P.S. Wife came up with the pun at the top
A few months ago I got married to a wonderful woman. Our wedding was a beautiful affair. While there were a number of incidents of note – some funny and some otherwise – there is one incident I would like to share with you all, especially to would-be grooms so that you might avoid the pitfalls I couldn’t avoid.
To properly set up the anecdote, I have to narrate from the start of the Nikah. It began with the sherwani. I am someone who is more comfortable in a pair of t-shirt and jeans than kurta-pyjama. Whether it’s the lack of a hulking physique or my awkward gait, I have never been able to carry any traditional wear with panache. However, this was my wedding. Sherwani was essential. After much drama, I bought a sherwani that fitted me to some degree.
Just before the nikah, my friends helped me put on the sherwani. That was an ordeal in itself. But that’s a story for another time. For the time being, let me tell you that keeping a track of the dupatta while balancing the safaa on the head was taxing. Don’t even get me started on those weird pointy shoes, or the socks that curiously look like the pouches used to store apples in fruit markets. Despite my struggles, a glance at the mirror suggested I appeared decent enough. The thought of maintaining that appearance for the rest of the evening made me nervous though. Fortunately, by the grace of the almighty, the actual nikah part went quite smoothly. Once the “qubool hais” were over, I started to relax, and the knot that was in my stomach for so long went away.
However, with the going away of the knot came the coming of the hunger. All right, that was a terrible sentence. But not as terrible as the hunger pangs I had when everyone was congratulating me. I could not help but fantasise had I been a guest at my wedding, I would have been helping myself to second or third helpings by now. After all, what are weddings for if not food? Well, they are also about two people getting married and starting a new life together, but food is what brings people together, right? Thankfully, I was brought out of my dreadful musings by my brother-in-law who announced food was ready. I could have hugged him, but that would have crumpled my sherwani, which in turn, would have needed readjustment leading to a repeat of the whole sherwani hoopla. As it was, I avoided doing all that and simply followed him to the dining area.
Aah, my senses were greeted with the smell of kebab and nihari, biryani and pulao, and the sight of people having their fill and smelling their satisfied burps. I immediately dived in and didn’t object even when the waiters were serving dishes I didn’t recognise. After several rounds of seekh kebab, it was time for dessert. And there they were — the top prizes among desserts — gulab jamuns. I intentionally did not count the number of gulab jamuns I had. By the time I had finished, my stomach had expanded so much that my sherwani fitted perfectly.
I got up from the dining table and walked back to the reception area to meet my friends. Before I reached them though, my brother-in-law told me that I was being sought upstairs. I was to meet my new bride and have a photo session. I followed him again and saw my wife for the first time. The joy of the precious moment was short-lived. As soon as I entered the enclosure where the bride was sitting, a mob of women surrounded me clicking photos and temporarily blinding me with the flashes. As it turned out, all these women were my wife’s aunts, cousins, and a whole bunch of other relatives.
As curious as it is, almost every wedding has its own sets of customs and rituals. Who comes up with these variations, I wouldn’t presume to know. As the tradition goes in my in-laws’ place, the womenfolk of the household offer their salaam to the new groom and present him with gifts. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? That’s because I didn’t tell you the full story. The catch is that every woman who comes up to the groom for the salaami, offers the groom a gulab jamun before handing over the gift. While normally this would have been a deliciously attractive prospect, I was alerted to the contrary by my stomach with a slight wail saying, “Dude, you just ate like fifteen of them. Even a pig dressed in a sherwani would have looked more decent than you.” I was like, “I bet they will just feed me a couple as part of the tradition. It’s cool. I will be fine.”
How wrong was I? Woman after woman came to greet me and fed me a sweet till I lost count. Of course, I can’t blame them. They must have thought like any other respectable groom, I might have shied away from the dining area without eating much. They didn’t know I tend to put away all my self respect in my back pocket when it’s time to eat. So the gulab jamuns kept arriving. Have you ever experienced a level of sweetness that is borderline bitter? The smile on my face that was a genuine expression of happiness till now turned into a creepy grimace as I kept trying to imagine the different sections of the human tongue that deal with tastes other than sweetness. Looking back, I seriously question that particular science lesson.
