Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Year at Home - 2

(pic credits: Google images)

As I venture out my mother shouts from the kitchen, ‘Here, take your Bournvita.’ I quickly gulp it down in big mouthfuls throwing her a why-do-you-always-trouble-me-with-this sort of look, why can’t it be, ‘Here, take your coffee,’ no, my mother would never give me coffee, and being in a hurry I can't argue or importune her for a coffee. Just when I’m near the gate, 'Wait,' she comes with   my winter clothes in her hands. ‘Wear your monkey-cap (muffler-like cap that covers the ears, thereby guarding from the cold) & sweater,’ for which I almost immediately react, ‘No.’

We come to a middle ground deal, I’d put my monkey-cap, but not the sweater, and we both unwillingly acquiesce, and I’d stuff my cap in my pockets once I’m at a safe distance from the home.

Sometimes even if my dad is accompanying me, he’d never notice that I had taken off my cap. Not everyone notices everything.

I step out breathing cool December air. And New Year preparations can be seen everywhere.

Just after a day or two after Christmas, you can see small tent shops, budding up in every street, mind it every odd nook of the town, usually run by teenagers, a low-cost entrepreneurial undertaking — greeting cards shop.

One dirty tip while buying greetings, avoid the greetings which usually have the year printed on them, like Happy New Year 2002, since they can’t be used for the subsequent year if for some reason you didn’t use it that year.

Holding those newly bought greetings delicately, we return home in short sprints, to go home soon, lest they get crumpled, as the boys are too lazy to carry a bag. This was before laptop bags monopolized shoulders of guys of all ages. They are in vogue now and people seem to carry them more out of habit than out of necessity. The bags those days looked like a cross between duffel bag and gunny sack with straps, looking heavier than they actually were.

Coming back home I seek seclusion and spread the greeting cards like a vendor spreading his wares and start meditating upon which one should go to whom. Trust me the decision-making was tough. There are usually three types of greeting cards Deluxe, Semi-Deluxe, and Ordinary.

Deluxe usually for the favourite teachers & potential crush (es).

Semi-Deluxe for the teachers on whom you don’t want to spend so much for greetings, yet want to greet, and for dearest friends.

And the Ordinary as the category suggests, is for every other odd person you want to give a greeting to. These are the charts bought in bulk, & usually contain flowers, actresses, actors, cricketers, etc., 8 in one chart sets, like those 8 in one passport size photo, only being much bigger, which we cut and give.

One way to make someone feel bad is by giving them a greeting with an actor whom the person dislikes, you’ll get a reaction very soon (usually works only with guys).

There’ll be a lot of fuss about where to buy, in case one happens to know any shop because one of the persons managing it is friends with the friends of an elder brother /cousin, buy there, it will make us feel that we are buying things at a great discount, though sometimes we might end up paying more. 

Well, if one doesn’t have any acquaintances (rare), one can buy anywhere except in one’s own street, in order to have some privacy about the type & number of greeting cards one purchased, because apart from the categories mentioned above there would most likely be one special greeting card bought for the special one, bought secretly using all the savings, the most expensive among the ones you’ve and may as well be a musical one, which never comes into account, either to friends or family, only closest friend has the knowledge about the special greeting.

Yeah! You guessed it right, greetings to the crush. High school crush is usually lot more serious and platonic. I always showed all the greetings I purchased to my parents just to please their curiosity and also to show them how good a taste I had, except this one special greeting, this one card never sees the light until the new year, for it is safely tucked away in a secret place, a place which you’re sure no one would fumble around, and if by chance anyone happens to stumble upon it, just feign surprise, ‘Wow how come such a nice greeting is at that place, anyway I think I can use it if it’s not a used one’

That special greeting’s usefulness is beyond praise. It’ll let you know whether the person is interested in you. It’s a safe way to propose and is an open secret among students. The message is usually conveyed by the picture on the greeting. Most of them will have a picture of Taj Mahal, a universal symbol for love in India; or Love birds with a love symbol somewhere.

If he/she accepts it & gives that smile, well your case is settled. And it’s a pretty serious thing among students, henceforth it’s understood that they are a pair. Happies endings.

But if they happen to ask point-blank about it and you’re not courageous enough, you can always put that practised innocent face & say with a little stammer, ‘I-I n-never knew these greetings conveyed a message of l-l-love’.

It also means you have not yet impressed your crush, so do the groundwork first.

These greetings also provide for girls a nice, subtle and easiest way of getting rid of guys who are irritating them. All one has to do is buy a nice greeting and address it as, ‘to my dearest brother xxxxxxxx’. That always worked as far as I know. And in some cases even led to a complete role reversal from the guy’s side who from then took on role as guardian brother.

I once received a Taj Mahal greeting, which to this date happens to be lying in my closet safely wrapped in a polythene sheet. Maybe someday I would show that to my grand kids (very distant future) and start, ‘There was once a girl.....’

New Year at Home

New Year celebrations at my home, a town-ish village (or was it a village-ish town?), are very vibrant and carried a lot of excitement. Of course, New Year preparations everywhere have that festive mood and anticipation in the air, but there are two distinct aspects that are integral part of the preparations in my hometown, which you can take for granted represents a stereotypical Indian budding suburb, born out of mosaic of cultural practices and modern festivals.

Although much of what is written here dates back to late 90s and early 2000s, not much has changed in my aforementioned not-so-much-of-a-town town.

Being still a semi rustic place, the winters are not so corrupted, thereby making it necessary for us to wear winter gear from Nov to Feb.

New years here have two main aspects. The first of it is Rangoli, and second, - we will talk about it a little later. Almost a week before Jan 1, one can spot hand pushed carts and regular shops selling colours, bright colours which almost everyone in the town seem to purchase for the new year & Sankranthi Rangolis. Nice patterns and diagrams made in front of the homes and coloured vividly, with so many colours and flowers, and a year written somewhere beside the Rangoli. 

(pic credits: Google images)

Although, it’s mostly considered a girl’s job, in houses where there are only guys, mother happens to make Rangoli with help from her sons & neighbours.

There’d be a lot of inspection & judgement by the neighbours, muttering, ‘Oh, it’s nice’, ‘that’s just okay’, ‘that looks bad, oh poor lady! Both her kids are in City, studying, she had to do it all by herself’, ‘this one is too nice for someone whose both kids are guys’.

But when accosted by the neighbour directly, asking how their Rangoli was, the reply invariably happens to be, ‘I’m thinking that from next year we should make you do ours as well, too good.’

(pic credits: Google images)

I announce to my mom, ‘Our Rangoli should give a stiff competition to others,’ and she nonchalantly replies, ‘If only I had a girl -,’
‘Well, you don’t have one, I & brother would help, you make the outline we would colour them.’

This inspection usually happens before and after the countdown, and the few phone calls to the important/loved ones over the already overloaded phone lines, which usually gets disrupted for few hours after handling so much of the load, and after that I’d go for a long walk with my dad, while my brother and mother were either tied to the awesome TV programs or peacefully sleeping covered in a multitude of blankets and rugs, while munching the Regi Vadiyalu (dried Fritters made of Indian Jujubes), which I bought turning a deaf ear to my mother's orders, 'Don't buy those things, eat the fruits if you want, but not those.'

(pic credits: Google images)

The next day I would be allowed to pick a diary of my liking among many diaries and gifts my dad had received.  As kids we used to use it to note down imp stuff, which means noting down General Knowledge (GK) questions from the Game shows, later I used to note down song lyrics, then eventually I started using them as diaries to write my journal, though I guess my brother still uses it for the GK questions (*wink wink).

The second main aspect, though it is more common among the students and kids 

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