To W(B)ed a Bong

The Bedding Diaries of a clueless, soon-to-be Bride

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Can I please have my home back?

My home is fast becoming a war zone.

My extended family thinks I am weird. But the good thing is that they have gotten used to my weirdness. So they might not understand my "unnatural" need for privacy inside my home but they dare not come into my room when I am around. But this morning, I woke up to find one of my aunts from the village peacefully sitting on the armchair waiting for me to wake up. When she saw that I was awake, she started shouting at me for not growing my hair. I ignored her completely and went downstairs to find my mom so that I could shout at her. I couldn't find either of my parents and it looked as if my relatives from all over the country have taken over my house. Most of them, when they saw me, started shouting at me. How dare you look like that? Why aren't you wearing anything on your neck? And why do you look so plain? What about your hair? How are you going to look like a bride with such short hair? And why are you wearing your pajamas? Go shower and come back and wear a saree now. What will people think?

We need a phone attendant to answer all the calls. The phones ring incessantly and no one knows anymore who is calling and who is answering. Like this morning when the priest called and my uncle for some reason assumed it was the caterer. They both were talking about lists for the wedding and my uncle started talking about lentils and masaala podis. The priest couldn't figure out why you need chilli powder for the wedding ceremony and he started shouting.

In the middle of all this chaos, Uma di points me to a 180-day guide for brides which I am supposed to read before the bedding. Please, can someone condense it into an one pager and send it to me? Otherwise I will be so lost at piya ke ghar!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wedding Bulletin #1

Talked to Bill after playing phone tag for the past 4 days. He says that his peaceful Bong household is in uproar. Parents are indulging in heavy amounts of emotional blackmail(things that you usually associate with my family) so that they can get him to wear the clown cap for the wedding. Apparently, he's lost all Bong culture because he refuses to wear all kinds of colorful threads that the priest wants him to wear. Needless to say, the fact that he's getting married to one of those uncivilized people from down South ain't helping matters. As of now, his only defense is that whatever he's lost, he hasn't lost more culture than his brother, so they ought to be happy. That the bro-in-law is away at school helps, I guess.

Meanwhile here at home, sari store salesmen love me. Who else chooses the wedding sari in under 11 minutes, they ask! Jewelry store people cannot seem to figure me out. They actually refuse to believe that I am the bride as I seem to be the most disinterested person in the store. I have decided that I am done with my jewelry store quota for this lifetime. I have better things to do with my time and your money, I have told my parents.

I am also discovering that there's more to the sari than meets the eye. I decided to wear saris for wedding and all the receptions as I thought its reasonably painless - there's no fitting and refitting and all that nonsense. But I completely forgot the blouse - getting them stitched and fitted is turning out to be a nightmare and it looks like my life revolves around the tailoring shop.

Good news of the day: Cousin K and I are on our way to big, evil jewelry store when my Dad calls. Apparently, he's running out of invites(1400 have gone out already) and wants to get 300 more printed asap. K calls the printer and sweet talks him into getting them printed on the same day. Two cops try to pull us over as they see K driving and talking on his cellphone. K doesn't stop but says that they would have broadcast the number and so he will get pulled over at the next big intersection. Right in front of the Thampanoor railway station, two other cops stop us. K pulls over and takes out his cellphone. Now Trivandrum is about who you know and lets just say that K knows enough people. He calls the AC and "explains the situation". He then tells the cops that the AC wants to talk to them. The two cops peacefully tell him that if the AC wants to talk to them, he would call them on their phone and slap K with a 1000 rupee fine. Long live Kerala Police!

Monday, November 28, 2005

You are buying me what?

Mrs S: So its this tradition we have. We bring plates full of cosmetics, jewelry and saris et al.

Me: We have something similar, I think. Though I don't think cosmetics is included.

Mrs S: That's why we have to go shopping today.

Me: Really? But you already got saris and jewelry and stuff.

Mrs S: What about slippers? And handbag? And I have to buy you salwars too.

