Eulogy for a friend

Rest in peace, Prasad

Rest in peace, Prasad

Goodbye, Prasad.

I am glad I got to speak to you one last time before your time ran out.  It must have been providence then that prompted me to look you up on Facebook, when an email I wrote you bounced back undelivered.

It was on your birthday this year. As was the trend, we always wrote each other just that day of the year. A quick note to check if we were still in the same town, doing the same thing that we were a year back when we had connected on our birthdays.  Some ritual that. Do I regret not writing to you more often? No. It is not like we were old chums.

What were we then? Acquaintances, contacts, a connection, birthday buddies maybe?  It is funny how my mind reels back to a time, many years ago when we first came to meet. I was in Mumbai and in my first job as a head hunter. You, Prasad, were a job seeker with a resume in our databank, an active job seeker at that. You were unhappy in your assignment or maybe you were between jobs.  You came to my work place to meet with me before I set you up for an interview. We had talked briefly before that a couple of times, enough for me to know that you may be the man that the company was looking for. Yet, as was required, I wanted to meet with you to ascertain if my judgment of you was right.

You didn’t come across as someone who was aggressive and pushy. You always spoke softly with a familiarity that was endearing. You were the same age as me. That and the fact that you were a south Indian in Mumbai is all that it took for us to bond.  Although you didn’t make the cut at that interview, you took that in your stride.  I asked you if the HR manager looked as good as he sounded on the phone and without missing a beat, you asked me if I know of tall, dark, handsome men. Just when I began to widen my eyes in awe, you said,” He was all of that but tall and handsome”. I laugh out loud even today when I think of that follow up conversation.

Your  easy sense of humor, your laid back ‘ I-am-not-in-a-hurry- to- be- in- my- next- job’ attitude helped me line up a few more interviews that suited your profile and we stayed in touch between 1998 and year 2000. I recall speaking to you about many more job profiles. You didn’t want to jump from the frying pan to the fire, so we waited for the perfect job description.  Meanwhile, you found an interesting assignment with a tele shopping network on your own.  We stayed in touch because I told you that it pays to have a head hunter for a friend.

I relocated from Mumbai to another city a few years after that and we kept in touch on email. I cannot trace all the emails from those years, though I eagerly looked for them in my now unused hotmail account. I had switched to Gmail by then and had sent you an invite to start an account. It was year 2008, by then you had started a business on your own and seemed busy. Your once-a- year email always arrived on my birthday.

Three years later, you asked to connect on Linked In.  You wrote me saying you had forgotten my daughter’s name and blamed it on old age!  You also said something poignant in one of your updates then. You said and I quote “ .. still not done with my struggles yet”. I felt a pang of guilt wash over me. I had moved on to other things and other people and had never once wondered if you were okay and happy.  We promised to connect on Facebook that year but never really found each other there. Years went by.

It wasn’t until May this year I thought of you again. I sent you a birthday wish and the mail bounced back. I finally found you on Facebook. It had been fifteen years since I saw you. You had changed so much. You know of the tall, dark and handsome men we used to talk about? You looked like one of them.

My happiness of finding you again was short lived.  I learnt of your cancer and your Bone Marrow Transplant through the Angels for Prasad community.  When I messaged you on Facebook chat on that day, you replied almost immediately. The same old cheerful Mr. Nice Guy. You shrugged off my questions about your health and asked about me instead.

I am glad I called and spoke with you, Prasad. It may not have meant much to you, but to me, it made a world of difference. I wanted you to know that even though I hadn’t really been in touch, I have always been your well wisher. You told me that life had been good, that you did well in the insurance business; you travelled the world and even came to Singapore.  Maybe if we had stayed in touch, we could have met at Singapore?  Even though that thought saddened me, I was super happy that your career did take off.  Until your cancer was detected, you were a successful and happy man, you said.

Prasad, despite the best intentions of the world around you, you lost your fight to cancer. I wish you had lived longer. I wish I had been able to make that short trip to Mumbai to see you once more.

