The Bloody Crowd

It becomes too much to expect to be able to sleep for two hours in the afternoon when you’re the only grandson in an illustrious family – the span of the illustration being quite vast.

After a morning spent in a temple without any ventilation whatsoever and watching sweaty, old men bathing idols in scented water and milk, I came back for a ghee-drenched lunch, which isn’t all that sumptuous when you can taste ghee in the water you’re drinking. After that, I “reserved” my imminent tenure as occupier of a bed with a novel but soon found it in vain after platoons of relatives arrived in Maruti 800s and Swifts – always the brand loyalists – and turned on all the lights in the house. And by all the lights, I mean all the lights, like some occultist army bearing down upon the mood lighting-seeker. Oh, the cacophony!

I should have said this in the beginning: today is my grandfather’s 79th birthday and you can find out all about its auspices in an old entry here. I’m not sure I comprehend the semantics but on such a wonderful day, he has to stand facing the east while his wife, nephews, nieces, children, their cousins, grandchildren, their cousins, and our neighbours prostrate before him and seek his blessings. Today, he’s god. I can’t quite place my finger on it but there’s an irony hidden somewhere in there. In all of this, I’m pushed and pulled all around; a brother of my grandmother who hadn’t seen me for years wanted to check if I was as tall as I seemed. I wouldn’t blame the man, though, he did have quite a horrible memory and severe astigmatism.

I don’t want to seem insensitive but sometimes (if not at all times), fat’s fat, and my cousins definitely showed it. I had short bursts of panic attacks when, one after one, they mistook my laptop for a slate and decided to scribble on it with a chalk. So, between running from my stool in the corner to where my laptop was seated on the sofa, I was uprighted, made to probe beneath cots for lost earrings, forced to recite my academic qualifications again and again (I’m from south India, where four years in Dubai means I’m a sweaty Thor Heyerdahl), get glasses of juice for anything-but-phlegmatic uncles determined to seem smarter than me when I hadn’t said a word.

Sleep would have to wait. Something had to make up for all this, I thought, something really had to. Perhaps dollar bills would be handed out to commemorate this memorable reunion, perhaps they’d offer access to some of their notable contacts along the way, perhaps… No. There’s no such thing as a free lunch1, but sure as hell there’s a lunch to be paid for with an arm and a leg.

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