Chapter 16: Something New

Who knows they may have sat cross-legged for the first time. It seems that the long rituals of marriage have fatigued the wedding couple also. It is possible that perhaps like mine, their legs also may have grown numb. May not be as they are young and I am old. This comparison seems inadequate. One of my legs has benumbed and at length, I get up with great difficulty, come out to the car park and keep standing there.

Warm sunshine is very pleasant. I think that I should keep standing there till lawans (rounds of marital rites) begin. Just near me, a group of youngsters is having fun and frolic. Even on a small joke, all of them burst into laughter. None of them is cutting an unpleasant remark with anyone else.

Mr Sanhgera hints me to come inside. He belongs to my own village back home. He and my brother worked in the same factory for a long time. After giving the shagun (benedictory money), I again, move out to the car park and wait for my family. A white couple also had come and stood in the company of those youngsters. The lady, after putting offering of her share on the palm of an Indian girl and cleaning her greasy hands with tissue, asks an Indian boy, “I wish I could understand your language to know what advice the priest has doled out to the fortunate couple.”
“The same things they keep telling to the couple, to be married, that a vehicle of marital life runs smoothly if both of its wheels are balanced. Nothing new and I don’t know, whether someone acts on it or not,” after removing the handkerchief from his head, the young boy tries to explain to the white woman in English.
“If they do listen and act on it, why should there be such a large number of divorces?” another boy standing nearby says astonishingly.

Meanwhile, Mr Sanghera and his family also come out. They had accompanied by my wife and children.
“Well, how should we act now? Shall we go to the hall or proceed home?” Mr Sanghera wants to know my opinion.
“What would you do at home? Let us all go to the hall. Take your seats in the cars,” before I could say anything, our wives say in the tone of an order.

“To be honest, the matter is that I want to avoid alcohol. Secondly, I hate this sticky and greasy food saturated with oil. It may be tasty but not healthy at all. Another reason, these drummers cause headache by the loud sound of drums,” Mr Sanghera clarified what he had in his mind.
“Come on uncle, you may not drink but you can dance along with dad. This will be useful for your health. On this pretext, you will be able to take some exercise,” my daughter says pulling him by the hand.
“Be a sport dad. You all old people feel shy of being in step with the youngsters,” Mr Sanghera’s son seemed to support my daughter.
“These elderly people do not have time for the youngsters, like us,” when Mr Sanghera’s daughter said this, he looked towards me as if he were saying, “Well, I am caught on a wrong foot and have to accompany.”
“Naturally, with the age, lifestyle differ automatically.”
“Let us be there for a couple of hours,” I hinted to suggest.

We have occupied a table away from the stage. Families of both of us sitting face to face, start conversing. When almost all the tables are occupied, an old friend of Bha ji makes a gesture with his hand and says aloud, “Here we have some seats. What are you doing there among women? Come on this side.”
“We are quite comfortable here. If we drink sitting in the company of our families, the liquor intoxicates less and one does not lose his balance,” hearing the retort of Mr Sanghera, he becomes speechless.

Seeing the people dancing to the beats of the drums, our feet also start moving automatically. Though this music is less melodious and more like a noisy rhythm contrary to our younger times, still we are trying to enjoy it. Having been out of breath, we have hardly gained our normalcy and we again, feel like continuing.

Since the day, Mr Sanghera’s clothing business has been taken over by his young ones; he has been living as a retired person. His wife continues to share the burden of work at the shop, only because most of the buyers are usually Indian women. All day, they are seen purchasing Punjabi suits, some for themselves and the others to give as gifts to friends and relations. The entire business is being handled by her daughter-in-law and daughters.

After returning from India, now my wife’s thoughts are focussed on Mr Sanghera’s bungalow. Situated on the main road leading to Jalandhar city, it seems as if this bungalow were the dignity of the whole village. Though there are several other big bungalows on this road, yet Sanghera family had made their bungalow much more attractive, spending six to seven lacs of rupees merely on its front elevation decoration.