The ordeal was not over with that ritual. Before long, I got the opportunity to sit next to my wife without anyone else around. I cannot stress the importance of that occasion. I was now a married man, and I was about to have my first conversation with my wife. These are things you remember for years to come. My wife was too shy to say anything. After a few excruciatingly awkward moments of silence, I thought of a topic to initiate the conversation. Before I could properly articulate the words, both of us got shocked by a loud rumbling sound. There was no denying it. My stomach had rumbled. If it wasn’t my wife sitting next to me, I would have exclaimed, “What in the world woman? Can’t you control what you eat? Holy moly!” However, it was my wife, and I couldn’t bear myself to shift the blame. After all, she also knew the amount of ghee and oil floating inside me was going to concoct an evil plan sooner or later. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It turned out that my stomach had taken that adage too much to its heart.
As I conclude my anecdote, I would like to offer one simple piece of advice to would-be grooms. Fellas, don’t stuff yourself on your wedding day. Thank me later.
Hey everyone, I hope you are all doing great. I know I have been out of touch for a while. I just had a few things going on that kept me distracted. Thanks a lot to those of you who visited, commented and emailed me in my absence. You all are too polite. For some reason I was expecting a “good riddance” email. So as a return for all your good thoughts, here is a post that I had written a couple of months back while collaborating with that hijabi from down under. Oh in case you don’t know her, please click on the link and check her blog. Aaliyah writes about all sorts of humorous situations (and some serious ones too) she gets into while living as an NRI in Australia. Trust me you won’t regret visiting her blog.
(P.S. Her blog also has the other part of this post)
(P.P.S. It was another cool blogger Mahaah who had asked the two of us to collaborate. So, with credit where it’s due, many thanks to her too.)
It has been a long day. You’ve busted your hind working on that lame project no one cares about. Three days have passed since you last slept properly. The only thought occupying your mind is to just go home and lie on your bed. Gathering your things, you start walking back. You ignore the guy who spat at your feet at the bus stop. There is not even an iota of strength left in you for arguments. Reaching home, you just drop your things on the floor; absent-mindedly shower without bothering to think anything philosophical; and just drop dead on your bed.
However, things do not go according to the plan. That’s because sometimes nature conspires against you to not let you taste the sweet release of sleep. Here is a list of things that can keep you awake.
The Lone Ranger
You are almost asleep and about to revisit your favourite dream of spending that vacation on the beach in Maldives while Katrina Kaif feeds you cherries. However, something starts to bother you. For some reason, Katrina has started singing. But her voice is weird. It sounds as if she is not singing, but making a buzzing sound. Suddenly, she pricks your cheek with a needle. Ouch! And you wake up.
Surprise! Surprise! No Katrina, no Maldives, and no vacation. It’s that foul mutant mosquito that wakes up every night as soon as you turn off the lights and starts buzzing somewhere around your ear. You try to kill it in the dark by swatting, but only end up slapping yourself in the process. As soon as you turn on the lights, it disappears.
It doesn’t bite you a lot, but keeps buzzing around one of your ears. If you cover yourself with a blanket and keep some space around your nose for breathing, the vile thing enters your nostril or worse your mouth.
The Prickly Demon
However, you manage to kill the bastard, after much effort (which included throwing off your blanket, upending your mattress, and shining torchlight in your shoes to find the Satan). You sigh in relief, and bask in the glory of revenge before turning off the lights again.
What you don’t realise immediately is that before dying the princess of darkness managed to land one bite on your back at the precise blind spot that you cannot reach however hard you try? Soon the itching starts. So you try really hard to scratch and end up twisting or dislocating your arm. Realising the futility of your actions, you get up and start rubbing your back against the bedside post like a cow. Still it doesn’t work. In desperation, you begin to wonder if that insanely stereotypical (and offensive) joke about the Sardars is true. You know the one where if they had an itch on their scalp, they would just scratch their palm and place the hand on their turban. In spite of yourself, you scratch the bedspread and lie down hoping against hope.