When I turn older in two weeks, guess whose wish I will miss this year?

Until we meet again…

Advertisements

The Tugu Malang

We reached in time for their house tea with local snack specialties. Of course most of the snack had shrimp paste, beef or ayam– chicken. Not too many choices for “vega”tarians. The rice pancakes and the tapioca shreds with gula kelapa (Coconut sugar) were sweet but edible. We had it with hot ginger tea.

The room, the pool and corridors at Tugu Malang

The room, the pool and corridors at Tugu Malang (Click to enlarge)

We were offered a tour of the boutique hotel. The owner of the hotel, we were told by Sam, is an collector of antiques and he built this place to showcase his collections. Tugu, in Indonesian Malay, means ‘monument’.  The Tugu Malang is located facing a monument. Extravagantly done, the hotel has rooms and corners designated to different regions from where the antiques have been acquired – Java, China, Emirates, Bali and Khmer. Huge stone, marble or wooden sculptures from these countries were all over the place, wooden door frames, paintings, tiles, crockery and other collectibles.

Some glimpses of the artifacts at the Tugu Malang

Some glimpses of the artifacts at the Tugu Malang (Click to enlarge)

What was very interesting about the tour was the Presidential suite. Just the size of the bed was worth the 1000 USD per night. It had a foyer with a private massage table, a bath with curtains around, a floor seating with lots of comfy cushions thrown in and a private terrace garden with trees.

A collage of what the Presidential suite looked like

A collage of what the Presidential suite looked like (Click to enlarge)

Java over land

It was that time of the year and this time around we decided to go back and discover more on SE Asia. It has been nearly four years since we moved to Singapore and we have not traveled to many places in SE Asia yet. Our week long vacation took us back to Indonesia, to the least populated East Java.

We flew down to the Capital city, Surabaya from where our road trip began. We were met by our friendly guide Irsam Soetarto (I was later to learn that Javanese names for men almost always ended with an /o/ sound) and the driver Herri ( never found out his second name). Herri was a rule breaker to the popular belief that East Javanese men are outspoken and loud. I barely heard the man say anything louder than a whisper in the whole week we were on road.

Day 1 – Surabaya

Our adventure began even before we stepped outside the airport. The airport toilets were our first reality check. Singapore spoils you with squeaky clean toilets in malls, airport and other public places and it becomes difficult to accept lesser standard of cleanliness.  We were not checking into a hotel until later in the evening and so we had to make sure that we had empty bladders at the start of our journey on road. When it was our turn at the immigration counter, we found out that we had filled three forms short and so we were sent back to fill the individual forms instead of “one form for the whole family” as we were advised in the aircraft. We were practically the last ones to leave the airport. The sight of the Toyota Hiace Commuter with a beaming guide next to it as we stepped out, raised our spirits.

The sculpture of Sura and Baya

The sculpture of Sura and Baya

Surabaya is the capital of East Java and is the second largest city town in Indonesia. Surabaya got its name from the Sura (White shark) and the Baya (Crocodile). Legend has it that there were territorial fights between the river and the sea predators. There is a huge sculpture of a white shark and crocodile in the harbour town.

Sam made a special mention of the mayor who is a woman.  I came across this article after I returned from my trip to understand why she was highly respected and powerful. I salute you, Ibu Rismah.

Our first stop was at the House of Sampoerna. Sam told us it was a cigarette museum and we could smell nicotine and clove even before we stepped in. That is when I learnt of the hand rolled cigarettes called Kretek.  Sampoerna is the cigarette manufacturing company that makes Indonesia’s most prestigious cigarette‚ Dji Sam Soe. This year the company is celebrating their 100th anniversary.

