Yes, this is where I was over the weekend. It is a nice place. Going from Mumbai, any place where the buildings don't loom over you, where the roads are not pitted and pock-marked, feels good. It was good to get away. In fact, this is what I am slowly admitting to myself now. Mumbai is getting to me. It is a 'bit much.' So the break was welcome. Plus I left my monster home, and though, predictably, I thought about her a lot and wondered if my mom (who is not growing younger) was getting really tired with her, and generally missed her, I did enjoy myself too. The day seemed suddenly MUCH longer, since I was not bothered about her breakfast, lunch, nap, potty, etc. etc.
We were in one of those palace hotels. Somehow, it did not irritate me as it does usually. Meaning it was somewhat subtle and not over-the-top bling. It was really a palace and had its quaint things such as the guy walking around the court-yard beating a cloth with a stick to chase away pigeons. And the raucous cries of the pea-cocks that we spent creeping behind hoping to catch them dancing. It was with a twinge of sadness (wonder why? It is strange that I should feel this, says something about things deep inside for sure!) that I saw the dullness of the pea-hen in relation to the magnificence of the pea-cock. The lawns and general greenery were well-maintained and I saw quite a few birds hanging out happily. But of course I don't know their names or anything.
The highlight of my trip was a mad game of soccer. I would like to believe that I would have played even if the monster was around. But, of course, I am as usual deluding myself. As I was part of a retreat sponsored by my husband's company, who do this sort of thing often enough, I sort of knew everybody around. The ladies were all happily heading out gem shopping. I politely declined, with the thought that (a) I cannot possibly enter gem stores and (b) I have come here to hang out with the husband, not to sashay off with ladies and (c) I am dressed in shorts and so on. Anyway the men were at a loose end. The kids (who were there in numbers this time, somehow, the one time everyone brings their kids is the one time I go alone, serious phase lag) were all over the very nice lawns and grass, picking up seeds, chasing squirrels, and each other. Although the mothers had gone shopping, the fathers were in no way busy with the kids, you know, because of the maids hanging around in their little 18-year-old huddle around the kids.
It felt like we were back by some ten years. In grad school. We would up and get together games of various things. Soccer. Basketball. Volleyball (in the sand). Frisbee (which used to be called something else, I forget now, basically that circular thing you chuck). Field hockey. Badminton. Both the husband and I used to LOVE it. Of course the husband person is generally all over all the games. I do good basketball, having been trained for years. Thanks to the intramural soccer games, and general application of basketball defense techniques, and four years of playing with my heart in it, I do okay in soccer. Generally I know my place. I hang around, scour opportunities, and go in there with no fear and all my heart. If the people I play with don't know me, they are always shocked. I am small. I am an academic (geek, shall we say). Am generally over-shadowed by my large, athletic looking husband. They have not observed my giant calves. So when I tackle them or steal a ball or am still running while the rest have fallen down tired, they are genuinely surprised. Of course I hardly notice all this while we are playing. My eyes are on the ball.
It was huge amounts of fun. Some of the older kids joined us. The men who finally played were really all very enthusiastic. The overall skill level was not too bad. No one got hurt. A reasonable number of goals were scored. I bonded with them like I have never bonded before. I have always stayed a bit away from everyone. There is a distinct feeling of being from different worlds, generally. I know their names, I know their wives names (mostly), and can generally match up kids to parents. I like some of the kids a lot, and have talked and played with them at various events of this sort. We have been on flights together. We have spent fair amounts of time on the fringes of dance floors, in pubs, at gala dinners, and several other places in the past six years. God knows how much money has been poured into organising all these various things for us, over the years. But at least for me, the most fun was had on a lazy saturday morning in the Elephant Polo lawns kicking a ball around and looking wonderingly as guys I had pegged as middle-aged men constantly thinking of their work, demonstrated their skills in dribbling balls, passing, defending, and scoring goals.
We managed to do a bit of sight-seeing on Sunday, climbing up a generic Rajasthani fort. The boys caught up with us on our way back and pestered and badgered us into buying some random stuff such as post-cards and some paintings and so on. Stuff that will join the ranks of other things we have been hassled into over the years. They are so young, these boys. And how demeaning to have to beseech a random person to buy (for Rs. 20) a book of post-cards. No charge for seeing madam, is how he started on it. I said Boss find someone else I am not interested. He looked totally shattered. I am sure it was an act and all. But I looked. I said very good, go on now, go sell to someone else. Then he started the begging and beseeching. He threatened to give me a booklet free if I bought four of them. Insisted I was his first (potential) customer (at noon? Yeah, very likely!). Meanwhile the husband was plied with some paintings, stuff I usually sell to foreigner and NIRs (!), the guy was saying. We are really idiotic that way. As long as they occupy less room we buy it when we feel bad for them. The worst was a giant ugly papier mache vase my husband bought at a signal one rainy mumbai day for Rs.100. It collected cockroaches in about three minutes of entering the house. I was jubilant the day I convinced him to give it away to the maid. God knows what she does with that monstrosity!
When we returned to the monster at night, she was super excited. She must have really missed us. She even talked for almost half an hour on the phone with me earlier on Sunday morning. Bye amma she would say but not really hang up. You know what Ammamma said, she would say. Then launch into a long description of this that and the other. Segway into how her best friend (and best enemy) had pushed her onto a sharp stone. Thankfully she behaved herself, and did not terrorise my mom as I expected her to.
And now it is back to the grind, the rain, a friend's father in critical condition, a long ago friend visiting me tonight (and warning me on the phone that she is fat and I should not comment on it), the monster having its coughing session of the month, and, memories safely stowed away for future referral.