the cold.

Sud, Ritu,Mum, KB, Bhanu and Varsha at Tipi

Calling on fellow officer's or bouncing was considered a fun evening's entertainment. Bouncing, as I explained earlier was a tradition when folks would drop in unannounced, usually in the wee hours of the morning, demanding a meal or coffee. The lady of the house would have to rustle up something or the other no matter what the time or mood. I personally was never a fan of this custom but always did the needful whenever hungry faces turned up at the front door. The youngsters would sometimes insist on taking over the kitchen and on one occasion I remember them manufacturing some egg 'bhujiya' which was really tasty. The next morning on opening the fridge I discovered some pork mince was missing and realised with horror that the drunken men had mixed it in with the eggs and cooked it for just as much time as it takes to scramble the 'andas'.


Cawas and Pat
 I was still an introvert and did not make friends easily and it was the CO's wife Rani Bhatia who advised me to try and open up a bit since people were labelling me a snob. This is when I began downing a couple of rum 'n' cokes at get togethers, since I found they helped in loosening me up a bit. Rani took me under her wing and I always think of her with the deepest affection. Unfortunately she lost her husband in a crash a few years later and we completely lost touch.

Amul, Jojo and Don

Seema Mukul was someone who I grew close to as well. We both bought bicycles and would be seen zooming around camp  happily doing canteen and grocery shopping. Amul Kapoor and his lovely wife Chitra always welcomed us into their homes at any time of the day or night. Lalima and Umesh Shastri lived upstairs and we would sometimes organise our parties together. I would make the meat and sweet and Lalima would do the vegetables and 'daal' and then we would exchange half of what we had cooked. We were in different squadrons and always kept our fingers crossed that our guests would not crisscross and discover our secret catering arrangement.
Rani and late MS, Neelu and late Cooper, Ritu and Pakoda, Lily and Aru, Seema and Don, Chitra and Amul, Ritu and KB Singh, Sarita and Polly, Cawas, Pat and Ajay were some of the people who made Tezpur a wonderful place for me! Thank you all wherever you are!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Mouse

Oh dear, a Mouse
When we moved into the permanent accommodation allotted to us I inherited a resident cat, who responded to the  unimaginative name of Puddy. She was an affectionate old thing and had been looked after by the previous occupants so I happily took over as her care giver.
One morning I was sitting out on the veranda sipping my morning cup of tea, when I saw Puddy rushing along with something small and black in her mouth. I grimaced with disgust thinking she had caught a mouse, but when she dropped the sodden object at my toes I realised it was just a  new born kitten. I had never seen such a tiny little thing and picked it up gingerly not really knowing what to do. I decided to make a cosy home in the guest room for my feline family and would leave a window permanently open so mother cat could come and go as she pleased.

who grew and grew into
The little one grew into this amazingly beautiful jet black tom whom I adored as my own child. Unfortunately the name that came to mind when I first saw him was what my baby was called - Mouse! I felt a deep unexplainable affinity for this animal and never having brought up a cat before I came to realise what fun, funny and entertaining creatures they can be. Once while walking home in a drizzle after a party late one night, I was met by a wet and bedraggled bunch of fur who had been patiently waiting under a bush for me all the while. I remember thinking that this did not seem to be typical behaviour for a cat, from what I had heard and read.
My friend Lalima lived upstairs and she definitely did not share the same adoration I felt for my pet. I was startled to see her in a very angry mood at my door one afternoon and asked her what the problem was. She demanded that I immediately change the name of my stupid cat and I laughed hysterically when I heard the reason why she was insisting on this. She had been summoned to her daughter Antara's school by a very worried class teacher who gently told Lalima that there seemed to be a problem. Antara was a bright girl in many ways, she stated, but  just could not understand why every time she was shown a picture of a cat or asked to spell the word, she would seriously insist that C-A-T was Mouse!
Mouse fell ill a year and a half later with some sort of bronchial problem and I was totally helpless since there were no vets around whom I could consult. My heart shattered when he died in my arms just a couple of days later. I wrapped him in a fancy black shawl and asked my husband to dig a little grave for him in the back garden. I sensed Sud wanting to say something about the expensive shroud but he saw my pathetic state and held his peace. Everyone around knew how shattered I was and I had people coming over to commiserate and say how sorry they were for my loss, as if God forbid, someone in my family had passed away.
Once I got over the grieving I felt it was somehow for the better since we would have had to leave Mouse behind when we moved out on posting, which I think would have been more difficult for me. My baby had a short life but it was a comfortable and happy one and I would never have to worry about how he was managing without his mama, or if someone was taking care of him the way I did.