The scene that will forever remain in my mind is from the factory where they were rolling cigarettes. It was a scene right out of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times-

The workers were all women and worked like precision timed machines. They were seated in rows and in teams. Each worker had a different coloured cap. For every three red capped workers who rolled the cigarettes, there was one black cap worker who cut the corners of the kretek ( you would miss how she turned the cigarette with one swift move of the little finger, if you blinked) and a yellow capped worker, who packed the finished cigarettes into packs. Sam said that each team manages to pack 200 individual packs per day which means about 20000 cigarettes per team. They get paid per piece rolled. They works 6.5 days a week and on an average earn about 250 USD a month.

Even though I condemn smoking, I couldn’t resist picking a pack of kretek for keep sake.

The Kretek has a heady smell of nicotine and cloves.

The Kretek has a heady smell of nicotine and cloves.

Sam kept us engaged in small talk as we drove from the museum towards the magnificent Suramadu bridge in the rains. We passed by the commonest public transport the becaks or the trishaws.  Java was under the Colonial Dutch rule before its independence and so many of the buildings still had the old charm of Dutch architecture.

The cable bridge- Suramadu

The cable bridge- Suramadu

The Suramadu bridge connects Surabaya to Madura Island across the Madura Strait. It is a bridge supported by cables and is about 5.5kms long. The rains added to the mystery of it all. Sam told us that when the wind speeds were high, they don’t let motorcycles and other two wheelers across the bridge.

One of the observations that Sam made about Java, was that no one in the whole region ate only vegetarian food. That was not one of our concerns. Having lived with an Indonesian help for the last two years, we had a fair idea of the veggie fare we would find in that country.  The food choices during our entire trip were either a soto (soup) or a sate (grilled or roasted) with lavish servings of peanut sauce and sambal.  According to Sam, Sambal is like the appetizer for all meals.  As long as there is hot, spicy sambal, anything goes. Padang food, known for its coconut milk and spicy chilli, was everywhere.

We passed by little towns on our way to our first night’s halt at Mt. Bromo. Sam highlighted what these towns were known for; one for its milk corporation, another for its green apples and another for its dam across the river.  More than the destinations, our vacation was the road trip. Watching the beautiful green country side of East Java go by with its rich rice, sugarcane and corn fields was a treat.

The horn flowers that looked like Christmas decor

The horn flowers that looked like Christmas decor

The drive towards Mt. Bromo was long winding and torturous because of the weather. Plus we had had a long day, an early start at Singapore and a holiday that doesn’t end in a hotel check in soon after you land always leaves you wondering! Soon after we began the trudging climb to Mt.Bromo, the weather became chilly and the scenic beauty outside, the green topography, began to calm us. The rain seemed to have slowed or even taken a brief reprieve. There were horn flowers everywhere like bells during Christmas time and they seemed to add a natural decor to the road side trees.

We reached the Java Banana hotel and were greeted with a pretty sight of a beautiful rainbow. It was worth the long drive and it was full of promise of a beautiful beginning of our holiday. Sam said that this may be his 500th visit to Mt. Bromo but his first ever rainbow.

The beautiful rainbow that we spotted that evening.

The beautiful rainbow that we spotted that evening.

Thus began our journey – Java over land.

Divine voices from my past

Those days we had cassettes and not playlists on iPods. Heck, there were no compact discs either. Yet, I listened to a lot more music then,  than I do today.

There was Suneeta Rao with her Pari hoon main and Ab ke baras, Alisha Chinai with Made in India  and Adnan Sami with his Lift karadey . And then there was Colonial Cousins and all of their tracks! I was listening to other artists too but these four were probably the most played artists in our faithful Sony double deck player.  I am talking about the mid 90’s.  It probably was around the same time I was transitioning from Western pop to Indian music.  I was not yet listening to classical music then but had become more tolerant to my amma’s choice of hard core classical Indian music.

Last month when I heard that the Colonial Cousins were performing at the Kala Utsavam here in Singapore, I did not have to think twice if I wanted to go.  How many rainy afternoons in Mumbai  have I listened to Hariharan and Leslie sing Indian rain. Those were probably the earliest days that I was making the bhakthi connection to music.  I will not be exaggerating if I tell you that I began to appreciate Carnatic music with Krishna Nee baeganey baaro and Sa ni dha pa from their first album. Of course the likes of OS Arun, Bombay Jayashree and Aruna Sairam have made sure that I stay inspired.

