(Continued from previous post…)
I reached home. My Mom rushed to the entrance of my house, as if she was waiting for the moment. She gave me a tight hug and then kissed my forehead. I bowed down to touch her feet (this our Indian-Hindu way of showing respect to elders and get their blessings). My friends started unloading my luggage from the car and brought that inside with a happy face and a big smile. There were hardly two bags in the name of luggage, one of these was my back-pack laptop bag.
After entering the main hall, I received a warm welcome from all who were present in that room. It was looking like a small railway platform, over-crowded with friends, relations, and a few new unknown faces. There were cotton mattresses spread across length of the room, covered in white linen, on both sides to accommodate large number of gathering and to make room for their comfortable night stay. Young children were still asleep, and others were enjoying their morning tea and snacks.
I was amused, and surprised. I was told that it was a Jagraata (A whole night musical prayer ceremony for Lordess Durga) . Punjabi’s are mostly fond of and are more attached to remember the Almighty in its “Motherly Love” manifestation. Mothers are kind, extra loving and pampering, and caring to their children, and easily forgive their mistakes (Sins). Perhaps that’s why we easily get emotionally connected to a “Mother” figure than the fatherly (male) manifestation of Supreme power.
Jagraata, or Jagran, is also common, and could be organized on a small scale with only close friends and family members or might be organized on larger scale as a public event. I was not told that it is going to be a big event like this, so I was not expecting it at all. All I knew was, since it is new asupicious beginning of my my life, a new chapter was being written in my (professional) life, (remember? I visited USA for summer-internship, and now I was in final year of my graduate degree from a prestigious institute, so hopefully, I was soon expected to settle down in my career and life), my parents were happy for me and my career prospects. This Prayer ceremony was planned to Thank the Almighty and get her choicest blessings shower upon us for an auspicious start of my new life.
From the earlier discussion with my parents over phone, I was expecting only my close friends (because all local friends would not like to miss a chance to meet me after so many days, at least I expected so, and was equally missing them too during my stay away from home), a few distant relations from outstation to visit us, and my family and neighbors to be there in this festive celebration. But the scene in the room looked like there was a big, Big, event being celebrated. We are not Bengali so Durga Puja is usually not celebrated on that large scale as usually is celebrated in Eastern part of India. Such big events are seen mostly during wedding events in Punjabis when almost all the extended family, and relations, and even friends of relations join in to make it a life time Gala-event.
For most of them, I needed no introduction. But for some distant relations, I was unable to recognize them as I don’t remember meeting them in my past. My father took me to other room, where there were a few more people occupying the place and I was introduced to them.
“These are Mr. and Mrs. XXXXXX from YYYYY (city of Punjab). We were good friends when we were in Punjab. You won’t remember them as they had settled in Canada when you were only 4 (years old). They were touring India after 5 years, so I invited them to join us for this celebration. They were to keen to join us and see you after such a long time.”, explained my father, while entering their room.
I remember hearing their names occasionally during various conversations in our family. I also remember that I had also received and transferred phone calls to my father after a small formal chit chat many times. Now I was able to co-relate them with the names quite familiar to me through phone calls and conversations we had in our family from time to time.
“Oye ! ae Munda te Gabru Jawaan ho gya ae..” (Oh ! Look at him, this lad has turned into a pleasant youthful (Young and strong) personality.), exclaimed Mr. XXXX, looking at me with widening eyes.
“O ! Buss kro ji… mundae nu nazar naa laao…” (Stop staring at him ! take your evil eyes off my Son.), Said Mrs. XXXX to her husband, sitting right next to Mr. XXXX. It is common to refer to kids in close family ties as their own. Punjabi people are already famous for their sweet nature and personal touch.
My father hinted me to touch their feet too (as a part of Hindu culture and rituals, younger ones (males), offer their respects to elders and close family relations this way), when I leaned to do this, Mr. XXXX pulled me up and gave me a tight hug.
Next was the turn for Mrs. XXXX, she too pulled me up even before I could touch her feet and gave me a kiss on my forehead and asked me to set next to her. There was a young lady sleeping on the bed that probably might be their daughter so there was not enough space for me to be seated on same bed but we tend to be not so formal in family and friends. When she noticed that I am a bit hesitant in sitting so close to her, Mrs. XXXX pulled me from my arm to make me sit next to her.
It was an unexpected (for me) and a little too warm welcome from someone from Canada. I could have accepted it if they were not residing in Canada for such a long time. This personal touch is common in Indian families and famly-ties, especially in our relations, but I did not observe such warm personal touch during my little stay in US. For people who are now settled in countries like USA, Canada for a long time should have adapted to the culture and values in those modern life style, which make them more “civilized” and less “emotional”.
