I think that it is important to write culturally diverse fiction. Here is my attempt at it.
< Note: When you receive articles in your inbox, it may be beneficial, should you have internet access, to click the link to read my words directly on 'biscuitsforchai.ca'. The reason for this is that I often continue editing each article even after I have sent out the email. By reading online, you will get my best work. >
Also one more thing before we start, an amazing organ piece played by my friend Jeremy Tingle in his organ recital this past Wednesday. Click here to listen as you are reading.
The Boeing 747 was packed. In fact, packed would be an understatement. A plane to Italy during summer holidays in July would be packed. A plane to India in December is so full that sometimes, when I look out at the wing, I see an extra row of occupied seats. So limited is the oxygen within the plane that hallucination becomes inevitable.
Wedding season draws millions to the subcontinent for its weeklong festivities. Pageants of red bridal dresses and henna at every hotel, traffic jams dotted with turbaned grooms mounted on visibly irritated white horses, and temporary tents erected in every open space characterize winter on the subcontinent.
Our family was one of the many journeying eastward to become a part of this collage. We were travelling with my mom’s sister (my ‘maci’; pronounced ‘mah-see’) and her family. Among them was my cousin Bilal.
This was my first time back home. Cousin Bilal, although seven years younger, aged six, had visited India each summer since he was born.
Cousin Bilal was rather peculiar. He wasn’t weird to me in the way that most elder siblings find their younger siblings peculiar or annoying. Rather, I would argue that if an objective scale of weirdness could be created, cousin Bilal would score above the 50th percentile.
My maci asked Bilal, “can you tell Sunit, what he should look forward to in India?”.
“In India, you don’t have to wipe your own bum,” he replied.
“Excuse me?” I choked on my water, caught by surprise. The sardar ji (elderly Sikh gentleman wearing a turban and beard) in the isle above, reacted similarly. I assume that he was taken aback like me.
“Yeah that’s what the jet is for.”
“You turn a tap next to the toilet and your bum gets cleaned by water.”
My aunt leaned up from the row behind, “Don’t worry Sunit, you will see once you get there.”
We arrived at the airport in Delhi. From a modern Boeing 777 we transferred to a rickety propeller passenger aircraft seating about 70.
Upon landing in the North Indian city of Jammu, located at the foothills of the Himalayas, we were met with a convoy of Maruti Suzukis, Tata Indicas and Hyundai i20s. No one car would be big enough to carry our entire group and the luggage.
Unlike North American wedding festivities where individuals attending a ceremony are expected to participate, be it as a ring bearer, bridesmaid or polite spectator, in India guests can truly do as they please.
As such, after 7 days of cricket, interspersed with pauses to stuff myself with food at the buffet, I could could now say that I attended my first wedding in India. We didn’t even stop for the parade of individuals dancing around the groom and his horse as he rode into the hotel compound.
Now, in this time, I was able to discover the jet; a magnificent piece of hardware it was. All that you needed to do was turn a knob and a rush of water, jetting out of the back of the toilet, with a rather high degree of precision would send water streaming directly into you butt-crack, cleaning it thoroughly.
Before returning to Canada, my mom and aunt decided that they wanted to do some shopping at a local mall.
Unlike the malls in the New Delhi, those of Jammu can be described as more modest. Built without tourists or more cosmopolitan individuals in mind, these malls would be better described as indoor bazaars; and quite frankly, they were less popular than the outdoor ones.
Cousin Bilal tugged his mother’s arm, “mom I need to use the bathroom.” He ran off in the direction of the restroom sign.
Ten minutes passed, then fifteen. Cousin Bilal still hadn’t returned. My maci turned to me, "Sunit, can you go check on him".
I entered the washroom and asked: “Hey Bilal, are you there?”
“Can you call my mom?” he replied.
“There’s no jet and no toilet paper. There is just a dirty cup!”
I relayed this to my maci and after asking me to check to see if there were any other men using the facilities, she entered. My mom and I stood guard outside.
5 minutes later, Bilal and my aunt exited the stall, her laughing, his face red with what I thought was embarrassment.
“Did your mom need to clean your bum?” I teased.
“Yes!” Bilal replied. His enthusiasm in a moment where I expected him to be shameful took me aback.
“Have you ever heard of a lota?”
“It’s the cup that you fill with water to clean your bum.”
I decided not to ask anymore questions.
We returned home to Toronto the following week.
One Saturday, my maci and cousin Bilal came over to visit. My mom and aunt decided to bake something in the kitchen, I was playing video games, and Bilal was doing whatever.
My mom, as usual, considered me the prime suspect: “Sunit, where did you put the measuring cup? Why do you always play with things in the kitchen?”
At that moment, we heard a flush. Our bathroom door opened and out stepped Bilal, triumphant, measuring cup in hand.
“I can use a lota now!” he informed us.
<Please know that I would love to hear your opinions on my writing, your and recommendations on what to look at in the future. Always feel free to shoot me a message at 'firstname.lastname@example.org' if you want to chat.>