So there we were, at the first level of the magnificent Esplanade concert hall with brilliant acoustics. The hall wasn’t packed to full capacity. Most of the audience seemed to be in their mid or late forties, a group I could easily identify with. The stage was not jazzed up like it was for the Adnan Sami concert that I had an opportunity to go to last year- no psychedelic lights  but a constant blue hue to match the mood of the evening.

The Colonial Cousins, on the dot of the appointed hour just walked to the stage from the wings in their kurta-pajamas and regular sandals. They sang memorable tracks from their earlier albums and a few from the new album that they launched this year ( Colonial Cousins once more). No one from the audience was restless with song requests. We waited for them to decide what they wanted to sing and immersed ourselves in the magical evening.

From what I observed, I decided that I like Leslie Lewis a tad more than I like Hariharan ( and I love his voice!). Leslie was bashful, gentlemanly and seemed to wield a great sense of humour that flashed like a sword in the dark. Hariharan was exuberant and extroverted.  Leslie let Hariharan be center of attention ( obviously he had an edge over Leslie with his voice skills) but Leslie’s guitar skills were nothing short of amazing.  There were some non Colonial Cousins requests for Hariharan and he politely hummed some of his other tracks that have made him popular. All the while, Leslie had this charming, indulgent smile and “yeah- bro- show -them –what- you- got” attitude.

Here is a track I managed to record entirely from the evening. Don’t you just love these guys!

 

Four short of a century – A tribute to my grandpa

My 96 year old maternal grandfather passed away this weekend.  He had a fall last week and was advised surgery. He survived the surgery and was strong enough to get upset with his sons about not being around him when he was recovering. The fact that he was in the ICU, was of no significance to him. My grand dad was the last surviving sibling of a family of five. He was the oldest and lived the longest.  One of his younger sisters passed away a week before his time came.

I was fortunate to have met him a few months back when I went for my annual visit home. I always made it a point to see him on the same day I arrived or within the next couple of days. Even If I could not, I would fudge the details of my arrival to make it look like I had arrived only then. Somehow it felt to me that he minded a bit if I told him that I had arrived earlier but had made time to come over to say hello only then.

As always, I spent some time with him, repeating details of my life that he was already aware of. He has been hard of hearing from the time I remember interacting with him. In my mind’s eye, I see him quickly pacing into his room, after acknowledging my arrival with a surprised toothless smile and a ‘wait ’ hand  sign, while he fixed his hearing aid and adjusted the volume on the little box that he later slid into his pocket. He would beckon to a chair next to him and then we would start the conversation.

He did not expect anything from me. Lately I had been carrying only bananas for him since that was the only fruit he enjoyed. He was keen to spend time with me, asking me mundane details of my life. He was genuinely interested in what I did, how I traveled, who cooked for me, where I stayed, how my in laws were.

It was typical of him to repeatedly ask the same questions that he had asked you in your last visit. Things don’t change that quickly in everyone’s lives to make mundane details sound interesting. But if you knew him well, you’d patiently wait for him to complete his list of questions.

So where do you live now? Singapore. Singapore! It is so far away! How did you come?  Flight. Airplane! Who came with you?  I came on my own. By yourself?! Not bad!

How is your child? (He could never recall her name). How old is she now? What grade? Wow!

How are your inlaws? How is your brother in law and his family? His kids? They must all be grown up now. Do they still live in Jayanagar?

How is your mom? Is she going back to Singapore with you? How long will she stay? 4 months! That is a long time!

Another thing he possessed about is for me to eat a meal before I left; if I couldn’t stay on for a meal on that day, then I had to promise coming back for a meal on another day. Invariably, I would eat every time I visited him. If I had to step out to meet someone else in the neighborhood, he would panic about where I was off to. Even after verbal assurances , he would wonder if I was going away without telling him. I would leave my hand bag behind and that assured him I was coming back.

