Maintenance, a path less trodden -Journey to a fitter me.

Image Courtesy-

Image Courtesy-

You are familiar with the drill, the rigor, the sequence, the intensity. You know it all. You have reached the desired goal. Your bathroom scales have consistently shown you ten kilos lighter than when you began a few years back. You are happy and positive with the achievement. You know it was possible only because you had set your mind to achieving it. Yeah, you had your coach to help you along the way but in the end it was all YOU. The coach herself said that. So you become smug.

When your coach announces that she will not be able to continue to train you because she has decided to pursue bigger goals, you are supportive. With all the bravado you can muster, you assure her that you won’t fall off the track that you have been laid out. You will continue to make wise food choices, workout regularly (why, you may even commit thrice a week) and keep her posted on your progress. You even joke, ‘God forbid, I need you again!’

Then for the first few weeks you give yourself a ‘well deserved break’. You are mentally relieved that you don’t have to wake early to make it to the workout; you find more time to do other things.  You snooze that extra hour, meet a friend for coffee, watch a movie and spend some ‘catch up’ time on whats-app and social networks.  You pamper yourself and boy it feels good.  When your family and friends look at you with envy and say that you look younger, fitter and agile for your age, you tell them that all it needed was consistent effort.

Then the schools close and the family decides to go on a vacation.  You convince yourself that you will get back to your workout schedules when you are back from the holiday. Your vacation was going to be ‘active’ anyway. How much damage can it do to stay off exercise for a few more weeks?

All too soon, four months have passed by.  You are yet to restart your workout. You get used to not setting aside time for exercise, not thrice, but even once a week. Who has the time? There is always so much to do. Then one morning you decide to check if the batteries in the digital weighing machine still work. You cannot believe your eyes when the numbers soar up to 3 kilos plus than how much you weighed just a few weeks back. It definitely must be a faulty battery?

Soon afterward, your coach reaches out with a cheerful ‘Hey what’s up! Want to catch up for lunch?’ It is the beacon of light you were hoping to see to shake you up from your disinclination for activity. You are both relieved and guilty at the same time. You agree to meet with enthusiasm. You look for the most flattering outfit you have in your wardrobe to make you look the same as you did four months back.  Who are you fooling?  One look at you and her eyes take in all the details. She is too kind to point out and tell you to your face that under that entire pretense that you are in control, she knows just how much you are spilling out. Yeah that is right. That is exactly what I got told.

Anybody who has been on an exercise regimen under the watchful eyes of a coach or a trainer will agree with me.  When we decide to continue to walk the path of maintenance independently, we often fail. What is it about working out alone that is scary or boring that we just don’t seem to even want to attempt it? Does that mean you are addicted to your coach? Wasn’t it ‘all your doing’ that you achieved what you did? Then what stops you now?

I am not the first person who has felt this way. All the people I have known during my years with my coach have either fallen off the track or continued working out with other trainers. Even though I have managed to include other forms of exercise (yoga, for example) and continue to walk the daily 5km, when it comes to weight training, I am just not enthusiastic about doing it on my own.

If you are someone who is an exception to the rule and have managed to stick to the discipline of working out no matter who is watching, then tell me how you do it! But, if you are like me and many of us who are slack and need a coach or trainer to keep us engaged, engrossed and disciplined about exercise, then come on, we have to form a group and fight it!

Either way, write to me.

This is in continuation of the series of blog posts that I had written two years back in March 2013 that you will find on this blog. The link to the first of the posts of the 8-part blog titled ‘ Journey to a fitter me’ is here.


It’s a man thing.

Maybe I expect a lot from people who work in the hospitality industry. I once worked in it too and a lot was expected of me. So you can understand why I think what happened to me is worth blogging about.

It all began with my need for a sanitary pad. Now before you blame me for lacking clairvoyance in matters related to this, I was sure we had brought a big bag of them when we left home. We were traveling in Australia and I was due for the inevitable cycle to begin that week. We were stepping out to sight see the whole day and just to be safe than sorry, I dug into our over spilling suitcase for the ‘accessory’ I needed and to my dismay didn’t find the pack.

