Last few weeks have been all about reconnecting with people I knew once upon a time. While I was away, I kept in touch with some and lost touch with others. Over the years I’ve come to terms with my inability to sustain high maintenance relationships…I get very claustrophobic as soon as I realize that the other person is expecting me to call, write or e-mail on a regular basis and I start looking for a way out. I love people who are as socially inept as I am and don’t hold it against me that I haven’t once called or emailed in six months. But the social creature that I am, I need people around me hence the need to reconnect!
There is this lady, much older to me and for whatever reason is extremely fond of me. Sometimes I wonder what she has seen in me to bestow that much of affection! Anyway, this lady actually threw a small dinner party to welcome me back to Seattle. Unfortunately I wasn’t really aware that there were to be guests other than us. I landed up in a Bong party wearing jeans and shirt…that was a complete sacrilege! I was immediately accosted by bejeweled, besaree’d didis who demanded an explanation for such behavior…didn’t I get any decent salwar kameez or saree to wear in my two and a half year stint in India!! I mumbled some vague excuse about not finding enough time to go home and change while the truth is that I was taking an extended afternoon nap when spouse reminded me of the invitation and I simply rolled out of the couch and sat in the car!
I think they forgave me as a first time offender (I swear this was the very first and hopefully the last instance that I broke the unwritten dress code…I have to be completely out of my mind to willingly invoke the wrath of the Didis!) and then they moved on to filling me with the latest gossip in town over the sumptuous five course meal that our hostess had painstakingly prepared. The biggest discussion was about the scarcity of daal in the Indian stores and how prices have gone up from 70cents a pound to $2. They shuddered at the plight of the poor South Indians who need daal in some form or the other in their meal (idli, dosa, sambhar anyone?) while we Bongs can live on Machher Jhol alone! I nodded my head meekly not daring to point out that I haven’t had Machher Jhol in last 15 years, yet can do without daal till Indian government decides to lift the ban on daal exports, even if it takes after another 15 years!!
We bumped into a cute little kid, who I realized was the son of yet another affectionate didi. This kid was born a few days before my son; the only thing I remembered about him was that the tyke used to scream all day and all night…so much that I sometimes felt like wringing his little neck! Since I was terribly ashamed of such impure thoughts, I actually started avoiding his mother! Anyway, he’s all grown up now, doesn’t scream as much…quite the precocious thing he is I was told, requires his mom’s French perfume to sniff while he goes potty! His mom took me aside and asked me for potty-training tips to which my answer was “Um…errr…take him to India!”
“But he needs to go to school this fall. How am I going to explain this habit to his teachers?” she cried. Now, I had just finished reading Indu Sunderesan’s Twentieth Wife and Feast of The Roses and my imagination was still wandering somewhere in the Mughal courts. So I told her, “Why don’t you tell them that your son is a re-incarnation of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He cannot stand the smell of his own excretions, and needs the perfume of fresh roses to mask the unpleasantness!” She regarded me with suspicion, not sure if I was being serious or pulling a fast one. Then everyone else in the room burst out laughing. She wasn’t pleased at all, I could tell, but joined in half-heartedly.
The hostess’ son, a young whipper-snapper fresh out of Cornell (a model kid; every Bong mom wants a son like him) was trying his level best to be friendly to us, even tried speaking in heavily accented Bengali just to fit in. What a sweet guy! Everything was fine, till his mom requested me to find a suitable girl for him! What the…?? Do I look like someone who has little black book full of names and phone numbers of potentially marriageable girls?! Of course I refused point blank, instead offered my services as the wedding-planner if she couldn’t afford one when the time came! (I love to shop, you see.) Poor kid, he’s started working less than a month back and his mom is already planning to get him hitched!
The other day I drove my brand new Liquid Yellow Mini Cooper over to a friends place. She said I am suffering from mid-life crisis and the car is a sure sign of crying for attention and that the indicator knob reminded her of a dog in heat! What’s up with that? It’s only a car…at least I haven’t colored my hair Liquid Yellow! Since then I have exchanged cars with spouse. I drive his more understated elegant car (that’s what he calls it) and he gets around in my attention-seeking four-wheels. He’s a lot more comfortable with his mid-life crisis as far as I know!
Few days back I caught up with an old friend. She left Seattle about the same time I moved to Hyderabad and has settled in Chicago. It was wonderful talking to her…we picked up exactly we where parted two and a half years back. Neither of us complained about the lack of communication, didn’t accuse each other of indifference…we just talked like we never said goodbye!
So here I am, reacquainting myself with the milieu. Sometimes it’s pleasant, sometimes I wish I didn’t bother, but it’s an enriching experience all the same. So here’s to friends, old and new!