And God forbid if I told him that I would be away for 15 minutes and I got delayed. He’d be at the gate watching the road till he spotted me.  You said you were going for 15 and you stayed away for so long! I was worried because the traffic is bad and I don’t trust any of these vehicles. When I left, he gave me a lot of instructions to drive safe and to call as soon as I reached home. And then he would sit right next to the phone until it rang and I spoke to my aunt to let him know I had reached.

As was customary, I always sought his blessings when I left his house. As soon as I readied myself to take his blessings with a namaskaram at his feet, he would stop me, quickly go into the puja, bring the turmeric smeared rice (akshathai)  in his hand to bless me with it and then would give me the go ahead.

Lately I had begun to give him a parting hug. I could wrap my one arm around him easily and I was careful not to crush his frail frame. He would feel very uncomfortable and protect himself by raising his arms to his chest. He liked shaking hands as a better parting wish. He shook hands with everyone. With me, with my husband, daughter. He’d be very English about it. A smart firm handshake accompanied by eye contact and a genuine smile that reached his eyes.

He walked with me till the gate, kept advising me to be safe and waved to me till I turned the corner of the street he lived in. As always I told him to take care and that I would see him when I came back next time.

I will miss him the next time at Mavalli. Rest in peace, thatha.

R Shamanna 1917-2013

R Shamanna 1917-2013
Leaves behind 6 children, 10 grand kids and 9 great grand kids

The last day at Antwerp

The Sunday dawned bright and sunny. We were scheduled to leave only later in the afternoon.  The half day sightseeing plan that our hosts had chalked out (for the wedding guests who stayed back) suited us and seemed like a good way to spend the morning.  We also wanted to go over to meet our hosts, Corinne and John, before we left for the train. Through the windows of the hotel, I saw a few dog walkers with their mutts. The dogs looked happy in the cold weather. I missed Maxx much then.  He loves the air con in our room and I imagined how happy he would be in Antwerp, in Winter.

The magnificent Museum on the River

The magnificent Museum on the River

After a light breakfast at the hotel, we walked up to the Museum Aan de Stoorm – a gigantic spiral sixty meter high museum tower – for a panoramic view of the docks and the old town of Antwerp. It seemed like anyone who was awake and about at Antwerp was at the MAS that morning!  Except for the people at the museum, the roads wore a deserted look. I soon realized that none of the locals stepped out on a Sunday!

The MAS – built in the form of stone containers- had ten levels. Found out later from Wiki that the red sandstone that appears on the cladding were from Agra in India. No wonder we felt a special connection!

A collage of the wall murals at MAS

A collage of the wall murals at MAS

 

Each level of the ten level tower had exhibits and people were busy setting up for the day, expecting delegates and visitors to interact with them.  We however, only wanted to click pictures of Antwerp from the top level of the MAS. On our way to the top level on the escalator, we saw the walls painted with colorful murals, stories depicting the history and cultural heritage of Antwerp. Maybe the next time back on a longer trip, we would stop by for a detailed viewing of this magnificent building and its contents.

The misshapen giants I saw there

The misshapen giants I saw there

On several floors, there were huge, misshapen, sleepy looking giant dolls that were propped against the glass walls in a mass of tangled arms and legs. I later found out that they were created by  a French artist Mehdi Hercberg, aka Shoboshobo.

There were also several medallions, embedded in the floor of the building. Every one of them had the same design and some words written around it. We found out that it was the design of an ideal town as envisaged by a graphic designer and the words around it were actually a poem that talks about the water, city, people and heritage of Antwerp.

Where water watch and what was worth the later was kept - read it over and over again!

Where water watch and what was worth the later was kept – read it over and over again!

When we reached Level 9, the escalators stopped and the last level had to be climbed using stairs. On the landing between the 9th and the 10th floors, was a signage proclaiming that we had reached level 9 ½. Reminded  me of Harry Potter and his friends who left for Hogwarts from platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station.

