Saturday, May 23, 2009

Being Served the Unexpected

The weather served up something unexpected today. A sudden storm. As I shut the windows I smelt the dust enter my nostrils. Against my wish I breathed it in.

Against my wish, a couple of days ago, I had got dressed to go to a friend’s son’s wedding. Duty called, for I hate weddings, largely because of the amount of dressiness it entails. And because of all the artificiality that surfaces in its glitter and proclamation of where one is at.

This friend, staying at The Pinnacle in Gurgaon, was really at the pinnacle of his career and life, one may say. We had called the cab early, a Logan for a little bit of style and more for leg space comfort. My husband did not want to drive to Gurgaon and back in the night. Clever move, but he had called the cab a bit early.

Since this was to be a wedding without hard drinks, my husband suggested we visit my sister and brother- in-law in Gurgaon for drinks before the wedding. Their home was a stone’s throw away from The Pinnacle. I agreed a bit skeptically, but my sister loved the idea. She had not met her brother-in-law for sometime. “Scotch on the rocks,” she said. “Delighted, her husband said,“if that gets over, then we will bring out the champagne.” We began to look forward to Gurgaon.

I was all dressed up in borrowed plumes and glitter. My mother’s sari that was a light chiffon (I possess heavy silks that would make me wilt in the summer heat, and cottons that wilt in the summer heat) with silver embroidery and was just the right thing for a summer wedding. My sister’s diamond and emeralds hung like heavy fruits from my ears, and her diamond necklace graced my neck, diamonds spangled on a bracelet. This was the first time that I had actually borrowed stuff to wear, I usually manage with whatever I possess. So getting ready for this wedding was no last minute lick and polish affair. I had been well prepared to attend the wedding.

So Cindrella and Prince Charming got into their Logan, the chauffer switched on the a/c, thank god! The music also on but one speaker gone, and it went ‘errprrrkhrr’ behind my husband’s ear,so my husband told the driver that he had the radio tuning off, he should put on a CD. Suddenly from “Anchal tera phalak ban gaya hai” we had some strong Punjabi music that went ‘errrprrkhrrr’, as well, but with a more rustic twang. So we told him to turn the music off, much to his disappointment. Every driver likes his music especially on the day he can’t celebrate with anything else. It was a dry day, being election results day.UPA had just won so many seats and they may be celebrating to high heaven in their places, or palaces, but the ‘aam aadmi’s tekhas were dry for the day and the night.

And now we were depriving him of his phata hua (broken)music as well.
One and a half hour of non music and heavy traffic to get to Gurgaon. We arrived, delighted to have reached finally for the drinks. We told the driver to have his dinner, we would be departing in another half- hour. We just wanted to stretch our legs.
Wet our gills.
We did not tell him that. Not that he needed any explanation.

We settled in easily into the drinks session. I kept refusing the namkeens that my sister offered and since I was hungry, kept munching them as well. I had deliberately kept my stomach empty, going as I was to a wedding where I was sure I would get wonderful food of different varieties. My intention was to definitely eat at this wedding. Not gorge, but eat. Since I am watching my weight nowadays, I often do not eat at weddings , limiting myself to juices. My mother, when she had last heard of this strategy of mine, had been appalled. She told me in no uncertain terms that a wedding was a lot about eating. So I shovelled gram flour covered peanuts into my mouth, (they accompanied the scotch and soda) since I was hungry; and kept telling my sister how much I was looking forward to eating the laccha paranthas, the pudhina parathas the soft naans and crisp tandoori rotis. You can figure out what a roti freak I am.

Meanwhile, she kept telling me how beautiful I was looking (the effect of borrowed plumes and her indulgent vision and the drink).In my new avatar as Cindrella dressed for the ball I did not mind this at all. So I smiled and asked her to give me some lipstick to touch up my lips some more, and then reminded my husband that we should be leaving now, we were well past the time to leave and it seemed to me he had forgotten all about our real purpose for coming to Gurgaon. I had to literally drag him out of his chair from which he was still holding forth on politics(well, what else on that day, but that’s his usual ‘fun’ topic in any case) and my brother in law too was matching him in his evaluation process. The way they were comparing seats won by UPA and those lost by NDA, it appeared that they had a personal stake in this.
In a fog induced by hunger, sleep, politics and half a drink, I had no desire left but to get on with it and into bed at home somehow. We had a long night ahead .We did not know how long then.

Out of the door, into the car and on the way to Pinnacle, we went from Gurgaon’s plaza and DT Megamall area to the DLF Golf Club and a little beyond to Pinnacle , a stone's throw away, but it took us 25 minutes to get there, Saturday night traffic does not let up.

No sign of a marriage happening there. Except that The Pinnacle was lit up so bright that it could have guided ships into Mumbai Harbour. I surmised then that it could not be lit thus on all nights, what a waste of much needed electricity, so a marriage was responsible for this wastage. Definitely.

