Saturday, September 29, 2007

Just in case you missed me

This time I'm not the one who's challenged by technology- the technology in my house has gone for a six. The computer was refusing to start sensibly- it had become a matter of luck. So the contraption that had slowly and steadily taken over my life is now 'missing in Inaction'.

Don't know when it will recover. The Broadband connection had been on the blink even before that. And then the fantastic rain that had inundated Kolkata.........

Of course I remain challenged. The Sometimes Resident Engineer has been subjected to my frequent requests/demands for his laptop- of the 'Yeh laptop mujhe de de Thakur' variety.
He kindly left it behind when he went out of town for a day. Yours truly couldn't charge the damn thing.
(The adaptor of the charger was challenged, which was a minor problem that he forgot to tell us about. We finally tried all the adaptors in the house, and succeeded, but only after he got back. Bah.)

There's most definitely some kind of technology-threatening broad spectrum virus going round- my father's cassette-player has been repaired and found its voice. The toaster is having its element replaced. My cell phone has been re-repaired, after I bought a new one in sheer desperation. The computer is ill. The landline telephone has been dead for a week. The building intercom had also been on the blink, and has been repaired. My visiting daughter's phone caught a short-term bug, and misbehaved for a few hours this morning. I think it recovered after we left these unhealthy premises! Last night the car's wheel bearing got jammed- it spent the morning being fixed. I may have forgotten a few things but I have learned something of significance. I know now what is my biggest challenge vis-a-vis technology.

First you get used to it, fond of it, perhaps even addicted to it. And then it ditches you as and when it chooses to. Heartless beast, methinks!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why I'm about to curl up and die very very soon....

Blame Choxbox. She's the one who's tagged me. Me, poor docile Mom with four grown up kids who say that they read my blog. Hope they skip this one, in which all the ghastly nick- names we ever called them will emerge!
The eldest is M, who used to be called, at various stages, Mandy, Minolta, Diu, Miss Tooti-phooti and Dukhi Bilouti (accident prone was her middle name- she's the only person I know who managed to concuss herself while sitting on her own bed). With littler siblings around, she grew up real fast, so no really juicy pet names.
Number two became Sandy, Sandy Gandy, Ginipot, Ginolta, Poochki, Bilouti etc.
Number three had all the usual suspects- Chublet Bublet, Lallu, Andy Panda, Nandu Halwai(by his doting Dadi) , Darjan Singh, (he was the doting Dadi's dozenth grandchild). He grew into a rather large teenager and became Thobson and Thobson (from the Tintin Thomson and Thompson), which is now shortened to Thobby.
Number four has suffered the most: from being Numpi Bumpi he became Nimpy Numpy, to Nimpy, Nimps, Nimbus Columbus, Miss Nimbupaani, Piglet (which he has always hated and which I find so cute), Pilla, Dollypot. He's the one who's going to kill me for this post.
(Just remembered that he used to be his Bua ka Chuha, and his maasi's El Chico).

Chox- jo dar gaya woh mar gaya toh theek hai, joh nahin dara woh toh mar hi gaya!
(And I was planning to visit you in London next month- ab toh sirf mera bhoot pahunch payega)