We were right in the middle of civilization and there was no need to panic except that it was seven in the morning and none of the stores would open for another 2 hours. We had checked into a hotel of repute and surely the house keeping department was prepared for such exigencies. So I called the Front Office and a male voice answered.  I asked for the required assistance and he politely said he will have to call me back after he had made some inquiries.

Ten minutes later, he apologetically called to explain that the hotel couldn’t help me and that I may have to procure what I needed from a store outside. Up until then what I suspected may happen, seemed incredibly likely to! I tried to stay calm. I decided to cross the bridge when I came to it. To cut a long story short, the inevitable did not happen. I also managed to pick the needed accessory at a store before the day was done.

We were checking out the next morning and I happened to use the rest room at the hotel lobby before we left for the airport. To my chagrin and utter disbelief, I spotted a sanitary pad dispenser in the confines of the washroom. I reprimanded the world traveler in me. Why hadn’t it occurred to me to check here instead of asking the FOA? Then the humiliation turned to anger. Why was the employee not informed about this option? When I brought it up with my husband, he stood up for the FOA. According to him, the FOA was a male and he wouldn’t have known!

The dispenser

The dispenser that I spotted in the rest room seemed to wink at me.


I was ready to make a protest. I wanted to educate the entire Front Office staff at Novotel Sydney about the situation knowing that such requests may come up frequently. The male FOA who ‘helped’ with my request was nowhere in the scene that morning.  Two women FOAs were busy checking in cheerful travelers and also our airport pick up was waiting at the curb.

I decided then to write them a feedback once I was back home and once I was done blogging about it. Have you had a similar experience during your travel?

Dog gone Orchard!

Maxx loves it when the plants are green and wet

Maxx loves it when the plants are green and wet

It is not often that I give the option to Maxx to decide which route we will take for our walks. Being the human, I pretty much decide the route or how long we will walk depending on the time I have on the said day. However, I do let Maxx have a say on days I feel indulgent.

Like today.

It was a rainy morning, as is usual for Singapore when the North East monsoon hits the island. Typically, I would request Siti, my helper, to walk Maxx in such weather just long enough for him to answer nature’s calls and keep the walking schedule with the intent of exercise for later. Siti however is away at Palembang to spend time with her family and that leaves me in charge of the family, dog et al for the next 30 days.

Both Maxx and I were going to miss her more than the others in the family. Maxx loves stepping out with Siti, who takes him out on the lunches and dinners with friends and makes sure he gets doggie treats.  For Maxx, walking with Siti is like a field trip. Slow paced walk, loads of time to sniff at interesting corners, an opportunity to hang out with other dogs, whose humans were friends of Siti’s, rest time when she poses for photos for her Facebook profile etc. I will miss Siti too, but for different reasons.

When the morning dawned, I knew it was going to be crazy. School term began today, Siti was leaving for her holiday and to top it all, it was raining. As always, Maxx lay on the floor, just outside the kitchen, watching me broodingly through half closed eyes as I busied myself fixing breakfast for the daughter and husband. A few minutes after Akank left for her school bus, he looked up at me expecting me to say, “Want to go for a walk, Maxx?.” I believe dogs can tell time. How else do you think Maxx knows that it is 7am in the morning and time for his walk? If I hope to enjoy a cup of coffee or read anything, I better be done before 6.59 am.

Knowing that I had no choice, I stepped out; umbrella in one hand and the dog lead in the other. Just out of the gate, Maxx decided to play tough. When he does not want to walk the direction I want to walk, he stands rooted to the spot. When I turned around and looked at him, he stared right back at me, defiantly.  No amount of tugging at the lead or coaxing him with endearments cut any ice with him. So I did what works every time; I had a conversation. Often times, I have noticed people looking over their shoulders, watching me talk to my dog.

 “You don’t want to go this way, Maxx? Defiant stare.

“Alright. Then you tell me what you want to do?” Blinks eyes.

“Do you want to go back home, Maxx?” Flares his nostrils, continues to stare without blinking.

“Ok. You show me which way you want to go and I will go with you, Ok? ” Usually this works. He either starts moving in the direction that he wants to go or wags his tail.

