For our family, this is also a week long bonding, eating together, arguing and just be merry together, preceded and followed by big fanfares. It begins with our large family and friends taking the family Bhagwat from my parent’s house to Suresh’s. Something most every Vaishnava family  would have passed down from generation to generation. For the day-to-day reading, there are modern volumes designed and produced in the fashion of a large encyclopedia, but the original version would be a stack of loose leaves in a horizontal landscape format – either in limited edition version or even handwritten in beautiful cursives. These volumes are normally wrapped in red silk and hold a special spot within the home. And they are brought out only for special occasions. So iconic and revered are they that you just don’t throw them in a bag or a suitcase to usher them from one place to another.

My family happens to have two such volumes of Shri Bhagwat, which are being reverentially carried atop the alternating heads of two of the women walking in a procession. The entire family is out on the street, dressed in their wedding best. Men in crisp white Kurtas or in their stylist western threads, women all dolled-up in their best silk saris, looking like wide eyed Kathakali dancers, studded from the head to toe in their precious jewelry. We are dancing to the tunes of the latest Bollywood hits being tooted by a group of old fashioned uniformed band leading us. Laughing and screaming, back slapping, the onlookers cheering us, we take an hour or more to  cover the short distance of four to five blocks between the two houses.

In the backdrop of the Saptah and during my weeklong stay at home, one afternoon my three brothers ambush me and hurriedly shove me into my parent’s bedroom suite and lock the door behind us. They sit me down on the bed and the two younger brothers, Dinesh and Rajesh climb up the chairs and lift the heavy trunk off the top of the cupboard and gently slide it out. They delicately cradle the bottom of the heavy trunk, and lower it with a deft motion and gently place it on to the bed.

Baa wants us brothers to go through what’s in here and divvy up the contents among the four of us brothers. Since you were coming home, we thought we would wait to go through the stuff when all four of us are together.’  Suresh tells me.

So we open the trunk. It contains all sorts of men’s things, such as several bottles of expensive men’s colognes, some of which I had brought for him over the years. I smirk when I see his white billfold made of parachute material, from which I remember filching a few rupees now and then. My bothers wonder why I have that cat that swallowed the canary look on  my face. Nothing! I say and they let it slide. Then there are old fountain pens, one of them I distinctly remember – the gold capped Schaffer. My father was what they called a shokhin manas –  he liked good things of life. He had a large collection of wrist watches, one of them I had always wanted to have. The one with the large blue dial that contained slots not only for the days and the dates but also the one that showed the cycle of the moon, of course housed inside a pure gold case. Suresh has his eyes on that one too. Younger brothers want a couple of not so exclusive Playboy watches. And then there is a set of gold studs including a pair of  cufflinks. enamel inlaid with beautiful modernistic burgundy, white and black pattern.  An Elgin USA fob watch, also in pure gold casing and attached to a long gold chain, dangling from which is a charm – a gold coin dated 1917, bearing the engraved face of the king George V – and another watch, a Longines, also in the gold case with matching gold watch band. The old man really loved his gold.

Just before my youngest brother Rajesh died a couple of years ago, I was joking with him that they had to be naïve to let me make it out like a bandit.

‘We just let you have those things, because we knew you would appreciate them the most. So you got away with bit of gold!’ And then he gave me his characteristic baby brother smile.  Because I got the two gold watches as well as the set of buttons and cufflinks. And he was right, not only do I cherish those things but I actually wear them. And I can’t even begin to imagine what would it have been like me having dressed up in my tuxedo and not have had those priceless studs?

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