MOUSE

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Beautiful East


We were allotted a permanent accommodation after eight months in the 'basha', so could finally unpack all our worldly goods and set up house properly. We lived in Tezpur over three years, which was the longest tenure that we ever stayed in one place in all our time in the Air Force.
I loved everything about this wild and untamed land. I have never seen such strange looking vegetables and fruit or more alien creepy crawlies. I would regularly have to sweep out baby snakes that had wriggled in after a particularly heavy downpour, since I never had the heart to kill them. What did give me the creeps were frogs that almost seemed to fly through the air and stick to walls and plants and I dreaded the day one of them would mistake me for a tree!
The lush rampant beauty of the East always fascinated me and we would often drive into the picturesque state of Arunachal for picnics. Tipi was a favourite haunt, with its cosy guest house and furiously raging Bharali river. Asia's biggest orchidarium is located here as well but the more common varieties grew in natural unbridled bunches everywhere. I would carefully pry them off  huge trees and bring them home to attach to the ones in my garden where they happily flourished.
There were evenings when the air was thick with fireflies and we would sit in our veranda just enjoying this amazing spectacle. Sometimes one of these minute creatures would get into the house and I would rush around with cupped hands to try and gently catch and let it out, since the idea of this tiny marvel dying trapped indoors upset me.
I will never forget the storms in this part of the world. I have never seen lightening more jagged and beautiful or rain more torrential. Winds howled with such savage ferocity that I could not even open a door against the strength of it. Our garden chairs would fly away if we did not hurriedly drag them in, and we got to doodling identifying marks on them since some evil ladies would keep the ones in good condition and leave the 'rut-put' ones unclaimed.
We would regularly go on fishing excursions with our friends Arup Raha and Cawas Motishaw. Arup's wife Lily was going through a difficult pregnancy so preferred to stay home, while Cawas was a carefree bachelor ever ready for fun. The four of us would drive out on our motor bikes at the crack of dawn, with all our tackle ready for a day of serious fishing. We only caught one miserable little thing in all the times we went which I ended up having to gut and cook once we got home - a rather disturbing experience since I had no idea of how to go about this gruesome task.
I always tremendously enjoyed these outings and it never mattered that we were unlucky fisher folk, got bitten by leeches or chewed by  elusive 'dimdams', which were nasty little gnats invisible to the naked eye but whose bite left itchy spots which scratched for weeks after.

Serious work

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Monkey Business


We stayed in our little 'basha' for over eight months before we were allotted a permanent house. I was alone a lot of the time and found myself entertained by a band of monkeys, who arrived every few days to wreck havoc in the homes of those not on guard. My neighbour Lalima once scuttled over in complete hysteria, saying she had inadvertently left the front door open while taking a bath and a band of marauders had invaded her premises. She escaped through the rear entrance and rushed over for help. Once the intruders left we crept back to take stock of the damage. They had pried open her ration  'dubbas' and scattered the contents all over, they had raided the fridge for eggs and milk and left oily paw prints everywhere. The devastation of upturned furniture and scattered cushions was a sight that left us completely aghast and took hours to clean up.
On one occasion I was in the kitchen chopping up onions and tomatoes when I felt something brush against my leg. I presumed it was one of the resident cats and leaned down to pet it, when I discovered to my horror one of the cheeky creatures sitting placidly by my side. I slowly straightened up and then stood very still not knowing what to do. I stayed that way for about five minutes and so did the monkey. It did not seem hungry or aggressive and just seemed to enjoy leaning against my leg. Time ticked by and I began to get restless imagining myself standing like a frozen statue all day. I decided to take matters into my own hands and clutching the knife firmly twirled around with a dreadful shriek, brandishing my weapon menacingly. Luckily, friend monkey made a dash for the door instead of attacking me so I heaved a sigh of relief and got on with my culinary activity.
While taking a nap one sultry afternoon I was woken by the light fixture that hung by a wire from the ceiling, moving around strangely. My first thought was that there had been an earthquake, but when I noticed the wire being pulled into the roof, I realised the simians must have got into the false ceiling and were simply amusing themselves up there!
I discovered by chance that these crazy apes loved onions. I would throw them some and they would huddle in a group chomping away delightedly with eyes screwed tightly shut and tears streaming down their faces. It was a sight that never failed to amuse me and most of the vegetables that we got in our monthly ration usually ended up as monkey food. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Settling In