But today, he continued to stare back. He would not budge, move or trace his paw steps back home. I had to tug at the lead a couple of times to tell him I meant business.  Maxx sensed that he had no option and decided to walk along. Along the way, at the traffic lights he slowed down and leaned to the side of the road he wanted to go. I decided to humor him. I crossed the road and let him lead the way.  He cleverly chose covered areas which protected him from the constant drizzle of the rain. “Good boy, Maxx.” I kept the conversation going.

He seemed to know where he was heading, even though the route he chose was not a familiar walking route for me. He made me cross another street and walked towards a park. I smiled and continued indulging him and before I knew it, we were right on Orchard road, Singapore’s most popular tourist attraction!  Who knew Maxx was the ‘window shopping at malls’ kind?

It was very early in the morning and other than a few commuters, corporate people walking to their day jobs and night security guards that were stationed outside some of the malls, Orchard road was pretty quiet.  The huge television screens were live, blinking advertisements that fascinated Maxx and held his attention, he looked at display windows and mannequins and wagged his tail at some of them, and he peeked at his own reflection on the glass panes as we walked past. His tongue was out on one side and he looked happy. The best part of the route he chose was that he managed to stay dry in the covered corridors.

We turned at the Scape Youth Park at Orchard Link which is a colorful recreational park for young people. The rain washed grass looked green and by just looking at Maxx  sniffing at it, I can tell it smelt fresh too. We got back home in lesser time than it took for our usual morning walks but I can bet my last dollar, much happier.

I cannot wait for all the adventures that I will have with Maxx in the coming days.

Mt. Bromo to Malang

Mother in law, husband and daughter posing for the camera.

Mother in law, husband and daughter posing for the camera.

We all have our reasons why we travel on a holiday. The reasons vary with age. Nothing could be more horrific than having a group of people who travel together who don’t share the same reason. We were a family of four, including my husband, daughter and mother in law. My 14 year old daughter, Akanksha’s idea of a holiday is to wake late, hit the pool, play the piano, eat good food, take pictures for instagram and listen to music on her iPod. Our reason as a couple was to discover a new city, visit the sights, enjoy the road trip that throws you in a confined space for hours at stretch when you have no other option but talk to each other. Of course good food and photos are a given. My mother in law is enthusiastic about travelling. She does not let her age or health interfere in the enthusiasm. She wants to go anywhere we take her before ‘her day is near’. And if there are dilapidated ruins of a Hindu temple in the itinerary then she definitely wants in!

Day 2 of our holiday began early. Very early.  Right there you have a reason why our daughter was not too happy. We were scheduled to be at the point of view to watch the sunrise at Mt.Bromo as early as 5 am. The drive from the hotel to the point of view was a little over an hour. We had to drive on a stretch of sandy caldera in the dark. Dark kind of described Akank’s mood as well since she had lost her protest about wanting to stay back and miss the grand event.

The beautiful sunrise at Mt.Bromo

The beautiful sunrise at Mt.Bromo

There were other 4 X 4 Toyotas and two wheelers that were on the road and everybody seemed to be heading the same way as us. The sunrise we witnessed from the point of view has to be experienced because no words can do justice to the description. The valley below glimmered. We saw the rays of the sun exactly the way a renowned artist would draw them in his masterpiece. Breathtaking. Everyone was going crazy with their cameras, iPads and iPhones. Thank fully the event was so dramatic that it cheered up Akank as well.

The scene at the foot of Mt.Bromo that morning

The scene at the foot of Mt.Bromo that morning

Our next stop was at the mouth of the crater on Mt.Bromo. This needed us to get back into the jeep and drive another 6 kms towards the foot of Mt. Bromo. The jeep took us to 3/4th distance to the foot of Mt. Bromo. From there we had to go on horseback. The horse ride was an adventure by itself. The black volcanic sandy ground that the horse had to tread on was uneven and that made it extra challenging, and not just for the horse. The local tribes who owned the horses walked the horse slowly and surely as we rode on them. My only thoughts were  to stay on the horse all the time or risk being trampled upon by the other horses that were behind us.

