I never did write about my Hyderabad trip, did I? L's wedding was a great excuse but I'd been dying to head south (and by that I don't mean Madras now) for a while. The title about sums it up. It was 'inspired' by Gerry Durrall's short story about his trip to the south of the US, which was in turn stolen from here.
It's a great city. It's changed so much and is no longer anything like the place where I spent two amazing years as a kid, but I love it anyway, what little bits I catch on my infrequent trips.
I feel instantly at home at most places where Telugu is spoken. I don't speak it any longer, but I can still follow it a little, and I know the customs, the feel of the people in the place. I like going to these houses and having the lady of the house put some kumkum in my hair and giving me a blouse piece and some fruit. I like being treated as a grown-up, married woman and mother, because the amusement at being around people who don't think I'm nearly old enough to be married, let alone mother, has long worn off.
And there is this indefinable something about going back to the school that taught me to value myself for the first time in my life, about seeing it grown, remembering how we stamped down the grounds ourselves to make our first playing fields, to remember the plants we grew which were later used to decorate the corridors, to see the many buses and know how popular it has become, it gives one a sense of belonging, pride in being a pioneer, a feeling of warmth at the accomplishment.
L's wedding was pretty fantastic. Most Gult weddings skimp on the food (not the money, they often skimp on imagination) but L's parents had planned a very good spread. I went for the haldi ceremony and somehow, blessing this friend of mine was a very emotional experience for me. Brought it home that she and I have both grown up, are living out the futures we wondered and dreamt about, that I am married and have a son, that she would soon be running her own home immersed in domesticity.
L is not conventionally beautiful but she has an inner beauty in her face that attracts everybody to her. Her eyes always sparkle, her lips are always just about to break into her trademark grin. I was apprehensive that she would get her make-up done at a parlour and emerge with shiny sequins and garish make-up hiding all that, but I should have known better. She washed her own hair and her aunts were to dress it. She told me that she planned to do her own make-up so I promptly decided to land up and do it for her. (L and I have a long history of dressing each other up. She has great hair, so it was always fun.) So I arrived to find her all decked up post bath, and after some running around -- and I mean running around because this friend of mine has always kept me on my toes, literally -- we managed to pin her down. She sat down, had her hair tied into a long braid, had the flowers tied on. There was a moment of panic when her mother was about to absent-mindedly hand them out to the advance members of the baraat, but that disaster was prevented in time.
We then sat down for make-up. I've been in Cal too long, you know? I vaguely remember being amazed when I first moved here seven years ago that almost all the women seemed to be wearing at least powder &/or lipstick &/or kajal. Where I came from lipstick was the height of decadence! So imagine my shock when L disclosed that she had a good lip gloss, face powder, lacto-calamine for a base and kajal (which she wasn't planning to wear) -- and that was all. My shocked protests about eye-shadow, blush, mascara were met with dismay -- "Do I really need those Sue? I don't want too much make-up."
What would you have done? I steamrolled her into position, sat her down and ordered her to close her eyes and trust God. In this case, I meant me. I thanked my lucky stars that I had been carrying all my own stuff because I meant to dress there myself. I went with a very light powdered base which could be touched up whenever necessary, a light blush, some kajal, darker than she wanted but it looked good under the glare of the lights, some mascara, a teeny touch of eye-liner at the outer corners of her eyes, blended eye-shadows (picked up a very good tip there from an artist aunt of hers, same one who did the hair) and a dark lipstick.
I pinned and pleated her into perfection (I really am very good at this) and adjusted her gold belt and other jewellery until I was entirely happy. She is very tall, a good two inches taller than me, and looks very regal in a saree (so long as she isn't grinning).
It felt great. This was an entirely family affair but none of the relatives, least of all her parents, had any issues with me jumping in at the last second and taking over the all-important bride's turnout. I was treated very sweetly, not as an honoured guest but very much as a member of the family. Since some of her relatives had met me in my days in Vizag and almost everybody had heard of me, I suppose this shouldn't have surprised me, but the warmth, the affection I received made me feel so comfortable. Despite having grown away, having put down roots elsewhere, for a day I belonged to them, to the city.