We asked one of the guards, “Where’s the marriage?” He said, “No marriage here.” A ‘baraat’ had left a couple of hours ago from there, though. This he stated as an after thought.

I peered at the card, which fortunately, I had picked up. It had the driver’s parking coupon. That may have been the reason.

While my husband fished for his spectacles I brought mine out and peered at the card. The marriage was at Mithas Farms, somewhere near Tivoli Gardens. My husband kept asking me, “Are you sure? Are you sure?” I asked him to check it out himself ( seeing is believing). The driver, meanwhile, said he knew Tivoli Garden, it was a landmark, and pepped the car around. With the Metro construction in full swing, the roads are eerily unrecognizable, less so in the middle of the night by two middle-aged, drunk and bespectacled individuals. “Where is Satbari?What is the Chattarpur Mandir, is it the Shiv Mandir?” This was the rest of the address of Mithas farms.

“No, no,” said the driver, a trifle put off that my husband was unaware of another famous landmark, that too a mandir! “I know Tivoli Garden, I will take you there.”
My husband peered out at the road, hoping to recognize something.
We made it to Tivoli Gardens. I kept saying “ Thank God its on the way back home.My husband kept saying, “Then why did we go to Gurgaon if it was here.”I kept quiet. No point in telling him it was his idea, his goof up etc.
Tivoli Garden had been reached. This farm was nowhere ‘near’it.
More darkness and more desolation greeted us.
We finally reached Mithas Farms after 45 minutes of driving from Pinnacle, and similar number of minutes of frayed nerves.

Mithas Farms.

Absolute and eerie sannata greeted us. Not a bird quacked, not a car honked.

Four things instantly crossed my mind:
There was another Mithas Farms somewhere down the road perhaps?
The wedding could not have got over so fast with no a trace of anything.
They had shifted the venue and not informed us.
The wedding had been called off, and they had not informed us.
My brain’s earlier fog had cleared. Totally. A new fog had emerged. The mystery of the wedding that…

“Is the date right? Check the card?” prompted my husband.
16th, Saturday, May,it was all gold type on a deep brown surface. Designer card. Confusing card.3 or 4 of them, engagement, sangeet, wedding, dinner…we had them all there. Now these flat, hard rectangular invites fell on to our laps to adorn them instead of the dinner plates with food.
We began to cross examine the two guards who sat outside Mithas Farms in the semi-darkness.
One old, grey, thin, wrinkled, wearing a crocheted cap close to his skull.
The other young and heavy, with a gold wrist watch that glinted in the dark against his brown skin and white kurta. He walked up to us now.
Very much like the wedding card. Hefty, layered, meaningless.
“Where is the wedding?” we asked him
As if he knew. We had taken a shot in the dark
“I don’t know. Not here,” he said.
“This is Mithas Farms?” I asked
“Then where?”
“I don’t know. Several others came in cars to ask.”
We were not the only woebegone treasure hunters.

“Why not wedding here?” I asked
“These farms have been closed for sometime. Can’t have tamashas here.” This from the older man.
“No tamasha, this is serious, a wedding!” I said.
“Sorry, ma’am, we don’t know.” He was polite.
No luck from him either.
“Where did the other cars go? Any idea?”
I looked at the card again.
R.S.V.P. Two numbers were given
“Let’s call and find out,” I said. Such a bright idea.
We called the two numbers. No one picked up.
“They must be busy with the wedding atop some tempo.” My husband was dripping sarcasm now.
“Driver, wapis chalo,” he said.
The driver had also joined in our card gazing and deciphering game a little while back. So he put the useless cards aside and turned on the ignition.
I tried from my cellphone now, a last ditch call.
My husband said, “We tried.”
I did not have to watch my waist. Someone was doing it for me by making sure I missed the dinner venue.

We sat in silence on the way home, till the cell crackled.
Something came to life.
My son, wanted to know when we would be returning since he had to drop his girlfriend home by 12.30 p.m.
“What you doing?” asked my husband
“Organizing dinner.”
“We will join you. We have not had dinner,” my husband told him.
Nothing fazes my son. No questions. “Cool,” he said.
So we returned home to greet his girlfriend and a dinner with pudhina paranthas. I got them at home, but only one variety. Plus gosht korma and choley, dal and curd. It filled our hungry stomachs and laid to rest unkind thoughts directed towards whatever led to this
I had been served not what I expected. Definitely not the vegetarian dinner amidst glittering lights and air kissing that I thought would happen. I was served drinks at my sister’s place and a non-vegetarian dinner at home. There was subdued light and more lively talk, coming as it did from my son and his girlfriend.

I had not wanted to attend the wedding. Neither had my husband. I think the universe was just listening too hard to the two of us.

P.S. We found out later that the wedding took place at Chabbra farms. There was another card which we missed seeing that gave directions to it! When people have too many functions and too many cards, simple and straight forward folks like us get lost on the way.