Sunday, September 9, 2007

A memorable trip to Indore

August 24-29, 2007

It wasn't a marriage though, an engagement, of 2 of my best friends who knew each other for last 9 years ... and in love with each other for, even they don't know when their friendship changed to love but I guess it was, last 4 years.

Shaalu is one of the friendliest persons I’ve ever known. She is someone, who will win your heart in the first meeting itself, and then you will feel like you've always known her, and there never was a time in your life when she was not there. A die hard fan of sports, with a never say die attitude, cheerful, caring, understanding and a great companion. You got to see her when she plays table tennis or any game for that matter, an inspiration for every soul. I can write a whole book on her though, but now its Rishi's turn.

The man with a big smile on his face, Rishi, truly is a gentleman. Seldom do I meet such intelligent souls, who have a rocking sense of humour. He is such a sweetheart, a gem. Shaalu deserves no better than a gem. Both of them complement each other very well.

Anupam and I boarded the train from Delhi on Friday night and we reached there on Saturday afternoon ... the train was about 4 hours late. I expected Shaalu to be there, but to my surprise, everyone was there on the railway station to receive us. Shaalu, Vinu, Balu and Shailu... all the people I love, at once, in one place. Although it had been only four-and-a-half months since I saw them, it felt as if I’m meeting them after sooooooo long.

We got a warm welcome, and proceeding through the crowded markets of Indore, we reached a place called ‘Chappan’. It is a line-up of 56 food joints in one single lane ... satisfying the unbeatable appetite of foodies of Indore. After filling up ourselves to the level where even Raja ki Sawaari would get caught in a traffic jam, we headed towards the Shalimar Township… Shaalu's sweet home.

Indore is a nice city, wide lanes, less crowded roads, hustle bustle of small markets, taprees serving Samosa and Tea, people chit-chatting on trivial issues... they all reminded me of my hometown. Unlike the polluted metros, where life is forcefully kept on a fast track, missing all the fun of living, it was a clean and green city.

It took us only 20 minutes to reach home, and we kept teasing Vinu, all the way, remembering funny college incidents. This is what usually happens when college friends meet. There is always one ‘Bali
ka Bakra’ in the group, who by default becomes the target, to start with. We laughed on how the table broke up in the mess when she sat on it excitedly and how she repeated ‘Akkal badi ya Bhains’ when Balu asked her the question.

It was late afternoon and everyone was full of enthusiasm. We were given precisely 15 minutes in which we had to get ready for another great experience.

In no time, we were ready to go to ‘Nakhraali Dhaani’ … a place similar to ‘Chokhi Dhaani’ of Jaipur, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan in the form of Dance, Music, arts & crafts and, my favourite, Food. On the way, we picked up Shaalu’s friends... all beautiful girls but, as it happens with me always, already engaged. Soon, we were singing our favourites, after buttering Balu the great to sing a few for us.

‘Nakhraali Dhaani’ is a great place, I get really nostalgic, whenever I hear Marwari folk songs, as it is almost always about love and faith. There was a magician showing few old tricks, a mehndi waali decorating the delicate hands of the young girls, a bi-scope operator with a bi-scope, a group of folk dancers, an old man with hookah … all dressed up in Rajasthaani traditional cloths; men wore dhoti-kurta, women in ghaghra-choli … the place was full of life.

We met Rishi’s family there and, I must say, he is smartest of all of them. I watched the shows, danced in the small discotheque (though I’m really bad at dancing), lost a game of pool from Shailu, with Vinu on my side, keenly watching and supporting. Then it came to my favourite part, food. I’m quite a foodie, especially when it comes to Rajasthaani delicacies. There... it was all, Bajre ki khichdi with ghee, kadhi, imarti, milawa ka saag … yum yum yum. Those who were serving the food were doing manuhaar, a traditional ritual for honouring special guests. We had a gala time there. In the end, the hosts said to Shaalu … ‘Aaagli baar taabar tikar ne leyke aaijo’ … which means... bring your kids along when you come for the next time.

It was midnight when we reached back home. We were really tired but no one was in the mood to sleep. So, we started playing our favourite game, dumb charades. For this game, two experts can not be on one side, so Shailu the encyclopaedia was on one side with Anupam, Balu and Neha (one of the 3 beauties). On the other side, it was Shaalu the great with Vinu, Ruchi (the 2nd one), Saurabh and this nerd (me). The game continued till some people started yawning with their mouth wide open, and others started o take inspiration from them by hanging mid-air half asleep, with the weirdest of movie names that even our great grandpa wouldn't have thought of.

Even after the lights went off, Shailu, Vinu and I kept talking. Sleep was miles away from me as I was meeting my friend after a long time. It is difficult to hide your excitement when you meet a friend you have spend years studying together, in one college, then preparing together to get into another one, and then, studying together again, throughout Graduation and Post-Graduation. Vinu also wanted to be part of the conversation, but could not help herself staying awake, and after showing a lot of persistence, finally gave up. Shailu and I continued chatting.