Me: You bring slippers and handbags too on plates?

Mrs S: Ofcourse.

So we went to one of those ubiquitous malls in Bombay which Mrs and Mr S seem to adore and shopped till we dropped dead. Yes, it was right after we got off those two eight-hour flights. We got slippers, handbags and we were looking for salwars when Mrs S strategically stopped in front of what looked like a lingerie store.

Mrs S: And oh, I forgot. I need to get you some night clothes too.

Me: You have to get me what?

Mrs S: Come, come we will get you a nice slip or something.

Me: Excuse me?

Mrs S: Yeah, its part of the tradition. Get whatever you want.

Me: No aunty. I am not getting anything. You are not buying me lingerie. It has no utility value - you are just going to waste more money.

Mrs S: Really?

Me: Yes, I am. We can get other things, I am sure.

Mrs S: Are you sure? (Mrs S gives Mr S one very sorry look.)

Mr S: Yes, yes, just get her what she wants na?

Mrs S: Okay then.


Me: Do you think your mom thinks I am all evil now?

Bill: No yaar. She is fine.

Me: Are you sure?

Bill: When did you start worrying about what my mom thinks?

Me: Arrey..she looked so sad na?

Bill: Its okay. Chill. I will tell her that I got you enough lingerie, so its okay.

Me: That's supposed to make her feel better right?

Bill: Well, she asked for it, didn't she?

Me: That, she most definitely did.

Random coversations

Coversation 1:

Realization struck when we were above the Black sea. I woke up Bill.

Me: Hey, you won't believe how stupid I was.

Sleepy Bill: Actually, I will. What did you do now?

Me: You know how I had to check in my rollerblade suitcase at the gate in Frankfurt?

Bill: Yes, but I saw you take out your documents and put it in your backpack. Don't worry.

Me: There's some stuff there that I did not pull out.

Bill: Like what?

Me: Like my digital camera.

Bill: What? And what else?

Me: Remember that box full of jewelry that my mom got when she came to visit.

Bill: That was stupid. How could you forget about them?

Me: Well, I did. What should we do now?

Bill: I don't know. How can you be so stupid? Its unlocked right?

Me: Yeah.

Bill: There's really we can do.

Me: Yeah. I think we should have some faith in our fellow countrymen, don't you think?

Bill: Yes. Why do we assume the worst of them anyways?

Bill promptly went back to sleep. I went back to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel.

Coversation 2:

On Friday evening, Mrs. S was franctically searching her Hobbit-size home for something. She was all flustered, muttering in Bangla. She wouldn't reply to anything I said.

Me: Your mom refuses to talk to me.

Bill: Na, she's just flustered. She is searching, can't you see?

Me: For what?

Bill: She is supposed to give you some stuff to take to Trivandrum, I believe. Like some blouse material so that you can get them stitched.

Me: So she can't find them now?

Bill: Yeah.

Me: Maybe it ain't too bad. I can wear that Kancheepuram instead.

Bill: Yeah right.

Me: But why isn't she talking to me?

Bill: Arrey, my mom's like that. She is worried.

Me: Because she cannot find some blouse material?

Bill: Yeah, my family's like that.

Mr S: Here you are. Let me read out your program in Kolkata.

Me: You have a program?

Mr S: Yes, hour by hour itinerary. Its all planned.

Bill: Did I ever tell you he worked in the military for 30 years?

Me: Yeah, I can see that.

Coversation 3:

At home, my mom shouts at my dad.

Mom: There are so many invites that we have to give out.

Dad: I know. I have it all planned. Three more days we need.

Mom: What's your plan?

Dad: I remember the list of people we still have to go give invites. We will just go.

Mom: You call that a plan?

Dad: Chill okay?

Mom: Okay, you do give invites then. I have to take the Bride to get her saris and jewelry. There's so much work to be done.

Dad: Nonsense, you have to come with me to give away invites. We can do all shopping on Friday.

Mom: On Friday? When is your daughter's wedding? Next year?

Dad: I said Chill na. It will all get done.