disappearing words and domestic architecture

Where did they go? Some very common Hindi words have been taken over by ubiquitous English words- a verbal globalization, as it were. This may be a very North Indian, Hindi-centric post, but I'm sure the same thing has happened in many other languages.
To begin with- the bathroom. The word 'bathroom' has replaced words like 'snaan-ghar' or 'gusl-khaana'. Not only has the word been replaced, its placement in the household architecture has also changed. In most middle-class homes, and especially the ubiquitous government accommodation in Delhi, one bathroom was quite enough. Its counterpart, the toilet/lavatory/pakhaana/tatti (considered by my family to be an extremely rude word, not even to be thought inside one's head!) was considered to be the lowest of the low, and was delegated to the farthest corner of the house. If it was a single-storied house, the toilet would be located in a corner of the backyard. There would usually be no running water inside, even though there would be a functional flush tank with a chain and handle- you had to pro-actively fill the trusty 'taamlot' (special toilet mug, usually aluminium or enamel) before entering the precincts.
In my earliest childhood, staying at my aunt's house meant many interesting procedures: after visiting the toilet-in-the-corner-of-the-courtyard, you had to wash your hands with mud, and then with soap. If there was no one around to open the tap for you, you would use the inside of both wrists to manoeuvre the tap open, not touching it with either palm or fingertips. After thoroughly rinsing off the mud, you were supposed to wash your hands again with Lifebuoy.
Lifebuoy in those days was a carbolic soap with a peculiar, supposedly hygienic smell. It was also the soap used in our school Biology laboratory, post-dissection. (It is a soap that I then began to find unbearable.) Taps were simple, horizontally mounted brass affairs.
I often wondered how people managed to get to the toilet in the pouring rain. Where could you park your umbrella? And cold winter mornings, just imagine blowing out vapour trails on your way to the toilet!
In our first floor house the toilet was in the back corner of the house, with the bathroom next to it. It directly faced the back door, so that the sweeper could come in and clean the toilet and bathroom without 'polluting' the rest of the house. Unfortunately the poor sweeper woman who cleaned our toilet was blind in one eye and repulsively smelly, so we never questioned those practices. Any left-overs were given to her from a safe, non-touching distance.
The bathroom was a square room with a narrow window, a drain, a tap and a shower head. Wash basins were a luxury in those days, as were kitchen sinks. The bathroom tap had a length of cloth tied to it, directing the flow of water into a not-too-splashy stream. Which is where teeth were brushed and faces washed. Where hot water was rationed in winter- a steaming kettle-full was considered enough for a civilized bath. (Perhaps that is the root of my obsessive bathing with hot water now, even on a hot summer day).
Progress was slow, but it came about- running water in the toilet! Plastic mugs actually looked very smart to us when they replaced the rather untouchable 'taamlot'! Wash basins were installed, with a mirror above- you could actually see your teeth as you brushed them. Obviously you couldn't change the structure of a sarkari 'quarter', but private homes built in the late sixties and seventies became very modern.
The gusl-khaana and pakhaana merged into a new structure called the bathroom, which, having been promoted from Hindustani to Angrezi, also came right inside the house, attached to the bedrooms. What an enormous change! Since you now had more than one bathroom/toilet, there were far fewer desperate people queuing up outside the lavatory door, leading to jokes about kids knowing that God lived in their bathrooms ( Oh God, are you still in there?).
Presumably God had found a new residence.
Sweeping changes occurred- the sweeper was now less 'untouchable' than before, since he/she usually had to come into a bedroom to access a bathroom to clean. The part-timer slowly became willing to clean the bathroom, unless she also cooked for you. There were maids who would clean the entire bathroom apart from the pot. A revolution was slowly being wrought.

At the other end of the alimentary canal was the rasoi-ghar/bawarchi khaana/chowka.
Which have all been replaced by the extremely uninspiring word 'kitchen'. The kitchen is probably much the same in many parts of the world now- with its sink, counters, storage, refrigerators, blenders, microwave ovens etc. It may be larger or smaller, more modern or less so, but it has far more uniformity than ever before. The Indian rasoi was preferably apart from the rest of the house as cooking on coal stoves was a smoky affair. There were also deeply entrenched notions of purity and pollution, and it would be unthinkable to enter the kitchen with shoes on. Most food preparation was done at floor level, including grinding stuff on the sil- batta.
Chopping and cleaning was often done in the courtyard or verandah. The fridge became popular and more easily available in the late sixties, as was cooking gas. Coal, coke, kerosene and occasionally electricity were the fuels used. The kitchen sink also made an appearance around the same time. ( No, I'm not talking of the colonial houses left behind by the Brits). Pots and pans were scoured at a low, shallow, slightly below floor level space in either the kitchen or the courtyard.
Ashes from the coal stoves used with coconut husks were the scouring material. Brass vessels were scrubbed with tamarind or lemon peels to make them glisten. Nylon scrubbers and Vim were revolutionary when I was a youngster. Having a kitchen sink installed was being very very modern indeed. The entire kitchen was slowly raised up from ground level, for better or worse.
Cooking gas was largely responsible for this upward mobility: as a safety feature, the stove was meant to be above the height of the cylinder. Initially wooden tables were used, until such time as the PWD was willing to lay down slabs at the required height.

