New beginnings are disguised as painful ends

It’s late at night and the page is blank so I turn to Laozi and Pooh bear.

Actually that’s not true. I turn to you…… to help me get the ball rolling, to create and share my and Manjula’s story. It’s the age old writer’s conundrum. As you see I have a pile of full notebooks but how to get the blank page filled to begin to start the actual story. Can you help?

If you know Manjula and I or even if you don’t 🙃 what’s the key ingredients of our story that might interest you or a wider audience. What are the main themes that will interest people?

it had to happen

 

so in planning for this project aka getting married, I didn’t use a broker, check her horoscopes, or caste, ask her mum (Dad’s dead), expect her to pay for the happening, confirm her status and job, check the flatness of her foot, ponder on her mum’s occupation, I did find out a lot about her, was impressed with her surviving a difficult childhood, her fortitude and stamina throughout life, her flexibility and adaptability in managing and thriving through uncertain and unexpected situations, her compassion and care after such an astonishing series of difficulties throughout her life, things that I couldn’t have even begun to guess about… I did fall in love with her as a person, her humour, her compassion, her beauty both inside an out, her thought for others. her active seeking to help others out, her tolerance of the stupidity of some around her, i hesitated for years as I was concerned that she was in a vulnerable position as employee, an ethical challenge of the first order, but eventually we did come together and i wonder now what did she check out about me…

 

its been a bit weird as we’re open about our situation with all our guests at Mysore bed and breakfast, many of whom have now become good friends, our establised friends here and abroad knew of our relationship but we have chosen to be discreet here in our own immediate locality and have kept our relationship a secret from her family. Not because of the cross cultural India/British aspects, they’re more easily overcome but because the neighbours, well they might frown upon it because our different societal positions (she’s from a poor background) and because if her family knew we’d never hear the end of it not least, with the constant requests for handouts.

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so this was back home immediately after the ‘registry’ office. A few days later a wonderful team came together to create a most memorable event most unlike anything that the majority of indians would accept as a wedding, but for us it was perfect.

another one of the difficulties

yes, there was a happening a few weeks ago.

as if Manjula hasn’t had enought to deal with in her life…

she decided to ‘tie the knot’ to a man beyond her years (the age gap is NOT that BIG – ed) and she’s chosen a man from Yorkshire, I ask you! What is she thinking of?

Here’s part one, of this bit of our story.

This is India so you’ll appreciate that getting married is organised differently, obviously and it’s like a TV adventure challenge game,  to be able to spot, be ready for and to respond to the unexpected.

There are three types of marriage. Hindu, Muslim and special. So obviously we went for the special one.. of course (aren’t they all?) .. but actually because Manjula is Hindu and I’m ill-defined (in so many ways)  😉 there is no real option. Next decision is, do you have a ceremony and then retrospectively get the Governments approval, certificate thing or do you do the registry thing first with a follow up ceremony sometime later. We decided to do the latter, with an exceedingly loose definition of ‘ceremony’.

First things first… go to the registry office  on 24th Jan, (as you can see its not exactly a marriage place, its where non-movable sales are registered!) … together with your kind, patient witnesses, with many ID photos, properly completed forms, various forms of ID, (you know the pack drill from our earlier escapades) and ‘bang’ you’re off….. the start of the thirty nail-biting days (yeah, really)  with your details posted on the noticeboard, inviting comment or maybe just derision. You’ll understand, its just to anounce your nuptials and check that no one objects to us getting married. so the machinery is well and truly in motion and that was quite easy…. I’m assuming someone actually asked the UK High Commission! I think I read somewhere that as a cost cutting exercise that the UK Government doesn’t now respond to such requests. Well, we’ll have to see.

Nevermind let’s thank the witnesses: Tanu, Vasanth and Sudha, with a well deserved lunch..

So you’ve seen the photos, and that’s just to begin the process, I think you get the gist of what it’d going to be like to actually get married at the registry office… a bit chaotic.

Anyway on the 26th Feb 30 days are up… me being me, I went to the office to speak to the head honcho, to check all was OK.

There had been no objections, phew! Did I need to do or bring anything? (I know my stuff, I’ve lived here eight years and I can get a bit anal when planning things. So I’m double checking.)

