MARRIED AND MOBBED!
Blonde, blue-eyed Pauline Jennings of Melbourne awoke in her Calcutta hotel bed with the thought, “This is the day!” After marrying Shimla-born Ian, Pauline, of Italian heritage, had told her husband: “I want my marriage blessed in your country.” He too wanted to come home for the ceremony. So when the 9th International Anglo-Indian Reunion was announced, Pauline thought it the perfect opportunity to renew their vows. With church ceremony, reception, flowers and music all in place, a wedding party of 30 close friends signed up to travel from Australia to Calcutta for the ceremony.
Wearing her blue ceremonial lehenga sari, Pauline renewed her marriage vows with the sherwani-clad Ian at St. Thomas’ church on Middleton Row. Friends from here and abroad congratulated the couple as they moved out of the church after the ceremony. But Calcutta lay in wait; someone had arranged for a flash dance outside the church! As the couple emerged, 20 professional performers, Masters of Chaos, struck up the Slumdog Millionaire theme song and as they gyrated to the beat, wedding party members joined in. Not to be outdone, Pauline showed off some of her best moves! Always ready for a tamasha, the Middleton Row residents rushed to the scene and joined in the jubilation.
After the commotion subsided, Pauline wanted to visit the Victoria Memorial. “To me, the marble building is reminiscent of another monument of love, the Taj Mahal,” she said. So, despite dire warnings by locals about such a venture, they set off. When they arrived at the VM, Calcutta put on another show for them. Ian was mistaken for an Australian cricketer! Word got around the place. People thronged around the duo. Cars stopped, passengers alighted and rushed to join the throng surrounding the pair. In the midst of all of this, Pauline posed with admirers, even held babies, as cameras popped! “Though it was like paparazzi on steroids, I was never afraid!” said Pauline. “Indians are a gentle, beautiful people. Now I know why it is called Incredible India!”
When the crowd swelled to about 200 admirers, the cops came to the rescue but not before one Bengali lad asked Pauline, “You marry Calcutta boy, you stay here now?”
(By Ian’s Anglo-Indian friend, author Keith Butler. “A Kidderpore boy”, Keith moved to New Zealand some 40 years ago.)
PORK VINDALOO WITH DOLLOPS OF LOVE!
The day before the food fest at St. James’ School grounds, Brenda Grey played chef at her Lenin Sarani home, stirring up 25kg of pork vindaloo, 20kg of beef vindaloo, 20kg of jalfrezi and frying almost 200 bakarkhanis! All of which sold out a few hours into the carnival. “I even ran out of gas last night and had to cook on a key oil stove. I thought I would be late today but thank the Lord I was on time!” laughed the 63-year-old retired secretary, as she handed out the last of the many plates at her stall on Thursday.
The pop picks at Brenda’s Kitchen were pork vindaloo, pork roast and jalfrezi. Helping her were her friends Tina and Anna and if proof of the pudding is in the eating, the long queues waiting to grab a bite said it all. A happy Verena Johnson, down from London for the reunion, was one of the many in line. “The pork vindaloo smells beautiful and the food is absolutely delicious,” she smiled, plate in hand, and a friend for company to dig in.
“It’s been hectic and tiring but all worth it. I’m very happy seeing my Anglo-Indian friends and relatives enjoying. That’s what did it for me,” said Brenda. Why doesn’t she turn her passion into a profession? “I’m 60-plus and my knees hurt, I need help to even lift the vessels!” she signed off with a laugh, as she gave her grandson a friendly punch for coming late!
“HUM IDHAR MEIN PAIDA HUA!”
She was last here as a teenager in 1967. Forty-six years later, Edwina Lovery nee Gray was back in the city where she grew up and on her checklist of things to do was visit her “Chhota Elliot Road” flat where she grew up. “My flat is still there. The Muslim family who live there now were so warm… when I knocked on their door, they invited me in to join them for a meal. I looked at the rooms, the area downstairs where I used to play…. When I came out, I didn’t know whether to cry at the memories or to smile with joy,” said the 65-year-old.
In Calcutta till January 14, she has already been to Flurys, Trinca’s, Moulin Rouge…. “Believe it or not, I even got my nails painted at Moon Palace beauty parlour on Free School Street!” she announced with a big smile on her face, showing off her nails. The Loreto (Elliot Road) alumna fondly remembers Mother Gertrude — “I know she’s dead and gone, God bless her soul” — and revealed that her biggest achievement so far has been a conversation in Anglo-style Hindi with an autorickshaw-wallah. “I told the driver, ‘Hum Elliot Road mein utrega’, and he was surprised and asked me how I could speak in Hindi. So I replied, ‘Hum idhar mein paida hua, kaise Hindi nahin janega?’” she said proudly about her birthplace, before turning away to give directions to a friend about a “reliable” opticals shop in New Market.
HE’S SEEN THEM ALL!
Withbert Payne is perhaps the only one in town who has not missed a single International Anglo-Indian Reunion since its inception in 1986. “The reunion is held once every three years and I’ve attended all nine in the last 27,” said the Calcutta-born delegate, now settled in San Francisco. What is it that draws him to every reunion? “I come to meet my old friends and to make the community stronger,” he said, wife Minoo Sultan by his side. So which has been the biggest and best reunion of them all? “Well, it’s difficult to compare. The smallest number of people was in
New Zealand and Melbourne had the largest number of attendees. The one in Bangalore also had many people and so has this year’s edition. I enjoy each one!” he smiled.