Friday, October 31, 2008

The Diwali that was

Homemade Chakli - check.
Doesn’t matter it turned out to be rock hard

Homemade Kalaakand –Check
Doesn’t matter it wasn’t was sweet as it should have been

Homemade Chivda – Check
Doesn’t matter it turned a bit too sour

Lights strung – Check
In the freezing wind and at the very last minute, along with a lighted Halloween pumpkin thingie.

Oil and Aukshan for Chip and BigGeek on NarakChaturdashi day – Check
Doesn’t matter of all days, we woke up AFTER sunrise on this day.

Laxmi Pujan – Check
Doesn’t matter that BigGeek and I always forget the second stanza of every aarti we sing.

Sparklers – Check
Doesn’t matter it was windy and freezing cold. And that we were wearing nylon parkas for it to be comfortable for me. But, it was fun.

BigGeek’s Aukshan on Padwaa – Check
Doesn’t matter he suddenly remembered at the very last minute he had indeed bought me gift - an ipod and a fancy car integration kit a few weeks before, stating it was an advance Diwali gift, so did not get a second gift despite the guilt I tried to induce ;-)

Chip’s Diwali gift-Check
Doesn’t matter he raised hell and tried every trick in the book to open it before Diwali. He choose to get a big milk truck. Yes, a milk truck. That lights up in a folksy song and moos.

Phone calls to family in India – Check
Doesn’t matter Chip refused to wish and on prodding, told everybody it was not Diwali, but it was Halloween, really.

Pictures taken – Ummm, no.
Thank god a few friends took some at a Diwali party.

Had a good time – Check.
Doesn’t matter things were very laid back this year. Doesn’t matter it is exhausting to rush back from work, make a nice dinner and do poojas. Diwali on weekdays is uber-exhausting.

And such was our Diwali. Hope you had lots of fun too. Leaving you with Chip’s picture taken last weekend at a Diwali party. Chip is trying to fake-smile.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Hair Raising Story- Part Deux

...what happened before

Wedding day arrives. It is humid. My hair is a disaster. The humidity gives it a frizz and an undesirable curl. My brother and BigGeek are out doing some last minute shopping when I frantically call them. “Get me some hairspray. Medium hold.” “Where will I find it?” asks the husband. “I don’t know? Maybe the chemist? Where are you?” “I am in front of Shoppers Stop right now. Will see if I can get it there.” Two hours later the duo return, unsuccessful in getting a can of hairspray. I have no choice but to gel it and blowdry it with “the contraption” and have it up in Velcro rollers for half a day. I drape my saree, put on my face and take down the rollers. Hair does not look bad. We hurry into the waiting cars and drive to the wedding – which is outdoors. Thirty minutes later, as humidity takes over, my hair curls up and frizzes.

The reception is two days later. My cousins have arrived and one of them has told me her friend/cousin runs a beauty parlor. I could go there. “Will she take two hours?” I ask. Ofcourse not. So on my way home running errands; BigGeek drops me to this salon. Hairdresser comes in smiling, introductions are made. I thank her for squeezing me in on such short notice. She points to a chair. I sit. I thought she would want to ask me about my hair and what I wanted. I tell her I want a blow dry that will hold in this humidity. I want volume. I want no curls. “No problem.” She smiles reassuringly. Then she takes out a blow-dryer and a paddle brush and begins to blow dry my rather dry hair. I am speechless. Well, my hair had been moistened by exactly three seconds of rain when I exited the car and entered the salon. I expected a shampoo, but if she did not want to do a shampoo, a thorough misting was in order. It was ridiculous to have my almost-dry hair being blow-dried. I try to make small talk. Pointed small talk. “You know, my hair routine everyday is this. Wash, apply holding gel, blow-dry, put up in Velcro rollers until I get dressed and I am good to go. My hair is so short. That’s all it needs.” She smiles and continues to blow-dry my dry hair while telling her assistant to get out the hot rollers for my hair. I eye the half-inch hot rollers with suspicion. “Are you sure the hot rollers will not give a curl? I don’t want a curl. Only volume.” “No, no. the hot rollers won’t give you a curl. Only volume.” I sigh. I wonder if she had actually used the hot rollers before. There is no way I am letting her put hot rollers in my hair.

