Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Doors

As I may have mentioned earlier, we moved house (our thirteenth since we got married) the end of this June. It was a flat almost identical to the one we were living in, and in the same housing complex, but with some additional features introduced by the owners, who had lived there for several years before they decided to move to Texas.

Since they had moved in to this apartment complex several years ago, when it was on the outer edge of the civilised world, they were very safety conscious. The main door had the builder's mortise lock, a bolt for a padlock, and a big safety lock with two latches. The outer, grill door had a steel frame and netting, plus a mortise lock, and a bolt on the inside. The skylight above had a stainless steel grill.
They then handed me a bag full of keys to the various cupboards and cabinets and drawers to the house. There were drawers in the dressing table that could be locked, cupboards in the kitchen, sections in the store room: a truly overwhelming number of keys for a couple whose worldly goods mostly consist of books, music and cushion covers!

Our young landlords had done a wonderful job of adding storage space to the house. In the storeroom/ servant's room, they had built a huge shoe cupboard against one wall, and an ironing table with storage drawers against the other wall. The master bedroom had a huge shelf/sideboard with many small cabinets built into it, and the guest room, (formerly their children's room), had a big desk cum bookshelf occupying one wall. Many of our books were no longer homeless, and our movie collection now saw the light of day.

The morning after we received our set of keys to the house, our kids dropped in and wanted to see it.
(The landlords had left late the previous night, and had left one set with one of their relatives).
Wielding the bunch of house keys, I marched across with two kids and a friend  in tow. The steel grill door was double locked, and opened with two turns of the key. The safety lock opened with two turns of the key, too. The key turned in the builder's original lock, but I couldn't extricate it. My younger son, (who is also known as Terminesh on occasion), tried pulling it out, but the key broke in the lock. We could push open the door and enter the flat, and then wondered what to do. My daughter sent her driver to get a locksmith, and he came back shortly with a Sikh locksmith who extracted the broken key.

We decided that the grill door was safe enough in a building and society with plenty of security, and put both latches of the safety lock in a neutral position, since we decided that we didn't need more than one lock on our front door.

That was Door/ Key episode 1.

A couple of months later we had house guests. My aunt had undergone knee replacement surgery, and my uncle was going to visit her in the hospital.  I happened to be running a temperature, and on this particular morning was not able to get up. My maid suddenly comes and scolds me that the stuff I had kept in the small room has fallen and jammed the door and it can't open. I had propped two or three large paintings behind the door of the store room, and in some mysterious way they had fallen down, blocking the door completely. The spouse and the uncle tried desperately to move them, but to no avail. Somehow the maid got a hand in, and managed to lift the heavy frames enough to manoeuvre
the door open, bless her. I promptly put the picture frames between the dryer and the steel almirah, where they could do no further damage.

So that was Door  Episode No. 2.
When I told my good friend O about this, she narrated a similar episode in their house, where the ironing board got wedged between the door and a wardrobe, and could not be moved. Someone actually climbed down from the terrace to their eighth floor window, removed the pane of glass in the skylight, and entered and opened the door. Thank goodness we didn't have to do that. (The next day the maid's arm was badly swollen, but thankfully she recovered soon.

Once my aunt was home from hospital, we had many visitors coming to see her. One of them was her granddaughter, who had flown in for a day to meet her beloved Dadi! The spouse and I decided to get some rasmalai and dhokla from our local shop, and left the house with my niece watching TV and Chacha and Chachi following their normal routine of morning exercises. We didn't even think of telling the young lady that our place was very safe, and that our just closing the steel grill door was more than enough. When we came home, we opened the steel door, but the wooden door wouldn't open. Chacha threw down the house keys for the RE to retrieve, but the door still wouldn't open. Chacha tried attacking the lock with hammer and screwdriver, but to no avail. The RE went to get a locksmith. I went upstairs to O's house and asked her to keep the rasmalai and dhokla in her fridge. I sat down and drank some water. I was somewhat terrified, because the front door was proving to be impregnable. Even cutting open the grill above didn't seem possible or practical. The carpenter came and sat around uselessly. The RE returned with the locksmith, who seemed to be the original Sikh chap who had come some months ago! Within seconds the door was open, to our collective relief. The locksmith spent a good couple of hours de-activating and removing the latches from the safety lock.
That was Episode No. 3.

The fourth episode was comparatively milder, but potentially much more dangerous.
Last year we had visited the Blind School Diwali Mela (for the first time), and among other purchases had bought a bamboo and coconut shell mashaal.

I used it last year, and this year, once again, it was in the little corner between the front door and the wall, although outside a different apartment. On Diwali I placed a glass candle holder on top of it, and lit a large candle inside it, and all was well. On the day after Diwali, I lit the wick inside the coconut shell (there was a good quantity of wax), and a couple of tea-lights outside the door. When I opened the door the next morning, there was a blackened mess where the mashaal once stood. It was only when we got back from our walk that O pointed out how lucky we were that our electrical wiring didn't catch fire: the switchboard with the doorbell and entry light had melted and was quite de-shaped. This wasn't quite a door episode, but since it was in close proximity, I guess it qualifies!