The skies were blue; the wind was chilly and forceful. My camera would have flown out of my grip if I had not been careful. Antwerp looked grey, red and brown mostly because of the water, the docks and the stone buildings.

The Loodswezen, Antwerp

The Loodswezen, Antwerp

 

 

One such was a Gothic style building right on River Schelde which I later found out to be Loodswezen, a maritime organization that handles shipping traffic that enters the ports of Antwerp.

We walked to John and Corinne’s home which was not too far off from the MAS.  The wind  chill was biting cold and the only sounds I heard was that of the wind and seagulls. Eerie! We spent close to an hour at the house, over a warm cup of tea, said our goodbyes and wished the newlyweds at the beginning of their new lives together.  We brought back a specially bottled French wine from the wedding to take home with us.

The wine bottle we brought home from the wedding

The wine bottle we brought home from the wedding

We still had time before our taxi met us at the hotel to drive us up to the station. We decided to lurk outside to enjoy the last few hours of the chilly weather. Back home it would be 32 degrees! We walked up the street and found a coffee shop open.  The shop had a unique name – Tante Lies! Brought to mind the ‘shop’ that Akank drew in her art book when she was younger. She would draw several colored contact lenses and called the shop Hip-not-Eyes. Tante Lies had the ambience of a bar. There were a few retired folks enjoying their morning beer and the bar woman /owner was delivering a loud monologue in Flemish. The hot chocolate and coffee we had there, warmed us from the inside.

No wonder the bar owner sounded harassed!

No wonder the bar owner sounded harassed!

 

We marched back to the hotel in time for our taxi pick up. At the Antwerp central station, we had a customary Belgian Waffle and boarded the Thalys to take us back to Schipol from where we were flying back home.

 

The Thalys was already full of people coming from Paris. A bulky Parisian was sitting on what I thought was my seat and when I claimed it, he gruffly responded with a  ‘I don’t think so!’  Thankfully Ramesh stopped me from pushing my foot further into my mouth than I had already, by pointing out to me, two empty seats just next to him.

We had an unexpected power outage 15 minutes into the journey and we lost half an hour arriving into Schipol.  Thankfully, we were in no hurry to reach since our flight back was much later in the evening.  When the announcements in the train were made about the delay, I was amazed at how calm and unruffled people were. The entire coach was quiet except for soft murmurs that were conversations, unlike what would have typically happened on a Shatabdi (the closest train service I can think of to compare it with the Thalys) in India. People would have been anxious and restless on their feet, looked for the TTE or some railway authority to question them – as though they had all the answers.  We would have had people jump off the train onto the tracks to stretch and enjoy a smoke. There would have been loud banter, the food service employees would have sold more cups of watered down sweet ‘kaapi’ or ‘chai ‘. Oh, how I miss home!

When we got to Schipol, we still had plenty of time before our boarding was announced.  So we wisely spent both time and money, on some gifts for people back home.  I was looking forward to catching up on more movies on my way back and I was not disappointed. Robert De Niro was superb in Red Light  as a blind psychotic and Johnny Depp played a vampire to the hilt in Dark Shadows.  The flip side being, KLM  did an encore of what they did on our way to Amsterdam – forgot our vegetarian meal choices …again!

But even that could not spoil the mood of our short vacation, the wedding and a lot of lovely memories of our trip!

To Antwerp,to the wedding!

We were going to Antwerp to attend an English wedding  – our first!

The Thalys high speed train took less than an hour and 15 minutes to take us the 140 odd kilometers into Antwerp. When the train went past Rotterdam, the song from The Beautiful South kept playing back in my mind!  The countryside looked beautiful but the train moved too fast for me to click any pictures through the glass windows.

After the biting cold of almost zero degrees at Amsterdam, Antwerp was ‘warmer’ at 8 degrees, though I still needed the coat to keep me warm. The Antwerp Central station is housed in a fine stone clad historical building from the 19th Century.