“So you are here… we were looking for you in…. “, hopped in M, one of the notorious buddies in our gang of buddies. Noticing my father and other elders with me, he pretended as if he missed to see them standing with me, “errr… sorry Uncle! I did not know he was with you… “. And then he looked at me and said, “Join us on roof when you are free, we are all (waiting) there …”., and then greeted everyone with a smile and turned back to leave the room.
It was enough of hint for my father, to tell him that all my friends have been eagerly waiting to see me and I have been captured and brought in here. My father stopped “M”, and said, “Wait. He is free now and can join you guys.”, told my father. Then he turned towards Mrs. and Mr. XXXX and explained to them, ” I forgot that all of his friends were also patiently waiting for him since yesterday. Poor kids planned to stay here overnight so that they get a chance to meet him as soon as he arrives. I brought him here before he could see anyone else.”
“Haanji ! Haan ji !!! Mundeyaan da haq te pehlaan hundaa hi ae. Saddhe kol te batheraa time hai.. thodaa rest kar le wey.. aappaa taa mil hi lawaange. ” (Yes, of course ! Friendship demands this and they deserve this priority over others. We have enough time. Let him take proper rest and get relaxed, we will catch him again.)
“M” was standing there, and smiling. He probably succeeded in his plan to pull me out of that room so fast. He winked at me , grabbed my hand and ran towards exit. I followed the force.
When we reached at the roof, I saw almost all the gang there. 5 Guys and 2 girls from our gang of buddies were not here. For 3 of them, I was aware of their situation because they were studying in different states/universities and might not have visited home during this festival holidays.
The world changes so fast, I realized it today. For 2 girls, it was a shocking news to me that they got recently married and move away to their new homes. I did not even come to know about their marriage. I was upset on not being able to attend their marriage or talk to them. Everyone had a lot of things to tell, and a lot of things to hear. I was ready to hear all.
There was something a bit different too this time. I was not sure if it could just be my assumption but most of my friends were hugging me, or patting me on my shoulder, my back, or holding my arm in their arms, or getting hold of my hands in their hands and intermittently massaging it. These physical touch were too frequent today. Was I being over-sensitive to these casual physical touch now? Not sure. We definitely did not have that physical touch so frequently when I was here with my group before leaving for Delhi NCR.
I was unable to understand if it was caused involuntarily by them, or it was a mode of satisfying their need of emotional security and to assure themselves that I was there with them after such a long gap, or if they really wanted to feel me by touching me and my body, or something beyond that. It was around 5+ months, and except losing some weight, (slightly) there should not be any other dramatic changes in my appearance.
After some time, I heard my Mom calling me downstairs. We did not realize time may fly so fast. It was more than one and half hour since we were chatting together.We talked about past, about present, about friends and friendship and the plans to celebrate remaining 3 days of my stay here. They also asked about my work, my life and my roommate.
All of us started moving towards stairs to go back.
But for sure, it was a feeling of home-sweet-home. I was again blessed to enjoy the company of those who loved me and whom I loved a lot, and they were all showering their unconditional love on me.
When I reached in my room, I noticed a few more luggage items in that room but it was not shared with anyone till now. My mom came in and asked me to take a shower before she serves the breakfast. Mom wanted me to take some rest and get relaxed after having a breakfast. She was worried that I could not sleep properly last night during travel and slowly, when more of the guests would be joining us today, I may not sleep properly in night too.
I opened my cupboard, took my undergarments and towel out, and started moving towards the bathroom, AAAA (my friend who picked me up in the morning from Railway station), came running in with his undergarments wrapped in his Towel, which he was carrying in his hand and said, “Are you going in far a bath? Let’s have it together. All other bathrooms are occupied too.”. He started taking off his vest and unzipping his jeans in hurry after putting his wrapped towel on nearby bed.
I looked at his face. He probably knew that I was shy and hesitant in taking off my clothes in front of anyone. I was surprised by his suggestion to take bath together. With my surprised looks, he continued, “What? Let’s make it fast otherwise someone else may occupy this only available bathroom cum toilet.” I replied, “Nothing. You go and have a quick bath. I will take some time. I also need to get fresh of daily chores.”
The glory of his glowing face now faded hearing my excuse to avoid a bath together. He probably understood that I was not willing to take bath together. Anyways, he was a local resident, and his home is hardly at 30 minutes drive from my home. If he wanted, he could go back his home, on his car and come back after taking bath. I may be selfish and mean in this context, but I am surprized why he wanted a “bath together”? Was it not the same thing, “beyond touch” that I described above?
Till now, I had forgotten my roomie after entering the home. I got so busy, and was lost among meeting people and catching up with my beloved friends. All that did not give me time to remember him. But his (AAAA’s) act reminded me of my roomie. He too did similar thing to me in the name of “bath together”, and every now and then he keeps trying for a “Bath together”.
(To be Continued..)