The first thing that struck me on getting off the train in Tezpur was the sweat inducing humidity, as I had never known the discomfort of living in a damp and muggy climate. In those days we did not own an air conditioner and coolers were completely ineffective in this kind of steamy heat, which was something I would have to learn to live with. The other aspect that immediately caught my attention was the lush greenery - I was intrigued by all the unfamiliar flora and dense, wild looking, tangled shrubbery..
We were given a tiny 'basha' to live in until a status house was made available These were primitive dwellings made of reinforced mud with a thatched roof, which boasted a tiny bedroom, an even tinier drawing/dining room and a shabby little kitchen. We owned no furniture and boxes were  substituted for beds and settees. This meagre accommodation was set amidst wild undergrowth and huge trees, which had a cheeky band of monkey residents whom I became quite familiar with over the months.. After the initial shock of seeing this living arrangement, I must say I settled in happily enough for the next eight months and actually grew to love it.
The first morning Sud had to report early for work and I did not bother to wake up and make him his tea. The boxes were still locked and I had planned to spend the day sorting things out. When I eventually emerged into the kitchen, I saw my poor husband had unlocked the trunks and tried to rustle up a cuppa for both of us. He had not found the pots and pans he was looking for, and I noticed much to my amusement, that he had inventively boiled up the 'chai' in a large pressure cooker and strained it with a corner of the mosquito net!
I unpacked as best I could in the tiny living space and was given help and  support from my next door neighbours Lalima and Umesh Shastri. I don't know what I would have done without Lalima, who tucked me under her wing and eased what could have been a traumatic time for me. She was the one who taught me to make the most awesome 'kheer'. I had no idea that only a small bit of rice was needed for this preparation and after a few disastrous attempts turned to her for advice. It was with great amusement that she  showed me how much was actually needed to produce the perfect dish.
Sud and I shared space with a cat and her three kittens whom I adored, and it broke my heart when we had to move out and leave them behind. The quarters we were eventually allotted already had a resident cat whom the lady of the house had been looking after. The photograph below is a rare one, since Sud turned out to have a nasty cat allergy but that was something we found out much later so these were uncomplicated and carefree times.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Preparng for Departure


The news that we were posted to 28 Squadron, a Mig-21 unit of the Indian Air Force in Tezpur, Assam, sent shivers of dread down my spine, but I was trying hard to mentally prepare myself for the move. Large tin trunks were bought for linen, curtains and kitchen items and the local carpenter was employed to measure and manufacture a crate for the refrigerator.
I had never packed a whole household before, so mum would arrive every morning and meticulously put away all our worldly goods. I just lolled around drinking tea and feeling depressed. Every time Sud would make a suggestion of how things should be done, he was glared at and told to go have a beer at the mess or do it himself! This switched off attitude of mine caused plenty of problems once we reached our destination since I had no idea of where mother had put what.  From this experience I did learn that one had to stow stuff in a very organised manner since accommodation was always temporary before getting what was known as a 'status' house. Things that were essential should be easily accessible while the frills that could be done without were put away accordingly.
The couple of months before the move to this remote part of the country found mum and me bursting into tears whenever we met, and both father and Sud would try and keep out of the way of all this high emotional drama. When the day of departure dawned it was Dad who came to see us off at the Gorakhpur station as Mum has never been good at goodbyes.
In 1984 the east was connected to the rest of the country by a meter gauge railway line and we were lucky enough to have a coupe into which I miserably settled after a last outburst of tears when I hugged father one last time.
The journey was painful for Sud as I snuffled and sniffled all the way. At one point he quietly admonished that I was not going to the gallows, just on a posting, which remark did nothing to ease my anguish.
We chugged along for more than twenty four hours to cover the over one thousand kilometres up to Rangiya junction from where we had to change to another train which finally took us to Tezpur.