Homes, as such, were largely communal spaces. An average middle-class, more-or-less nuclear family home would have two or three rooms (rooms, not bedrooms), a couple of verandahs, a store room where large quantities of wheat, rice, dals and pickles and bedding were kept. The front room, or baithak, would have , perhaps , a takht or diwaan, some old cane-bottomed chairs, and that was that. Meals were eaten either on the kitchen floor, or in any of the rooms , usually on chatais (mats) spread out on the ground. The floor would be swabbed, shoes removed outside the room, and then the meal would be served. The same room could be a bedroom in winter, or a study, or studio. People had areas marked for keeping their clothes and personal stuff, but having a whole room to yourself was unthinkable in the middle class set up. Perhaps there could be a master bedroom, with the furniture gifted to the lady of the house by her family at the time of her wedding. Mostly, however, sleeping was communal in summer- either on the terrace or in the courtyard or open space outside. Many families would be sharing the same large open space, clusters of 'charpais' set out near each home. Even in winter, there were no/few dedicated bedrooms. Beds would be laid out at night, removed in the morning. It was part of the daily routine of the home, a job usually handled by teenagers and pre-teens. Verandahs were the repository of rope cots standing on their sides. And what wonderful fun these cots could provide: a bedsheet on top of the wooden frame rendered it into a tent or a palace or a cave- the possibilities were endless.
There was a caste distinction in the bedstead hierarchy- 'palang' was the top quality, fancy, often carved bedstead. This usually occupied the sole/master bedroom in the house.
The mattress was usually placed on a network of what looked like thick bandages- 'nivaad'. These were criss-crossed all over the frame, and would be re-woven a couple of times a year, depending on how loose it became.
Next was the wood-framed 'khaat' or 'charpai (literally translated: four-legs) the struts were not polished or carved, though the head and foot supports were usually shaped on a lathe. The struts and frame all slotted into place, and the cot was woven into intricate geometric patterns with a thin rope called 'baan'. These bedsteads were carted around as required. Lower still was the 'baans ki khaat'- the struts were made of humble bamboo, fitted into rough wooden legs.
When it was really hot, even cotton mattresses seemed to exude heat- just a durrie covered with a sheet was comfortable.
At least a foot would be left unwoven at the base, with a thick edging. Through this a thicker rope was roughly laced- this served to tighten the woven base whenever required.
Jagjit Singh has immortalised the humble 'khaat' (manji in Punjabi) in his rendering of Southall poet Chaman Lal Chaman's immortal Punjabi lyric "Saun da Mahina Yaaron". Among other monsoon nostalgia are words recalling how the troublesome rain makes you bring the 'manjis' in from the terrace again and again, and tighten or loosen the rope.
(Bada hi haraan kare mahina ae tay kanjiyaan nu,
baar baar laana pave kothiyon tay manjiyaan nu;
Deelli kadi kassi hoi, don da mahina hai
Saun da mahina yaaron, saun da mahina)
We also have popular film lyrics such as 'sarkaye lo khatiya, jaada lage'.
The 'khaat' remains part of the rural setting. Part of dhaabas. In most urban middle-class homes it has disappeared, or has evolved into the folding-cot. Most useful for guests, easy to store, but lacking the charm of the charpai.

Nostalgia has a charm of its own! Anything that you miss that is no longer part of your daily life? Do write in with your own nostalgic memories of words/objects that seem to have disappeared.......

Friday, September 14, 2007

cellephony and the 'maa ka dil'

The 'maa ka dil' used to be an important part of many Hindi films for a very long time. The mother's heart would know, instinctively, when her offspring was unhappy/in trouble.
(The said offspring in these fillums was usually male, so we will use the male gender here for convenience).
It was a bond which appealed to many, including the poet Nida Fazli:
' Main roya pardes mein, bheega maa ka pyaar
Dukh ne dukh se baat ki, bin chitthi, bin taar.'

Loosely translated,
'I cried in a foreign land, and my mother's eyes were full of tears
Grief spoke to grief, with neither letter nor telegram intervening'.