No….. no need for anything else…

1st March

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So its the first BIG day…..

remember its in an office where they register land sales, houses, things like that… lets just say its a hectic Indian office. Its not geared up for anything fancy.

So it’s nigh on impossible to pinpoint the exact moment when the actual marriage took place .

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Was it the entry of the data on the computer?

rushing off to get extra photos? (the boss was wrong, we DID need extra ID photos, I should have anticipated that one, could we find a photo shop to do some more? no we bloody couldn’t, so quick nip home),

the colour copying of the photos? (so that the mixed ones all taken at different times that I’d managed to find, looked the same),

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was it the sticking of the photos on the certificate?

was it one of the many documents we signed, or maybe the flitting from one desk, to kiosk and back again, queue here, queue there, stick it in, stick it out, shake it all about..

Bloody chaos? nah, just normal.

sugar… next problem, the registrar isn’t in the office today, what to do?… its just not a problem,  a sidekick signed. its as easy as that. Unexpectedly, I get the feeling that this journey might be marginally easier, here than in the UK.

So when was the actual moment the two were brought together.. who knows?

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This will have to do.

But we all know it’s over and done when Vasanth hands out the sweets! 🙂

Well that was the official thing,

we’d have to do something else, but we need help, so lets drag in the guests to help out……

next installment, the actual ceremony.

Photo credits, shot by Tomy Gunn

Farrell Footnote

there’s a couple of earlier blog entries that provided early clues that this might happen, check this entry and the weird form we were expected to complete, notice from the date, how long this project was in the planning. There is a whole other story about this delay that we can’t quite reveal at this stage….

You might also be interested in this original declaration from the old man, why I’m so happy

Maid in India 5

so, to explain the job. Ok we don’t speak the same language, she’s probably a little worried and intimidated, coming to work for an unknown quantity: foreigner, male, living on his own, can be a bit loud and over-energetic… so of course, I used my well developed training skills. …… and got out the whiteboard, flapped my arms and generally danced around a bit. I seriously wonder what she thought. On many occasions she shown people the photo of my drawings. Promptly followed by sniggers and giggles.

So I wonder what she really thought of working for a Firangi!

Firangi’s Fortunes

He was breathless, panting, with bulging eyes. What was amiss? Was he having a heart attack? would I have to scramble around in my messy brain for the First Aid Training from over 40 years ago?

He was completely speechless,  flummoxed and didn’t know what to do.

But relax dear reader it wasn’t a life or death situation.

He’d unexpectedly met a foreigner.

Foreigners

We’re often asked by guests at Mysore BnB why, as foreigners travelling in India, do we get so much attention? Whether it’s wonderful hellos, gorgeous smiles, penetrating questions, endless photos, now the ubiquitous ‘selfie’ and almost constant stares.

 

When I first travelled in Kerala,  I found myself with a Frenchwoman in a small Elephant procession but it was us, the foreigners and not the Elephant that seemed to be the main attraction. It felt as if we were the first foreigners these guys had ever seen but that was patently not true.  We are so often the centre of attention.

How could  that be with such lovely specimens…..?

It hasn’t changed that much after living here seven years.

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I often wonder who’s watching who? It’s sometimes unwanted and annoys some people  but its pretty harmless. But why? As always and especially in India there is not one, nor easy or consistent answer.

A blessing

On one of my first visits to Mysore. Early one morning, I’m sitting at a corner watching the city come to life.  An elderly Indian lady walks up touches a cow (which of course is a god!) and then touches herself as if to take a blessing. She then does exactly the same to me! How come?

Some may see us as special even exotic and there seems to be at least, a certain reciprocity there.

One of the downsides of all this, is of course, that it relates to seeing someone with lighter skin as better and in that case it should be relegated to the dustbin along with the ‘fair and lovely’ creams. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Guest is God!, but not always…

Nowadays

Just last week we went to see another (first floor) house to rent.

Manjula had called the owner to get details and the price. It sounded ok. So we arranged to see it. It didn’t quite go to plan.  We hadn’t revealed that I, a foreigner, was involved. This was to help ensure we’d get a fairer Indian price. The owner pulled up outside the house of his two-wheeler. Manj and I were waiting and the ladies from the downstairs house were hanging around and chatting.

He’s the guy I began to describe at the beginning of this piece.