Meter gauge railway line to Tezpur


Friday, 25 May 2012

Air Force Station - Gorakhpur

The next few months found Sud and me happily playing at house-house. We were allotted a small Flying Officer's accommodation, which I had done up beautifully with all the stuff that we had spent months shopping for. New curtains from Fab India, fancy kitchen appliances and crisp  sheets exquisitely embroidered by the Swedish missionaries in Chauri Chaura, all made our little flat very cosy and welcoming. A part time maid was hired who took care of the boring daily chores which made life even more comfortable. That she stole and wore my sexy lingerie I only found out much later and decided to ignore!
In 1984, a gas connection had a waiting period of over two years so we had invested in a Nutan stove. At home we had always used an electric hot plate and oven so figuring out this strange apparatus was a unique experience in itself. I was fumbling and bumbling in the kitchen anyway, so whenever I got wind of a squadron 'bounce' I would ring up mum who would send the cook by the next bus to prepare a decent meal!
'Bouncing' is an Air Force tradition which always made my heart sink with dismay. A group of youngsters, mostly bachelors, would show up at the door unannounced in the wee hours of the morning demanding food. The lady of the house would have to rustle up sustenance for ravenous mouths, no matter how unreasonable the time! Not being a proficient cook, I would struggle to put together something and would serve whatever I had manufactured with a loaf of bread since I had not mastered the art of rice and 'roti'.
Mum would regularly drive down from Saraya with delicious cakes, bakes and bunches of fresh flowers from the garden and whenever the  lads found out she had come by, they would innocently turn up knowing there would be something special to eat.
When the squadron would go out on detachment, Malini, the flight commander Harish Masand's wife and I would go back to Saraya for the days the men would be away. This ended up causing much resentment with the other ladies, since I was a new comer and she a senior officer's wife, but we shared a close friendship so never ever let the pettiness bother us.
The easy familiarity between the Masands and us has stood the test of time, and we have seen each other through personal and professional ups and downs over the last thirty years. In fact rumours of a torrid affair between Harish and me were the source of much speculation in Air Force circles, and our so called romance is something the four of us and our children have had many a hearty laugh about.
Six months after we were married, we got the news that Sud was posted to Tezpur, in Assam. I was shell shocked, since the idea of being away from my family was too awful to bear and I had conveniently tucked the thoughts of a transfer completely out of my mind. I was terrified of the unknown territory I was heading towards and had many a weep session with mum, while Sud looked on in puzzlement at my extreme reaction to the move.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

HoneyMoan

Breath taking view on the flight to Srinagar

While glancing into Sud's bag to see what he was carrying on our honeymoon, I was horrified to discover a pair of 'long johns'. I stared aghast at the offending undergarment and glaring at my new husband in a threatening manner, growled that it was either the 'long johns' or me that would accompany him on the trip! He tried to explain that Gulmarg was freezing in December and he was susceptible to the cold, but seeing my unsympathetic stare he sputtered out of excuses. I rummaged some more and came up brandishing a monkey cap, but all nasty comments were bitten back when I saw a very pleading face looking back at me. I decided the headgear I would be able to put up with, but the 'long johns' I just could not abide.
For those of you who have never encountered a pair of 'long johns', and  good old 'fauji' issue ones at that, it is difficult to explain what an unromantic piece of clothing it is. In those days we had none of the soft warm inners that are available now. LJ's were obscene looking, thick, scratchy, poky things in a nondescript yellowish creamish colour that bulged obscenely in all the wrong places. Definitely not the most flattering or conducive piece of clothing for a honeymoon.
Once these technicalities were sorted out we left on what we thought was a ten day trip to Gulmarg in Kashmir. The flight was beautiful and staring out of the aircraft window at snow capped mountains was an absolutely breath taking experience. The plane was full of honeymooners, since December is a popular month for weddings. The other new brides were all resplendent in shiny clothes and 'chudas', whereas I was in my normal raggedy jeans with the only similarity bonding us being a parting full of 'sindoor'.
After spending a night in Srinagar we took a taxi up to Gulmarg where we stayed in five star comfort courtesy a gift from my father. The first place we checked out was the bar where I excitedly decided to experiment with exotic cocktails. Sud grimly stuck to his beer and it was only months later that he admitted he was worried about the finances and each drink I was indulging in was ridiculously expensive!
Gulmarg had just had its first snowfall and was quite magical since neither of us had ever seen the soft powdery flakes before. Sitting and gazing out at the scenery, very much in love, my darling whispered tenderly that we would be back every year, same time same place to celebrate our anniversary. I snuggled up contentedly and agreed it was the most wonderful idea.
After just three days of bliss we got the news that Sud was needed back at the squadron since they had to go  on an important detachment.  We had to abruptly cut short our honeymoon and get back to reality much sooner than expected.
I must also admit that it has been twenty eight years since then and we never did get to make it back!
 
Me, Sud and monkey cap!