The Antwerp Central Station

The Antwerp Central Station

I found out from Wiki that Antwerpen-Centraal was judged the world’s fourth greatest train station in the year 2009.  The platform we arrived at was at two levels underground and it took as a while to figure how to exit. Our attempt at asking for the exit received a shrug from a local as if to say, ‘go figure’ and that is exactly what we did.

KP and Mamy, our friends

KP and Mamy, our friends

Just as we were about to ask another person for help, we saw two people waving at us. Ah, the joy of seeing friends in a foreign land.  Mamy and KP, our friends, were almost like locals, having lived there for three years before they moved back to India.

Consider this. The father of the bride was also there to receive us at the station. That character in Indian wedding settings is the busiest on the day of his daughter’s wedding. And here he was, his usual cheerful self, meeting us and driving us to our hotel. I knew at that moment, that I was going to experience a wedding that is so different from what I have seen up until then.

The Holiday Inn Express turned out to be another travelers hotel with basic amenities. No restaurants at the hotel but there was a kiosk that stocked cold sandwiches and drinks. The room was much bigger than the Ibis at Amsterdam. The hosts had left an envelope with instructions, addresses and maps for the Wedding guests. From that we found out that we were due to meet the wedding party a few hours later.  It gave us enough time to rest and freshen up. The venue of the wedding was a few hundred meters away and so the hotel was at a great location.

The event!

That is us.

That is us.

We had decided to attend the event in traditional Indian attire. The silk sari I chose to wear also had an added benefit of keeping me warm in the cold winter.  Other than Mamy and us, everyone else was in western wedding finery.  Women with stylish hats and black cocktail dresses and gowns, men in suits, ties and tuxedos. Even though I saw many black dresses, I was glad that I had checked with the hosts if wearing black to the wedding was allowed. Corinne, the bride’s mom, wore a beautiful silk hat that was sitting at an angle to the crown of her head. The hat worn by mother of the bride is a feature at an English wedding. 

The hat Corinne wore

The hat Corinne wore

The venue was an enchanted Old Norwegian Seamen’s church.  Even though it did not look imposing from the outside, it was warm, cozy and just right for the gathering of a select group of family and friends.  It was my first English wedding even though it seemed like I knew the format from the many movies I have watched and the books I have read! The bride’s maids and flower girls wore cheerful dresses in purple with large white floral prints.

The couple

The couple

The bride was herself in a longish crème silk- chiffon- satin dress and the groom in a smartly tailored suit.

The bride and groom looked blissfully happy and eager to be married. The bridal march played and watching the bride with her father was surreal. Something about the tune makes my eyes fill with tears! I missed Akank so much then since she loves the tune and plays it on her piano. When the groom and bride exchanged rings, I could almost hear the catch of breath in everyone’s throats waiting for them to kiss (or maybe it was just my imagination)!

The ceremony was short, peaceful and personal compared to the noisy, gregarious, long weddings back home in India.

Old friends- Mamy, Corinne and I

Old friends- Mamy, Corinne and I

The best part of the wedding (for the guests at least ) was just beginning! The guests were chauffeured to The Ark, a banquet hall, which is attached to a classy restaurant, which was once a pump house to the Antwerp fire station! The ride was in two vintage London Ceremony buses.

The London Ceremony Bus

The London Ceremony Bus

The toasts were the highlight of the evening. The father of the bride was on a roll! He managed to find a few pauses between laughter bouts to keep the mood of the gathering, upbeat and cheerful.

The number of wine glasses should tell you the dinner was more drnk than eat!

The number of wine glasses should tell you the dinner was more drink than eat!

It was a beautiful seated dinner. The staff, the ambience, the company, the wine and food (I had the world’s best pumpkin soup with orange zest that evening!) competed with each other vying to be the best.

 

We signed the guest book and along with our picture taken with a Polaroid camera, expressed how delighted we were to be there.

Our day came to an end on such a cheerful note and while the rest of the gathering stayed back for the dance, we left for the hotel, late in the evening.