“Do you think I’ve gone round the bend?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
My cousin decided to marry an Aussie guy and brought him home between semesters. All hell broke loose. Good Indian girls don’t bring firangi boys home even now, and this was a good 20 years back. Grand- dad had studied in England as a young man and was still suffering from an acute colonial hangover, even 60 years post independent India. To get the grand-dad to agree to the marriage was key, so a ‘certain’ impression about the boyfriend had to be created. Many stressful days later nana (which in India means grandfather, not grandmother) was still in no mood to talk about the Aussie boy, let alone talk marriage. Talking among ourselves, the conversation took a turn when an ordinarily politically incorrect cousin dropped in to meet the Aus returned relative..
He: “So you brought a man back, is that true?
She: “Yes, so?”
He: ” You may have to die”
She: “I’ll die if I can’t marry him” ( A favorite Bollywood dialogue )
He: ” Where have you hidden him?”
She: “At a friends place, and I’m not telling you more.”
He: ” You couldn’t find an Indian there in Australia?
She: ” No. Not my type of Indian.”
He: ” So where did you meet him?’
She: “At a, ummmmmm, ball”
Nana froze. We froze. Nana spoke-
Nana: “You met him at a ball?
She: (Scared voice) “Yes nana.”
Nana: “Hmm, I’m glad he has a refined taste. I am happy to hear how he spends his recreational hours. A ball, good, very good.”
Silken yarns & half-truths followed. Suitably impressed, eventually nana thawed. Happy ending. The Aussie groom looked handsome, and really uncomfortable sitting on the ceremonial horse on the day of the Big Fat Indian Wedding .
I was reminded of this story somewhere towards the middle of our Aussie adventure when we had our first experience of a B & S ; Jake- my cousin’s husband- was a country boy and I wondered if they had met at the B & S ball. Would ‘refined’ be the adjective nana would use for the proceedings we were going to be a part of… I was curious.
It was a long long drive. This board cheered us no end. Finally!
We were disappointed at the start. I think we reached way to early, and expected too much. It wasn’t as crowded as we thought, and in that afternoon sun most people looked quite sober- until we spoke to them.
I have to say that it’s quite easy to recognize approximately how many drinks down an adult Indian man is, and it generally doesn’t take too many; in my limited experience as a traveler, it seemed to me that adult Aussie men need a lot more liquor to actually get drunk. I wonder if that’s good or bad.
As the sun set across the tiny stream, it became clear that the B & S sports were not for the physically weak or city folk. Our boys were easily outdone even by the girls. In spite of all the beefy boys around, it was a woman who won the barrel rolling event, and she said it was the 3rd year in a row! She told me her family lived here but she was always determined to leave for a bigger town. She now worked in Moree. It was easy to see she had worked very hard towards it, and was justifiably proud of her achievements.
We weren’t so proud of ours at the tug-of-war that followed- them vs us 4 Indians & Joe. We thought our host Joe, the tough Aussie bloke would dig his heels in and we’d have a chance at winning this, but we had over-estimated Joe’s physical prowess. We were tugged away in the very 1st minute.
Country sports and events in India are very similar except that women have their own events, or no part in them at all. Segregation of sexes in public events is pretty much the norm in almost all of rural India.
The spread of cheese and crackers and melted-in -the -heat M & M’s looked pretty untouched- we would have loved to change that, considering it was a many hours since we had eaten. Unfortunately we were herded away quickly, and all we could do was wave at the lovely ladies all in pink.
Country folk in India are more conservative than city people, and so the B*** flash was unexpected. It came up in many casual conversations later through our journey and once the promos were aired, wherein many Australians seemed embarrassed about the impression it gives about Australian society.
However, for me, coming from a country where women have endless restrictions imposed on them- from the family, society, due to the general lack of safety for women in many places in India/ how vulnerable they are to becoming an easy target pretty much all over India, and also self-imposed ( for the very same reasons), this was in an unconventional way.. a kind of proof of the freedom that this country offered- to be able to live without any societal or other restrictions whatsoever. Not only for men, but for both men and women! (Of course, how one uses/ misuses that freedom/ stretches it, is a personal choice.)
