Tuesday, December 27, 2005

At the Eapens - The Adventure of Christmas Dinner

A full blown achayathi moment happened last night. Twas the Christmas dinner and uncle eapens house. Nuff said!

I was trying my best to be entertained, i was managing to get my bits of fun, when Ninan uncle and Sunil (from Papua New Guinea) struck up a conversation on export goods with trade tenders. More family of the Eapens began to flow in and so did the liqour. Everyone was rosy cheeked and merry. Cept me and a girl who we'll call the Eapen's DIL (Daughter in Law), cause i kinda like her.

Yeah so DIL is a new mom, she had a pre-term baby, who's called Ethan, Ethan Eapen. Woo Hoo. He's a colicky one, this precious little guy. He's small and tiny and he's coming to terms with this here world and being thrust into the mallu world. It's a tough initiation, i can tell ya.

So, here i am trying to have a conversation with the aunties. I'm doing quite well, asking them about the napkins and their other Christmas dinners which (is always the case) was grander, more fun and a success. They always had the Indian ambassador's PA and other 'well known' celebs and it was always 'the talk of the town'. Yeah.

I managed to not shoot Bacardi Beezer up my nose, and after the 4th and extremely detailed description of Kochumol Aunty's party, i dove straight into the Christmas deco in the tree. It was beautiful, i have to admit. They spared no cost, no bling, no nothing to have that tree fixed. It was pretty.So i played with the flaxen haired angels, poked at the ribbons, pulled at the baubles, spun the cany canes, and i marveled at the colours. It was a good 15 minutes, when the door bell rang and more poured in.

You stand, you say hi, you bow, you blow kisses in the air. Sigh. Dinner wasn't going to be served until 11:00, i knew it instantaneously. I was hungry.

The men folk were getting to be interesting cases in personal anthropological study. Two drinks down and that's when they beging to wax eloquent. They have opinions about 'everything' and all of them are right. No one can be wrong. It started with unions at the Hyaat and Meridian. Mr. Abbey was a new recruit into the social scene. A recent green stick from Cochin, he was new to town, was an apt business conquest, and was mallu! It couldn't have been more propah.

So here he was all mild mannered. Oh, he reminded me of my professor in Manipal (Prof. Mathew!) and a good mix of a quiet man waiting to burst forth with drink. He began in his very prosaic manner to explain how to go about negotiating with demanding unions and how he managed to call off a strike! Then he said the impossible, in a capitalist, consumerist room full of mallus - he said he was socialist. The fangs were beared, everyone was rushing to the bar for a stiff drink as the plotted their solo speeches. Whew, the sense of foreboding was so tangible, man!

Anyway, this is where i decided to exit, i needed some fresh air. With DIL offered to show me to the peaceful part of the apartment. We entered this room, it was all quiet with lamplight. And Ethan Eapen was asleep, well, half askeep. She pulled out this mammoth gold tissue photo album of the wedding and i sank peacefully into the pages - the wedding had one ceremony, two receptions and a lot of free loaders to the first. Geez!

The entire city was there, some of them DIL didn't even know, remember, recall. When i turned page 72, Ethan decided to cry out for me, and she rushed to his side, saying it's okay, and baby boo. I kinda felt weird. I began to wonder how it would be to be a mom.I felt all pudgy and soft, and i actually wanted to hold the little guy. Aww. It lasted for all of 2 minutes.

Then we started to talk, and compare notes on life and life after the Hitch and life in general. And it turns out i knew quite a few people from her workplace. So it was nice, cause it veered to comfortable conversation. Then we started talking about this and that and then suddenly dinner was served - i could smell it and plus the aunties called.

So, when i entered the room, the assault was on full blast, Mr Abbey was completely submerged from all sides with everyone telling him exactly what they thought about the communists, in between you'd hear patient but persistent correctiosn from the man himself, that he wasn't communist, but socialist. Ninan uncle was slapping his right hand over this left in a dismissive gesture (all mallus know this move) telling him just what he thought abou the ice cream parour case and how we needd to learn about the balance of the freedom struggle. Not only did we lose some, but we gained a lot, he said. And in a way, his arguments were compelling. Abbey on the other hand was tryin to quote page 122 of the Socialists Bible. Hmmm...

Dad. Dad was laughing and watching with Sunil in the corner. Both of them had withdrawn to silent spectatorship and were enjoying the show. Ninan uncle is born entertainer. So was Eapen uncle, who quickly ran to the kitchen to sound the alarm for dinner. Dinner brought the respite, and the energy break. Everyone simmered over the points. Some smarting from personal comments. But all in all, by mallu standards it was a concert, people!

What i couldn't get about Mr. Abbey though:

1) Socialist - why would you be working for the next pay cheque to make up for currency exchange

2) Socialist - why would you still kneel when the aramana residents walked down the park path to kiss the ring, if you totally believed in equality and unions

3) what is it with you, that you can't accept therealities of every individual's experiences and that you'd try to ram certain theories down everyone's throat when you're not convinced of them yourself.

I felt sorry for him. Cause one thing was clear, he was a simple man, with very fair values and a sense of deep justice for the world. In Dubai, you've got to learn to balance that with some real stuff like - life.

Theories i learnt the hard way are man made. So is religion. I was glad that i was safely out the race, way before this dinner happened. Whew. Thank you God.

Three different puddings and platter full of fruit later, i sat down to attempt one last half hearted conversation with Abbey's wife, who made it apparent that she hated the Gulf, hated her new life and kept for no apparent reason looking away half way through her conversations with everyone. It was her way of making sure Kochumol aunty wouldn't invite her back. Mission accomplished.

It was time to say good bye (already?!) and we all walked to the door, had a couple of more coversations (tis tradition even when it's not Christmas!) and then finally patted backs and shook hands. Kisses in air were in order, thankfully there weren't too many women who were at the door. So that over, we finally made our way down the hall way to the elevators.

Dad, Abbey, wife, kids and i - Abbey uncle stumbled, dad was walking carefully in his 'i'm-not-drunk-you-are'walk. Wife was disgusted, some more. And the kids were sleepy. Some shifts and uncomfortable grunts/silence (and Abbey uncle getting off on the 3rd floor and insisting it was the ground floor) in the elevator later, we were down and we said bye cordially.

Walked to our car, dad and i burst out laughing together when i said. "Ninan uncle was..." and we drove home.

Merry Christmas y'all.

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