Sunday, June 10, 2012

The sisterhood of the travelling hens

Sid watching us leave from upstairs!
"Bubz, what's with this silly hen weekend and why can't I come?" asked a peevish Sid.  I looked up from the pile of clothes on my lap and laughed, "Why do we have to go through this each time I go for one of these? It's not like they come around very often".  He twirled Mia's tail around his finger and muttered, "Well, I don't get it. Not like you do anything exciting! It's just a holiday and I'm not allowed to come on it. And I know everyone, this is silly!"  Mia, who was tired of Sid's tail twirling had set out for greener pastures - my suitcase. I sighed as I extracted a sock from her mouth, "Why do you guys go on stag nights or why do you take off with all your brothers and cousins for all-boy weekends?" He humph-ed and said, "Well that's different. Stag nights have existed since the start of time. Men gathering around the fire getting drunk on home-made hooch, while a lissome lass in cheetah-print fur writhes around dancing and the men cheer like wild animals!" I rolled my eyes at him, "Where'd you get that from? A special on Nat Geo on the history of male bonding? Or is it something from the Flintstones?" Mia wheezed out a hairball, the sound remarkably like a sudden burst of laughter, which caused Sid to look at both of us distastefully and mutter something that sounded like, "Well Fred and Barney may have had something to do with it!"

"Anyhow, so hen weekends/parties are also traditional. Why the fuss?" It was his turn to roll his eyes, "Oh please, hen parties are just a reaction by you women to a stag party. Since you can't bear not being included in a boy's night, you just had to copy us!"  I continued folding clothes and putting them in my suitcase, "I can't profess to having done as much research on the origin of hen do's as you have done on pre-historic stag parties, but so what if we wanted something for ourselves? It's fun, we bond, we drink, we eat, we dress up, we party and basically have a good time. What's the problem?"  He humph-ed and haw-ed and poked at my clothes, muttering something about "plunging necklines and girls nowadays being out of control and if he had his way, women would be locked up by 10"!  I smiled and patted him on the head, "Don't worry bubz, I'll get you presents and a Burger King Double Whopper from the airport, ok?"  The change in him was remarkable, the frown was replaced by a dazzling smile, I was given a hug ("Make it two burgers bubz!), and Mia was helpfully thrown out of my suitcase after pulling my underwear bag from her mouth. Research was started immediately on hotels, restaurants, exchange rates and where I could buy him presents.

I smile as I recollect Sid's similar reaction each time I've gone away on one of these weekends. My friends - Prerana, Shagun and I have managed to maintain tradition and take off somewhere before each of us have got married.  Extensive planning precedes each weekend, the "topography" (as Prerana likes to know the "topography" of each place we visit) is discussed and each one is meant to be in a different location, helping to make each trip distinct and special for the bride-to-be. And it definitely has been, even though Shagun, will beg to differ since she felt she got the worst deal!  Just before we recently went international, and visited Hong Kong for Prerana's hen weekend, Shagun was discussing with someone she knew about where we had gone for each of our hen do's.  Her friend nodded appreciatively when she told them that Goa was our destination of choice for my hen weekend, but politely screwed up their nose when she mentioned where we went for her's. "Kasauli! Thoda boring nahin hai?!"  And though Shagun will continue to scream to the high heavens that her's was the worst, she knows that we've had a blast wherever we went. Our hen weekend's have little to do with a bar and drinking and screaming girls in wigs and boas and well oiled male strippers,  but more to do with screaming girls, drinking and just pure unadulterated female bonding. You don't need a hen weekend to do it, but every girl needs to do it every now and then!

There's always the element of unexpectedness since we may plan the destination, but with the most surprising results. So Goa may have been about choosing a chilled out, beachy holiday just before I got married. What did ensue was lots of rain (we did choose the monsoon since it's a really pretty time to go), Shagun wondering what the fuss about Goa was with all the rain; Shagun shocked that Prerana would even suggest going around on bikes in the rain, Shagun comfortably sprawled out at the back of an 800 that we hired instead of the bikes; Prerana racing us (in said 800!) to some casino boat (the Caravela) that an old contact of her's had invited us on and then realizing that we were completely inappropriately dressed for a casino boat-full of middle aged pot bellied men, swilling whisky, eating papad and peanuts and listening to ghazals! They probably thought we were the after-dinner entertainment! After being stuck on the boat for over an hour waiting to be ferried back to land, we bided our time at the slot machines, laughing hysterically over the daal makhni and pindi chole, taking advantage of the whisky and keeping a straight face when Shagun bumped into her doctor from Delhi, who was then ferried back to land with us!  Much more driving happened in the good ol' 800, a certain scooterist got knocked by said 800 and wobbled dangerously while Prerana shrieked "Did I do that? Did I bang into him?"; Me making everyone pose in ridiculous Titanic style and trying to convince Shagun that monsoon Goa is the only Goa! It was definitely a great start to our hen weekend tradition!

When it was time for Shagun to get married, we decided to go with a different "topography" and choose the hills (also Prerana being in the media meant she was married to her job with no time off!) and settled on Kasauli, close enough, quaint and intimate.  Shagun may not admit it, but she's the only one who got some concentrated "hen planning" with matching t-shirts made for all of us to wear on the trip.  Never mind that we stayed at the Air Force mess and ate daal and bhindi for a majority of the trip and that our sightseeing comprised of an old church and "Manki Point" with no monkeys. It was the Himachali wine that was what the trip was truly about. No hen weekend would be complete without it, we even considered taking some to Hong Kong for Prerana's trip this year!  It's pleasing to the palatte and sneaks up on you after about a bottle each. I must say the neighbouring Air Marshal and his wife in the adjoining cottage who were in Kasauli for a quiet weekend of bridge and other respectable activities, were very sporting of the hysterical women next door discussing all that must be discussed at hen weekends! Two nights went by in a pleasantly drunken haze with some rather disturbing phone calls to Shagun's soon-to-be husband, Saurabh, and I still find it surprising that he welcomes Prerana and me into their home!

There was never any real intention of doing a hen weekend for each of us, but with time our committment to them was admirable. With each of us in 3 different countries and a very pregnant Shagun, we surprised ourselves with managing to pull off the last of the official hen's and it was as all the others were, very well worth it.  The alcohol was never potent enough; Prerana tripped repeatedly, the last surprised stumble was rather spectacular on the doorstep of what we thought might be a fun burlesque show, but was more of a bored strip club; we ate far too much, laughed even more and as tradition dictated - I once again was made to sleep in the middle ("but we thought you liked it" said the other surprised hens!)  What we realized of course, is that these holidays have very little to do with celebrating impending marriages or bidding farewell to single-dom, but simply getting away from it all and having a good time with the girls.  So unless we decide to get married again (Sid might just want this to happen in a last time effort to be a part of another hen weekend!), the last of the hen's is over. But since it was never really about any of that stuff, we now look forward to the next holiday of female craziness - family sizes may increase, we may get more distance between us geographically, priorities will change, but just as we never expected to stick to the tradition of hen weekends, I think we'll surprise ourselves. After all, the topography will bring us together!

1 comment:

Vinita said...

Hi Reem, I had fun reading all about your hen weekend...and am missing my travelling hens in Mumbai. I had been with them to Jaipur and Goa, unfortunately not during the rains, and keep revisiting those times in my head. I'd been on the casino boat once during my honeymoon and I found it just as weird....now I laugh to remember those times but at that time I'd felt really weird and as you said, counting the minutes when I'd be on dry land again.