Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tamil Nadu, India - The Journey & Day 1

Home sweet home... Alhamdulillah everything went off smoothly. Yasmin was a bit feverish on the last day but we were prepared with medicine.

We reached Madras International Airport at 2230 local time. The immigration did not give us any trouble at all & in fact they were pretty friendly. Well, perhaps we were lucky. The one attended to us was an elderly man & seeing my young girls he kind of softened.

It was an old airport. A new one should be ready in 2 years time. The walk to the exit was way too long for us. Perhaps the lack of sleep in the flight contributed to the situation. Once outside I was surprised to see the many people waiting. Softly in my heart I was wondering what if we could not find our dear Uncle Guthoose.

As I was minding the younger girls, I saw my father in law (FIL) who was leading the troop put a halt & gave someone a hug. Yes indeed, we found Uncle Guthoose & his wife, Aunty Parveen. It was such a warm welcome & deep inside I knew it was a beginning to something beautiful.

They ushered us to the side of the road. Uncle instructed us to wait by the roadside as he went to get the Tempo Van he had rented for our comfortable stay in India. Whilst waiting Aunty took out something from her handbag & presented a Kit Kat & a Cadbury bar to each of her grandchildren. What a lovely sight to see her distributing the goodies ... Sleepy eyes suddenly were widely awake :-)

The Tempo Van was not bad at all. At a glace it reminded me to the Britz we rented when we were in NZ. Remember? The motor home? It was white & huge enough for our party of 11. As I climbed in I knew it would be a comfortable ride. It was equipped with 14 seats.

From Chennai we had to travel to Uncle's place in Thanjavur which is 342km away but due to the road condition it took us a 7 hrs ride. This was the most challenging part of this trip. However, come to think of it was really not bad compared to my other previous experiences traveling. We were most of the time sleeping in the mini bus or trying our best to sleep. The younger ones had no issues at all. They slept for almost the entire journey. Nadeen especially. HB & I took turn carrying her.

We arrived in Thanjavur safely the next morning. Nadeen woke up the moment I stepped inside Uncle's beautiful house. It was not a good sign because my tired body longed for a bed but Nadeen was wide awake & active!

We freshened up. The room was air-conditioned & the hot water in the bathroom completed our coziness. As we climbed down the staircase such scrumptious aroma welcomed us. Breakfast was served. Aunty, though how tired she must have been went to the trouble instructing her 3 helps with our first meal in India.

Brothers - my FIL & Uncle Guthoose

I think breakfast was meant for a king! We had varieties of Indian foods. From Vade, Puree, Thosai, Idly to the sauces like chutney, dhall curry & potato marsala. All in one meal!! We had started to fall in love with this country... After breakfast we had a chat in the living area. But slowly one by one retired & surrendered ourselves in dreamland.

I was dreaming of Vade when an earsplitting noise woke me up. Nadeen was next to me playing with an alarm clock! I remembered telling Wardah to monitor Nadeen while I napped. Perhaps she got bored & sneaked out. The condition of the room was not actually a pretty sight. Nadeen was still new to the house so she wouldn't go further away from me. But I found our luggage ransacked & baby powder sprinkled on the floor & bed!

Wardah rushed in upon hearing the alarm clock. Gave some excuses that Nadeen was out of control. Didn't blame her because Yasmin was trusted with a more interesting task that was to take care of Balqis. They were on the flat rooftop playing.

The alarm clock incident caused me a mild headache. Searched for the PCM I brought along from home & headed to the kitchen to get a glass of water. One help was busy cooking. Another was asking whether I had dirty clothes to wash. Uncle & Aunty were no where to be seen. They were napping as well I assumed. Found Sajitha, Uncle's only daughter with her baby Ameera. We chatted & she was really bubbly telling me about my newly discovered relatives.

Sajitha Maryam & baby Ameera

After Friday prayers we had lunch together. You wouldn't believe what lunch was... Mutton Briyani with freshly squeezed orange juice! Not forgetting fried chicken. I was too scared to think of dinner!

Our Lunch

Balqis helping herself to her favourite -fried chicken

In the evening we visited Aunty's relatives who stay in the neighbourhood. Even though we are merely related by marriage, their hospitality was marvelous. We had the chance of meeting Aunty Parveen's mother. I think she is close to 90 years old. She didn't understand English & we knew nothing of Tamil but her ways & gestures hugging & kissing us were tremendously affectionate. It touched me deeply!

We had a tour of the town Thanjavur afterward. It was a quick one. Didn't even step down from the mini bus. (Sorry no photos. My point & shoot is missing... It's either somewhere in this house or it still in vacation right across the Bay of Bengal)

What awaited us at Uncle's was dinner... Aunty promised to keep it simple but her fish curry was nothing ordinary. Homemade spices, that was the trick ;-)

I was the first to retire that night. Nadeen had no choice but to join me. The next day would be the reunion of my FIL with his 3 sisters. A big day...

*to be continued

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Reunion

I have just finished packing. A chore which I wish someone could complete it for me. But thinking of the many things that might be left out, I might as well do it myself. Yes, we are going off again. This time it's to Incredible India.