Friday, 11 May 2012

History Repeats

1954
When we got home after the wedding ceremony, my new husband and I were both too exhausted to think of anything but diving into bed and getting a good night's sleep, since we were leaving for a ten day honeymoon to Gulmarg, Kashmir early the next morning.
I disappeared into the bathroom to change out of my wedding finery and literally let my hair down. The beauticians had stuck hundreds of tiny pearl studded pins  into my coiffure and getting them all out was quite a chore. With my arms raised above my head to find all of them, I glanced into the mirror and was horrified to discover the colour from the sari blouse had bled  and stained my armpits a deep pink. I was too tired to immediately do anything about the problem, so Sud and I had a chuckle over this weird phenomenon before finally tucking ourselves in for the night.
When I next spoke to my mother on the phone I joked with her about my brightly coloured body parts, and said I was surprised that she had never mentioned that  the colour of the original cape which I had converted into my blouse, would run. She burst out laughing and told me the same thing had happened to her on her honeymoon in 1954.
She only noticed the arm pits the next morning and when she self consciously asked my father why he had not mentioned anything, he mumbled sheepishly that he thought it might be some strange Indian  custom for fertility, or some other tradition to ensure a happy wedded life, and  had not wanted to appear foolish or ignorant by bringing it to her attention.
Mother and I had a good giggle over the way history sometimes repeats itself in strange and unforeseen ways!


1983

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Wedding

New beginnings
The months before D-Day flew by and before I knew it we were back in Delhi for the big event. We again stayed with Shelley and Bunny Majithia as they had offered to host the marriage in their beautiful house.
The seventeenth of December found me quite emotionally numbed out. I could hardly believe that after all the troubled times in my life I was actually getting married! The beauticians had been called to the house and I remember staring at my reflection in the mirror while they were dotting up my face, and thinking that may be I could still call it all off. My mother assured me that doubts and fears were normal apprehensions to feel at this point of time, since it was an unknown and different life that I was heading towards. I insisted on wearing the same exquisite sari that she had worn at her wedding to my father in 1954. She had sported a gorgeous matching cape with her ensemble twenty eight years earlier, which I had cut up to make my blouse.
We had arranged for the registrar to do the needful at the house itself and a strange little man  showed up punctually on the dot of six. The 'baaraat' was also thankfully there on time and we began the practical ceremony that entails a civil marriage. We were each asked if we were over eighteen years of age, if we were related in any way and if we were of sound mind and body. Then we had to sign the legal document and were declared husband and wife! 
My mother-in-law's only request was that we exchange 'jai-malas' after the ceremony, to which we happily obliged. After that was the usual round of photographs, hugs, kisses and congratulations as  the evening went by in a surreal blur. The Sud family was and is a large and complicated one, and meeting every one was a completely confusing experience. In fact it took me years to sort out who belonged to whom and how they were related.
I must admit when it was time to leave and I hugged my father goodbye I promptly burst into tears. That at least was what a good Indian bride was expected to do and I followed this custom before climbing into the car and waving goodbye to everyone as Mrs Eva Sud.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Engaged


While in Delhi we stayed in the beautiful home of Shelley and Bunny Majithia, who at the time lived in Maharani Bagh. The first thing Shelley did was to whisk me away for sari shopping because off course that was what I was supposed to wear on this auspicious occasion. A beautiful Tanchoi was what I chose and her tailor zipped up the blouse in a couple of hours. I had never worn this complicated garment before so had to be wrapped and firmly pinned up to avoid any possibility of a mishap.
Mother-in-law and sister-in-law
Father-in-law with Surjit and Sati Majithia
I was ready and waiting long before time and eventually the few family members we had invited began to trickle in. Drinks and snacks did the rounds but there was no sign of the Suds. I tried to call but their phone appeared to be dead, so I bravely smiled and took all the jibes that were being made about how maybe my man had changed his mind at the last minute! An hour later when there was still no sign of anyone I really began to panic but the mask was in place while my heart thundered with embarrassment.
The relatives were actually thinking of leaving when we heard a car pull up with the tardy family. I was fuming but greatly relieved to see all of them. Apparently Sud had high fever and they thought they should let him sleep it off! I bit back all caustic comments that seem to come so easily to my tongue and in a more relaxed frame of mind got on with the rest of the evening.
Sud gave me an engagement ring which I had chosen myself after asking him what the budget was and I put a gold chain around his neck as he refused to wear a ring. With the official exchange done we had a few drinks followed by dinner after which the Suds departed and the realisation hit me that I was now an officially affianced woman!
Manju Majithia,Simret Badal nee Majithia, Mira Akoi nee Majithia and Snoopy
Mum and Dad with Jerry and Kamini