While the official agenda involved attending a wedding of an old dental school classmate in Mysore, the unspoken plan was to play hooky away from work, play hooky from most of the wedding, gulp all the free drinks we could manage AND hit 140 on the Bangalore - Mysore highway (er, hopefully the drinking like a fish and the flying too low would not happen on the same day, but in my life I can never be too sure of coincidences like these) . It did occur to me that we were a couple of doctors who doing really well and who were acting like cut throat first year hostelites - following the free food, free drinks and high speed in the invincible way that only broke and hungry students can. Through the course of the next day, someone did mention something about "they can take you out of the hostel but can never take the hostel out of you". Ever notice how the really bad lines are the ones that ring true the most?
So anyway, we're off to Mysore, driving my dad's 2002 Honda City (the one with the nice gentlemanly shape) from Bangalore. We reached Mysore in record time thanks to some great roads and some even better acceleration. We checked into a hotel and started getting ready for the pre-wedding bash. I wore a multicoloured cowl neck top with skinny jeans and shiny high heels. This was an outfit chosen with great care. The cowl neck was to make my neck appear longer, the skinny jeans was to make me appear skinny (bet you didn't guess that!) and the high heels was to add to the glamour quotient. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this was what I thought was acceptable for a pre-wedding bash (not 'function', mind you, but 'bash' which to me and to all those who speak English means non formal, fun, time to let the hair down ). So we show up at the venue which is a large hall, 100 white tube lights, 10,000,000 flying insects and outdoor wash basins with cracked soap. I step out of the car and my stilettos sink into 2 inches of muck. As I struggle to free the heel without dismembering my foot, I look up to see a huge banner draped across the parking lot with blinking red and blue lights, which said with no absolutely ambiguity, in size 72 font letters-
Welcome to the Happy Weeding of Shivkumar and Shailaja.
Your present is presence enough.
We nearly tripped over ourselves with laughter. So much so that it took me a while to realise that I was kind of inappropriately dressed for this 'bash'. There were two kinds of dressers at the pre-'weeding' thing. Type A dressers - those who looked like they were out buying vegetables for dinner - faded white un-tucked shirt, open sandals, sari border 4 inches above the ground, plastic or cloth bag / pouch in hand, talcum powder on the face. Then there were type B dressers - heavy silk saris, gold by the kilo, cravats, jackets, berets. But there were no jeans, no slinky cowl necks and sure as hell there were no cleavages to be seen.
My companion looked at me and grinned gleefully.
You're the official skin show for the night, he laughed, adding: Who would have thought you'd be the designated Pamela Anderson of the evening, he whispered in my ear.
Well, you're no Tommy Lee, I hissed back.
And that took care of that!
But confident as I was, there is nothing more discomforting than being under dressed in the truest sense of the word in a over lit room with a neck line 3 inches lower than anyone other woman's and the only ones to keep me company in that department were the type A dressers, the guys with the untucked shirts who has 2 buttons open from the bottom and 3 buttons open from the top. Infact from what I could gather looking at the vast expanses of their hairy chests, their shirts were being held together by only one loose button in the middle. But in the final analysis, they were men and their chests were far less interesting. I did try briefly to find dark corners to hide in, but the only ones dark enough were right next to the outdoor loos which on closer inspection had no doors, just slightly convoluted entrances. So I did the next best thing. I squared my shoulders, pasted a smile on my face and went in search of alcohol. I came back with rum and warm coke in a plastic glass...it really does not get more hostel-like than this, believe me.
I was introduced to all his old friends. The smart ones who spoke a lot and the quiet ones who looked, looked away, then looked back again, the boisterous ones who back slapped too much, sloshing alcohol all over my toes and the middle aged ones who just plain depressed me. The last ones were the lot that worried me the most. They were my age and yet seemed middle aged in a depressing way. The back was slouched, the waist was ballooning, the pate was balding (no not in a sexy way, but in a way that looked like the head was the focal point for voluminous fungal growth), their colours of life were between cement and muck and their biggest adventure involved travelling to Bangalore for a weekend.
We finally bumped into Aby, close friend, experienced corrupter, he was the one who introduced the bulk of their class to alcohol in their 2nd year and a wearer of loud shirts in every neon colour that exists and a burper of competition calibre.
So how you doing in Bombay eh? he asks. He's on his 11th glass I think (to be fair though, the plastic glasses hold about three sips...)
I'm doing well, I say. Polite conversation is hard when you're swatting flying insects and covering the mouth of your glass so that none fall in. Life's real busy, I add with a 70 mm smile.
Aah ****, he said, spittle flying all over, he then paused to slurp/suck it all back into his mouth before he continued: You guys never come to visit. Gone to Bombay and then you have become too busy, he continues.
