Meandarra and the B & S Ball

“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.

Groups like the Meandarra Pink  Ladies  seemed like old friends out to have a good time.

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.”

 The mosquitoes were deadly after the floods. Indians fear mosquitoes- malaria is common in our country. These ones were absolutely scary.

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.

Post Script: 

“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


10 thoughts on “Meandarra and the B & S Ball

  1. I really liked your story about your cousin meeting her husband at a B&S. My sister met her soon to be husband at one too. We are from Sydney but she went to a country university and apprently that’s what uni kids do in the country.

    Recently she tried to get my boyfriend to come with them to one (i’m not sure how it works that people who are getting married in 2 months are still bachealors and spinsters, but anyway). My boyfriend is American and really wanted to go hunting which he hasn’t done since he moved here. Unfortunately the b&S was part of the deal. He seemed cautiously optimistic until her first saw photos online from one and then saw your show.

    Poor love still hasn’t gotten to go hunting.

    1. Hi Isabel, I like your story about your boyfriend’s brush with the B & S. If Mahima from our show would have met your boyfriend, she may have tried to convince him of the pleasures of the B & S over hunting 🙂
      Thank you very much for reading the blog and for sharing your own experience.

    1. I’m taking up your offer and coming to Perth the next time I’m in Aus 🙂
      And my salutations to your wife.
      I will be adding experiences (without mentioning names) of inter-race marriages/ partnerships. Would appreciate if you can send me your experiences.
      Thanks for posting this link!

  2. I can hear your beautiful, lilting voice saying this as I read it. Thanks for the heartfelt opinions in this blog. 🙂

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