The Gas Tank
Watching your continuous struggles, Allah ta’ala takes pity on you and the itching stops. You start to relax, but after all that commotion, your mind doesn’t want to go back to hibernation so easily. It starts conjuring random images in your mind. You discard most of them as your conscious brain knows how much you want to sleep. Nevertheless, there are some images you cannot avoid, especially those that are really vivid. And before you know, your senses start reliving some of the terrible moments of your life.
One of the prime ones includes that time when you got a call from your boss telling you, “Ershad, there is a VIP coming over for a visit. Show him the control room and give him an overview of the various units.”
You reply, “Okay, cool,” and prepare yourself mentally for the speech. You check your unruly hair in the bathroom mirror and attempt to flatten those angry strands that seem to defy gravity on all occasions with some water.
The VIP and the entourage arrive in front of the control room. You greet them, and request them to kindly take off their shoes due to the dust protection required for sensitive instrumentation and computer servers, before inviting them inside. In an effort to impress the guests you start slipping in sophisticated technical words that even you don’t understand, secretly hoping none of them is an engineer who can question you back and make you look like an idiot. Everything starts going according to the plan when suddenly you inhale something that can only be compared to death. You realise one of the guests has not washed his socks in his lifetime. What’s worse, you don’t know which one it is who is the culprit (Is it the VIP himself?). The stench is so intense that you simply want to retch and throw up. But of course, you can’t. You keep smiling that creepy smile you had pasted ever since you met them, and keep thinking, “OMG! OMG! OMG! Kill me! Kill me now!”
Soon the nice people leave, but the stench never leaves you. It haunts you in your dreams like it is doing right now. It never lets you sleep in peace.
The Impropriety Danger
If you think that is the worse vision your mind can develop, you couldn’t be far from the truth. After much effort, you finally manage to fall asleep. That’s when your brain starts conjuring up nightmares. Nightmares that are worse than being chased, worse than falling off cliffs, and worse than death itself.
In your dream, you think back of that time when you were travelling on a city bus, and you saw that girl standing at the bus stop. She was wearing a tight pair of jeans, and her back was facing towards you. From that view, she seemed incredibly hot. As you join the other passengers in ogling her, she reaches to her…ahem…derriere, and adjusts her wedgie. And all of you go, “Eww.”
But that’s not the end of it. Your dream transports you to the future. This is the future where you are married to that girl. Both of you are at a family reunion kind of thing where she is talking to the older folks of your family.
“Yes, uncle, I am very well. Ershad takes good care of me.” ….*adjusts her wedgie*
“Abba, do you need milk in your tea?” ….. *adjusts her wedgie*
“Amma, I think I added too much salt in the curry.” ….. *adjusts her wedgie*
Oh the ignominy! The shame! Kaise muh dikhaunga?
You pick up the spade and start digging your own grave when the spade slips out of your hand and hits you on the head. That’s when you realise it was all a dream and you only hit the headboard while thrashing around in your bed. Nevertheless, you are awake, again, and the whole process starts again.
The sun is still hiding behind the concrete structures. Its rays sneak past the straight corners and filter through the faded curtains. The gentle brightening of the room is enough to rouse him out of his stupor. He opens his eyes, and for some reason, he can’t see anything. The foul smell of unwashed clothes also fills his nostrils. He cannot feel the bump under his head, which is his pillow, either. A couple of moments of intense rumination brings home the revelation that his dirty, sweaty vest had somehow escaped from the bottom of his pillow, where he had placed it strategically to dry it from isothermal compression, so as to reduce his expenditure of detergent.
As soon as the word detergent comes into his mind, he sits up straight. The thought of using more than one spoon of detergent in one month always gave him cold sweats. It had been only twenty days since he last washed his undergarments, and for them to start smelling so foul so soon was infuriating. During these moments, life seemed unfair to him. Why did bad things happen to good people?
To distract himself, he goes up to the sink to brush. He opens the cap of the toothpaste tube and licks the bit sticking to the underside of the cap. That should be enough to keep him fresh and minty for the whole day. After brushing, he thinks about something to pick him up. One thought immediately brightens up his day: eating out.