They already have adequate land in the village. Almost all their relations are living in foreign lands. Their farm house is occupied by the menial workers and now, they alone are responsible for their agricultural work. The family of one of the worker resides in the back portion of their bungalow. It is not easy even to manage and maintain such a big bungalow!

Many a time, I have talked to my wife that we also, own quite a big plot on the same road. Why can’t we too, construct a nice comfortable bungalow? It may not be as big as of Sanghera’s, let it be one third of it. Then perhaps, the young ones also may feel keen to visit India occasionally, and after retirement, let it be our holiday home.

Sometimes, we complain of the fast changing times. And sometimes, we also express a grievance why the time does not change, as we like to see it! It seems to be standing still rather we forbid it to change! The time does not care for us, though we may have an illusion like the one, that the earth is stationary.

As the door bell rings, my wife opens the door and Mrs Gupta enters along with her husband. Santosh has made them sit in the lounge. I get up from the dinning room and move towards the lounge.

“How are you Gupta Sahib?” shaking hands with him, I occupied the adjacent seat.
“I learnt that you had come back from India and I thought of enquiring after your well being,” Mrs Gupta addressing my wife Santosh, starts a conversation.
“Well! I had returned immediately after my niece’s marriage. He, my husband, stayed there for about a month after I had left.
What can I tell you about India? Time has changed. These days, everyone is selfish. All are motivated by self-interest. No one meets you without a motive in mind!” Santosh gives vent to her mind, through these complaints and grievances.
“Look! Here too, who comes to you without a purpose? How much are we concerned about someone’s welfare or interests?” I express my opinion.

Mrs Gupta gives a turn to our talk and puts forward her question, “All right, let us leave these things aside. You were telling me about starting construction of the bungalow. Have you done it?”
“But who is going to live there?” Santosh puts forward a question, in response to her question.
“Well, all people say that nobody will be able to go back and live there. Nor have we seen many people doing so. All are dying here in UK hospitals. But, whoever goes to India after retirement, on his return says, that he or she is constructing a bungalow! This thing is beyond comprehension.” Mrs Gupta wants to assess the situation.

“The people have made a few bucks and they just go on spending them, imitating one another. Show has become a fashion. I say that our people earn just for the sake of show,” saying this, Santosh looks towards us as if she were asking to give a greater deal.
She further adds, “The truth is that imitating Sanghera family, my husband also had a bee, of building a bungalow in his bonnet,” Santosh expressed herself staring at me.
Now tell me, what can I say in response? I think better to keep quiet.

Weeks elapsed and over one weekend, Mr Gupta expressed his keen desire to eat saag at our house. He is well aware that my wife, Santosh, makes a very tasty saag. I brought very fresh greens, spinach, bathu, cholai, fresh coriander and green garlic sprouts to make a saag. Sooner we put these things on the worktable in kitchen, Happy and Richu also arrive. They say, “Dad, why have you brought these weeds?”
I try to convince them that these are not weeds; rather they are concrete health giving and delicious food, as well as nutritious, full of iron and vitamins. That’s why I keep telling you that you should keep visiting the Gurdwara, along with your mother so that you get to know about the Indian food.

“Rice curry, chicken tikka, kebaab and chicken samosas, are they not Indian food? We eat out with our friends,” both of them try to overwhelm me.
“But, why not prepare at home and eat? Why wasting money outside? This evening, eat here at home and see, you will ask for it, at least twice a week.”

“We care about restaurant business, that’s why we dine out. You miser guys will never ever change.” saying this, they laugh together.

“Dad, you always talk about these old things, tell us if you have something new,” both of them, look towards us askance. Mr Gupta looks towards me and smiles gently. I try to derive some symbolic meaning, out of his mysterious smile.
Staring at me, he asks “who is to blame?”
Seeing me quiet, he adds “We simply cannot blame them and we are also not too wrong.”
“All I can say, they have every right to live their lives as they wish, and we have the similar rights as well, let’s finish here.” saying this much, I move towards the fridge to take our cold beer cans.

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