2 things that stayed with me :
The nonchalance with which one of the women (who flashed) smilingly walked away
as opposed to
The reaction of the young guy with her- *Accusatory, sarcastic voice * ” Mom’s gonna be real happy.”
Some questions that came to my mind prompted by his tone of voice :
Was that her brother or boyfriend or fiance? Her mother or his mother?
Are parents here okay with their girls flashing for TV? How respected are parent’ view-points?
Do people in a small town judge you for it? If they do, how do they show it? Does anyone care if they do?
Is it perceived as ‘funny’ across Australia?
A few Australian women I met later in the journey told me it was no big deal at all, and that flashing serves many purposes. In fact one of them gave me an instance of when she flashed to distract someone from something she didn’t want him to to do. In public, yes.
Some things that many B & S Ball attendees said:
“It’s true, it was for Bachelors & Spinsters, now it stands for Beer & Sex.”
“I’m drinking since the past 24 hours, non-stop.
“I’m here to get some. Almost all of us are.
“The messier it gets, the better it gets.”
“The ‘utes’ are about testosterone.”
“My swag is for one but hopes for two.”
It’s just a lot of innocent fun, sex and drinks.”
“You’ll see the fun at night.”
In all fairness the night belonged to Gurmeet’s moves on the dance floor. The quiet cautious introvert journalist transformed into a Boganesque Travolta- loves- Bhangra ‘So you think you can dance’ finalist. Pretty amazing moves there.
Yet he was so modest at feedback time- actually the ladies just loved him there that night and wouldn’t let him go. Both our boys were big hits with the ladies at the B & S in full swing- Amer had perfected one really hot dance move, Gurmeet set the floor on fire.
The night was about mostly young people, cheap alcohol, tearing off shirts, more alcohol, Acca Dacca music, a few people puking away, making out, more alcohol, people falling over and down, and mostly about most people there getting sloshed, and happy to get there.
It wasn’t sophisticated, but there was a kind of simplicity and innocence to it- many of the people there seemed to be young kids who work hard and look forward to this annual event. It was summed-up by two sweet, shy and completely drunk 22 year olds who said to me :
” Our parents think we’re at work and we’ll cop it if they know we’re here, We want to be on TV but are scared to be cuz they’ll see us on it.” And “It took us a very long time and a lot of hard work to save 100 dollars to get in.”
We drove all the way back to Tara to sleep off the tiredness of a really long interesting day, and recover enough for the long drive back .
The modest motel gave us all individually packed breakfasts. That historic drive back Mahima broke all her own Olympian previous records by eating 15 chocolates at one go. Only after did she tell us that they were from all of our snack bags. Our hard-to -hide disappointment and “Not fair Mahi” made it abundantly clear that the happy van had a few really mature Australians and Indians.
Things got back to normal only after Trev made a pit-stop and bought everyone a few Kit-Kats and it was unanimously agreed upon that Mahi was not getting any of these. That’s when she showed us her amazing chocolate collection from India, neatly tucked away in her bag. I can still hear her laughing hysterically from sugar-overdose at our pained envious expressions.
Next post- Mt Isa and the art of drinking.
“Hello my friend! The utes are simply called B & S utes; they’re typically adorned with very tall aerials (aka ‘flag poles’ used for getting UHF radio reception) as well as lots of stickers, and they must have a huge 5-post bullbar on the front (aka ‘a 5 poster’ due to the number of upright supports on the bar). These utes are driven by males as well as females and basically signify that the driver is from the country & could be considered a little bit wild and out for a good time. I used to have one of these utes….”
The ‘tiny stream’ in the photo is known as a creek over here and is breeding ground for massive mosquitos, as you found out.
~ Input from Kimberly Dove of the Meandarra Pink Ladies