Sweet honks the horn and her maternal grandfather’s guard opens the gate. She pulls the car into the drive and stops behind a BMW sports car and a Mercedes SUV. Earlier today Dad told me that Vasant Vihar, the neighborhood that Younger Bhabhi’s family lives in, is upscale, safe and home to many of the diplomatic missions to India. It is also an area where Indians won’t rent to Indians, because they want foreign money. So this should indicate how wealthy Younger Bhabhi’s father must be.
We walk inside and I have to catch my breath. This is one of the MOST stunning homes I have EVER stepped foot in – from London, Singapore, the US or India. It belongs in a coffee table photo book. From the outside it was far more visually stimulating than most flat-roofed, modern homes that speckle the Delhi landscape. The materials were a finer concrete, metal and wood that resulted in a contemporary design.
But on the inside it is a wonder of white marble, uniform columns, huge windows and 12’ ceilings. Two of Younger Bhabhi’s sister-in-laws greet me and I have to do a double take. They are wearing shiny leggings and tunic tops, stilettos and enormous diamond studded bangles. They both tote two bangles on the right wrist and I have no idea how many karats they are sporting, other than a shitload. “Would you like a tour? We understand you’re an architect,” they say. I accept the offer but don’t correct them on my profession. Mostly because I really don’t know what I do for a job anyway.
They guide me into the kitchen and I am awestruck. It is a square space filled with shiny stainless steel appliances, espresso cabinets and white floors, walls and countertops. In the center of the room, an enormous kitchen island lounges in a warm and welcoming fashion. Bright and massive it feels like something you find in Sausalito, not southwest Delhi.
Preparing Indian food can be messy because our base of cooking brown includes ginger and onions in a host of colored spices – paprika, cumin, coriander, peppercorn and of course the-stains-everything-yellow-turmeric. My kitchen backsplash has a constant filmy, greasy yellow residue. However, back in the homeland, in this kitchen that is feeding a large joint family, I am truly impressed to find no trace of spice or dust. I can understand Younger Bhabhi just a little better now. She married out this family and down into ours, while her sister-in-laws married up. I still think she was in the wrong for dumping garbage on Elder Bhabhi’s head.
The sister-in-laws walk me through the rooms of the house. The bedrooms (of which there are five on this floor) are huge, with western style loos with double sinks, marble countertops, huge tubs. This flat makes everything I have seen in New York seem like the red-headed stepchild. Unsurprisingly the final stop on the tour is the master bedroom (about the size of my apartment) where Younger Bhabhi’s father is sitting on his bed, his turban to the side, laughing with his sons, son-in-law, daughter, grandchildren and Dad.
Her dad, who has to be Dad’s age if not older, is still a strikingly good looking man. To which I have say, Punjabi men are very attractive, especially the Sikhs. Their handsomeness has to work double time to overcome being buried under a long beard and moustache. Thus making their features extra sharp and refined. I sit down next to Dad and Younger Bhabhi’s father summons of his grandchildren to bring two parcels sitting on the other side of the bed. The little kid does as he’s told. Younger Bhabhi’s father gets up gives one parcel to Dad and the other to me.
We open them. Dad receives a cream colored woolen shawl and I get a really nice bolt of a silk blend fabric to have a Punjabi tunic and pant set made. We are given these items because whenever your daughter’s in-laws visit, they cannot leave empty handed. This includes the cousin through marriage who lives in New York and who you are meeting for the first time.