This trip is a holiday cum a reunion & what better timing than this month of Syawal. The elder girls at the beginning were not so keen to go. The thought of having to skip school for a week isn't that appealing to them. Anyhow, I recently realised that the only days they are cutting class are this Friday & the following Monday. Thanks to the extra raya break & the UPSR.

Not many are aware or even crossed their mind that HB has Indian blood flowing in his body. His late paternal grandfather originated from India. It has always been HB's dream to take his father to India & visit his late grandfather's grave. But he didn't know where to start. Early this year his intention was made easy by dear Uncle Guthoose.

It was the day when my PILs' place in Klang received a surprised guest all the way from India. It was my FIL's half brother whom he didn't know he had. OK, let me guide you to memory lane. I have always been a good & tentative listener to my FIL & here I am putting them into words.

Uncle Ghuthoose is the one in blue with his wife next to him. My PILs are far behind, standing.

Arwah atuk (my late grandfather) came from a wealthy family in India. He was married to a local there but she died at a young age. They had a son but arwah atuk was devastated with grief & left India for Malaya. He was a good man. An honest merchant. His fluency in English helped the locals to communicate with the English who then were ruling the country. Due to his kindness, he was offered to marry a local girl, arwah nenek (my late grandmother).

They were granted with 3 children. A girl, the eldest & 2 younger boys. My FIL is the elder son. At the same time when arwah atuk & nenek were living happily, arwah atuk's mother in India was hunting for him. She sent a search party to Malaya & they found him. Arwah atuk wanted to take his wife along but her family in Malaya rejected. So off arwah atuk went alone.

In India, his mother was overwhelmed to see him but he didn't know her other intention. He was to marry another local girl in India as to secure the family wealthiness. It was a forced marriage which even Uncle Guthoose admitted it (my FIL was happy to know this new piece of news). Arwah atuk had always been an honourable person & when it came to his mother he had nothing but to give in. From that day arwah atuk had to cross the Bay of Bengal often to visit both his family in Malaya & India.

Being the eldest son in the family my FIL had to sacrifice a lot. He was most of the time the head of the family since arwah atuk's nature of work as a merchant required him to travel. It was when arwah atuk passed away that life became more difficult for his little family in Malaya. My FIL had to do all kinds of work even at his young age to support the family. They were poor to the bone.

I have always lent my ears whenever he starts telling me about his past years. From there I gather why it is only now he has agreed to meet his step siblings in India. Uncle Guthoose somehow has opened his heart to accept them.

I still remember the day when my MIL gave us a call. She would normally talk to me & ask about my girls. But on that particular day, she asked straight away for HB. Once they were done talking, HB made this announcement.

"Let's go to Klang. We have guests. Family from India!"

Even I was nervous with this small reunion. My concern was my FIL. How would he take it...?

The moment our car was parked at the front yard, I saw a glimpse at the door. My girls rushed in to get their grandparents but it was this man with my FIL's resemblance who greeted them. He put on this cordial smile & the spark of happiness showed in his eyes was genuine. My girls shook his hand & kissed it as we normally respect the elders here. His response was the light pinch on the tip of my girls' nose. Pretty much like the Hindi movie I used to watch! ;-) Once I saw my FIL's face, I knew it was a great sign.

Tonight, InsyaAllah we will again be meeting Uncle Guthoose & through him, we will meet the rest of the clan in India. To think of the heat & the 7 hours drive from the airport to Thanjavur (the town Uncle Ghuthoose resides) gives goosebumps. My prayer for our safe & easy journey. Amin... So India, here we come!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Salam Aidilfitri

It's raya again...! Why do I feel that it was only recently we celebrated Aidilfitri? Where has my raya spirit gone too? Guess it went off as my wrinkles start to look more prominent!

Alhamdulillah... I had managed fulfilling my responsibilities as a Muslim in this month of Ramadhan. Wardah fasted for the whole month & Balqis did pretty well with 10 days. For a first timer, she really impressed us.

Today is the 4th of Syawal & HB has started working. As expected, he was on duty on Aidilfitri. Was away on raya eve but he returned home on the very next morning. Obviously, he was awake the whole night! HB anyhow, was on time for morning prayer. He drove straight to the mosque & was the only one without a baju melayu ;-) and later hit the sack after we seeked for forgiveness.

This year we left for Rembau a little bit later than usual. Originally the plan was to drive to Rembau on the 2nd day of Syawal but the elder girls rejected the idea with pouting mouths. HB changed his mind & agreed to satisfy his girls (his wife too of course!). Hence, we drove off to Rembau sometime after 3pm.

I'm playing hostess in a few hours time. Need to check on the food again. So let the photos do the talking of our Aidilfitri this year.

The girls with their cousin

The girls with their mom

The girls' mom & dad

The girls with their dad ( courtesy from jabishah's collection except for the sampin ;-))

Raya portrait this year ( I really don't know what made Nadeen annoyed ;-))

The girls with their paternal family

The girls with wan nyang in Rembau

The house has a new look. It goes green this year...

Wan Nyang at her favourite spot

To my readers, Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. Maaf Zahir Batin.