That is us on horse back.

That is us on horse back.

Akank and GSR seemed to mount and dismount the horses like it was second nature to them. When I mounted the horse, I held on to the halter that made the poor horse rear up and neigh! (My imagination was unbridled – In my mind I was already galloping towards the crater with one of my foot in the stirrup and the rest of me being dragged on the black sand) Nonetheless, nothing dramatic happened and we soon found ourselves at the foot of the mountain from where we had 250 concrete steps to climb to reach the mouth of the crater.

Taking a breather enroute

Taking a breather enroute

My lungs were overworked and it was a test of cardio vascular fitness that when I reached the top, I had to stop and catch my breath before I let the crater take my breath away. What a sight. Who would have imagined that I would one day stand at the mouth of an active crater looking into it and clicking pictures of it, surviving it to write about it on my blog? Blessed are the ways of Lord Srinivasa.

We got back to the hotel hungry for a decent breakfast and  shower before we left for our next leg of sightseeing for the day.

Our next stop was the old dilapidated remains of the temple of Singosari, the oldest Hindu kingdom in Java. No points for guessing whose day was made. Many damaged stone sculptures of Hindu Gods were still displayed in the complex. Sam told us that most of the damage was done by volcanic eruptions and not Hindu- Muslim enmity as you would like to imagine. So far, from what I observed, Javanese people seemed peace loving and not fanatic about their religion or practices.

The Singosari temple and the broken sculptures of Hindu Gods

The Singosari temple and the broken sculptures of Hindu Gods

We were on road the rest of the day, driving towards Malang, our next destination. Sam kept us engaged in small talk the entire time. He was a proud Javanese man and had only good things to talk about his country and his fellow countrymen. Java according to Sam has one of the most fertile lands on Earth (I double checked the claim and Google confirmed that land near volcanoes are considered to be the most fertile soils.) Java has over 40 mountains – 15 of which are in East Java – of which half of them volcanoes and half of those volcanic mountains are active.

According to Sam the people of Java are very industrious and get involved in anything that can make them money. Make a note; you seem to have missed out Java in your survey. We passed a lot of small shops on wheels on the roadsides and many of them had “Kunci” written on them. Sam told us that the word meant keys and all those little kiosks made spare keys. If you counted the number of Kunci’s we passed, it would seem that there were many people losing keys in Java.

It was nearly evening when we reached Malang. Malang is the second largest city after Surabaya and has a reputation of being Indonesia’s center for higher education and learning. It has over 15 Universities and most of them along the prestigious Ijen Boulevard that is also lined with old colonial Dutch houses. Sam pointed out to a few students and called them mahasiswas (students of the university).

We checked into The Hotel Tugu late in the evening and were quite intrigued to find out  why Tripadvisor that had given the hotel 4.5 stars. I have pictures of the hotel to share, so will make that a separate post.

Monkey business

One of the monkeys at the Nupura Gangai temple at Madurai

One of the monkeys at the Nupura Gangai temple at Madurai

I found out a few years back how Singapore did not tolerate crows, but that they have a general zoophobic attitude dawned on me now, from the events that have enshrouded my neighborhood in the past week- all after a pesky little monkey decided to stray into our condominium looking for food.

Monkeys aren’t a common sighting in this affluent country. Unless you live in the vicinity of a national park, you probably will never get to see one swinging from the trees. In India, any Hindu temple on a mound or a hill would be swarming with these primates so much so that parents convince children to go to the temples with promises of monkey sightings more than seek blessings from the divinity. We even venerate them as Hanuman, the monkey God.

A few days back, someone in the condo spotted a lone monkey hopping on to the balconies of some flats looking for food. The sighting triggered off a string of email exchanges within a span of an hour. My inbox was quickly filling up with emails titled ‘The monkey is back’. Rewind to a few months back, the same monkey (or one of his kind) had been spotted visiting the premises and a similar knee jerk reaction and a few email exchanges later, the excitement had died down.

