Archives for posts with tag: India

Lost In The Labyrinth

Haresh Shah

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I am at Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport, temporarily delayed because of the cancellation of Alitalia to Frankfurt, which is where I was to connect with Lufthansa’s overnight Frankfurt-Johannesburg flight. They have re-routed me on British Airways to London and then connecting there to onward journey to South Africa. Suddenly I have a couple of hours to kill. I avail myself of the first class lounge, leave my belongings there and venture outside to check out the renovated expanse of the airport. As I am walking down the glass walled passage bridging two wings of the terminal, I hear a timid female voice trailing me.

‘Uncle, uncle. Please! Please!’

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Haresh Shah

Uncovering An Intimate Inheritance

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I am in Bombay about a year after my Dad passed. Other than waiting for close friends and the family living within an hour or two’s distance, within the Indian tradition, the deceased is immediately cremated by the family members. So it wasn’t expected nor was it possible for me to be there for the cremation. There are some rituals that are performed within the first thirteen days of a person’s death, something akin to the wake, followed by a family feast to celebrate the person’s life. But the true tribute to honor my father’s memory was going to be Saptah. Saptah literally means a week, but it’s always understood as a weeklong reading of Shri Bhagwat by a scholar who most of the time is also an animated performer and the interpreter of the stories contained therein – the book by which the followers of Vaishnava faith are guided.

The reading happens all day long with appropriate breaks amidst a revolving crowd of attendees in an open house format. My brother Suresh and his wife Aruna are hosting the event and have set up a beautiful mandap in their backyard. It’s one of the most attended Saptahs, also because Shastriji, is not only a serious scholar and the interpreter of the holy book, but also because his crystal clear booming voice  makes all those stories come alive in your imagination. He is a very close family friend and for him our Saptah is more than the ones he is hired to do. My father had always been one of this biggest fans and sponsors.

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Haresh Shah

What’s There Not To Like?

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When I was just a kid, I remember the family barber stopping by on the fifth floor of Jagjivan Mansion – built by my grandpa and his three brothers – park himself in the corner by the stairs at the end of the long corridor, at the foot of the custom built telephone booth. He carried a black shoulder bag made of rugged leather, containing multiple pockets to accommodate his long and shiny sharp bladed knives, several pairs of scissors, manual trimmers with handles, a mixing bowl for soap and the water, a soft lather brush and a long leather strap about three inches wide on which he sharpened his long blades while waiting for one of the older males sitting down on the floor in front of him and submit himself to the barber’s ministrations with his head bent down while the barber squatted over, trims the hair, shaves the day old growth on their chins and then oils their scalps with his palms pummeling their heads with quick jerking and frequent slapping motions. As rough as it looked and sounded and at times even hurt, once he was done, your head felt light as a feather – all the worries slipped away and be ready to face the world all over again. Professional barber’s pride and joy was the boast that he would be the only person in front of whom even the king had to bow his head.

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Haresh Shah

Just One Last Time

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I don’t remember anything at all of the wedding ceremony of Tina Chan – one of our freelance contributors at Playboy’s Chinese language edition in Hong Kong.  Or even if I or anyone else sitting at the table was invited to attuned. Whether it was a church wedding or a traditional Chinese affair. What I do remember is; about a dozen of us editors and executives are seated at the table of the noisy and crowded banquet hall of the Hotel Royal Garden in the heart of Kowloon, waiting for the bride and the groom and the wedding party to arrive for the celebrations to begin. When they make their grand entrance, Christina is dressed in the western bridal dress with the veil lifted and the train trailing. She is not particularly what I would call  pretty, but in her bridal finery, she looks as stunning, radiant and beautiful as a bride should. The happy smile on her face communicates the bliss she must feel. Her husband too is dressed as would a western groom – in a tuxedo, ruffled shirt with starched collar, shiny shoes and the bow tie.  The just married couple and the wedding party enter the hall with a roar of applause and the cheers from the family and friends, following which they together go from table to table, their faces bursting with smiles and laughters, welcoming each and every guest and then finally sitting down at the bridal table for the banquet to commence.

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