(The mother was also held solely responsible for the misdeeds of her offspring. Her tender- heartedness as a mother led to all kinds of iniquities being perpetrated by her offspring, and, oddly enough, both for his moral fibre and the lack of it. This seems to be a universal truth- the mother is to blame for everything. Enough digression- back to the point).

Here we are dealing with the maa-ka-dil in its avataar as worrier-about-offspring.
When cell phones came into common use, the mother thought she had found a major ally, one who would reduce the worry-about-offspring's-wellbeing quota of her life. At any given time, she could speak to the offspring and assure her tender heart that all was well.
(Since my girls had grown up before cell phones invaded the world, I will remain with the male offspring of the species).
The offspring could no longer say that he couldn't find a pay phone, didn't have change for a pay phone, had forgotten that he had a home with a mother in it, had told her when he'd left home that morning that he'd be late and she had conveniently forgotten because she needed to worry for no reason, or any other convenient/specious excuse to the plaintive/aggressive maternal statement:
'You should have called/ why didn't you call?'

With a cell phone equipped offspring, the anxious mother's life acquired new optimism.
Whether her offspring was of the resident or non-resident variety, he could be reached when required. That's what the poor deluded woman thought, until reality kicked in.

Cell phones need money: if they are pre-paid, and the card runs out of cash, you cannot reach the offspring.
If they are post-paid, and bills are not paid on time, you cannot reach your offspring.
The cell phone battery also requires periodic charging, and may run out just when you wish to talk to the offspring.
If the moronic offspring has put the cell phone on the 'silent' mode to attend his classes and forgotten to switch up the volume again, you cannot reach the offspring.
If he is travelling in a bus he will neither hear his phone ring nor feel it vibrate, because the bus makes more noise than the phone does, and vibrates much more.
If he is enjoying a few beers with friends he can't hear his cell phone anyway- the pub is too noisy/the music is on too loud.
If he is with his girlfriend he might hear your call and say "I'll call you back" even before you are able to tell him why you need to speak to him.
If he is my particularly brilliant elder son, his cell phone will land up in the toilet, and you most certainly cannot talk to him!

This list is by no means exhaustive. Being a parent means you have to worry about your offspring. It doesn't matter how old the said offspring is. You produced him, so now you can jolly well worry about him. It is part of the parenthood deal.
You may delude yourself into thinking that technology will rescue you from your worries.
It cannot, beyond a point. I personally think it makes things worse, because you worry even more when you're not able to reach your child when you ought to be able to. It is time mothers stop expecting too much from technology, and get on with what they are genetically programmed to do- worry about their children.

(I claim to be an exception to this rule- all my maternal life I have been known as the tough cookie who refuses to have a maa-ka-dil).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Limericks for Lali: A Birthday Tribute

Lalita, of Lalita Larking fame, the first friend I made by way of the blog world, celebrates her fiftieth birthday on the 13th September (tomorrow). I have been completely floored by her amazing poetry (she writes in English and Telugu), humour, tremendous musical knowledge, wisdom, erudition, and last, but not least, her consummate ease with cryptic crossword puzzles.

Disclaimer: Although Lalita has inspired these limericks, she is not to be held responsible for them.

Our wonderful Lali turns fifty
with words she is so very nifty
they twist and they turn,
they wriggle and squirm,
as she deals with them all very swiftly.

Greetings to our very own Lali
who with words is exceedingly pally
Her 'ana' can 'gram'
And her verses all scan
She's so brainy, she is, actually.

Not only a brilliant mind
Lali's also exceedingly kind:
A diffident blog commenter
Hesitantly sent her
An invite and she kindly complied.

I've known Lali for less than a year
Bloggers mail her from far and from near
She may meet them or not
But she's there in their thoughts
'cause they really admire her, my dear.

Now that I've got Lali on the brain
I wonder if you can explain
Her kinship with crosswords
She makes easy tough words
and never once does she complain.

Lali's neither 'craft'-y nor artsy
But she's known as the Grammar Nazi.
She knows her dipthongs,
prosody and songs
Bad grammar makes her feel very nasty.

On Lali's fiftieth birthday
Is there anything we can do or say
Some magic, some whimsy
Be it ever so flimsy
to get rid of her painful RA.

