Now all this of happened, when I was in my hometown on a performance tour with my company. My team left for Bangalore, but I had to stay back for a wedding. ( I cannot help but give a bit of background of this wedding, though I realise it might stretch this post. But i also believe it might be interesting to know why this wedding was so important , that i stayed back , in spite of being so thoroughly unprepared for it)
And how could you not go for this wedding?? She is your neighbour and friend. You grew up together. She taught you to climb trees and jump over the walls . You invoked dead spirits with her using that stupid Ohjo board, glass, coin and candle ? You petted her cats; she fed your dog. You were her partner in crime as you both went around, stealing flowers from everybody's garden during Onam. You have celebrated, Pooram, Vishu and even your first menstrual trauma with her and now how can you think of not going to her wedding. So I stay back.!!
I never got the chance to play the good friendly neighbour. I am not there for the wedding eve festivities. I am not there to take her to the temple, to the parlour, to iron her wedding saree or to arrange her jewellery. Because I am at work.!!All I had in my puny lil head was, per diems, venue deposits, train tickets, show tickets, bills, receipts, files, press releases, MC script and what not.
But I spent the night before the wedding with her. Squeezed mehendi out into her palms and feet with all my effort and patience, in every creative way possible . My arms, wrists, eyes, back, butt and every other bloody body part hurt; but I dint complain. For this was my only chance to make it up to her.
The mehendi ritual lasted till the elders came in and asked the bride to shut her eyes, so that she does not wake up looking drowsy and sleep deprived on her D day. ( She wasnt gonna get any sleep, I knew that. I wonder if any bride has slept well , the night before her wedding)
But I couldn't sleep either;and last time I checked, I wasn't the bride..........wonder why? I had nothing to wear for the wedding, how could I sleep. I kept rummaging the cupboard for clothes, and started pulling out my sister's and mom's sarees. May be I can get one of their sarees to match with a blouse I had. But such things never turn out to be easy, do they?. No wonder why some women plan what they have to wear so much in advance. It would take them a week's vagabondage in the city to decide on their clothes and it would take another week or two to finalise the accessories and footwear. Them?? I am one of them, ain’t I?
And yet, here I am......... fallen, way behind all of that and feeling terribly confused,when my mom walked in and gives me this nasty look.
"What the hell do you think you are doing with MY sarees, young lady? Put em' all back , NOW!!" ( Oh yes, I forget she's one among them too. Very .... I mean VERY possessive about her cute collection of sarees. Plead.....thats the only way out , I told myself).
My tired frustrated face suddenly switches in a reflex to the sweet-lost-puppy- face. ( I can get myself to do that all the time :P)
Next morning, I go to the wedding in my Mom's most favourite magenta silk saree.
I was high on compliments-- " oooooh, who's this junior Shobhana??" " Ahhh !So, you've decided to enter the matrimonial market, eh?", all of which I accepted with much poise and grace.
After lunch , we nudge each other to leave for our homes . We meet the key people and give those usual excuses to squeeze ourselves out of there-- "The dog needs to be fed.", says my Grandma. " This girl is technically still at work and needs to go and settle the bills of last night's show.", says my Mom slyly, dumping all the blame on me. And we all step out to catch an auto, with our caretaker Sarasechi.
Now this where the story actually begins.!
We find one auto and rush towards it. And in no time, our three fat ladies stuff themselves inside the auto, the last one to enter being Sarasechi and lo!, now where do I sit??. I tell my mom , that Im gonna take a bus, when my granny pokes her head out and says " you don't go all by yourself now, sit on my lap". Sarasechi volunteers to take a bus instead, when my mom becomes all generous and says " no need for all that, we can all go together"
"It will cost extra!" adds in, the auto-driver.
And so I sit on Sarasechi's lap . She's nearing 60 , so I made sure to hold my weight. The problem was with my head though, the auto wasn't high enough . So I slouched forward and rested my hands, crossed, for support behind the auto guy's seat.
Our ladies, had started discussing the wedding already, bride's make up, jewellery, boy's height, moustache and what not.....
We'd reached half way, when I felt something pulling near my shoulder. I straighten up quickly and to my biggest horror I find that the Meter-box of the auto, has eaten up all of my saree's pallu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! .........and is still eating... swallowing my saree slowly like how a snake would swallow its prey.
I shook myself into senses somehow finding it hard to breathe and then cried STOOOOOOOP, and slapped the auto-driver on his shoulder frantically!! He stopped immediately, and turned to see what had happened.
We often hear of my pallus and duppattas getting caught on the wheels and engines, and im always careful to not leave it unattended, so it was neatly there..... on my lap.
But what on earth was this??? The pretty thread hangings on the end of my pallu got lured into the cable-wire somehow, which was running from the Auto Meter down into the engine. And this wire uncovered by an insulation cable, kept rotating as the auto ran. So the pallu also circled along with it, tightening itself on the cable-wire.
"This has never ever to happened in all these years that i drove this auto", says the driver uncle.
We all end up in a mess not knowing what to do. The auto uncle tries his best, but the end of the pallu is way inside. Sarasechi gets out and contributes to his effort. They all try but in vain and says that the only way would be to get the other end of the saree and take it around the cable-wire and pull it out. So where's the other end.??
Im wearing it, Goddammit!!. Its tucked down into my underskirt, thats where it is!.
People from nearby houses started peeping out from their windows. And there I was----the damsel in distress, no knight coming for her rescue, to cut the pallu off with his sharp sword and to ride off elegantly. My mom tried to play the part by taking out a small razor blade--- a tiny blade! from her hand bag ready to cut the pallu.
But everyone else, including the auto uncle decided against it. Point #1 : The pallu is anyways too thick to cut with a blade, as it had wound itself into a really fat bundle! Point #2: Its such a beautiful silk saree!.
So what does he advise? " I'll pull down the rain curtains for you and step aside, in the mean time you can remove the saree , get the other end , take it around the cable, and pull it out."
I was like ,"What??? " No seriously ..... .....WHAT????, unless you all have gone whacko!
But we had almost spent half an hour on the road by then, trying to save me and my saree. So it was either gonna be this way, or we are stuck here forever.!
So I...( I say this with a lot of embarrassment that Im trying to grind in between my teeth)....I strip !! Strip inside an autorickshaw, parked right on the Shornur highway road. !!
Sarasechi quickly takes the saree around the cable-wire and gets almost all of the pallu, but still has to cut open the last bit.!! While I sit covered in my granny's saree pallu, watching all this completely stupefied!!
We get the saree out. Im exhausted and I still cant believe what just happened!!! Granny started on her yakkity-yak as usual, " Being a girl, you should've been careful , or else such mishaps are very easy to occur" Mom's gone mum!( thank god for that). And Sarasechi said , she will walk it from there. The auto uncle comes back and sighs ( phew!) , 'atleast noone got hurt'!, and I look down at my Mom's torn favourite silk saree.
We reach home. My mom gets down first and opens the gate wide open!
All the noise wakes my dad up and he comes out ( why, this is very unlikely, autos usually drop us outside the gate)and looks amused to find the auto driving in straight to the porch.
Now, just imagine what my dad's reaction would have been when he saw me dashing into the house wearing just the blouse and underskirt, and that too, covered in a TORN saree.!!
You know what? If anyone asked me " which was the most embarrassing moment of your life"?, I wouldn't have to guess at all. And Im gonna leave it at that!