Mom: Right.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Woman with 12-month old baby for a half-hour stint in Kerala next Monday. Baby need not be hers but baby should be short for its age. Woman and baby should come to a wedding mandap at a strategic, predetermined moment and claim to have been betrayed by the groom. Food(special cook from chettinad) and accommodation will be provided for the day. If performance is successful, will provide referral letters for other prospective brides. If interested, please email me asap.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

This Bedding Bill Be Blogged

Bandwidth and amma willing, of course.

Bill and moi are setting out on our final leg towards "the undiscovered country from whose bourn / no traveller returns" (Shakespeare via Falstaff). I spend a day in Bombay shopping and then to Kerala where the wedding will take place. I hope to keep this blog updated with all gory details leading up to the wedding - after all, turning everything that's going to happen into entertaining tidbits might be the only thing that will keep me sane in the days to come.

Watch this space!

Monday, November 14, 2005

In mourning

Bill: What's my marital status? Its on the visa form.

Bride: What? Single.

Bill: I am going for my stamping on Dec 22nd.

Bride: Oh. Mine's on the 14th.

Bill: Yeah. That makes us Married.

Bride: @#$%

Bill: I know.

Bride: Can we run away from mandap?

Bill: Nonsense. This is serious.

Bride: I know.

Bill: @#$%. What are we going to do?

Bride: How the @#$% do I know?

Bill and I spent our last single weekend together(we won't spend another weekend with each other until after the wedding) mourning the imminent loss of freedom and singledom. To think that we will become virtuous and will not live in sin again. To think that from now on, we have to introduce each other as husband / wife. Is there really no hope after all?

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Bride goes face painting

Paint, by any other name is still paint. Call it whatever you want - foundation, powder, eye shadow, mascara, liner, blush, shimmer whatever. Its all paint to me. Why would otherwise sane women spend hours before a mirror applying paint on their faces is something I have never understood. Someone please these women that they could use this time instead to:

A. Stare at lake
B. Read Shakespeare
C. Eat biriyani
D. A, B and C

For you Bongs, we will make some minor changes - we will make that fish biriyani and yes, you can read Tagore instead of Shakespeare. But please, please, can you please take off unexplicable Bong custom #142 from your list? Mrs. S has been quoting that for ever now - Thou, apparently, shalt buy face paint for thy Bride.

All face paint for wedding and reception should be bought by the groom and family, I believe. Now, I don't have a problem with that - the last thing I want to do with my money is to buy those horrid things but hey, poor Bill. Why should he buy me face paint when he could be buying me:

A. The Complete Yes Minister DVD
B. The Complete Yes Prime Minister DVD
C. The Complete New Yorker
D. A, B and C

Or so I was explaining to A yesterday while we were walking through Michigan Ave on our way home. Big mistake. A, under the pretext of going to the Borders across from Water Tower Place made me walk the entire stretch of magnificent mile and then quickly whisked me into Bloomingdale's a block away from Borders.

Me: "Do you have to buy something here?"

A: "Yeah. I want to look around for some cosmetics."

Me: "Okay"

Five minutes later, I find myself sitting in one of those tall stools with a mirror in one hand and a Bobbi Brown color map on the other while this woman in a lab coat is explaining to me the different kinds of foundations she thinks will work for my face. My face needs a foundation? Really? I thought only buildings needed foundations? A stick foundation? What the hell is that? How can I stand on a stick? Soon this lab coat woman starts applying different kinds of paint on my face - almond on one cheek and lighter almond on the other. A looks on approvingly.

A: "Yes, you are right. The darker almond is better. I think the stick is the way to go."

Me: "Yeah?"

A: "Oh yeah, your skin looks much better now."

Really? These are chemicals A, you know what chemicals are? What do you want me to do? Put Hydrochloric acid on my face? I am sure you think that will make my skin look even better.

And the lab coat woman(LCW) goes on and on:

LCW: "Our range works well for everyday make-up. Also, for bridal make-up. I get a lot of brides. And ofcourse, we are great for party make-up too".