On this big day be of good cheer
& look ahead to the forthcoming year
Have lots of fun blogging
Some running, no jogging
And for now, have some more beer.

These limericks, pathetic and flawful
Some of which are truly quite awful
are emerging, of course,
form some underground source
that's beyond me and must be unlawful.

I close with these words, dearest Lali,
I'm so glad you're a friend and an ally.
Knowing you has enriched me
Your words enthrall and bewitch me
Your wonderstruck friend, Dipali

Sunday, September 9, 2007

cellephony and the scatterbrain

The trouble with a cellphone is that it is a small piece of equipment and it has no fixed abode, being, by its very nature, mobile.
If it belongs to a somewhat scatterbrained person, much effort has to be made to ensure its optimum use.
It took me ages to remember to carry it with me when I left my house.
I wouldn't even think of looking at the 'missed calls'.
I would be scolded by whoever had tried to call me.
It took me even longer ages to remember to take it out of my handbag when I returned to the said house.
I tend to be rather paranoid about my handbag. So I try and keep it inside my wardrobe as a matter of habit.
So the poor phone would be ringing away inside the cupboard, while I remained happily oblivious to its sound.
More missed calls, and even more scoldings.

Maybe, at some deep, unfathomable level, I wish to remain incommunicado for some of the time at least.

Some of the world wishes to reach me though.
Especially Airtel, my mobile phone service provider.

They remember me at strange times of day. If they are not calling up with some new scheme or other, they are sending me short messages. And the 'sms' beeps have ruined many an afternoon siesta, when the phone is actually not in The Handbag in The Cupboard.

Maybe Airtel thinks I sleep too much.
I have some suggestions for Airtel so that they can give us more personalized service, and for Nokia, so that they can make even more efficient handsets.

Devise a system so that the phone calls that you really want to miss never show up on your phone.

Devise a system so that you always receive a call in case of emergency.
Most times when it's really urgent the network will be congested or the number you want will be switched off or unreachable.

Devise a system so that Airtel knows when the users are either asleep or very sleepy, or deeply involved in the latest Harry Potter and do not wish to be disturbed by either calls or beeps from Airtel.

Devise a system that knows when you are in the bathroom and tells the caller that the dialled number will be accessible only after ten minutes or so. Agreed you will get a missed call, but think of the tension one undergoes while using the facilities with the cell phone merrily sounding off the while. Technology is nowadays so advanced, it ought to know.

Instead of those ghastly low-battery squawks, the cell phone should remind you once a day to charge its battery. A polite message can be worded to suit the user's temperament. ( Like: 'Please charge me, I'm really feeling low now', or, alternatively, for tough cookies, 'Charge me right now or else'.)

A system whereby the phone tells you that its in the wrong place in your handbag. Most ladies' handbags these days come with a special pocket for a cell phone. If you have not put the phone in the special pocket, it should immediately trigger an alarm. This will save you from the embarrassment of fumbling in the assorted junk in your handbag for a full five minutes with your phone ringing away to glory while an entire concert hall/seminar room looks upon you with great disdain.

A system wherein the phone knows when you are leaving the house. If you even try to step out of the house without it, maybe it can yodel out a little tune: "Yoo hoo oo, you've forgotten something important" or " What'll you do without me, Babe".
You should also be able to deactivate this system when required.
(It should also be able to tell you not to lock it up in your wardrobe in your handbag).

Cell phones should, generally, refuse to accompany you on morning walks.
Or when you are going for yoga class, or for a swim.
They Ought to Know when they are not welcome.

The scatterbrain has put in enough thought for the day.
We hope to find new and improved handsets and services.
Your valuable suggestions are most welcome.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Y have you tagged me?

