Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Winter, in the eyes of a summer person

To a summer person, winter is perhaps the bleakest season of all, the season when Mother Earth gives up her vibrant shades to give way to copious amounts of white and grey. But if you live in a place where winter lasts four or more months, falling in love with winter is critical to your survival -- you teach yourself to love the wintertime. It could be challenging, though.

Snowfall is a spectacular natural event -- absolutely one of a kind. I stood frozen with my mouth agape when I first witnessed a snowfall eight years ago; fresh snow resembling shreds of white cotton candy descended from the heavens above and turned a small city into a winter wonderland. The beauty around it was too much for me to grasp.

I had seen snow before, but never in real life. I had seen snow in Hollywood movies, story book illustrations, photos, and greeting cards sent by extended family from faraway lands. As a child, I dreamed of scooping snow from the ground and hold it against my cheek. I had had dreams to walk on silver snow, watch snowflakes sticking to windowpane and if possible, even build a plump and happy snowman by myself.

Although the first snowfall of my life left me awestruck by its divine beauty, the more I saw snow, the more I understood that I could not possibly make myself fall in love with it, no matter how fresh or fluffy it was.

It was perhaps the fourth snowfall of that season which nearly sent me into a melancholic state of mind. I grew weary of the subzero weather conditions and the whiteness around me. I longed for warm days when street sides and pavements would be clear of mounds of old, dirty snow. I even prayed for spring to arrive early, so it could lift the white blanket and unveil the luscious green landscape that was pitilessly concealed under it.

I began to dread snow even more when one morning on my way to work, I lost my footing and fell on the ice. I spent the following five days and nights lying straight in my bed; the backache was agonizing.

However, one good outcome of living through icy days of America’s long and harsh midwestern winter was, it helped me better understand myself. I realised that I was a summer person in every respect: I relish smoothies more than lattes and I enjoy a loud thunderstorm more than an arctic blizzard. I like to be outdoors; I like to take a stroll along a river, rest on a park bench, and read paperbacks on the patio. If someone asks me to choose between knitting and gardening, I would most definitely go for the latter. I love colourful summer blooms and green foliage more than icicles and snow-clad branches of bare pines, oaks and maples.  

America’s East Coast has long winters, too, but they are in no way as frigid as its Midwest. Here, it is more rainy than it is snowy, which means that the earth is almost never hidden under a white quilt of snow. Although I will always be a summer person now matter what, but little by little, I am beginning to love the season that I have dreaded since moving abroad.

Now every time I spot an orange-breasted cardinal, a black-capped chickadee, a springy blue jay or even a black-and-white downy woodpecker perched on a barren branch of a tree outside, I tell myself that winter is not very dismal after all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Eleven people a wedding cannot do without