He changes into his best clothes and rushes down the stairs. Unlocking his bicycle, he adjusts the rear brake pedal to a more accessible position. Bicycles actually do not have brake pedals. However, a couple of years ago his brake lever broke off from its position due to excessive rusting. Subsequently, he tied it up to the frame near the front wheel and used it as a pedal. He was proud of this little bit of innovation.
Pedalling hard, he reaches his destination within a few minutes. It’s a local eatery. He loves visiting this place. They always make him feel special. At Rs 25, he could order a meal which included rice, sambhar, dal, and a couple of sabzis. The portions were large. However, that was not the best thing. The best thing was that it was an as much as you can eat restaurant. He only had to pay once. After satiating his hunger with three more helpings, he slowly rides back to his apartment.
As the evening arrives, he breaks the loaf of bread he had bought a couple of days back. He pours himself a glass of water, and wonders why people drink tea or coffee. Water does everything that the other beverages do. It refreshes the body, hydrates it, and helps wash the food down the oesophagus. Reclining back in his chair, he considers why people laugh at him, ridicule him, and call him a miser. He never thought of himself as a miser. He was just ahead of the curve. He was economically efficient.
P.S. No misers were hurt while writing this.
The guys are at a high-end restaurant. They have ordered some of the exotic dishes, and are waiting for the service.
ARUN: This thing always confuses me. Which one goes in the right hand? The fork or the knife?
MANJIT: The knife. Fork goes in the left hand.
ARUN: Then why does the spoon go in the right during dessert and stuff?
MANJIT: Because it’s dining etiquette.
IMRAN: I think it’s bullshit.
ARUN: Yeah, me too. I mean, I can understand the Western folks don’t do anything unclean with their left hands; so it doesn’t matter which hand they use. But we do. The unclean stuff I mean. Therefore, it makes sense that we reverse the etiquette and use the fork with the right hand.
MANJIT: Yes, but then, you won’t be able to apply enough force with your left hand for cutting the food.
IMRAN: Wait a minute. The western folks don’t use any hands for the unclean stuff?
ARUN: Well, yeah. They use toilet papers, don’t they?
IMRAN: I know that. But they still have to use their hands for the toilet paper, right? They don’t just go up to a toilet paper roll, turn around, and start rubbing their you-know-whats against it.
ARUN: I see your point. In that case, I suppose, their hands are equally dirty. So, again it doesn’t matter which one they use.
MANJIT: I think it’s hygienic. Hands are too dirty most of the times.
IMRAN: Oh please! Don’t give me that hygiene bullshit. We are Indians. We pride ourselves at being unhygienic. We are born unhygienic, and we stay that way. Hell, just a few minutes back I saw you were counting notes and licking your fingers to moisten them just after having picked your nose.
ARUN: Hahaha, in your face!
MANJIT: All right, all right. Maybe, we are not hygienic, but you cannot deny that there is a certain level of sophistication and class on display when you use cutlery.
IMRAN: Look around dude. Desis are the most classless people in this world. For instance, do you see that dude over there with the strange bun over his head?
(They look around to where Imran is pointing, and spot an Indian male with long hair tied in a bun, wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt that said “Chicago!”)
What is his problem? Why is he wearing shorts to a high-end restaurant? It’s not hot here. This is not Kailash ka Dhaba. There is air conditioning here. It’s like, “Dude, stop being an American wannabe. You are miles from being cool. Get some pants for god’s sake.”
MANJIT: It’s called fashion.
IMRAN: All right, we’ve already agreed upon this. You don’t talk about fashion.
ARUN: I know what you mean though, Imran. I have similar thoughts when I attend my office parties. They will serve the meals in the classic buffet style, which is okay, but there won’t be any seats around. I mean after a long day, I just want to sit down comfortably and eat my meal. This whole suave dining system feels like another official exercise. Sophistication is nothing but pretence.
IMRAN: That’s not the worst part though. The worst part is that they serve you fish curry and tandoori chicken and expect you to not use your hands. I mean, how the hell do you eat something with bones with a spoon or a fork?
