Recently, India, to me, seemed just too polluted, too noisy, too hot, too smelly, too chaotic, too complicated, too mosquito-friendy. Just too much. It was probably the effect ‘three weeks in Europe in September, with an idyllic climate, the beautiful landscapes of Scotland (without pollution, without noise, without heat, without humans; well, just without anything)’. And I had to answer the same ten questions about life in India, which somehow makes me highlight the challenges – and consecutively wonder what I am still doing there! – rather than focusing on the positives, I don't know why. So landing back in my ‘reality’ under fooggy 40 degrees was a bit rough this time.
Until the day (less than a week after I came back) where, in the toilets of Chennai airport: I had been struggling for a good five minutes with my earrings – I got my ears pierced two years ago but I am still very clumsy and I hurt myself every time I try to put an earring – when the cleaning lady offered her help. And saved my right ear from a bloodshed!
It’s Tuesday. It's Dussehra. A sweet festival celebrating the victory of the god Ram over the Demon Ravan, who had kidnapped Ram’s wife, Sita. Our society had organized a small commemoration for the occasion. We arrived during the battle of Hanuman, the monkey God, painted in red, terrifying, as much as his comrades or enemies with giant moustaches, all of them fighting. I took baby Samurai close to the stage (the only place where there was a little room to sit) but with these monstrous costumes and super loud music, he got scared and I couldn’t blame him. What an explosion of violence!
Then we moved away from the speakers and their noise pollution and patiently waited for the ‘highlight’ of the show: they were to set fire to a giant demon (at least five meters high), and to his brother and son! We sat on the grass, the ground was a quite sloppy. I was holding Baby Samurai tight in my arms. The demons were on our right, a few metres away, behind a safety rope. I was looking at the crowd on my left, quite absorbed in studying all these people who never get out of their luxurious villas. And then, all of a sudden, a massive explosion. I turn my head and see this giant statue on fire, burning debris flying everywhere, people running, and, to add to the confusion, bombs continue to explode. I panicked. Completely. I grabbed my little one and tried to get up. Failing to do so, I fell, and started to get out of there crawling. When I finally spotted my favourite Indian! I yelled at him to take the baby, used his help to get up, took my son back, and while sobbing of terror, I run for our lives!
Once we reached a safe place, the last demon was going in flames and crackers and it was still so loud, I had to block the ears of Baby Samurai. And this circus was finally over. It is only the presence of the nanny (one can not be weak in front of the staff, right, Madam) that kept me from screaming and crying my distress. Half an hour later I finally stopped shaking, took a look at my injured knee and started to relax.
8 years ago, during my first Diwali in Mumbai, a jerk had exploded me a firecracker thirty centimetres from me, leaving me almost deaf in one ear, and so vaccinating me against Diwali in a big city. Since then, I have always made sure I would be in a remote area of India during that time of the year. And now it is going to be the same during Dussehra!
The scene shot by my neighbors (not busy fleeing it):
Next time I will write about topic more serious than toilets, it’s promised. I could for instance speak about the upcoming war between India and Pakistan (the former bombed terrorist nests (modestly so-called “surgical strikes” and the latter denying this ever happened); or the Dassault deal to sell Rafales in India; or the fights over water of South Indian states; or the idolising fever for Jayalalitha, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (an alcoholic lesbian (or so they say) who has been admitted in a hospital mid-September and disappeared ever since); or the mosquito-induced epidemic of dengue and chikungunya; or the pregnancy of Kareena Kapoor. But this will be for later!
For now, I would like to spend some time on mother-in-laws, or MILs as they call them. But not mine, I would rather avoid a family scandal! (Just joking.) Rather about two incidences I happened to witness.
The first time it was a the gynec in Gurgaon. A young woman came out of the doctor’s cabin visibly upset. Her husband followed her and took her to a more discreet corner (on which I had full view, don’t accuse me of eavesdropping!). And who follows? The mother-in-law! And the father-in-law who tries very hard to take away his wife. But no, she goes back to the couple 2-3 times before finally giving them some space. You might tell me “But who goes to the gynec with their parents??” Bah, quite a few Indians actually. A baby is definitely a (extended)-family matter and it feels like (to me) that the mother-in-law is actually the one having the baby!
The second time it was at the airport, at the departure gate. A young couple is getting separated and they are both in tears. And who is standing there, two feet away (I am not even exaggerating), looking at them? The mother-in-law! And they hug, and they cry and she stays there; it lasts for quite a while. When I comment on the scene to my husband, what do you think his answer is? “Where do you want her to go??” Well, if she absolutely has to go to the airport, she could go get some chai no? And give them some intimacy, privacy. Priva-what?? Ah np, it’s true, it is not part of the Indian vocabulary ;)