Our condominium is in the close proximity of a National Park, which is part of Singapore’s heritage and pride and it is located on a hill- no less.  Add to that a Hindu temple in close proximity that has religious dos every week, with a lot of food being distributed for charity. There you have it – Two potent ingredients that a monkey finds too hard to resist while finding a piece of real estate suitable for dwelling. Unfortunately (for the monkey), the condominium has very few people to empathize with him. I may be the only support he has in all of the 187 units. I am far outweighed by the others who seem to be ganging up with their devious plans to evict him from the premises.

Even though I have lived in the same condominium for two years, I have had little opportunity to interact with my neighbours to find out their interests or what they do for a living. However, all these email exchanges about the monkey seems to throw some light on what they could potentially be qualified to do for a living and here are some of the conclusions (using my imagination) that I have drawn. ( Disclaimer:  This post was written in  light vein and not with the intention of hurting anyone)

Another shot of a monkey that posed for me at a temple in madurai

Another shot of a monkey that posed for me at a temple in Madurai

There is definitely an armchair primatologist  on a higher floor, who observes that the monkey  ‘is a fully grown adult but not an alpha male’ (Google much?) and he suspects that he has been ‘ousted from his troop and foraging for easy food’ (Eloquence!).

Then we have a wannabe behavioral scientist who from her sixth floor vantage point alerts the rest of us of ‘ frantic maids locking themselves up’ and of people ‘grabbing golf clubs and umbrellas’ to scare the primate away.

We have forecasters and psychics who by virtue of being stuck to the window watching every move of the intruder say, ‘the monkey will return at about the same time and leave when it gets dark”. ( Maybe you couldn’t see much when it was dark and you assumed that he went away while in reality he was having the last laugh sitting on your window sill?)

We have budding detectives who have spotted amateur photographers clicking pictures of the annoying pesky thief (The poor lost soul, has  earned his titles by wandering into our condo). There are Yes men who show their solidarity and support.  There are a few pithecophobics who ask you to be on guard against the ‘dangerous, aggressive critter’, because they ‘suspect that there is going to be an ugly incident if we don’t act fast’ and then there are animal right activists who want to remove the monkey as humanely as possible and relocate it back to its habitat.

So many proposals have been made by the group, ranging from hiring a ‘monkey catcher’, taking the help of the specialist pest controllers, the AVAACRES and involving the minister of the constituency.  What gets my goat is  when they bring a religious angle to it, blaming the temple for being its refuge. They have requested the officers from the AVA to counsel the temple management about the nuisance that they seem to be supporting inadvertently!

It has all culminated to a monkey trap being laid on the roof top of a building from where the perpetrator has been seen to let himself in. Informative flyers and circulars have been printed and distributed to the residents of the condo and notices have been pinned to the notice boards. We have been warned to keep our balcony doors closed to discourage the monkey from visiting.

More monkeys at a temple in Madurai

More monkeys at a temple in Madurai

The latest grainy video doing its rounds in the group email shows the smart monkey sauntering into an apartment, emerging with a banana and peeling it as he reflectively looks at the rain. The behavioral scientist has spotted the monkey carefully manoeuvering the trap that lay in wait for him as he approached the premise through another clearing.  He must have sensed something awry. You can never outsmart a monkey. It is not for nothing that you them clever.

As for me, I am waiting to see if the story fizzles out like the last time. And when I spot him, I will chant the hanuman chalisa under my breath and earn my brownie points. Will keep you posted on how it all turned out….. for the monkey!





Here is an update of the status as of the evening of 30th Sept.

The chap turned up at our house this evening when I was away walking my dog, helped himself to some mandarin oranges, walked into the puja, moved some flowers about and perched comfortably on the balcony railing and enjoyed the fruits of his labour.

The hero of the story

The hero of the story

The God man cabbie

On my way back from Little India last evening, I expected to be stranded at the taxi stand since it was ‘shift’ change time. Cabs in Singapore are scarce between 4.30 and 5.30 any evening since that is when the morning shift cab drivers hand over the cars to the next shift drivers, so they are busy driving to their respective drop off destinations. That is the only time when a cabbie in Singapore may refuse to pick you if you are not headed in his direction.  In India, we are familiar with this treatment irrespective of the time of the day.