ARUN: That bugs me even when I have a place to sit down. For instance, they will serve you rice with chicken, and then you start eating with a spoon because you know eating rice with a fork is like holding chullu bhar paani. Of course, then you realise that you need a knife to cut the chicken, which is fine. But lo, you then realise that a spoon is ineffective for holding the chicken pieces while cutting. Therefore, you also need the fork. Now the problem is I have got only two hands. Where do I find the third one?
MANJIT: The one thing that bothers me about dining knives is that they are so blunt. I have to keep slicing and slicing to cut something as soft as a liver piece.
IMRAN: Oh, we know Manjit. When you use cutlery, you make such a racket that people are forced to stare at your ugly face in spite of themselves.
ARUN: Shush guys! Here comes our order.
(The waiter serves the food they had ordered and leaves.)
MANJIT: Oh, this looks delicious. I can’t even pronounce these names. They are Italian, right?
IMRAN: Or something with fake Italian names to make them sound cooler.
(Arun tastes an appetizer)
ARUN: I can see where you are coming from. Yuck! Oh my god, this is just raw cabbage dipped in some tomato sauce.
MANJIT: That’s cabbage? I thought it was some kind of pasta or something!
(Imran starts choking on something)
IMRAN: I’m done with this crap. What the hell is this? This is just a dollop of cream on raw onions. I’m going to order some biryani.
MANJIT: Shut up, Imran! Order some risotto. This is called fine dining.
IMRAN: Fine dining, my ass. Fancy names cannot obscure the fact that I am being served raw veggies. I don’t even eat the cooked veggies. It’s like they have recorded my worst nightmare, and then made me watch the whole thing in a multiplex after paying for deluxe seats and awful popcorn.
ARUN: You know I have similar thoughts when I go to a coffee shop. First they serve you this god awful cappuccino which is so bitter that it can kill all the worms in your gut. Adding extra sugar doesn’t help either, because then the flavour of the coffee gets lost. So basically, I’m paying some 60-70 bucks for a draught of the dead, pretending to enjoy it because it’s supposed to be cool, while in reality I’m only gulping it down because it’s so damn expensive.
MANJIT: Want to go to Shankar’s dhaba and order some tandoori?
BOTH IN UNISON: Hell, yeah!
Three guys are talking and looking at stuff at a mall. One of them is trying to buy a gift for his mother. The other two are helping him decide what to pick.
ARUN: Will you two stop staring at that girl and do something useful?
MANJIT: Will you look at that douche bag? How the hell do girls fall for these idiots?
IMRAN: Dude, if you are gay, just tell us? We won’t judge. I mean, there is a perfectly hot girl over there and all you can see is her lapdog?
MANJIT: Screw you!
ARUN: C’mon you guys! Help me! They all look the same to me. Why do women need to carry these stupid bags anyway? I mean, it cannot be only for makeup items. The other day I saw a girl about this tall (pointed to his waist), and she was carrying a bag bigger than a 6-year old kid. If all she was carrying was makeup, then I honestly pray that her boyfriend doesn’t see her in the morning.
MANJIT: That makes me wonder actually. There is a very good possibility that I might end up with an arranged marriage. What if my parents fall for the advertisement and when I open the package, there is a completely different product?
IMRAN: Oh, don’t worry. In your case, it would be the opposite. Your parents will paint such a Pandit Gangadhar image of you before the wedding that when she finally learns the truth about your kaminapanti, she will elope with the milkman.
(Ducks Manjit’s punch and turns to Arun)
Right, so what were you thinking bringing us along to buy ladies bags? We have as much experience with these things as Mr. Douche Bag over there has with books.
ARUN: I just didn’t want to be embarrassed alone. Anyway, what do you think of this one? (Shows a green leather purse)
MANJIT: Nah, too small.
IMRAN: He is right. Considering our experience in ladies accessories, it would be better if we stick to what we know.
ARUN: What, geometry?
MANJIT: Well, yeah. Your mom is not going to like any bag you choose. Therefore, the best you can do is get her something that can at least hold some money.
ARUN: Dude, she is my mom. She will like anything I buy.
MANJIT: That is exactly the point. Only because you, her son, are buying the bag.
ARUN: All right, let’s ditch the bag idea. How about saris?