Y, I insist that I'm really very non-compulsive. I guess that's a quirk, or does everyone insist that they have no OCDs?
However, some thinking took place,
Some thoughts were thunk
(No matter what you're thinking
I know I'm not drunk)

Somebody stop me. Caught myself by my metaphorical collar and am now serious.
1. I share the obsession with reasonably correct grammar and spelling with you and many others out there. I have friends whom I love very much, but whom I would prefer to talk to on the phone than ever receive letters from them, since I get so put off by poor writing skills. My husband is a brilliant thinker and speaker, but doesn't write well by my standards, so I tend to edit all his personal mail. ( I seriously wondered whether or not I should marry him because I didn't like his handwriting. A good friend whose brothers had equally unbeautiful handwriting convinced me of how trivial an issue it really was. Of course there are days when I wonder why I ever listened to her, but that is neither here nor there).
What to do- I seem to have the soul of a sub-editor.
( I also know that I can make weird mistakes myself. Kindly do not point them out)
It also helps me make an idiot of myself in judging people- they may be complete so-and-sos, but if they speak good English I tend to like them even against my better judgement.
2. Related but different: would love to correct each and every mis-spelt sign board I've ever encountered. ( Neha- I can never forget the CHILD BEER)!
3. If, as my kids insist, talking to inanimate objects is the first sign of insanity, well.... I talk to some weird things, particularly the cobwebs in my house. (Not out loud, for goodness sake, only inside my head). Sample: Yup, I've got my eyes on you, Mister. One of these days I'm gonna get you. ( The villains in my life are inevitably male: now what does that tell you about me?)
My eldest daughter gets it from me: she spotted herself being looked at askance by passers-by when she was talking to the flowers in her balcony.
4. I have a high tolerance for dust. I would like my house to be self-cleaning, but since it isn't, I dust only when the spirit moves me. (Usually once in three/four days). I tidy up, make beds, sort out laundry etc. quite regularly, but dusting is somehow low priority, which is ridiculous because dusting the drawing room wouldn't take more than fifteen minutes.
It helps that my husband leaves before any self-respecting household ought to be dusted, and comes back when the dust has the inalienable right to have settled again. I no longer squirm and feel guilty when I see him pick up the Colin and some cotton wool and clean the various remote controls that we have. Good for him. Once again, this is something I have my eldest child to thank for: in her house, whosoever comments on the dirt has to clean it. Don't talk about it and you are safe! No guilt anywhere in the picture.
As I said, 'tidy' is my stronger point: I actually fret and fume until I have achieved 'reasonably tidy'. I do dust when I know that someone is coming over. I can also make out if your house is dusty, but I promise I will not hold it against you- the world needs many more tolerant people like me.
5. If someone tries to bulldoze me into anything it puts my back up, and then even if I need something I just refuse to buy it. I'm getting very upset with the vegetable sellers whom I frequent since they start yelling and screaming and insist on showing me vegetables which I mostly don't need. Goddammit, I'm a grown up woman who's been running her household for decades. I don't need to be told what vegetables to buy. I can see them. And my poor brain has no tolerance for heavy sales-pitches. The trouble is that the super-markets never have such fresh stuff. I often scold the poor chaps and they shut up for a bit, but their habits of screeching die hard.
I'm also one of those weirdos who is not happy unless the fridge is loaded to bursting.
Major conflict-of-interest here. Bah.
( Again, the eldest daughter figures: we were buying sarees for her s-i-l's wedding, and the salesman was a royal pain in the butt. She almost walked out on the whole deal. I (patting myself on the back) was the one who told her that the salesman would not come home with us, while the sarees would. Why doesn't it work for me and my wretched vegetables?

I tag
Minimum five quirks/obsessions/OCDs.

