you and me

First Memories of Marrying into an Unfamiliar Culture.

 

If anyone had ever told me that I would marry and live in India, I would have told them where to go.

However, my life took an unexpected turn of events and I ended up doing just that. At the time it was an easy decision to make, but our abilities to see into the future are sadly non-existent. Hence, I found myself in an unfamiliar country and surroundings with zero knowledge of what was expected of me. Not used to sitting at home and being a lady of leisure, I found it quite difficult to pass the time of day.

There was only so much television you could watch and only so many books you could read. Even the gossip was getting too much to endure on a daily basis. It was good for a while, to have endless hours with nothing to do. The novelty soon wore off and I was bored.

I tried to look excited about the dressing up that began hours before we had to go anywhere. Whether it was a visit to the doctor or a trip to the cinema or a shopping expedition, we had to get ready first. Our normal clothes just would not be adequate.

The trouble with everyone was that they worried too much about what everyone else thought. The nosy neighbors would be spying as soon as we stepped outside the front door just to get a glimpse of the clothes, jewelry and make-up.

Back home, I had been accustomed to throwing on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. No one cared what you were wearing and no one stared out you as if you were an alien from another planet. Not so here. Thus, when it was announced that we would be going somewhere, we would automatically go into dressing-up mode. I suppose it was fun.

We would start early in the morning with a shower, making sure all the housework had been completed of course. It would take forever to do the make-up and the hair because we just took our time. There was no sense of urgency about anything. The last accessory was the all-important gold which Mum insisted we wore. I just couldn’t get my head round this.

I didn’t want to wear gold to go shopping or to go to the doctors. I tried not to let it bother me, but sometimes I would get very annoyed and miss the simple act of grabbing a top and jeans and heading for the door. I couldn’t care less what other people thought about my gold, but Mum did. She cared a lot, something to do with status and honor.

What a load of baloney were my thoughts on this matter, but I could not bear to see any disappointment in her eyes so I donned the gold.

I hadn’t yet ventured out on my own anywhere. The task itself was just too daunting and left me feeling rather hopeless. I wanted to, and perhaps in time I would, but right now it wasn’t worth the bother. So I would wait, purely because I, being the simple, inadequate member of the sex, was unable to make my way anywhere on my own.

It therefore made sense that the men, who were naturally highly intelligent, brave and fearless, and superior to us mere beings, should be called upon to escort us to our destination. So I waited, waited until my husband could find the time to drag himself away from his very important duties.

I had already figured out that he would probably be engrossed in some very crucial business or be tying up the loose ends of an extremely important deal while slumped over a bottle of whisky. Nothing happened without this bottle. I had serious competition, and it wasn’t long before I came to hate that bottle with a vengeance so strong I thought I would burst.

Many a time I would spend the whole day dressed up waiting for this superior being because he had been unable to finish his business. I could have gone with Mum or Didi (sister) but I didn’t want to. I had got dressed up to go out with my husband in the hope of having some special time together. Anyway, I waited and I waited, and eventually the day came to an end.

I would stand around in different parts of the house and strain my ears to listen for the familiar sound of the horn that sounded from the Bajaj Chetak scooter that he owned. That horn, the horn that I will never forget the sound of, rings in my ears to this day. I had learned to distinguish it from the sounds of the horns on the other scooters in the household. Each man had one.

Our house had two massive iron gates which were closed in the evening. They could be opened from either side, as the only thing holding them together was a half-moon-shaped bar that would drop across the top of each gate.

As with everything else, nothing happened as it should naturally have done so. The men would arrive, arrive being the operative word here. They would sound the horn because the energy required to dismount the scooters and open the gate themselves was at this stage severely lacking.

We would race down the stairs as if summoned by the Gods and open the gates for our masters to let them into their domain. They would then park their scooters in the courtyard while we locked the gates. Now what happened after this was hilarious. They would stumble and stagger up the stairs looking like they had been in the wars.

With dirty shirts hanging out of their trousers and eyes rolling around or half-closed, they would put one foot on the first step and then immediately fall back. This could be repeated several times. You had to be there. I can just see how this would have made a great mini video that looped back and forth as in the Boomerang app used by kids today. But I only have my memories.

I would stand and watch as the turbans, shapeless and just about balancing on their heads, unraveled on the way up until their sight was further impaired by the rolls of material slipping in front of their eyes. It was short of a miracle that they had been able to find their way home without having a very serious accident, for this they deserved some commendation. If there is a God anywhere, he is in India.

I really did love my time in India. It opened my eyes to a whole different world and way of life. I adjusted well but eventually the pull of the UK got the better of me and I came home again. However, it strengthened my bond with the country of my ethnic origin and my feet are forever itching to return to explore it at my own leisure and pace. Maybe one day I will make it my home again.

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Indira Mahun was born in India but grew up in the UK. She had a colorful childhood and faced many challenges in her personal life, especially during the married years. Her children are her absolute life, as is her beautifully gorgeous grand-daughter who makes everything okay. Indira is a teacher, and loves the job and the satisfaction it brings. There’s nothing like the grin on a child’s face when they open their exam results. Indira has been divorced and widowed, and is now in a happy relationship. She will devour books, and is known to have read 11-12 books a week whilst on holiday. She also loves to write, and her ambition is to have her novel published one day. Indira also enjoys traveling and seeing the world, and has been lucky to have visited many places. Her motto is ‘live and let live’.

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