During the rehearsal, the videographer locks his camera into my face and goes off for a chat. I squirm in my seat, trying hard not to make faces at my big face on the big screen in front of me.

Later he asks me if I will instruct my family members to stand up and cheer for me when I get the award, so that he can take an insert.
I say, “No one has come with me.” He looks at me, sympathetically.
He says, “What about your friends?” I shake my head, “No, I am here alone.” He looks ready to lend me his shoulder to cry on.
I say, more to console him than myself, “A lot of my friends are here, anyway.” He says, “Then ask them to stand and clap for you.”
I say, “But they are getting awards themselves. I can’t ask them to stand and clap.” He nods, not quite happy with this explanation.

There are a lot of women receiving an award. So the morning of the ceremony is colored with talk about saris, hair, curls, back buttons on blouses and choli threads. Help is solicited and offered.
A close watch is kept on the watch and there are intense discussions on the time it is going to take to wear a sari. I am smug in my choice of ghagra and blouse, knowing it will take me 15 minutes to get ready.
But I don’t feel so good when all my friends come down into the lobby, resplendent in their saris. I can’t wear a sari by myself. I miss Ba then and my sisters-in-law A&M, who are my sari-keepers.

On the up-side, I have red sandals.

red shoes

Teja texts me, thus:

“Have fun …
I think you are well rehearsed …
Walk steady …
Please do not slip …
Keep your eyes open when the photographer is clicking …
Try and smile …
But in control …
Not too much …
Not too less …
Practice if you want in front of the mirror …
Do not drop the award …
Or the certificate …
Don’t forget to carry a handkerchief …
And ya …
Please send me the credit card details for train booking.”

Dhanno messages me while the ceremony is on. I read her message; she has been posting photos grabbed from the TV. She messages me, “Mama, stop looking at your phone, while Gulzar saheb is speaking. You are on TV.” I hurriedly keep the phone down, and remove my reading glasses.

My sister, Fey, after watching the ceremony on TV, keeps gushing about how I was given a front row seat, as if I had exercised some special influence, or worse still, rushed into the hall early to grab the best seat. My nephew explains to her that the seats may have been given alphabetically. I have to brag that the seats were allocated to us, and I was given a front row seat, because I got a gold lotus.

Dhanno says I looked pretty on TV, but had my hair in my face, when I went up to get the award.
I say, “That is why I told you I should tie it up.” She says, “Mama, there is something you can do, which is called pushing your hair off your face, and tucking it behind your ears.”

So you may be rendezvous-ing with the President of India, but family is family, and there is enough happening behind the scenes to keep your feet on the ground and the grin on your face.