Trial Rooms

Are a trial!
Apart from the fact that they manage to make even the reasonably slender look podgy.
( The SRE peers over my shoulder and laughs aloud at 'reasonably slender'- I should only try and write once he's left the house).
No, I'm not talking about myself- I'd settle very happily for pleasantly plump.
(Which becomes disgustingly obese in those damn mirrors).
No, we aren't talking sizes and shapes here, we're talking facilities.
A good trial room in my book has sufficient hooks to hang things on, plus a decent shelf or ledge.
Why shelf/ledge? Because there are people like me who wear glasses, and need somewhere to park the said glasses when they are yanking garments over their heads.
Westside had a delicious sale wherein I tried plonking my glasses on the edge of my handbag which was hanging from one of the two hooks they so kindly provide. I don't know of too many people who religiously carry their spectacle case with them. ( My handbag is usually too full of arbit junk to have room for either spectacles or case, anyway). I ended up with an armful of clothes and a smashed lens. Alright, the specs were old, it was time for an eye-check up anyway.
(I survived the next few days thanks to an old pair of glasses with a crooked frame).
Shopper's Stop and Pantaloons pass muster- Pantaloons has a chest high shelf, SS has a biggish kind of stool in a corner, besides the mandatory hooks, of course.
Now, in case you think that I live to shop, I don't. (I do 'sometimes only', but not most of the time). We (the SRE and I) were looking for stuff to send a friend in the US, who happens to be somewhat thinner than I am. What feels tight for me is right for her. One Sunday we land up in Fab India and I'm back in my not-so-favourite place, the trial room. Which in Fab India also has a biggish moorha in the corner as well as hooks. What do you call a person who carefully puts her
glasses on the moorha next to her handbag, successfully tries on whatever had to be tried on, and then sweeps up her handbag, chipping off part of one of her brand new spectacle lenses as they fall the few inches to the floor?
Two words come to mind- positively challenged. Bah!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Cabbage, or Old Habits Die Hard

As unlikely a title for a post as any! I grew up wondering what the Brits had against cabbage- the hallways leading to their bed-sits were always supposed to be smelling of boiled cabbage. Didn’t sound very good to me. But then who on earth ate boiled cabbage anyway? (Apart from the Brits, that is, who are not really famous for their culinary skills). Like any good desi, we ate cabbage cooked in various ways- either tempered with asafoetida and cumin seeds and then steam-cooked along with fresh green peas, or sautéed with mustard seeds and green and red chillis, or made into koftas, or a cabbage and grape/apple raita. And shredded into salads. And of course the left over cabbage sabzi tasted wonderful on toast, or stuffed into parathas. Useful stuff to have left over.
Munching raw cabbage was a part of my childhood and my children’s childhood. The mother or aunt or elder cousin would be sitting with a large thaal and a sharp knife, and the all important cabbage. I was fascinated by an aunt’s technique. She used to cut a whole cabbage into really fine shreds using the edge of a steel tumbler. (I digress: ‘steel ka gilaas’ as opposed to ‘kaanch ka gilaas-a glass made of steel, not a glass glass! Sounds pretty mad). Chopping boards were not part of the kitchen scene in those days. All good housewives in our community at least had knife scars on their cutting thumbs!

Whatever the chopping technique used, begging for raw cabbage or swiping it from the person cutting it was an integral part of childhood. (My younger son would add salt, chilli powder and lime juice, concocting his own version of kimchi). If one was feeling particularly civilized, a small bowl or katori was brought from the kitchen for the shredded cabbage. If one was a more normal kid, the preferred technique consisted of swiping a handful and running off, and getting yelled at in the process. It was part of the fun.
But, now that our world has become even filthier than it used to be, raw cabbage is no longer safe to eat. I personally know of two people who have had tape worm larva infestation in the brain, brought on by eating raw cabbage. Vegetarians are no longer immune. The gory details are in the excerpt below. I do the cooking in my house, and find it so difficult to shred a cabbage without keeping some aside to eat raw. Another one of life's simple pleasures bites the dust.....

This article is from The Tribune, Chandigarh, May 2006

Cases of tapeworm infection on rise

By Rashmi Talwar

There has been an alarming rise in the number of tapeworm infection cases in the city in the recent months.

The disease manifests itself in epilepsy-like seizures when the worm settled in the brain releases certain toxins, causing severe trauma to the patient.

According to Dr Prabjit Singh, a neurologist with Escorts Multi-Speciality Hospital and Adlakha Hospital, 2-3 cases were being reported in both these hospitals daily.

The neurologist said he had treated almost 100 cases in the last six months. The medication for the disease needed to continue for two years to eradicate the worm from the body, he added.

The worm completes its cycle in the pig. The faecal matter or stool of pork/ pig-meat consumer carries the worm to the sewerage. The water contaminated by this kind of sewerage disposal is mostly used to irrigate fields. The worm then settles in vegetable leaves.

The neurologist, who had undertaken research in this field in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, says, “Cabbage is the most vulnerable to house this worm. Since the vegetable is used in raw in salads and fast foods much washing, the worm continues to subsist in its womb.

The consumer of the infected cabbage thus gets infected when the worm lodges itself in the intestines, he adds.

