We usually holiday with my side of the family.
This is not the confession of a bullying wife. It has just somehow happened that way. When we go tripping, it is with friends or my family, and when we want to go home we go to Ghaziabad where my husband’s family lives. I will write a post one day about life in Ghaziabad when my father in law was still alive. Patriarchal is such a four letter word these days it is almost embarrassing to admit how much I enjoyed being part of that setup. Of course the fact that it always came with an end date must have had something to do with it but visits to Ghaziabad in those days were islands of serenity in my normally hectic life. For one thing, he was diabetic and had strictly enforced meal times. And then in a joint family, especially with a stern patriarch at the helm, work is distributed very evenly. The men go out to work. The elderly women – namely my mother in law – do the light work, dusting and praying. Cleaning is left to the hired help and the daughters-in-law cook a meal each.
I, in my role of city bred daughter in law was never trusted with serious cooking and bagged breakfast and dinner time roti making. Once breakfast was done and tiffins packed off for work, the lunch preparations would begin. I would invariably be asked to collect herbs for the chutneys from the little kitchen garden walled in by Ashoka trees, which activity exactly suited my agenda. The rice would be soaked at 12:40 so as to be put on the stove at 1:10 and be done by 1:20 and be just right at 1:30 for my father in law to eat after his one roti with subzi. A little buttermilk with herbs and garlic would round the whole thing off. After a quick tidying up, everyone at home would go to sleep. Not just the kids – everyone would nap! Waking up in time to make ginger tea, we would all then go for a walk, or take the kids to the park, return, eat, watch TV and sleep. Then wake up the next day and do it all over again.
Of course, every once so often we would treat ourselves with a visit to the chaat shop pushing our way through the throngs to score a plate of gol gappas or have the crispy tikkis soaked in hot imli chutney. And then there would be the seriously embarrassing trips to the local stores with my mother in law where she would pick out underwear for the family and streeeeeetch the elastic to make sure it was good quality before she decided to buy. But it was all made up for by the visits to the local bangle market – a narrow lane with tiny hole in the wall shops stacked to the roof with coloured glass bangles. How it works is, you take your saree or suit and by some miraculous internal process they pick out just the bangles to go with them from the millions in the store and make up sets and all! I do know they are just cheap tinsel but there is something about the bustle and the glitter and the bling – and that little bangle case may never be opened when I’m actually looking for something to wear but it is really the prettiest, daintiest, most feminine thing in my closet and the guilty pleasure of my heart.
What do you know, I did write that post after all!
Anyway, this is not about that. My father in law is no more, and the joint family has split up. People have moved to be closer to work, and everyone stays up as late as they want to and eat out whenever they feel like and the kitchen garden is sadly neglected. Naturally, no one has the time to sentimentalize over all this. A practical part of me is forced to admit that all the change was probably for the best. But our trips to Ghaziabad are no longer as long or as lazy as they once were. And my island of serenity is lost forever.