Friday, July 26, 2013

A Conspiracy of Silence

Mornings in our house mean music, especially at the time that I'm making breakfast and the SRE's packed lunch. In the good old days when Worldspace existed, our radio was perched on the sideboard in the dining room, just next to the kitchen door, and beautiful music would float through the house....... Mourning isn't bringing WS back, though, so cassettes (yes, they still exist) and CDs need to be played.
(I'm not sure how or why, but the music systems in our house are all male, hence will be referred to as such).
Boseji has been temperamental for years, so when the younger son wanted to take him to college for his last term there, we agreed with alacrity, though we didn't know how well or otherwise he would play there. The younger son duly returned Boseji to us before setting off on new journeys, and we found that all it would play was FM channels. So little Mr. Philips remained our system of choice, being more reliable than the others, and small enough to cart around the house.
The Pioneer home theatre in the living room had been for repairs, and the repairman said that he would not be able to repair it subsequently- parts were getting too difficult to find. Also, it would no longer play VCDs or DVDs, only audio CDs.  Mr. Pioneer took a leaf out of Boseji's book, and became very very selective about the CDs he was willing to play. Very often the CD you lovingly selected and put into the system would not load, and you'd get a sign on the display saying NO DISC, which was rather annoying. The younger son had previously connected the Pioneer to the DVD player, but when we changed our dabba TV for a flatscreen a.k.a. The Blackboard , the DVD player was  connected to the TV, so playing audio CDs on it was no longer an option. Since the computer could be used to play music in our bedroom, we thought we'd install the little Phillips in the sitting room.

That's when the fun began.

Mr. Philips has played happily across the house, from the kitchen to the dining room to the bedrooms.
He even played at the location of our new plug point. Since I didn't want him on that particular table, I put a small stool next to the Pioneer table, and tried connecting the system there. It would just not play. It was hot. I turned on the air conditioner, and the lights near the plug points. I changed various adaptors. I was sweating from every pore, and really annoyed by the whole business. I had other things to do that morning, so I finally gave up, and resolved to return later with a spike buster, in which the sockets are normally good and tight. Mr. Philips was out to get me that day, though, because he acted up for ages even with the spike buster, simply refusing to connect. I was seriously miffed with the whole situation, but finally managed to connect the wretched machine. Now, unfortunately, Mr. Philips doesn't have an outlet from which I could play him through the Pioneer amplifier. Although he sounds pretty good in small spaces, especially the kitchen, he really doesn't have a voice powerful enough for our sitting room, which is fairly large. The SRE and I thought of finally getting a new system, when Boseji caught our attention. Since he wasn't playing any CDs whatsoever, it made sense to take him to the service centre. Some ten days after leaving him there, I receive a call from the service centre, telling me that a certain (large) sum of money is required, as a significant part needs to be replaced. The SRE agrees that it has to be done, and so, that afternoon, I go and collect a brilliant and beautiful Boseji.

When the SRE comes home that evening, we decide to put Boseji on the sideboard, in the hallowed space that had been occupied by our beloved Worldspace radio. We remove the Croma, the digital photo frame our kids and given us, and put it back on the corner table in the sitting room. Boseji's plug and the plugpoint have the usual conflict, which involves shifting the (heavy) sideboard back and forth a few times. Finally, though, we have rich and glorious sound!!!!!! Long may it last.
The SRE has enhanced Boseji's status still further by saying that he's playing 'with' our children!

Monday, July 15, 2013

In which the SRE goofs !!!!!!

He doesn't know it yet, but the Sometimes Resident Engineer has blundered.......

Washing machines are a great blessing and a boon, but they do require a little care in using them, or you may end up with  strangely coloured splotches on a load of formal shirts. I remember my mother-in-law being extremely impressed with the SRE's watch surviving an entire wash cycle, and still keeping time accurately. Although the SRE was the person who put it in his trouser pocket, I ought to have checked the said pockets before loading the machine.

Pockets are a pain. Things get left in them. Things like wallets, which I have managed to wash a few times. That is one of the few things I do that actually annoy the SRE, and for which I feel genuinely very remorseful.  And yet, somehow,  his wallet manages to get washed every year or so.

I have also managed to stain a brand new bed sheet with ball pen ink, by the simple expedient of bundling up the sheet and throwing it and its accompanying pillow cases into the washing machine, along with a ball point pen that one of us must have been using for Sudoku or the crossword.

