For anyone who read my blog while I was away last year, you may remember talk of my adopted Indian family – a local family whom I had the honour of befriending via daily harmonium lessons with the grandad – ‘Babaji’. Over three weeks, my daily visits lengthened and became the highlight of my stay in Arambol. Read last year’s blog post.
In the house, the sons (Chandrahas and Srinivas) live with their parents (Maji and Babaji), their respective wives and an assortment of children. I am yet to totally work out whose children are whose.
Maji, though wizened and hunched, definitely rules the roost. She’s always been painfully shy around me though I have gathered that she likes my clothes and thinks I’m respectful. I bring my hands in prayer and bow slightly when saying hello and goodbye to her. Points to The Wener.
When I knew I would be returning to Goa, one of the first things I did was send them an email.
Yesterday we popped by for tea and a spot of Indian TV. Here are some of the highlights:
Chandrahas provided a TV commentary: “This is comedy programme. You can tell by the size of his moustache.”
I asked why so many Indian men had moustaches. He said it’s a sign of manliness. I asked why he didn’t have one. “It would be grey in colour” came his reply. The children laughed. They understood more English than they felt comfortable speaking.
We also watched a short programme where actors played parts of Hindu gods and goddesses. Ganesha looked fetching with a trunk down over his stomach and Shiva was very stern with his hair piled up on top of his head.
Then Chandrahas told us we were watching a drama about some families. It sounded like Eastenders but with more exaggerated expressions and dramatic music. It seemed to be a family favourite.
Tejas stayed very quiet but opened up talking in English about his favourite subjects: WWF wrestling and cricket. He informed us that England is losing in the Ashes. “It is a total whitewash.” He is about 10.
Sweda, Chandrahas’ wife, was not allowed into the living room as she had her period. She sat on a chair in the doorway and craned her neck round, eager to be included. She wasn’t allowed to touch us. Srinivas’ wife affectionately held Katharine’s hand as we sat. There was a lot of love in the room.
A neighbour popped by and looked taken aback to see the two of us sitting there. Sweda said, “She is asking how we know you. She is very surprised that you are our friends.”
Siddesh asked Katharine if someone coloured her hair. She was told it looked like Lady Di’s.
Maji brought us chai and Indian sweets in what looked like the family’s finest crockery. We drank the tea and politely ate the sweets – homemade laddus. For anyone unfamiliar with laddhus, these are balls of what Katharine described as compressed sand. I’d say they’re a bit like sawdust. You need to drink tea at the same time otherwise they coat the inside of your mouth in a claggy paste.
We ate them very slowly, nodding, making the right noises and smiling our appreciation. “You like them?” asked Chandrahas. We nodded and smiled lots. Out came two more. We ran out of tea.
After two hours Srinivas took us home on the back of his motorbike. The family waved us off.
On Monday, we’re going back for dinner and then we’ll all go to their temple for a puja (ceremony). Sweda told us that her period will be finished by then. I said that I look forward to being able to hug her.
It was so lovely to see them all again. Babaji held my hand as we said goodbye and said little. The family seemed much more relaxed than when I spent time with them last year. It felt like they were just seeing old friends and were less ‘on show’.
They made us feel so welcome and I can’t wait to go back on Monday. We’re not entirely sure what we’re in for but we know it’ll be memorable.
We’ve been lucky to get a glimpse into everyday Indian family life. They’re kind hearted and a truly wonderful family.