Over the past weekend, I spent Diwali, for the first time in Taiping, Perak. A friend, upon coming to terms and the sudden realization that I am hopelessly obsessed with Bollywood and the Indian culture at large have, in his best interest, invited me to his house (mansion, really) and to soak in the full Diwali experience.
I jumped right into the idea almost immediately, not knowing that there is an ardous, back sore 9 hour bus ride involved in the equation. It was too late to get an air plane ticket so begrudgingly, I went ahead, bravely I might add, with a brand new kurta in my bag (don't ask) and a fervent, almost manic sense of excitement for the impending three day Indian Culture Extravaganza; all just a 9 hour bus ride away.
Love the festival. The ride? Not so much.
The bus ride started at 10 at night and it was everything I imagined it to be; dark, long, insanely freezing because the driver had a bad clout of judgement and decided to crank up the air conditioning throughout the entire journey. The bus ride was made more unbearable with the fact that I sat beside a man (and I'm not making this up) who was so fucking drunk he peed on his seat.
Thankfully, with all the alcohol coursing through his system, he managed to sleep throughout the entire journey and diminish any chances of him puking all over me.
9 hours later, I was at the Kamunting Bus Terminal, smelling the crisp 7 o'clock air and awaiting my Punjabi friend, Terry to pick me up and drive me back to his house.
"Oh by the way I have two dogs at home," Terry said as we drove into the street leading to his house.
"What?! You didn't think it was important to tell me this BEFORE I came to your house?" I shouted.
"Relax, they don't bite," Terry said.
"That's what all you pet owners say," I mumbled under my breath.
When we arrived at the front of his gate, both the coolie and the maltese started barking at me.
"They're barking at me," I said, holding Terry by the end of his polo tee.
"They're dogs, that's what dogs do," Terry rolled is eyes.
"What fantastic hospitality Terry," I said with no hint of emotions in my delivery.
The dogs were then tied up to their respective barn situated at the far end of Terry's expansive lawn by his mother and I was ushered into the house by his father.
The moment I stepped into the house, a strong smell of masala and butter hit me. I knew then that I was home.
After settling down nicely, his father, Mr Hari, prompted me to sit down at the sofa in the living room and watch television and rest while lunch is being prepared.
"I heard you like Bollywood? We have all the channels. Come! Watch!" he said, voice booming throughout the entire living room.
And before you know it, the sounds of Bollywood music filled the living room and there I sat on Terry's sofa thinking, "I've hit jackpot!"
That night was a night of many firsts for me. I, for the first time sat down with Terry's younger brother Ammarjeet and witnessed how he made kollum from scratch. It was magnificient to say the least.
After that we played with fireworks and in between we filled our stomachs with more briyani and masala mutton and ayam masak me rah that by the time Diwali happened the following day, I felt more indian in a single breath that Katrina Kaif can be in her entire life.
All decked out and ready to serve guests, I made my way to the kitchen to show Terry's mother my kurta that I bought just for the event.
"Wow! You look great! You're officially one of us now!" she squealed.
"Where's Terry aunty?" I asked.
"Oh he's outside at the lawn drinking with his brother and father," she replied.
"It's only 12 noon," I said, shocked.
"They started at 10 in the morning," Terry's mother laughed.
Right. How could I ever forget that they drink at every given occasion. Heavily.