This time, though, it was the SRE who done it. Not his wallet, but his Parker cartridge pen. (The replacement of the one I gave him for his birthday, which he lost within two months). He had come home from his travels on Saturday with a suitcase full of dirty clothes, which he proceeded to dump outside the hamper in our bedroom. I told him that he might as well dump them right into the washing machine, and he proceeded to do so.

I added more clothes and did a load of laundry yesterday.

The maid dried the clothes on the line. It was late at night when I took them down, as we had gone for a late movie (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, in case you want to know- great film). It was only this morning that I noticed the pen lying on the window sill with a wet blue streak on its side. My heart sank. Did we have a load of clean-but-ink-stained laundry? Apparently not- the SRE is one lucky guy- his shirts escaped, and the pen leaked only after emerging from its ordeal! I have dismantled and wiped the various parts of the pen, and have mostly got the ink off my fingers.

I am already metaphorically rubbing my hands in glee, and looking forward to a very enjoyable evening.
My first question, of course, will be regarding the whereabouts of  his pen!

Monday, July 8, 2013

In which the SRE is very concerned

On our recent trip to  Kerala, (where the SRE was working and I was holidaying with friends), we had a little weekend getaway to Kumarakom. As we entered the resort we saw several trees laden with huge flocks of snake birds or darters.
Solitary darter
This photo courtesy Aurangabadkar
Cottages at the resort
The hornbill in our room

Indian almond trees on the shores of Vembanad Lake
The trees near the lagoon full of darters
As you can see from these photographs, it was a very lovely place. The SRE, however, got  very worried when he saw a darter dive into the lagoon, head first, and apparently not emerge from the water. This was followed by several more. I presumed that these were aquatic birds that could swim underwater, but the man was not convinced. He was quite convinced that these were all kamikaze birds, each one on a suicide mission. It was only after he saw a few snakey heads emerge that he relaxed!

Monday, July 1, 2013

After the Storm: Book Review

After the Storm, Sangeeta Bhargava's second novel, is set in the latter part of the British rule in India.
It opens in 1941, when Mili (Malavika Singh), princess of Mohanagar, is allowed to go to boarding school in the hills of Kishangarh, along with her best friend and soul sister, Victoria Nunes, better known as Vicky, whose mother is Indian and whose late father was British. The two girls share an extremely close bond, despite the differences in their temperaments and upbringing. Vicky is a tomboy, ready and eager to embrace her new found freedom with wide open arms, while Mili usually hesitates at first, knowing how hard it was for her parents to let her leave her sheltered, pampered existence. Two and a half months into her new life, "she had got used to life in a hostel. She had even got used to getting dressed and making her bed all by herself, without the help of Bhoomi. But she hadn't yet got used to queuing up outside toilets every morning, drinking tea that smelt of kerosene oil - just like the tea sold on railway stations - taking showers in tiny bathrooms without any bathtubs and gulping down the inedible food. The only things that were the same as Mohanagar were the classes; they were boring."

With her characteristic easy to read narrative style, Sangeeta Bhargava manages to weave a gripping story around several burning issues of the day. As the story unfolds, the characters and locales come to life. Your interest is gripped by Raven, the teacher without a surname and what seems to be a mysterious past, Gurpreet, who is violently against the British, his friend Jatin, the young widow Vidushi, Vicky's Aunt Ethel and her husband Uncle George, the mysterious Guruji and his band of insurgents, the popular Uncleji and his tuckshop, Bahadur, Miss Perkins, the sinister ceiling fan, the tattle tale Angel........

A central tragic event affects them all. Childhood and youth give way to a new maturity. Love and loss forge Mili's character into a person completely different from the pampered princess of her youth, a person you feel proud of, although she is aware of some irrational aspects of her personality, and hopes to overcome them some day. " Would she finally have the courage to break free of age-old customs and traditions and leave home? To pursue a life which none in her family had ever done before? All the girls in their dynasty had been good little princesses who had married the man of their parents' choice and become good little wives. Would she be able to break off this tradition?"

As with Sangeeta Bhargava's previous book, The World Beyond, you live the story and the history.  You realise how the personal becomes the political, how seemingly unrelated events have a tremendous impact on individual lives, sometimes detrimental, sometimes hugely positive.
Through it all, I can see Sangeeta's steadfast love for India........

Published 2012 by Alison and Busby, UK
Available at