He thought for a moment and then said - now poor bugger Shiva, he is married, now he too will disappear, he will get busy, yevery time we will call him, he will say he cannot come, wife is saying no, work in the house, this and that. Poor bugger.
I smile at Aby ranting. He is the unlikely alpha male. He has a thick bushy mustache, a huge stomach, the mouth of a sailor, calls everyone (sorry, yevery one) bugger or you fool, or idiot or f****** depending on his mood and his biggest claim to fame is his favourite statement: I can stand in the middle of the road in Kottayam without a shirt and girls' parents will throw 3 crores at me just like that to marry their daughters, hehe.
Er, to bring a little perspective to this, in no way is he better shirtless, infact his stomach and the folds of skin around it are enough to cause a traffic accident. What he means that even when he behaves badly, he is confident that all Malayali homes are dying to have him for a son-in-law. All I can see is that Aby has been saying this for six years now - there's still no money or girl flying in his direction, or maybe he just has not taken off his shirt as yet :-) But in his defence, he is lovable in an very small quantities! And especially so if you don't mind burps, farts and warts.
The bash which was actually turned out to be a 'function' in disguise ended up being fun. I had gained quite the fan following by the end of it. My partner had gained a lot of envy. The dean of the dental college who was in attendance wanted to talk to me. The bridegroom wanted to talk to me. This was our short conversation:
Him: So how're you liking Mysore.
Me: It's great. So congratulations, you're getting married. (Duh)
Him: Ahhaha yes I am. I came to Bombay once.
Me: Did you like it?
Him: Na, too fast. Cannot enjoy in a place like that. I like it here only.
During the entire conversation, the bridegroom did not look me in the eye. It may not have been intentional though, he was only 5 ft tall in dress shoes.
Good thing you didn't marry her, I said cattily. People may have mistaken you for her son.
It was then time to get introduced to my companion's ex-girlfriend, a girl who was very pretty in college but who had now metamorphosed into a slightly harassed, matronly looking woman chasing after two kids.
That's okay, he grinned back. Right now people are mistaking you for Aby's daughter.
Did I mention that my companion and I are best friends with no holds barred....
A big bunch of us went back to our hotel room to finally drink some cold liquor, only to find that there was no electricity and the generator was not working. Aby said a few more f****, bastards, KLPDs, WTFs (Aby was the undisputed king of abusive abbreviations) and we drank some more warm liquor and talked about college days, cheating in the exams, always borrowing money that never got paid back, falling in love, writing love letters that fell in the wrong hands, bunking class, failing exams despite cheating, canteen food and forging the Dean's signature or the parents' signature depending on the situation.
And at 4 am when I thought we had run out of things to talk about, questions about Mumbai started popping up - Isn't it too crowded? Do you make lots of money, you bastards? Are the people unfriendly? Why are the girls so skinny? Don't they know being that skinny does not look nice?
It was so odd how they spoke of Mumbai like it was a universe away, like it was Vietnam or Hawaii or at the least Harlem. An alien land, a foreign country. Something they didn't know and didn't understand and hence didn't like and were loathe to visit.
The next day the wedding went off well. Or atleast I assume it did. We made it for last 30 minutes. The first 2 hours of it were lost in groggy sleep - thanks to the fact that XXX rum had stopped suiting me ten years ago. And then ofcourse, I had to drape a sari. A part of me wanted to show everyone - So what if I had dressed a little adventurously yesterday? I can also carry off Indian nari with equal panache (completely untrue, I cannot even drape a sari properly, it took four tries, but what the hell, whose counting anyway).
We finally showed up in time to wish the couple. I stood with our huge gift in a snaking line that had about 175 people. Thank God we had gotten them a gift and had not thought that our presence would be present enough!!! When we finally got onto the stage, no small feat considering that my heels got caught on the coir floor mat every step of the way and the pleats of the sari were slowly beginning to unravel, we wished the couple, handed over the ever important present, smiled for the camera and then just when I was congratulating myself on how well the morning had gone, I tripped on the stairs down and fell flat at the feet of the ex-girlfriend.
3 days later, I was back in Mumbai. I was back in the city of fast lives and skinny girls. The 'weeding' had been an eye opener of sorts. These are the lessons I learned the hard way:
1. When going to a wedding at a new place, dress like you think your mother would. It is better to be safe than sexy.
2. Limit interaction with the exes to the minimum. Grovelling at her feet is NOT becoming.
3. Do not call the Dean of the college by the wrong name. He will not turn a pretty shade of purple.
4. Carry a present no matter what the invitation says. A glittering banner at the venue may inform you otherwise.
5. Do not drink more than 1.5 glasses of XXX rum. If you can manage more than that without getting acquainted with the inside of the toilet bowl, you are a better man than I.
6. Wear a sari blouse that fits. You never know when you may fall and the sari may unravel to reveal a blouse borrowed from a friend who is 2 sizes too small.