10 minutes into blow-drying with a paddle brush, she suddenly stops and goes away and comes back with a small bottle. “This is a serum. It’s an anti-frizz.” I know what a serum is. I hate serums, I try to tell her. But before I can speak, it is plonked on my head. And again blowdried.

“What do you think?” She asks after another 10 minutes. “My hair is flat.” Thanks to the serum, I want to add. “No volume. It looks oiled.” “Okay, no problem. What I am going to do is tease your hair.” She says grabbing a teasing comb. Tease my hair??? WHY? Again before I can say anything, she has started to tease a section of my hair. “Please don’t tease my hair. It breaks easily.” She lets out a laugh. “Just comb it gently and it won’t break.” “No, really, I don’t want it teased.” “Ok, just a little bit. You want volume, na.” Sigh. 5 minutes later. “What do you think?” “It’s not straight. It curls. It’s an angled bob. It looks terrible when curled.” “Ok, I’ll straighten it.” Sorry-looking straightening iron is plugged in, two wisps of my hair straightened. All I want to do at this point is grab her hairdryer and iron and do my hair myself. Only if. At the end of 50 minutes, the ordeal ends and I thank her unwillingly and ask her how much I owe her. Two hundred, she replies. I sigh and pay, not knowing if that’s a lot of money these days in India.

My cousins give me a ride home when. I see BigGeek and whisper my exasperations to him. He says my hair looks fine. Lying obviously. I want to put it in my beloved Velcro rollers, but there is no time. I run out of the house and arrive at the reception. The photos haven’t arrived yet. I really want to see how my two hundred rupee “setting” looks. No wonder these “stylists” take two hours to “set” your hair. Have you ever tried blow-drying already dry hair? Ever?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Hair Raising Story - Part Un

So, the only-sister-of-the-groom wanted to get her air blow-dried. That should have been enough for the whole of the town to come running to me with their services, no? No. What follows is my rather hair raising story of how I got my hair “set”.

I, naively thinking, that hairdryers are as common in middle-class Indian households as pressure cookers are, decided not to take mine. In my defense, I had asked my mom about it before I left. “Do you have a hairdryer?” I had asker her, not mincing words. “I don’t want to bring mine.” My hairdryer takes up 1700 watts of energy and is mammoth. It’s huge and has a huger spiky wheel at its end to “add volume” to my wafer thin hair. Okay, I know wafer thin and hair don’t go well together. I know. But you get the idea, no? So, no. I was not lugging that contraption in my suitcases that seemed to be stuffed more than what I am after a hearty, eat-all-you-can buffet. Not to mention the transformer issues given its wattage and what not. “Yes, I have a hairdryer.” My mother repeated, again. And again.

Surely she must have picked up a decent one, I imagined. She lives all over the world and has terrible hair. I am sure it is a crime in some countries to go out with hair like that without at least blow-drying it. I should know. I have inherited that same hair. “No, don’t bring your hairdryer. It’s so huge.” She told me. Okay. I thought. I could borrow my sister-in-law’s travel hairdryer as a backup. Just in case. That hairdryer sort of just generates a lot of air and noise without any direction, but it’s workable. (Apparently, as I later discovered, it’s hard to buy a full-size, enough wattage to light up a small town, spiky-wheel-at-the-end hairdryer in India without wearing your chappals thin.)

Before I started to pack for my trip, I had pulled the 10 gallon wicker tote from under the bathroom sink. Now, this tote contains every hair product ever sold in this country. Mammoth dryer that looks like a mean weapon on Star Trek, teflon lined straightening iron, hot rollers for curl, velcro rollers for volume, half inch barrel curling iron, two inch barrel curling iron, metal hairdresser butterfly clips, hair color, developer, leave-in conditioner, straightening balm, curl defining mousse, volume enhancing medium hold styling gel, firm hold styling gel that does not enhance volume, anti-frizz hair serum that positively makes your hair flat, medium hold hairspray that retains bounce, firm hold hairspray that glues your hair tight. It is one well armed tote.

Hair dryer, the mother had. Straightening iron? Very useful, considering my bob. Bob + Humidity = Disaster. But Poona, where my parents live and the wedding was, is hardly humid. Also, straightening iron is high wattage. It might just burn. Not worth it. And in the end, I can always go and get my hair “set”. I hate getting my hair styled in unknown towns. For some reason they always know you are an out-of-towner and give you a shoddy blow-dry. It’s never worth the money. I much prefer to do my own hair thankyouverymuch.

