Over the years, I have developed a certain protocol. Every time I go to Madurai, I have a checklist. This is how it goes:
- Touch my forehead to ensure that there is a bouttu, an adhesive bindi that will not run colour in the heat of the city
- Check my neck to ensure that it carries a mangalsutra, proof of marriage
- Check right arm for bangles
- Check feet for anklets
- Rummage through my purse for back-up bindis – – mine are notorious for falling off; I lose about two a day
- Check suitcase to ensure a sari a day, cotton and simple
This March, feeling quite proud of having made the entire checklist, I flew to Chennai and then caught the over-night train to Madurai. It is Day Two of my trip, I am making the rounds of saying ‘hello’ to various members of the Aravind family. Their warmth and friendship has over the years made me feel very much a part of the Aravind clan.
Of course, being family means younger generations are always gently reprimanded by the older generation. Earlier visits have had me straightening out saris, tying up hair, putting clips that will just-not-stay into my slippery hair, etc. This time, I am confident that I will pass with flying colours. So what happens? Sure enough, on Day Two, my sense of pride gets firmly pricked. Dinner at one of the aunts house. She takes one look at me and says, “but where are your toe-rings?”!