LCW: "I get a lot of young people, you know people just out of college and starting to work. I get them set up with their everyday look. And I get a lot of older people. You know really old people like 50 or something who were never comfortable with makeup and now they want to start."

Did you hear that A? Old women? Did you hear that?

LCW: "Now I am going to neutralise your eyes".

You are going to what?

LCW: "I have to make it the same color as your cheeks, so I am going to apply this eye shadow from your eyebrows to the brush bone, then the dark brown from the bone to your eyelids, and then I am going to finish it with this black shimmer."

A: "I think she needs more color. Its an Indian wedding so she will not be wearing white"

LCW: "What color are you going to be wearing?"

How the $#%@ do I know? You ask my mom or Mrs. S.

A: "Green or Red. She isn't sure yet."

LCW: "But I think this is better. This has neutralised her eyelids and its very clean."

Three inches of paint on my face and you call it clean?

LCW: "And I think this lipstick will go well with her. Its blackberry".

Me: "Black berry? You want me to wear black lipstick?"

LCW: "No, no, don't worry. It isn't black. Its dark reddish. See."

Why the #$%^ is it called blackberry then? Who do you think you are? Research in Motion?

LCW: "Here, check yourself out in this mirror now. You can see the mositure in your face because of the cream I put in. It works well for dry skin especially in humid weather"

Why the @#$^% do I not recognize this creature in the mirror?

Me: "I like it. Its actually quite neat. Except for my eyes. It looks kind of, you know, too light and too made-up"

A: "I think its the concealer. You don't need the concealer."

Concealer? What's that? Is it like an invisible cloak? Something to hide me away? Can I apply it on my whole body and disappear right now?

A: "See the difference. You look so nice now, we should take a picture of you when we get home."

You want me to walk out like this? Are you like mad?

Later, in the bus:

A: "See they all are looking at you. They are wondering how your makeup stays so fresh"

Me: "Yes, A. I am sure thats why they are all looking at me."

Later still, at MR's apartment where I go to borrow the latest Marquez:

MR: "Who are you and what have you done with the girl I met last week?"

Me: "I killed her."

And Bill, if you are listening, the murder cost you $95. I have the receipt. Drop the check in the mail, will ya?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Education of Bill

Bill: I just talked to my mom. You aren't going to believe this.

Me: What's happening now?

Bill: Do you really want to know?

Me: Yeaah

Bill: I think its all those Bong association people. They conned her.

Me: Into what?

Bill: She says that she wants to do all Bong ceremonies that happen before the wedding.

Me: Like where? You guys turn up in Kerala on the 3rd and there's no time for any Bong ceremony.

Bill: Yeah, she knows that. So she wants to do it in Bombay.

Me: But I am in Bombay only for a day. That too, all jetlag will happen.

Bill: Who said this has anything to do with you? You don't have to be there.

Me: Really? This is interesting. Now I want to hear all about this. Tell me about these ceremonies.

Bill: And I thought I will have a peaceful week in Bombay. I will go meet junta and maybe go to the "institution" and just chill.

Me: So what are you going to be doing instead?

Bill: I am not entirely sure.

Me: Oh c'mon.

Bill: Apparently, hazaar Bong auntys will turn up. All the Bong association ones.

Me: Hang on. I am starting to get the idea. Does this involve you and turmeric?

Bill: Arrgghh. We aren't that gross also!

Me: Man, this is so funny. Let me picture this. You will be sitting bare chested in the middle of the room and all these Bong aunts will sit around you and put turmeric on you. I love this!

Bill: I am sure you do. It ain't happening.

Me: Do you know that for sure? And then they will educate poor kid on the facts of life.

Bill: What???

Me: Well, what do you expect? They will give you all sex advice. Poor innocent kid, doesn't know anything, they will say. Let us educate him.

Bill: Shut up, will ya?

Me: Will you promise to take pictures?

Bill: What? Are you mad?