IMRAN: I think I saw the sari section over there, but we have to walk past the lingerie section. You two go along. I don’t want to look any creepier than I’m feeling right now.
(They go to the sari section, dragging Imran physically)
ARUN: All right, so what do you know about saris?
MANJIT: Uh, they are long?
ARUN: Would you cut it out with the dimensions, already? Sheesh! What do you think, Imran?
IMRAN: I think…if that chick over there at the counter had more hair on her upper lip, she could have participated in that moustache competition, My Hair Lady.
ARUN: Oh My God! You two are such useless pieces of shit!
MANJIT: Woah, woah! Chill dude! Cut out the profanity. Aunties will start judging us.
IMRAN: (Under his breath) As if they aren’t already. Three jobless youths loitering around the lingerie section.
ARUN: All right, let’s go and check some sari designs then. Let me know if you find anything interesting.
(After checking out a few saris, they pull out one of them)
ARUN: Okay, so why is there no tag on this one? How do I know whether it’s silk or not?
MANJIT: You are supposed to know that from the touch. You see there are various kinds of silks that are used for making saris, like the Benarasi sari.
ARUN: What else?
MANJIT: How would I know?
IMRAN: Do you even know anything of substance?
MANJIT: I know more than you.
IMRAN: Yeah? Like what?
MANJIT: Like the fact that the tent-like thing over there is called a maxi or nightie. Or that, those tight suffocating pants that the mannequin is wearing are called leggings.
IMRAN: Okay, Versace, we know what a maxi is and what leggings are.
ARUN: Hey, that makes me think about one thing. Why do some aunties greet their guests wearing maxis? I mean they will put a dupatta over their heads, but forget that they are wearing nightclothes.
IMRAN: Oh, man, I know. I hate that too. It’s like, “Oh, hey kids, would you like some cookies? And by the way, don’t I look great in my balloon gown?”
ARUN: Exactly! And they will say it while baring their wrestler arms as if to say, “So why aren’t you eating my cookies?”
IMRAN: I know! By the way, have you noticed that when they are flexing their muscles, they shout something back to their husbands with a voice of death, and again turn back to you in a sing-songy voice and go, “Ooh, teehee!” I mean what in the world is that. Is that supposed to pacify my fears or something?
MANJIT: Whoa, whoa, my mom does that! How dare you mock her?
IMRAN: Oops, sorry dude. No offence to your mom. She is different you know. I was just talking about other aunties. (Exchanges sheepish looks with Arun)
(Sensing trouble, Arun takes the initiative)
ARUN: Okay this is not working. I don’t have any clue whatsoever about saris. For instance, this one time my mother complained to my dad that some particular design on her sari was making her look old. I checked the design and there were these straight lines kind of things printed on the fabric. I spent the next few hours looking up the relationship between straight lines and old age. I never found the exact connection; although I did discover that ladies pump shoes actually do not have tiny gear pumps installed in them; and that women blurt like ten times more words than men in one day, which is the alleged source of their power of nagging. Anyway, forget about saris. Let’s go for something a bit more vanilla, you know.
MANJIT: Thank god! If you had listened to me the first time, we would be feasting on tandoori chicken by now.
IMRAN: Oh please! Getting his mother an Adidas cap? Really? How do you not fall over while walking?
ARUN: Guys, guys, cut it out, okay. Look over there, hot girl at 2 o’clock. Wanna go over and say hi?
BOTH IN UNISON: Yeah…right!
ARUN: Your choice. In that case, let’s go and look for something less unique. I’m thinking an expensive pen will do.
IMRAN: Of course, it will do. Soon we will be accompanying you on grocery shopping trips looking for adha kilo piyaz and do kilo atta while referring to a slip handwritten with Sheaffer ink.
MANJIT: You can give her a scarf.
IMRAN: Tum chup raho yaar. Tumse nahi ho payega. What the hell will she do with a scarf in July?
MANJIT: Okay, Einstein, why don’t you suggest something, rather than pathetically attempting to sharpen your sarcasm on us?
ARUN: Yeah. What do you suggest, Imran?
IMRAN: It’s quite simple really. Just give her a hug.
MANJIT: Can we go and eat now?