Is there a particular God of Door Things who can help? (We have a Ganapati outside, and one just inside, who seem to be sleeping on the job). Do let me know!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thoughts on Diwali, 2016

So many Diwalis
have come and gone,
same old wishes,
same old pledges
hoping for peace, 
and love, and light
(not noise, thank you so much)
for something to change,
for goodwill to appear,
pollution to vanish
life easier to bear
for the poor and the lonely
on the edges of our world...
(My inner cynic
has decided to relax today,
and let my upbeat self emerge.
Hoping doesn't hurt,
or does it, if it remains futile?)
At night the city glimmers and gleams
like a bride with glittering ornaments...
I overhear a young boy tell his friends,
a bunch of them bursting crackers
'My mom says she is anti-pataka,
but my Nanu let me buy crackers'
and hope dies down again.
But this Diwali morning,
despite the hazy sky,
the pigeons are still waiting
for me to fill up their water trough
and stubborn hope bestirs from its slumber.
I wish, and hope, and pray
that human beings learn to love
each other, all living beings, our Mother Earth
today and every day.
Happy Diwali.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

And it's here:

The book of my writings that my children decided to get published for my sixtieth birthday, is now available.

Let me share with you Kiran Manral's kind words, which grace the back cover:

From insightful short fiction that plumbs into the nuances of small town India to bittersweet anecdotes from her personal life to carefully constructed, evocative poems Dipali Taneja tracks the trajectory of her life from Lucknow to Cochin to Kolkata to Delhi in Of This And That.
Whether it is the subtle interplay of faith and cynicism in The Caterpillar, the touching Garage Tales about a sincere and hardworking dhobi and his dashed aspirations regarding his son, the unconventional manifestations of death and mourning in Grief or the delicately handled Parents, which deals with the reality of domestic violence and abuse and a woman’s insistence of emerging from the cycle to create her own destiny,  the short stories are empathetic mirrors to everyday society, making one ponder and reflect.  The selection of blog posts, talking about Boseji and the Sometimes Resident Engineer (as she calls her husband) are charming glimpses into everyday life, which bring a chuckle to one’s lips.
Written with grace and acuity, Of This and That is a collection that will touch you, delight you and make you realise that truly, everyone has a story and sometimes the unstated story is always the one that has the life lesson.

Kiran Manral, Author

Thursday, September 15, 2016

My post for Agents of Ishq

The mention of a more than fifty-year old memory of a pair of hairy legs on a Facebook post had Paromita Vohra ask me to write about it for Agents of Ishq.

I love the way they have presented it, as well as the delightful illustrations.

Do visit:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Another small joy

Glancing out of the drawing room window, I see two pigeons perched on the little ceiling fan in the balcony.
Are they waiting for a joy ride, I wonder?
I have to take a picture of them, but it has to be through the mesh door, (and at a strange angle):
our pigeons are nervous creatures.

I think I'll give them a tiny little spin by quickly switching the fan on and off, but they both fly off immediately.
I silently apologize to them, and promise not to ever do this again.

There was space for one more pigeon: were they waiting?

Friday, September 9, 2016

A small joy

The laundry
flaps happily
in the breeze,
drying quickly,
with sunshine,
a small joy
to savour
through the day

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Guest Who Never Came

Mr X was supposed to come to our place
for lunch this last Saturday
( He was in our neighbouring town on work)
And so I bought some extra milk
and some bananas, and used my last
mango of the season to make custard,
early on Saturday morning!
I took out the bowl of chholey
I had kept in the freezer, to defrost.
But then he said he couldn't come that day,
so the custard went into the fridge
and the chholey back in the freezer
and we went to Khan Market
to buy a present for
a young friend's fortieth birthday.
And so I acquired an exquisite pair
of silver earrings from Amrapali
and a stunning cotton saree from Cooptex,
and that evening, after dinner
I ate a bowl of custard.

Mr. X was supposed to meet us on Sunday
but we had prior commitments,
and he turned out to be busy too,
though we would have rearranged our plans
to meet  him!
So we went out for lunch with family members,
came home and had a quick nap,
before we went out for the evening function.
Since I couldn't nap, somehow,
I ate the remains of the morning's bread upma
and a bowl of custard, just in case dinner got late.

Then he was supposed to come over
on Monday afternoon
and spend the night with us,
before catching his flight home on Tuesday.
So I made up the guest room bed
and put fresh towels in the bathroom
all ready for our guest, whom we were expecting
in the afternoon or early evening
and was wondering what to make for dinner,
when the spouse called him
(just after we had had lunch)
to find out where he was.
I offered the spouse some custard
but he declined, so I had some
(it was thinning out by now,
losing texture, but still delicious).

He said he couldn't make it that day,
but would come today (Tuesday),
on his way to the airport.
I thought he'd be having lunch with us
so I changed my plans for a shopping trip
with a friend, only to learn from the spouse
that he was was expected only in the afternoon,
and not for lunch,
and that the spouse would go with him to the airport,
so that they could catch up on the long ride.

So my friend and I went shopping,
and I come home to discover that
our man X will not be coming home at all,
since he had got delayed at his work place,
but the spouse will be meeting him
at a hotel near the airport.
So the spouse has a quick lunch and leaves,
I have a leisurely lunch, and a bowl
of by now very skinny custard,
and put the dregs of it in the freezer.

My dear Mr.X, thanks to your not coming to our house consistently over the last four days
I have ingested a great many unnecessary calories.
The next time you plan to visit us, I will start cooking only once you are inside our home, after making sure that you are actually going to stay for a meal.