There were no invitations sent, just a zoom link. We logged in, like we would for any other official meeting. It was our first time attending a wedding virtually. A kind of wedding, where we sit dressed in our finest clothes waist up, but remain in pajamas waist down.
Inside the bride’s ‘personal room’ on Zoom, sat her parents in one rectangular window, and her to-be-in-laws in another rectangular window. Both the parties had logged in from India to see the couple get married in a temple in Las Vegas.
The bride popped in and out of yet another rectangular window. She wore a red and blue sari, with gold designs along its border. The 2D image did little to bring out the flow of the six-yard fabric, or the shine of the gold thread. The groom came on screen next. It was time for them to exchange garlands, and the temple priest to declare them husband and wife.
The groom’s dad played traditional wedding music on his phone. The music percolated to the rest of the windows as if there was a crack on each. Some faces within these windows remained stuck, some hidden. Meanwhile, in one of the windows, the couple was wed. We realized it when a row of hasty congratulations ensued, and the windows closed one by one like bubbles dissolving on a sheet of water.
The day continued with no remnants of a celebratory occasion, but just a faint memory that two of our close friends had started a long journey together. To that, we said cheers with a bowl of banana chocolate chip cake and vanilla ice cream.
The sweater sleeves end at the wrists, leaving the palms yearning for warmth. They rub against each other, crawl into woolen pockets, and hide in the folds of an old white throw.
There they rest, until that familiar-but-maddeningly-persistent ringing of the phone. They wriggle out, they have to, and reluctantly inch closer to the icy metallic touch screen that glows ocean blue.
The cold wrinkles the skin, numbs the fingertips and curls them shut. But open they must, to pour some chilled wine and cut some cool cucumbers.
Sometimes, to hide the shivers, the fingers cup the mouth as if in shock; run through the hair as if in doubt. They seek the heat in the folds of the neck, in the slope of the back and in the pit of the arm.
All the while blaming the sleeves that end at the wrists, leaving the palms yearning for warmth.
We welcomed the new year with a slice of pizza, a large bite of home-made beetroot chocolate cake, and a game of What do you Meme?
When the laughs died, and the friends left, we sunk into our couch, and spent the weekend watching The professor and the Madman, The one I love and The Hobbit: the desolation of Smaug.
The slow weekend dribbled into a week filled with the pressure of keeping up with new ambitious resolutions. Bursts of good news came in: A friend was getting married, another was buying a house, yet another was expecting.
Excitement hovered in the air. It was often disturbed by the familiar knocks that signaled the arrival of Amazon and Wayfair packages: a teal loveseat, a gigantic picture frame, and Turkish cotton hand towels.
Cabinets were cleaned, bedrooms were reorganized, and future plans were neatly laid on the table. New blank journals were opened and in them were written thoughts about embracing the year… no matter how it played out.
Time sometimes severs some relationships so far apart that you have to unspool some old threads of memory to sew them up. Like when meeting a high school friend after long — every conversation inadvertently begins with “Remember when…”
Home is where the bathroom door groans resisting a push; where a black cotton curtain hangs limply over the bedroom window trying its best to keep away the fierce morning light; where a faint smell of rose petals hangs loosely in the air like a fragment of memory.
Home is where a row of Lego toys sits perched on top of a shelf of books; it’s where the paint on the bathroom wall is slightly peeled off because of a stubborn artwork that refused to let go. Home is where hats and bags adorn a coat stand, and a cactus called ‘Pokey-Mon’ rests on top of a wooden chess board. Home…it’s where mornings are defined by the uproar of Nespresso machine; the clunk of the toaster; and the sight of a listless white cat that sits solemnly at the neighbor’s window.
Home is what we left seeking great adventures, but always came running back to for its yellow lights, soft mattresses, and the familiar cool temperature. It is where we loved, laughed, and grew to be better versions of ourselves, in the last two years.
Home, sweet home, is from where we leave now, with our bags, and a truck load of memories, to start anew. Only, this time, we won’t be back.
Like the wild fossa of Madagascar, my hair remains untamed. When I was a kid, I let it grow till the tip of my earlobes. Even an inch further, the mane would start poking my nape. I would lock it away from my face with a white plastic hair band that had two rows of white teeth. Sometimes, a super wide cloth band would serve the purpose. Only, it would make the back of my head look like a freshly trimmed Holly Dwarf Yaupon.
Even as I grew taller, I kept the length of my hair in check. Mushroom cut, my peers called it. Sure, it stood like the cap of Shiitake. A hair stylist suggested I go for ‘Layers’. She ran her scissors through my hair, like she was mowing a field of wild grass. In the end, they fell on my shoulders like wet hay. Until, I stepped out, and the hands of humidity ruffled it into a frizzy mess. So I paid an arm and a leg to coat it with keratin.