It was six in the morning and I was wide awake, waiting for the dawn and then the rising sun that I love watching. I was in no mood to sleep because I did not want to miss even a single moment being with my loved ones. Finally, I decided to wake them up, after some sincere efforts from my side, shooting the snoring bulls with the cell phone cam, poking fingers in the big stomach of teddy bear (Balu), and switching off the fan, they started to come back to life.

It was the day for which everyone was there. There was excitement in the air. We kept singing on the dining table for long and, after several ultimatums from Shaalu, finally got ready. My mind was still struggling with the thought that today is probably the last day, I get to meet Vinu and Shailu, after which, they will be going to Bhopal to board their train to Chennai. I wanted to make the most of this time we get to spend together, so I decided to accompany them till Bhopal, to get some more time with them. I was temporarily relieved that I can be with them for at least one more night. Just then, uncle arrived from somewhere and took us to the Bakery. Time was moving really fast.

There is a big Bakery which is owned by Shaalu’s family. Vinu told me that it was started by Shaalu’s mom, at a very small level, and today it is a famous brand in Indore serving a variety of bakery items to almost all parts of the city. It was a 10 minute drive from Shalimar Township.

For the first time, I saw a bakery from inside. There was a big oven mounted in the wall, with one person putting in patties of various shapes and sizes into them, and the other two arranging the baked ones on rectangular trays. On a small stone platform, workers were applying loads of butter on the big loaf of Maida, and carefully moulding them to make multiple layers for crisp patties. Balu and I looked at them first and then looked at ourselves, as if it was the sole reason behind our tummies growing fatter day by day.

Inside a small room, baked cakes were being cut into small pieces and becoming pastries. On an elevated platform lied a tiny mountain of cake icing being sprayed with rainbow colours. Outside the room, there was a person sitting on a small table with multiple crates of eggs, and was breaking them one by one into a bucket. Out of excitement I asked about the gross consumption of raw material and was astonished by knowing that approximately 20 tins of Ghee (each containing 20 litres), and several bags of Maida (each containing 100 Kgs) is consumed everyday to make delicious cookies and cakes.

Attached with the bakery was a small retail shop, where so many buyers had queued up that the counter was barely visible. We came out of the shop and sat in the car. I remember Vinu plucking a small flower from a nearby tree, and offering it to the cute lord Ganesha idol sitting on the dashboard of our car. After seeing another bakery, where the ovens use wood logs as the fuel and produces even tastier samosa’s, we were dropped in the market.

Usually in our group one can expect to get a birthday gift a day before his next one. This was the first time we decided to buy a gift before the occasion, perhaps the reason was that engagements don’t happen every year. After applying all our innovative and creative ideas, and searching through every nook and corner of the market, we zeroed in on a beautiful soft toy. It was a Dog, and preferred to a teddy bear because Shaalu loves dogs.

After buying the Gift, Vinu and I went to do some more shopping for Shaalu. It was real fun watching Vinu buying things. She is more worried about you getting worried, than you actually are. After lots of efforts and me saying a hundred times that its OK if she takes more time in choosing things, she picked up few things and we started walking back home. It was drizzling and we were walking down the road eating Bhutta. Unlike always, I was at loss of words, or so to speak, speechless. Somewhere down there was a feeling that it is probably the last time we are together. I can definitely hope for meeting Shailu and Balu again, whenever I want, but meeting Vinu will be very difficult because she is already married and her life will have completely different priorities as it goes further.

Finally we reached home, only to find that the trio was dozing off. We woke them up, and had a finger licking lunch. I kept eating till Balu didn’t stop me. We have, sort of a deal between us that whenever he catches me overeating, he will stop me and so do I. This way we can always blame it on each other whenever we overeat (which happens quite often). After lunch, we went into hibernation, as the sleep started taking toll on us, having spent almost 36 hours without it.

Vinu woke me up with sweet whispers. We were getting late for the engagement party, and half of the family was already gone. So, I lazily got up, and even after putting in all efforts, could not get ready before Balu. God knows how he manages to get ready in 5 minutes. In college, often I used to wake him up after coming out of shower, which usually takes 80% of my time in getting ready, only to find him sitting in the classroom, before I enter.

All of them were looking amazing. Vinu wore a red saaree and was looking pretty, but, I bet, if you go and tell her that she is looking good, she won’t believe you. It is a strange phenomenon with every woman, that she wants you to praise her, but when you actually do it, she will rubbish all your compliments by saying that you are lying just to make her happy.

Well, the sun was about to set when we reached at the venue. It was a nice place, with a beautifully decorated mandap. Most of the lawn was covered by grass that was still wet with the showers in the afternoon and looked greener because of the raindrops reflecting sunshine. I was enjoying the ambience and I saw Rishi. He was looking handsome, and greeted us with his trademark smile. We also met another beautiful girl there, she had brown eyes and her name was Prachi. Anupam was very disappointed to know that she was also engaged.