The red trans cab that pulled up. Image Courtesy:

With these thoughts in my mind, I lugged the six plastic bags loaded with vegetables, flowers and sundry ‘Indian’ grocery , when this red Trans Cab pulled up  and the cabbie beckoned me to hop in. I thanked my stars for the good fortune to have found a cab without wasting time at waiting and gave him the address.  He heard the address and quipped if I was stopping on my way to meet the God fatherly first PM of Singapore, MM Lee.  Cabbies in Singapore love to strike conversations with you, especially if they sense you are up to one.  Now who doesn’t like a cabbie with a perfect sense of humour, especially when he also showed up just when you needed a cab. So I indulged. I mentioned that the gentleman in question and we were practically neighbours.

Ten minutes into the drive when he had warmed up to me, he said I wasn’t going to believe him if he told me who he really was. I sat up to peek into the rear view mirror to get a better glimpse at him. He was an aging bald man and definitely a local of Chinese origin.The only people I would have recognized were Jackie Chan, Donyen or Jet Li, even though I seriously doubt if these men were balding.  Incidentally, I had just read about Norway’s PM who was in the news and wondered if it was Mr.Lee Hsien Loong himself! He did not remotely resemble any of them. So I asked him to humor me.

My frame of reference

My frame of reference

“I am a God man” he proclaimed. I had the strangest conversation with the friendly, aging bald cabbie from that moment on.

He had just asked me about why I was carrying back fragrant flowers. I educated him about the daily puja ritual at home and that my husband was a religious man who believed in offering flowers to the Gods as a way of being thankful for favours received (If you have ever had to explain bhakti to a non Hindu foreigner then you would know my predicament). He frowned and asked me how I could equate offering prayers as religiousness. That was a profound statement if ever there was one.  He continued, while I was busy gathering my jaw from the floor of the car, if I believed in karma.  Now those of you, who know me well, would understand how these philosophical conversations confound me. I waited for the revelation of who he really was. My next question was to egg him to do just that – Are you a religious man, I asked.


The Yin and the Yang of Taosim

“I am half Buddhist and half Tao. I have mastered the 18 sciences of medicine. I am not a college educated doctor. But I can cure diseases. Autoimmune diseases like Lupus. You know what I am saying?” He had this uncanny sense of knowing when I was looking at him directly in the rear view mirror. I nodded frantically.

He then told me about his visit to America to meet his Master. “I had to just see  Lake Calgary and I understood everything; everything about medicine.”  I was slightly in awe of him, while I wondered if Lake Calgary was in America. His eyes met mine in the rear view mirror. “Do you believe me or not?” If you have ever been asked by someone if you believe them or not while they stared into your eyes, you know how I felt right then. I nodded noncommittally, while I looked outside the window to see if we had reached destination.

I nearly jumped out of my skin with his next question. “Who is the God man who died in India recently? ” Saibaba?  I whispered meekly and he almost smacked the steering wheel , “Yeah, Uncle Sai. He was born to Indonesian parents and learnt from my Chinese Master”. Now, that was incredulous! I may not be a pious Sai bhakt but I would surely know if he was Indonesian.

By then I was almost home. I would have wanted to find out more if the ride had been longer. But as I got off the cab, I asked him who his master was. ‘ Maashaloo ’ he said. I quickly made a note on my iPhone and promised to look him up on Google. He gave me a thumbs up and drove away.

As soon as I got home, I set about finding out what I had heard from the God man, to establish the truths.

I found out that Lupus was an autoimmune disorder and there is a Lake Calgary in Canada and not the US. What was not true was Sai Baba’s Indonesian heritage.

And as for ‘Mashaloo ’ the God man’s master, I found out that it was Master Lu Sheng-Yen , The Living Buddha. Maybe the God man really knows something about Saibaba that the World is yet to discover.

The case of the mystery wedding invite

A few weeks back, in our mail was this ornate maroon and gold envelope that contained an invite to a wedding reception at a prestigious hotel in town. No one we knew was planning to host a wedding reception in Singapore and so even before we opened the envelope, we wondered if we had missed making a note of it. We read the names of the groom and bride to see if it triggered a forgotten memory. The names looked unfamiliar but then again, that was not unsettling. We flipped the invite over and found in neat print the name of the hosts, with details of their contacts. The host names were unfamiliar too. So the case of the mysterious invite just grew curiouser and curiouser.