More recently, when the keratin wore off, I got a ‘long bob’. Reminiscent of the hairband days, the Shiitake cap slowly emerged. So I cut it further — a tapering bob. It didn’t help much. My hair still billows like a balloon when the car window is down, still gets stuck on the hinges of my shades, and still manages to knot in a way that calls for some Houdini magic to let it free. But what’s tamed is the mind, to call it a good hair day, even when everything is in tangles.
A second road trip to Ohio in less than a week. This time, we started just when the sun came up. Trees turned from blue to green, and houses from grey to brown. We drove, a light brown bag of sandwiches and Terra chips next to our feet. Every once in two hours, we stopped at a gas station, sometimes to feed our car, sometimes to simply buy a Hubba Bubba. For the rest of the journey we blew big bubbles and saw the world turn pink from inside it. We took turns to be at the wheel. While one steered, the other reclined the passenger seat all the way back, and watched the world pass by at 80 miles per hour. Trees, poles, bridges and birds moved at dizzying speeds. Above them, like a dream, floated soft fluffy clouds. If you looked hard, you saw faces in it. A kid, a monster, a man swimming, a woman sitting. All evasive, quick to hide. And just like a dream, they passed. What remained is the clear blue sky. Our only constant as we drove along an ever-changing landscape.
To me, Ohio is about watching Steve and Maggie on Youtube; walking amid half empty bottles of milk, an assortment of toys and stray crayons; eating Kirkland’s ice cream bars and madeleines; and getting kissed and hugged by the three-year-old niece.
N and I drove to Stow, Ohio, on Saturday morning. We started around 5 am, when the moon, big and bright, still dominated the blue sky. It followed us, as we began a journey of 430 miles, passing three States. In Ohio, we remained within the comfort of home, even as winds picked up speed, and swayed the trees outside. Indian home food, Malayalam movies, and lots of catch and throw. In the night, once my niece was asleep, we watched the final episode of Game of Thrones, and went to bed, a little disappointed. But the morning brought the sound of happy laughter and excited squeaks from the little one.
We painted, stuck stickers, and watched a new series, Barbie’s Life in the Dreamhouse, on Netflix. We took a little walk outside, but the wind swept her red cap away. So we walked back home.
After a heavy lunch, it was time to leave. We packed our bags, and started our drive back home. This time, there was no moon following us. Even the sun left us midway. In the darkness, guided by street lights, we crossed the 430 miles, and got back to our warm, cozy bed. Waves of silence slowly rocked us to sleep. Only to take us back to the effortless laughter of the three-year-old niece in Ohio.
As far as board game nights go, the other day was no different. In the evening, we met up at a friend’s place. Over bowls of crispy snacks, we played a round of Exploding Kittens. Dinner was ordered on Uber Eats. Indian food. Vegetable Biryani, Gobi Manchurian (crispy fried cauliflower), and baby corn fry. An hour’s wait, it showed. Meanwhile, the table was set for Pandemic. There were six of us. We formed three teams, two in each. And while the world on our board was losing to epidemics, we paused to get plates full of food, while also switching on an episode of Street Food on Netflix. It was the one focused on South Korea. Nobody watched it though. The conversations rolled from real estate prices in Mumbai to Kareem’s, the popular street food place in New Delhi. Once dinner was done, chocolate cookies were brought out, and again, the focus was pulled back to the board game. Moves were planned. Plots were designed. But still we, the whole group, lost against the game. Niceties done, good nights said, we drove back home. As far as board game nights go, the other day was no different.
Six Flags (Great Adventure) was more than about rides. It was about this red bottle which never ran out of soda. It was about the overly juicy, pesto-dripping bread that we had for lunch. Of course it was about Nitro, Batman and Bizarro, but it was also about the really funny photo captured of us shouting our lungs out. It was about waiting in line for an hour for the first row in El Toro, and of cheering for the little kid who was too scared before the ride, but too happy after. It was about getting drenched to the bones in Log Flume, and shooting with an unforeseen rage at all the 4d creatures, in Justice League. But most importantly, it was about feeling like a superhuman for one day. Floating in the sky, riding along with the wind…and getting a little closer to the bright yellow Sun.
Saturday nights are always riddled with questions. Should we order in or cook? Should we watch a movie at home or go out for one?
We decided to head out. The first wave of Spring had hit the town. Everyone, as if in obeisance to the new season, shed their jackets, and marched the streets in soft cotton shirts. At City Tap House, the bartenders filled one glass after another with chilled beer and handed it to youngsters, who sipped and licked their lips now full of beer foam. Then, in unison, they looked up at the television right above the bartender. A college basketball game was on. We stood waiting for our beers, while the crowd around us, as if rehearsed, cheered and booed together. The Tap House extended beyond the four walls, into a space overlooking the streets of Philadelphia. There we stood, watching people talk; words had begun to slur for some. Empty beer glasses, stacked one on on top of the other, grew into small pillars. With it grew the night and the noise.
Should we stay back or head home? Should we grab dinner at a Thai place or a Greek one? Saturday nights are always riddled with questions.