Thursday, January 28, 2010

How the SRE was deceived

Many long years ago the Sometimes Resident Engineer did not eat ice cream. We were living in Lucknow at the time, and his sister lived quite near us too, so we'd occasionally pile into our ancient Ambassador (which we called Arrey Arrey Kyon, as its registration letters were RRQ) with our kids and Didi's kids and head to GoGo Ice Cream in Mahanagar, where all of us would indulge in our favourite flavours. This was just a stand-up place, a few square feet of space in front of an old fashioned freezer- no glass to see through to the different ice creams- you had to look at the menu on the wall. The SRE was a smoker in those days, and was just not tempted by ice creams at all. Strange man.
Times changed, we moved cities. He quit smoking, and discovered Baskin Robbins. Black currant was his favourite. We moved cities a few more times, and landed up in 21st century Kolkata, with its malls and multiplexes and gelato parlours. Gelati are low-fat frozen desserts, and for me and the kids were soon synonymous with ice cream. We were happy to see the SRE partake of them too.
Last month, however, there was a huge revelation. The SRE had been seriously deceived by us: his loving family, and the gelato parlours.

The Eldest Daughter had come down when my mother was in hospital. After settling her in for the night the day she was discharged from the hospital, we thought we'd go out for a coffee, but our local coffee haunt wasn't feeling very hospitable at a quarter to eleven that night, so we trundled over the bridge to the gelato parlour, actually in search of coffee, as we both had bad throats and were not in a mood for an ice cream. We were pleased to discover some non-frozen desserts, and shared a lemon and a chocolate tart, while the SRE indulged in what he thought was a butterscotch ice cream.
"I must be getting old," said the SRE, most plaintively,"My taste buds seem to be getting weak."
"Why, Pops?" asked the eldest daughter.
"Ice creams don't taste creamy any more."

The Irreverent Spouse aka moi and the daughter laughed until we could laugh no more.
We dragged the SRE by the arm and showed him the counter where every second gelato was 96 or 98% fat-free. We explained to him what a gelato was supposed to be.

The poor SRE was most insulted. "You guys have been fooling me all these years. I kept thinking that there was something wrong with me."

When we came to pick up some strawberry tarts for the Eldest Child before she left for Delhi, a couple of days later, we also visited a nearby ice cream shop and bought the SRE some genuine ice cream. He was most delighted to eat it and discover that his taste buds were doing just fine!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The SRE and the Pumpkin

The quantum of dinner conversation with the SRE can vary from zero levels, when he is either preoccupied with his own thoughts and/or with the TV across the room, (when the devoted spouse is supposed to guess when he needs another chapati, and has, over the years, learned to imitate his gestures towards the water bottle) or to actual conversational levels. The topic of conversation can range from the ridiculous to the sublime, but definitely tends more towards the former! Dinner last night was a case in point. The younger son, a friend of his, my sister, the SRE and I were at the table. My sister and I were polishing off the remains of the delicious yellow pumpkin that my sister had made at lunchtime. Now, this is a pumpkin with many desi names- my extended family calls it 'kaashiphal', a lot of people call it 'seetaphal', some call it kumhda.To the SRE, however, it exists only as 'kaddu', and is, for some inexplicable reason, a vegetable he will not deign to eat. Yesterday's dinner had a couple of his and the boys' favourite preparations, apart from the unfortunate pumpkin which became the focus of a metaphysical discourse.

The SRE planned to ask God, whenever he met him, why he had created the pumpkin in the first place. Then he felt that God must have issued a sub-contract for its creation to some minor godling. He could understand God making many different vegetables and fruit, even bitter stuff like karela (which he doesn't eat either, but accepts as having valuable medicinal properties), but kaddu- no way. He then started on Hindi idioms which aren't kind to the poor pumpkin either- calling someone a kaddu is most certainly insulting his intelligence. "Kaddu mein teer maarna" is no great achievement either. Poor kaddu. To add insult to injury the SRE also sometimes refers to lauki (vegetable marrow) as kaddu, adding to the confusion.