Then began a round of deliberations; Could it be the second cousin of your mother’s sister in law? Or is it the nephew of your uncle’s son in law on his mother’s side? See, that is the problem with us Indians. When there is a wedding being planned in the family, we plan it on a macro scale. We don’t miss inviting all distant cousins and their extended families and include the people we meet at family weddings even if they are not remotely related to any distant cousin of ours. At the European wedding I attended last November, the hosts had invited the immediate family and a few friends. They knew that the church in Amsterdam could take only 100 guests. So they drew up their list of invitees and made sure everyone RSVP’d their attendance. On the day of the wedding there was no scope for additional guests accidentally showing up at the door of the church. But I am digressing, back to the mystery invite.

The envelope carrying the ornate invite was encased in a see through plastic envelope that had our address stuck on it. What the envelope or the names lacked in familiarity, the address sticker more than made up for it. On one end of the sticker that had our printed address, was a familiar registration number. That is when it flashed on us that our names have been randomly picked from the address book of a religious community we were members of. It baffled me that someone could include us in the list of invitees to a personal event like a wedding, without even having met us.

So I imagined the scene on the evening of the reception.  To suit the occasion, so we would have turned out in proper attire. As we entered, we would unsurely beam and nod at everyone at the hall, wondering who the host was and when we would be stopped on our tracks to be welcomed. And everyone else would be nursing wine glasses, looking content and happy. And then someone would tap us on the shoulder and ask if we had lost our way. Shudder! It was like a bad dream.

Anyway, we decided to rip the envelope open to check the contents of the invite and found two invites enclosed; one for the wedding in Chennai at a very fashionable address and then one for the reception the following week at Singapore. I have to confess, that I am a grammar and spell check Nazi when it comes to wedding invites irrespective of their caste, creed or colour. Have you noticed errors which are almost certain in the many invites that are printed?  A classic one being, Mr and Mrs XYZ cordially invite you to the wedding of our son or daughter and the versions of spellings for occasion, marriage, auspicious, cordially… and the list goes on.  Who can stop chuckling at some of the foot notes that some invites carry. (With best compliments from nearest and dearest, anyone?) So I eagerly scanned the card to see if this family had proof read the invite before it went to print. I froze when I reached the end of the invite. It said in italics, No boxed gifts please.

No boxed gifts please!

No boxed gifts please!


That was a first. Wait. Did they mean don’t carry anything boxed because they would anyway throw the boxes away? Or did they mean bring cash or cheque only? Maybe the couple had two of everything they wanted to set up home and did not want a replica of all things they already possessed? Maybe they wanted to give away the cash to a charity they supported? Maybe the newlyweds were relocating to a new country and it would be cumbersome to lug them boxed gifts along to the new place. Those italicised words jumped at me and triggered so many thoughts in the few minutes that I spent looking at them over and over again.

I wish we had more couples who could voice what they needed to start their lives that could make a thoughtful wedding gift. Most establishments offer vouchers and gift coupons and that should be easy. The European wedding hosts pointed to an online store that had a list of things the couple wanted for their new home. The guests had to log in and choose what they wanted to gift from that list. Why couldn’t these guys opt for something as simple?

Anyway back to the mystery invitation card. A few days after we had received the card, the host called up on the phone to confirm if we had received the invite. It was awkward to cheerfully thank him for the invite but the job had to be done. I was restless and decided to call the lady of the house to let her know that we were uncomfortable attending the reception since we had never met them and we didn’t know the family. When I called to speak to her, she was quick to apologize that our address was chosen by mistake and was meant for a namesake family friend of theirs.

A wave of relief rushed through me when I realized that all the deliberations, the analysis of the fairness of it all were such a wasted exercise. Just as I was beginning to thank her for clarifying, she asked me about us, what we did and how long we had been in Singapore. At the end of that conversation she said,”Since you anyway have the invite, why don’t you attend the wedding reception?!”