So, I arrive at my parents' house. Armed with many bags. And my trusty Velcro rollers. Whoever invented them, I want to tell you, I worship you every morning. But I digress. So, yes. Rollers, volume enhancing medium hold styling gel, hairdresser metal clips, sarees, jewellery, evening shoes but no hair dryer and no straightening iron. After lunch, I say to my mother, “Show me the hair-dryer.” “Wait a minute. Let me remember where I put it.” She replies, running away because someone calls her. This does not look good. A few minutes later she returns and tells me she has found it and it is on the bed in my brother’s room. I walk inside and find no hair dryer. “Aie.” I call out like a petulant 3-yr old. “Where is the hairdryer? I can’t find it. All I see on the bed is what looks like a small personal heater.” My mother comes rushing in. “It’s a hair-dryer, alright” What? What?? “Well it’s a travel hair-dryer. It’s actually a hair-dryer-cum-heater-cum-iron-cum-water-heater.” WHAT? Surely she is making this up. I call out to my brother. “What is this thing?” I demand of him. “Oh.. that’s the travel thing. It has the iron and water heater. I have actually used the iron.” I am hyperventilating. This could not have been happening to me. My brother plugs it in and turns the neck of the contraption at an angle to turn it into a hair-dryer. It whirrs. “See? It works!” My mother says and flies into the kitchen before my speechless self can even begin to gather my thoughts.

For the next two days, I try blow-drying my hair with the hair-dryer-cum-heater-cum-iron-cum-water-heater. It’s not so bad, really. But takes a really, really long time. “Where do you go to get your haircuts and eyebrows done? Will that woman do my hair?” I ask my mother one evening, rubbing my sore arm from the blow-drying. “Dottie”, my mother shakes her head “that woman will take 2 hours to ‘set’ you hair.” “Two hours? I just want it blowdried. My hair is chin length. You can’t even do an updo. Why will it take two hours?” “They are very slow. They take two hours.” My exasperated mom tries to explain. So be it. I’ll just do my own hair, I think to myself and the sight of my Velcro rollers cheers me up a bit.

to be continued...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nine Days, Eight Nights

It hard enough trying to squeeze a month long trip into two weeks and harder still to squeeze a hectic 2-week trip into a blog post. Or two. Or even three. But try, I shall.

On the day of Dussehra, my tuck-his-wooden-sword-into-an-elastic-hairband-cummerband, spiderman-loving, he-man-obsessed brother got married. I don’t think he tucks swords in anymore or plays with he-man action figures – I am sure his wife took care of those obsessions when she appeared on the scene (wink, wink). My new sister-in-law a.k.a vahini is really sweet and even in the short evening we spent together, I totally saw what my brother meant when he said about that she had a positive vibe to her. There is one, no doubt.

The wedding as most Indian weddings go, was a weeklong affair. Exhausting. Exciting. My memories of the hectic week are so disjointed that I have been unable to gather my thoughts in to a coherent post. So I am giving a glimpse of what I remember. Fragmented, just like it is in my mind.

Rustling jewel colored silks. Grandmother, mother and daughter whispering, gossiping until the dawn sun broke. Grandfather threatening to wake up Chip if we did not immediately go to bed. Giggles. A flash of diamonds. The quiet shine of a gold necklace nestled in plum velvet waiting to be worn. Tinkling of glass bangles. Green. Gold. Silver. Fragrance of hot upma and coffee. Flurry of activity. Aching feet.


Perfect tie hunt. Perfect jooti hunt. Perfect sleepwear hunt. Overheated Fabindia. The heat. The dust. The traffic. Datenight. Autorickshaw ride with BigGeek. Sizzlers. Too tired for a movie.

Attempts to find cotton nighties and slips. Muddy puddles. Caught in an unexpected shower. Drenched. Buying the perfect earring. Loosing its tiny screw but finding it, in forgotten dustballs under the bed. The aroma of havan smoke. That lingers for days afterward. Covering BigGeek’s designer dress shirt hung out to dry in the balcony with a smoky scent. Henna. What to give who. Packed in suitcases. Shown but not given.

Meeting relatives. Some older, some grayer, some taller, some drained, some unchanged. Forgetting names. Forgetting faces. Another wedding, another meeting. Perhaps.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Am Back

From a hectic 2 week trip to India. Hightlight of the trip was the wedding. Stories coming up!