Saturday, April 26, 2008

Holiday Series - Chennai

After the slight melodramatic experience of the previous night, we got up early the next morning to head out to visit DD's Atthai (Bua or father's sister) and her daughter. This was the reason for our day trip to Chennai. We had last met her at DD's sister's wedding, a year and a half ago. In the meantime, she had lost her mother, DD's grandmom, whose funeral DD had been unable to attend.

Amongst all my in-laws, DD's Atthai is my absolute favourite. She's a gentle sweet lady with a generous heart and a gracious manner. Whenever I've met her, she's embraced me with an open heart. There is no artificality, no fakeness. Just genuineness. Unlike DD's maternal family, who have more money but no heart. You'll hear more on that in the Cochin episode. But that's later.

DD's Atthai isn't well off. She lives in a poorer part of Chennai in an old run down colony. But we didn't go there. We agreed to meet at her daughter's place as they felt that would be more convenient for us to find. From the moment we entered till we left, we were constantly plied with yummy food prepared freshly in front of us. They took Squiggles from me and fed her. DD and his aunt and cousin, kept chatting, sharing news, including me where they could. Even though there was a language barrier (I know no Tamil), it didn't prevent us from enjoying each other's company. As they say, communication is only 10% verbal. Through all that was at their disposal they made us feel warm, loved and very welcome.

I'd also made an effort to wear the sari that Atthai had given me at my SIL's wedding. She was so pleased and I was happy to have made the effort. I'd even remembered to wear my Thali like a good South Indian bahu :)). Not to mention the bindi that I always forget to wear. I guess I could've worn a salwar kameez and it would have been perfectly fine. But I wanted to wear what she'd given me. I don't know when we will be visiting her again and it seemed right to show in my own way, that her present had been worn, that I had liked it and was happy to wear it.

I guess I'm feeling nostalgic so I'll put up a picture from our visit. It doesn't feel right to put their picture up but edit mine out, so you can finally see what I look like :). I'll probably delete it later. Photo deleted.

And no, that handsome young boy is not DD! He's way too young, thin and good looking :)). DD's probably twice his size *grins*

Sweetheart, if you're reading this, you know I love you, don't you?

And the generous soul that she is, she had presents for each one us. Money that they probably needed for medicines. She refuses to take money from my father in law. She has too much pride, she wants to fend for herself within her means. Despite knowing her nature, my mother-in-law bought the cheapest sari for us to gift her. And my MIL can definitely afford much better. I don't understand why people give gifts according to the income of the people they are gifting to. Surely it should be according to what you can afford. Judgements like 'they will not know how expensive it is' always irritate me. Feeling deeply uncomfortable about the presents my MIL had asked to give her, I had urged DD to buy something for her grand children when we were in Delhi. And I'm so glad we did. Of course, we were no match for her or her blessings.

The day passed way too quickly. DD's nephew was sweet enough to play the violin for us. And when I requested, his Atthai also sang a couple of songs for us. It's very traditional, isn't it, in South Indian families for everyone (who can, of course) to perform for guests? And people are so appreciative too. It's something that is missing in the North, I think. If at all there is a performance, it is invariably linked to the latest bollywood numbers. Some kid shaking their chest to 'Dhak Dhak Karne Laga'. It reminds me of the snake dance from 'Bride and Prejudice'. Which was hilarious :).

Some people know how to be happy with very little and I can only hope to learn from that.

Next stop: Kalady, Kerala (near Cochin)


deepa said...

This was a beautiful post Squiggle's mama. For some reason I felt tearful, perhaps becoz I spent 4 years studying in the south and remember a certain graciousness and hospitality that transcended economic strata or status. Have lovely memories of South India.

Maggie said...

That is so sweet, SM. And you look lovely in the sari.

Squiggles Mom said...

Deepa - Thank you. You're absolutely right about the graciousness, it does permeate the air there.

Maggie - Thanks :), though I wasn;t fishing for compliments! All I can see in the pic is me looking fat!!!

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