The sun was slowly going down on the horizon and the party was growing richer with more and more people coming in. Shaalu was looking amazing in a red saaree worn in a Gujraati style. We clicked a few photographs, and started enjoying the happenings around.

I am particularly very interested in all the rituals of a formal engagement or marriage. It gives a man enough time to enjoy the moments in which he formally ends his freedom, and hands over his reins into the cruel hands of a woman. He happily surrenders himself looking at the elder people in his family, who are married and still smiling, consoling himself that everything will be all right.

All of it was really ecstatic, and then came the time for cutting cake. Shaalu, by this time, had changed to another saaree, a typical maharashtrian traditional style one, and was looking even more graceful and lovely. They exchanged rings and cut the big 3 storied cake, which was a real treat to the taste buds.

The party was on till late night. Food was delicious, and Balu had to finally stop me, or else I could have had the 6th gulab jaamun too. I returned the favour. Finally we listened to each other, but by then, we were overstuffed already. Music and food go together and I’m equally passionate about both. So, it was time for a mehfil, and to do the honours, we had the groom himself, who is a talented and gifted singer, posing a keen interest in Ghazals. But on the Bride’s special request, which he couldn’t dare to refuse, he sang breathless. Quite literally, breathlessly, I had to gasp for oxygen, after every few lines he would sing. I could never sing it like that even if I remember the lines.

We could not stay for long in the mehfil, because we had to leave for Bhopal in the midnight. Finally, we got into the cab hired for the purpose, and to my disappointment, everyone, except me and Shailu, went into hibernation as soon as it started moving. Balu was also with me, for we planned to come back to Indore after kissing them goodbye. No one had energy left to talk now, but I was awake, waiting for someone to wake up and talk, but sleep seemed to win over creating lasting memories.

We reached Bhopal early in the morning, at around 5 a.m. We still had 2 hours left. The railway station was as usual busy with the hustle bustle of tea stalls, trains coming and going, announcements stating sorry for the inconvenience caused by trains delayed. Luckily, Anupam got an early train to Nagpur, and went comfortably.

After waiting for around two hours, I realized that, we still have not planned how Balu and I are going back to Indore, so we went to enquire about the trains, and got to know that there is one, which goes 10 minutes after Vinu and Shailu board their train, so I managed to get the tickets for that with the help of Vinu, Who, in the biased system of India, can take advantage of being a lady, to get into the queue and come out triumphantly in less than 5 minutes achieving the feat which would have taken us at least an hour, had I tried it myself.

The funny part was that their train got late again, ours reached first. So, this time, instead of us kissing them goodbye, they were seeing us off. I slept as soon as I got into the train. The rhythm of a moving train works on a sleep deprived body the same way a jhoola does for the infant.

It felt like only few seconds have passed, when I was woken up by Shaalu’s call. She asked me where we are, and it took me sometime to realize that I’m actually in the train, sleeping like a kid. I jumped down from my berth and handed it over to Balu, who explained her that we are just about to reach Indore.

At home, Shaalu was waiting for us at the dining table. This lunch was special, as Shaalu the great herself was serving the food, surprising her mom who seldom witnesses such a scene. Even for the first time when Shaalu was showing us the house, she did not even mention where Kitchen is. After the normal Roti, sabzi, dal and rice, which might seem normal but ask me how much I love home food, we had our favourite Cheese Maggi. Maggi has a special place in my menu, in fact I can eat it everyday, and I love to experiment with it, mixing cheese, butter, tomato, onions and what not. In the college, often Shaalu used to call up and say... hey nish, come down to Cafeteria, lets have Maggi, and we used to order one Cheese Maggi and one Butter Maggi.. sometimes the third one too… yum yum …

After lunch, I was configuring the wireless router and also explaining the exciting game of Seep to Ruchi and Chiku (another friend of Shaalu). I kept playing Seep till midnight, with Balu, Shaalu and Chiku. After Chiku left, we stopped playing and resumed chatting.

Next day was really busy as I had to rush to the railway station and catch a train back to Delhi. Balu came till the station with me. The long planned journey was about to come to an end and I had mixed feelings. On one side, I was happy that my friends are happy and well settled but on the other side, I wanted to be with them always. Balu gave me his large bear hug like always and asked me to take care of myself on which I could not say anything.

With a heavy bag and heavier heart, I boarded the train, looking back at the city of Indore, which would remain special to me, forever.


shailesh said...

Thanks Nishi, u made me live one of the most memorable part of my life again. And as people say the histroy repeats itself, the days are not far when we again rejuvinate and celebrate our reunion.We are destined to be united. So just wait and watch our destiny is very close to us.

Aditi..............:) said...

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