“The worm can also affect any and multiple muscles in the body and cause seizures, frequent headaches and loss of vision when lodged in the eye. The disease is referred to as Nuero-Cysti-Cercosis (NCC) in medical terms, which also manifests itself as frequent body aches and swellings under the skin.”

The life cycle of the worm can only be cut by controlling the population of pigs, hygienic disposal of faecal waste and checking samples of pork sellers, say experts.

The farmers too need to be made aware of not irrigating their fields with untreated water, they add.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

From the Sometimes Resident Engineer

Who is in residence today. A lazy Sunday morning when the wannabe golfer rose at the crack of dawn, went for his golf coaching, came home, and is still wide awake at ten-thirty a.m. Miracles will never cease.
I felt that he has been eyeing my blog space recently, so I'm being nice and letting him say a few words here. This is a copy of the letter he wrote to his IITK mail group, the redoubtable class-of-75 who will figure here occasionally. So here's sharing his no-longer-innocent query:

Sunday mornings is the time to laze around coupled with the chai cuppa. Top it with a mix of old Hindi songs and it can be nostalgic bliss.
The lyrics of some old Hindi songs have me totally baffled at times, poetic license is so intelligently used that one keeps wondering why the Censor Board stays totally silent on such matters. Probably it's the language issue, for example a Bengali friend of mine for years could not understand how a ladies petticoat could follow a man
every where the man went, a very poor adaptation of Mary's little lamb.
It was much later in life he learnt that "saaya" in Hindi meant shadow. The song I am referring to is one from the movie "Mera Saaya".
What baffled me for years as a kid was this one,
Do badan pyar ki aag mein jal gaye , ek chameli kai mundawe taley,
How could two bodies burst into flames,under the chameli shrub? I was obviously very innocent then (bhola bhaala)!
What takes the cake though is the Geeta Dutt song from the movie "Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam":
Na jao Saaiyan ---Chhudah kai Baiyan---- Main ro Padoongi-
"Machal Raha hai Suhag mera"----I don't know how you would explain to a ten year old, in whatever language you
choose, Hindi, English, Bangla, Punjabi, how does the Suhag Machlo?
Gyani log please help,
Abodh Balak

the reason for my existence

It's pretty clear to me. I exist for the amusement and edification of my family.
Not only am I dinosaur, I'm a dinosaur with four kids, two girls and two boys.
So I have a larger target group to amuse than most. None of them live with me now, but I still manage to amuse them with my exploits over the phone. I continue to fulfill my purpose in life, my raison-de-etre.
My children are not dinosaurs, they know/use most/all of the functions on their cell phones.
They are not challenged by their computers either. They can even select the files they want to burn onto a CD. I can copy CD to CD in toto, and feel very proud of myself.

Once upon a time I borrowed a DVD from the girls as my parents wanted to see 'Baghban'.
My parents settled down in front of the TV, I pressed the right buttons, and nothing......
Nothing on screen. Now I feel less challenged by VCDs somehow, they seem to be a little nicer to me. DVDs are not really my scene. So I called up the girls and asked them if there was some different kind of technique to playing DVDs. "Of course not,Mom, just try again, and let us know"- my wicked girls were certainly waiting from some entertainment from me, and were not disappointed.
Well, I decided to turn up the volume: I could hear some faint music. Which didn't sound like the opening bars of any Hindi fillum music that I'd ever heard. I turned it up some more- it was Rashid Khan, singing Raga Kirwani. Had the system learned the music last played on it? You never know with all this high-tech gadgetry- why, movies start off where you'd left them, sometimes. Anything is possible. Why wasn't the $@*# movie playing. In the meantime my parents were getting restless. Immediate solutions needed to be found. (The Occasionally Resident Engineer was non-resident at the time- if he'd been around there would have been no movie show that evening). I decided to take out the $@*# DVD and try a sensible VCD instead. I open the cover, take out Baghban, and find, to my chagrin, that I hadn't taken out the Rashid Khan CD from the system. I'd been trying to play Baghban while it was sitting on top of the audio CD!
Bah- how challenged can you get? I can get even more challenged: I promptly called up the girls and told them what I'd done.