Laddus For The Wedding
by Vimala Ramu
In India we used to have restrictions sometimes on bringing things from one state to another, particularly to a state where there was an acute shortage of the said item. These could be liquor, rice, petrol or even onions. This was mainly to prevent blackmarketeering.
Ramu’s sister’s wedding had been fixed to take place in Bangalore. As the eldest daughter- in- law of the family, I was expected to be there two months earlier to help out with the shopping and other preparations. At that time, there was a serious drought of ‘Besan’ in Karnataka. But the laddus made of besan were de rigeur for a South Indian wedding. So, my mother-in-law had asked me to bring 10 Kg of besan with me from Delhi.
As there was a sort of rationing in Delhi also, I had managed to accumulate about 7 kgs of the precious besan by the time I left Delhi for Bangalore.
Leaving my elder two kids with my husband, I boarded the train with my six month old baby boy and 7 Kgs of the contraband besan apart from the bulky luggage comprising of sarees and some items of the bridal trousseau.
When I entered the compartment, the ladies’ cabin had just one more occupant who was disembarking the next morning. So, I was alone practically for the rest of the journey. I noticed that the next cubicle was occupied by three single men.
Next day, after my co passenger departed, apprehending all sorts of crimes in Indian Penal Code likely to be committed on me, I locked myself in the ladies’ cabin, without my venturing out even to the toilet.
By next day, the three men (who happened to be Air Force Officers), intrigued by my peculiar nomenclature as posted on the sheet pasted outside the compartment __ Mrs. Squadron Leader, made overtures when the door was left ajar by the dining car attendant. Once I got to know that they were our own Air force boys, my interaction with them improved and I gained enough confidence to leave the baby with them and visit the toilet!
When I reached the Bangalore City Station, the boys helped me to get down with the luggage and the baby. But my son, who would normally sulk and nurse his grievances in silence, set up a BIG howl. There I was worrying as to how to keep him engaged on the train, cooped as I was for three whole days and here he was putting up a tantrum and refusing to leave the train !
This tantrum though unnerved me, distressed me and embarrassed me in the beginning proved to be a blessing in disguise.
The Octroi fellow presented himself and caught hold of me as I was a bit late in disembarking. He wanted to check my luggage for the contraband item if any and I was carrying 7 Kgs of besan!
Putting up an aggressive air, I shouted at him. Arriving at one’s own state empowers one mysteriously. Raising my voice above my baby’s bawl, I told him in Kannada, “What sort of an official are you? Can’t you see the baby crying? Instead of helping a lady with a baby, you are insisting on opening my luggage? I am all alone. Don’t bother me with all these rules. Let me go”
The Inspector faced with the unexpected barrage accompanied by the child’s incessant crying, was cowed down and he let me go.
Having CLEARED the Octroi, I triumphantly walked out of the station and met my brother-in –law who was waiting outside to receive me.
AND WE HAD LADDOOS IN THE WEDDING.