Me: Well, okay. I will just con your brother to take pictures.

Bill: He will be away at school. He won't be there.

Me: I am sure he would be more than happy to come home for a day or two. Esp since he would get to see his brother getting inducted. Let him also get some education na?

Bill: You will do no such thing. You will not con my brother to take pictures.

Me: Oh yeah?

Bill: Hey, do you think I need to come to Kerala early?

Me: No, you aren't needed there.

Bill: Maybe I am. Maybe I can help with all the wedding arrangements.

Me: Like how? You can't speak one word of Mallu. You will only be in the way.

Bill: Please, take pity on me, will you?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Nazgul cometh

The days are going darker. I can feel it in the air. I can feel it in the water. Rumors grow of a dark power rising in the East. The Dark Lord of Holy Matrimony has sent his servants to the windy city in search of the one Bride. The Nazgul will get here by Friday night. There is no escape.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Glitter Glitter

Transcript of conversation I have with my mom every day now:

Me: Hello amma. How are you? What's happening?

Mom: Nothing is happening. Your Dad is so inefficient. Nothing ever gets done.

Me: Yeah?

Mom: We go to give invitations. He sits down and explains life, universe and everything to them. Each place we go, we are taking one hour. At this pace, we will finish giving invitations by next year this time.

Me: That's not so bad. Maybe we could postpone wedding to next year? We need everyone to turn up na.

Mom: I knew you were going to say that. What exactly is your problem with marriage again?

Me: Very simple. I don't believe in it.

Mom: Good. So it doesn't make a difference whether and when you get married. That's all I want to hear.

Me: Whatever.

Mom: So we have to go to Bhima today. (Bhima being big, evil jewelry store in Malluland where the Mallus go to buy tons and tons of gold for their daughters' weddings.)

Me: Why?

Mom: To buy kathirikai, why else will we go to Bhima? (Kathirikai - Brinjal)

Me: But who are you buying jewelry for? What do you need to buy?

Mom: Kalyanponnu pesura pecha idhu? (Is this how a soon-to-be bride talks?) People are asking me how I am going to manage with the basic jewelry we have? You will look so plain.

Me: Yeah, I am so plain that you have to hide me with gold.

Mom: That's not what I meant. Why don't you understand? You know I don't like or wear a lot of jewelry but this is your wedding. You should wear some na kannu?

Me: Even if I agree with you that I need to wear some gold, that some we already have na?

Mom: No, we don't. You don't even have a diamond necklace. What's wrong with one diamond necklace?

Me: Just give me the money. I have better uses for it, that's all.

Mom: Yeah yeah, you will take the money and go on a trip to Antartica next.

Me: Sounds like a plan actually.

Mom: Listen, its my money and I will do what makes me happy. You only say all the time that I should always do what makes me happy right? So I will go buy diamond necklace for my daughter and be happy.

Me: But daughter doesn't want diamond necklace. Why don't you use that money to help starving people?

Mom: Why don't you use the money that you spend gallivanting around the world to help starving children? You know as well as I do that these are not mutually exclusive things. And I know what you will bring up next - how diamond extraction and gold mining is killing people and the environment. How many times we have been through all this?

Me: Exactly. You never understand.

Mom: No, you refuse to see the point. I cannot and will not live my life by your standards. Esp when all you are doing is making up excuses for something that you do not want to do. I want my daughter to have a proper wedding and why don't you ever understand that?

Me: Well, okay go get me a diamond necklace. I will call off the wedding. Then you can be happy.

Mom: What nonsense you talk! Okay, maybe not diamond. But I saw this intricate gold choker which I think will suit you perfectly.

Me: Hmm..maybe. But actually ma, Bongs don't wear too much gold. Bill was telling me how they literally wear no jewelry for their weddings.

Mom: Oh yeah? That's why for Roy uncle's daughter's wedding they had some 3 kg of gold on that girl?

Me: Maybe that's the Mallu influence. Why would Bill lie to me?

Mom: The question kannamma is why would you lie to me.