Let’s say he was speechless but it might best describe his initial response to say he was shocked and stunned. When he slowly began to gather his senses (OK don’t expect too much here) he said it was “only available for vegetarians”. The shocking foreigner before him obviously was a rabid Christian carnivore. Well, I’d got him there, I’ve been a veggie for 40 years.

sorry ….. the cogs whirred a bit more

“It’s for family and not bachelors.”  Well as I’m nearly 60 with grown up kids I’m not exactly family but neither am I bachelor and I’m not planning to have all night parties. So I sort of hit him with that in my inestimable western logical sort of way. I must admit though I wasn’t winning him over.

Finally we got it. It wasn’t available to a foreigner. It’s the Firangi Flop. End of story so we’re not just special!!  I gave him a bit about being a guest in his country (Famous saying Atithi Devo Bhava: ‘Guest is God’  clearly didn’t apply here), that I’d been renting from a member of his ‘community’ (this guy is a vegetarian Lingayat as are my current house owners) for seven years, kept a clean house, paid rent on time, blah blah blah. To no avail. So that house is off the list and he’s not getting a Christmas Card! 😉

We tried it again with a lovely small house just down the road, same problem.

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It does however reflect a common fact here, not unlike elsewhere. Traditionally, local people’s friends are quite rigidly defined, social networks and milieu are of their community, a term which locally means: where they are from, who they worship and their caste. No difference from the rest of the world eh? but prejudice here is incredibly transparent. They haven’t learned to hide it behind ‘politically correct’ camouflage. Appealling to ‘vegetarians only’ is code. Outsiders need not apply. It specifically means:  it’s only for higher caste (Brahmin), Jain or Lingayat. In this case, it’s based on even more prejudice and only available to people from Rajasthan , who are themselves, of course, in-comers or oft-comers as we’d say in Yorkshire.

So we’re special but we’re also outsiders.

In my view its part of the iceberg which  also relates to extreme politics, we’re seeing  around the world and that touches on people being disconnected from each other, xenophobia, anti-immigration and intolerance,  but that story is for another time.

Maybe, as always, I leave the last word to Manj.

Here’s Manjula ‘s view from a couple of years before working for me.

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over nine years ago, the time when I lived at my brother’s place. Once my brother’s wife and I were out to purchase something from a shop, it’s a small village, it comes after Hassan, it’s called Salgami. On our way back home we saw 2 foreigners, a couple, they were cycling. My brother’s wife said in astonishment, “Look how these English people are cycling in our village. I think they like to see villages.” She continued, “If you work at an English person’s house you will earn well enough, they’ll offer you good food, nice and rich food. Imagine, if I was not married, I would have worked at an English person’s house. I would have eaten the same food as they did, I would be happy and jolly. “
I said, “Ayyayappa! English person’s house? A big NO to their house. They eat insects, they eat all kinds of meat, they eat cow’s meat, pig’s meat and what not! And a few also eat insects.” I said this as I had watched in television; in a few shows which showed them eating many creatures “
She said, “It’s not necessary that everyone eats. The ones who eat will eat and there are the ones who don’t eat at all. “
Later we reached home.

After 6 months, I came to Mysore. Look what happened with me? The same thing what my brother’s wife had said, I got a job at an Englishman’s house! I remember Stephen had asked for a maid for this house, a girl or an old lady. I was lucky to find his house and he was lucky to find me.
I was wondered thinking about all kinds of meat I might have to cook. Later I heard it from Vasanth that Stephen was looking for only vegetarian food to be cooked. “Thank God!” I was relieved.
I eat chicken, mutton and fish. I can cook them all but if it was any other meat I wouldn’t have touched it. I would have reluctantly said “NO” to cook any other meat.

so we’re special, crazy, outsiders, or maybe…

We’re just weird…

Farrell Factoid

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The final section above is taken from the digital recordings that Manjula has made in Kannada and have been transcribed by our good friend Vidya, for me to share via the blog. This is the first quote from this treasure trove.

 

 

 

Firangi is an old term for Foreigner, usually white, westerner and possibly British now we’re referred to, rather boringly, as plain old ‘foreigner’ or even “American’, I think it was originally Persian and Jonathan Gil Harris describes some in the ….

The First Firangis