If you love noise, laughter, clink of gold bangles, gossip, full-flavoured food, makeup, music, insincere praises, and have a skin thick enough to endure caustic remarks about your age, weight, height and marital status, a 'deshi' wedding is 'the' place to be.
 The Daily Star link Nov. 29, 2016
It is a place where you walk into people of all possible kinds – big, small, old, young, men, women, children - a microcosm of the society you live in!  
Wedding season is here at our doorsteps and very soon you will be at the receiving end of one of those spendthrift wedding invitation cards calling you for a regal wedding consisting of thirteen functions and more.
Consider yourself lucky if you have not been to one of those weddings but either way, royal or not, weddings are your free ticket to scrumptious meals and the Bengali circus where you will most likely encounter a diverse collection of people – some of them leaving you mentally scarred for life!
You meet a coy bride (nothing crazy about it), who may not actually be shy in real life but has to act shy at her wedding to meet social expectations. The demure bride looks unidentifiable on her big day because a make-up artist put in five hours to alter her appearance from head to toe - her fake eyelashes are heavier than lead, her eyes not rich brown but turquoise, and her complexion - four shades lighter.
Then you meet a groom in a crisp complete suit or an embroidered sherwani looking stiff and a tad bit nervous.
Although everything takes place around the bride and the groom to celebrate the beginning of their lives under one roof, they are not the real interesting characters at a wedding.
Then who are?
The scenes caused by the overtly anxious bridesmaid are mostly fun to watch unless you are herself, and in that case I almost feel sorry for you. She is nearly always the bride's best friend since first grade and is well aware of every miniscule detail regarding not just the wedding but the bride's entire life.
Who needs a wedding planner when you have her?
The ultra intense bridesmaid will never fail to throw nasty looks at any one slightly messing up a dance move at the Holud or causing any hindrance to her perfectly planned wedding.
Wait! Did I just say her wedding? Well, at one point she will really get you wondering whose wedding it really is.
You spot them everywhere - in restaurants, shopping malls, even public washrooms and eventually on your Facebook wall. They are however most visible at weddings, taking selfies, either alone or in groups. To these selfie queens, socialising is synonymous to taking snaps with others.
They form pouts - 'duck lips' or a 'fish gape' and fluff their hair before every click; they delete any photo in which they think they do not look fair and lovely enough.
A timid flirt cannot do much, but a bold one will try to crack a joke or converse in a loud voice in the presence of a damsel to declare his existence. A super bold one may walk up to a girl with his smart phone and ask for her phone number. Admit it or not, but some people do meet their future partners at weddings!
Contrary to popular beliefs, flirts necessarily need not be men; they can be members of the fairer sex too.
Flirtatious women twirl their hair when they spot a band of young men standing or sitting. They glance at them with eyes heavy from mascara and lined flawlessly end-to-end. These young women giggle for no real reasons as they walk past young men - all in an effort to draw attention.
Only on a rare occasion, a single person returns from a wedding without having bumped into a middle-aged matchmaker. She is often the busiest person at the event, always huffing and sweating under a cake of make-up while constantly on the lookout for a prospective bride or groom.
Usually on the overweight side, a 'matchmaker auntie' strikes up a conversation with you to find out about your age, work, education, family and relationship status.
If you are a girl, she will dart her eyes left and right, up and down in an effort to mentally calculate your age, height and weight.
She will squint to determine the true colour of your skin, which her poor vision cannot decide right away, because you too painted your face impeccably. If you are a working man, she will seize every opportunity to ask how much you make every month.
And if she concludes from the conversation that you are an eligible bachelor or bachelorette, she will hunt for your mother. 
With her plump hands, a matchmaker auntie also yanks your mother aside and asks in a whisper if you have a sweetheart. To which your mother always vehemently shakes her head side to side and almost always says, “No!”
I really do hope that you are not one of them because on a scale of 1-10 of the 'annoying people meter', the intellectuals may exceed the scale at the very moment they start speaking.  These people will almost always dress as if they came in from the red carpet. They like to engage in solemn conversations regarding business, politics, and elections (local or foreign) - while these topics are essentially enlightening on a casual day, they can turn out to be a total buzz kill at a wedding.  Every once in a while, you may try to enter the conversation but their ceaseless debates will put you right back to sleep.
They come to weddings to eat and they eat to their hearts' content. They look at everything and everyone with disinterest; their only interest is the rich, aromatic traditional wedding fare. They occupy chairs early and are the first ones to grab the serving spoon on a dish of kachhi. They serve themselves the juiciest pieces of meat and most of the scrumptious 'laal mohan' that garnish a bowl of zarda.
These tiny troublemakers at a wedding are some of the small children geared up with infinite amounts of energy. They run and frolic around the hall like there is no tomorrow!
Some of them even collide with waiters juggling steaming dishes of food for the guests. At the dinner table, they pour 'borhani' on strangers sitting next to them. If you are not watching, one of them will even wipe his greasy hand on the end of your big-budget party sari.
The parents of these children crack their voices as they scream after them; the troublemakers pay no heed, though. At one point, the exhausted parents give up!
They scrutinise everything they see at a wedding, from the quality and breed of the chicken served to the number of necklaces the bride dons; from the model of the car in which the groom arrives to the relationship between the bride and the groom prior to their marriage.
These guests judge everything from the lavishness of the d├ęcor to the social classes of the other guests.
He is a VIP at any modern wedding. This highly energetic and acrobatic man squats, stoops, crawls, stands on his toes and even lies on the floor to document every special wedding moment. Young women swarm around him to have their photos taken.
Unfortunately, this important person is often the last one to taste the delectable wedding food, or what's left of it.
Last I checked, even the thriftiest wedding budget includes a professional photographer to capture all the wedding moments, and yet there is always that one person behind the real photographer carrying his DSLR. He is a freelancer who possibly has a secret admiration on one of the bridesmaids.
How can you even call it a 'deshi' wedding without encountering a group of men, almost always immaturely dressed, and having no relationship with either the bride or the groom?
Wedding crashers add a certain delight to every reception, after all when did we ever need an invite to get dressed and show up for free food, right?
At the end whether we agree or not, a big-fat-deshi wedding simply comes down to food.  Oh sorry, I meant love. And, by love I mean love for food. You may be one of these enlightening people, or not. Either way we will share a secret: we do happen to be one of the ten... let the guessing game begin! 
The Daily Star Nov. 29, 2016