We weren’t supposed to be in India for Christmas. For one, my boss grumbled about giving me leave during the Christmas week again this year (which frankly was really petty because the Chinese people seem to get leave during CNY every year. This is the problem with Christmas becoming a universal holiday).
But also, we needed the kids to do school interviews in Bangalore and that could not happen during Christmas week because everything shuts down. So, the plan was to go to India in October.
Then it turned out that we would need to be in Bangalore during Christmas week for my V’s parent’s 50th wedding anniversary celebrations. I wasn’t sure how I was going to swing that, but I did a solo trip to Mumbai in October.
Finally, I told my boss, I’d work from India that week. I managed to take the same flight as V and the kids who were going for a longer stint. We flew in the day on Singapore Airlines, which was very nice, avoiding the midnight arrival in Bangalore.
Christmas in India is always hectic but worth it. Every alternate night was some sort of party. My sis-in-law who had broken her leg still organised a carol singing route. We went to V’s friend’s new house. There was a big Christmas lunch, by which time Mimi was exhausted and had multiple meltdowns, but we also had a fun big game of housie. My other sister-in-law had a dinner and had us stay over.
I had been rather skeptical about the big event – my in-laws’ golden wedding – because they don’t have the best marriage. It seemed like the epitome of hypocrisy for everyone to be doing this hoopla over an essentially toxic relationship. But my mother-in-law once said that it takes something to last this long. I dunno, I’m a quality over quantity kind of person.
But in the end, it was fun. There was a mass, at which I did a reading and then regretted it because a) I had to cover up by sari with this massive poncho b) the regular reader insisted on doing the first reading so I had to scramble with the second c) the second reading ended up being one that told wives to be subject to their husbands and even perhaps surprisingly husbands to love their wives.
There was party after with lots of dancing. Surprisingly, the chosen entertainment was a Bollywood dancer leading the crowd. Apparently, the south no longer hates Hindi music, though we did have a couple of Malayalam songs.
My one wishlist was to get some grooming done, and I managed to get my pedicure, waxing and blow dry done before the big event and receive lots of compliments on my transformation. I have not mastered the art of walking, leaving alone dancing, in a sari though.
Every year, my in-laws urge my parents to come down for Christmas. This year, being a big anniversary, they decided to, so we had everyone under one roof, something I’ve always been apprehensive about, but it was fine.
Amid all this madness, I worked four days, two in one sister-in-law’s house where I made the mistake of trying to work in the living room amid games of Taboo and general chit chat and two in the other’s where I learnt my lesson and set up my workspace on the terrace bar (closest to the router).
I went into this holiday feeling somewhat judgy and resentful but I came out of it feeling generally positive about my husband’s family. My sisters-in-law and their husbands not only went out of the way to accommodate me, but also my parents. They are gregarious and generous people who think it is perfectly normal to stretch themselves to the limit throwing massive parties and welcoming extended family into their homes. While this is not to be taken for granted, I have seen and benefited from it time and again. They are also full of drama and emotion, which I do my best to stay on the sidelines of.
I have been feeling this for a couple of years – and I touch wood while saying this – but V’s parents are pretty peaceful. They are very tolerant about whatever we do in their house, and I am not expected to rush around working. It took me over a decade to get to this place, and this is not to say that I have not been the recipient of MIL snark or that having two children, including the coveted male grandchild, did not help, but I am not anxious around them anymore and have realised that much of my earlier angst was the result of insecurity – on both sides.
Also, V and I managed to be on good, even great terms, over Christmas for the first time in a couple of years. I hate to say it but Bangalore suits V. He is among people he wants to be around and he is involved in stuff that doesn’t include me. We achieve the right balance of separate-and-together when we are there.
I managed not to fall sick this time, despite the long hours and party food, for which I am super grateful.
I was happy to fly back to Hong Kong a few days before V and the kids and get some recovery time in though. I spent New Year’s Eve catching up on sleep, taking a long walk and watching the Downton Abbey movie before crawling into bed at 10 pm. I went to office on New Year’s Day, even though there was a massive protest planned, only to find everyone else had decided to work from home. I was super excited to log into my two big screens after a week of swotting over a tiny laptop though. I treat myself to a greasy Shake Shack lunch, came home early and binged on the second season of Big Little Lies.
V and the kids came home a day later than they were supposed to, having missed their connecting flight and been put up in a hotel in Singapore. This was the high point of the trip for the kids, who totally loved the hotel room and three hotel meals, so we can’t complain. I spent the extra day writing a column, having lunch with friends and watching Little Women in the cinema, the kind of day I have not had in a long time.
The end of 2019 was all I could have asked for. 2020 promises to be interesting.