I really feel like apologising to the poor pumpkin for serving it in the SRE's presence!
There,there, Kadduji- I really do like you. You are not a waste of space. You have many good qualities, besides being delicious. What do you say, gentle readers?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Evening's Enchantment

Sunday evening saw us at Gyaan Manch, for a performance called "The Pebble and the Taal Tree" by The Action Players. They did several short plays based on stories by the Bengali author Bonophool. Since many of the performers are hearing and speech impaired, the plays are a wonderful combination of mime, narration, music and dance.
A Google search revealed an excellent post on The Action Players by DGS in Benares. I quote part of this very informative article:

"Begun by an American-trained mime artist, Zarin Chaudhary, over 20 years ago, the group is composed of deaf students from around Calcutta. They perform adaptations of Bengali and Hindi plays, as well as poetry and folk tales. They were in the midst of an adaptation of a set of Bengali short stories when I dropped in on them a few weeks ago.

The group is made up of mostly 17 to 25-year-olds, many of whom are veterans of the school for the deaf in which the group is hosted, and where Chaudhari initially taught mime years back (she still teaches mime in and around Calcutta at other schools). The group grew out of Chaudhari’s classes, giving very dedicated students a chance to perform their mime pieces for a formal audience."

"The Pebble and the Taal Tree" was a wonderful experience. From the elegant simplicity of the sets, lights and costumes, the wonderful live music, to the impeccable narration, it was flawless. The actors were the most expressive performers we had ever seen. Our engagement with the performance was total. Some of the stories were tragic. A couple of the funny ones, like "Jagattarini and the crow" and "About Parul" had the audience in splits. What was most wonderful was after the show was over- the players came and sat on the edge of the stage, and the audience was invited to meet them. Since the Players had given us so much joy, telling them how much we had had enjoyed the show was the least we could do.

There are two more performances scheduled: one is on Saturday, 16th January, and the next is on Friday the 22nd. Tickets are available at the School of Music, and at the venue (Gyaan Manch) on the days of the shows. Readers in Kolkata, do try and see this wonderful troupe.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A prayer from a friend

May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly

where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities

that are born of faith in yourself and others.. May you use the gifts

that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content with yourself just the way you are.. Let this

knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to

sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of


Saturday, January 9, 2010


We are at home, all of us, but my parents' room is becoming more and more hospital like. That started with the hospital bed I had to rent for my mother even before her discharge from the hospital last month, as her mental state rendered her unsafe in a bed without railings. It is incredibly sad to see her struggle to get up because she wants to go to the bathroom, something she has done without thought for most of her life, and which is now not possible for her to do. She has no memory of her fall or her surgery, and my beautiful mother is now a blank-eyed stranger, most of the time. She does recognise us, and at times is fairly lucid- when I told her it was Daddy's birthday on the 26th of last month, she immediately responded by saying 'Happy Birthday'. She was happy to meet my sister-in-law and my nephew, and spoke to them in English. But now she mostly lives in a world which is alien to us all. I have felt overwhelming rage at seeing her in this state- at her (most unfairly, I know), at myself, at the One above. Rage and frustration and grief at my utter helplessness in the situation we all find ourselves in. I can only imagine my father's sorrow. He tries to talk to her, sits next to her bed in his high chair and holds her hand, yet it doesn't seem to register. Because of her bed sore (which is much better now) I did get an air pressure mattress. I also had to employ a night home nurse for her. And then, after a couple of weeks in which Daddy's home nurse thought she could manage two patients single-handedly, but couldn't, we now have a second nurse in the day time. I had been hoping that Lakshmi could manage on her own just so as to not have another person crowding up the room, but I am finding that having Kalpana around makes life much easier for everyone. Daddy is not too pleased at having all these women floating in and out of his room. We joke, though, that he has KLM, an entire airline, in attendance! (The night nurse is Maya). Besides their wages, the home nurses all have a meal and a couple of rounds of tea and a snack in my home, so I need to make sure I have enough vegetables, dal, rice and bread available at all times.
To add to our woes, my father hasn't been at all well this week. He's now on antibiotics, steroids and has to use a nebuliser six times a day, as he has been wheezing most evenings. He's a lot better since he started the treatment, which is a relief.

I don't think I can let my sister return to Delhi anytime soon.