Sometime back when she still found Kannada serials interesting thanks to the likes of producers like T.N. Seetharam, Reena was watching one on TV. There was a lady acting the role of a soothsayer cum counselor. She felt that the actor was really made for the role. She was quite beautiful in a ‘big’ way. Her richly ‘kohl’ed eyes looking deep and penetrating, the big ‘tilak’ on her forehead signifying authority, her thick, pouting red lips, colorful necklaces of outsized beads adorning her ample bosom, multicolored bands of thick bangles on the hands all added to the occult aura the character was supposed to project. After some time, Reena started getting a sense of familiarity about the woman, though perhaps in a different context. Then it struck her suddenly. Why, she was her student Malini, whom she had taught Maths for one year in a high school! ‘Just imagine seeing her on TV after so many years!’ mused Reena.

Well, even as she was trying to place her, Reena could not help remembering a funny incident associated with this girl Malini. At that time Malini was no more her student as she had passed out and gone to College. Even Reena was teaching in a different school. She however remembered that Malini was an above-average student in class.

Reena’s son Abhi had come down for his holidays from IIT. On that day he was helping his mother to choose the vegetables from the vendor, imagining each of them converted to his favorite dish in his mother’s expert hands. Reena suddenly saw Malini coming down the road. She greeted Reena and stopped to chat with her there itself though her glances kept going more towards Abhi. Well, courtesy demanded that she should introduce Malini to Abhi which she did in addition to the information that he was on vacation from IIT. Those days Abhi was in his early twenties and was quite an eye candy with his light complexion, golden ringlets, greenish eyes with thick long curved eyelashes(‘like a camel’ as someone remarked!) and red non-smoking lips. Fortunately his fairly tall swimmer’s body with broad bones and well developed muscles had saved him from any ‘femininity’ in his looks.

On the spur of the moment, Malini told Reena that she had to have ‘some’ Maths tuition from her and that she would be coming to her house every day. Feigning ignorance, Reena told her that she was never the one to take home tuitions that too for college levels. Moreover she was now working in a far off school and commuting took quite a bit of her time. She even wondered  why Malini so good in maths needed special coaching! Well, once Abhi excused himself and carried the vegetables inside, Malini also left.

After a day or two, when Reena came home from work in the evening her son had this to tell her:

After the maid servant finished her work and left, he saw Malini approaching the house. He secured all the doors and drew the curtains and would not respond to the persistent ringing of the door bell, obviously by Malini. He was not a shy type. He had his own set of girl friends. His idea of enjoyment in coming home for holidays was to eat the goodies his mom made and not to hang around with her nubile ex-students. Moreover he did not want to risk inviting the girl inside when he was alone in the house.

After a while the angry frustrated girl had stopped ringing and left but not before leaving a chit under the door.

The missive ran like this,” I know you are in there. I confirmed with your maid servant. It was extremely rude of you not to let me in.”

After this episode, Reena would miss even the greeting due to a teacher by a student whenever she happened to meet Malini!


The Cookerwallah


Out of all the vendors who frequent our street, the most annoying are the carpet sellers and the cooker repairman. They are annoying because who in the world needs a new carpet everyday or needs to get their pressure cookers repaired everyday like they buy the greens , vegetables or milk. (Yes, unlike in US, we buy fresh milk everyday from the dairy or the milkman). They are more irritating because they are audacious enough to ring the door bell and ask if you require their product or services. My standard answer to these is a loud, decisive, terse ‘No”.

But once when the cooker repair man rang the bell, before I could say ‘no’, Ramu told the fellow to wait and made me bring out all my pressure cookers. I do have quite a few you know.-the big 5 litre one, the small 2 litre ones in aluminium and stainless steel , either with handles missing or some misbehaving when the steam started coming. But the most accommodative wife that I was, I  somehow carryied on with no desire to call the cooker man.

The man took a professional look of all my cookers. He enumerated all the repairs and replacements to be carried on to my husband.  He explained how a weight that is worn off slips easily from the steam outlet and badly needs to be replaced. When we explained to him how we were not able to get spare handles for the stainless cooker as the company had closed down, he promised to fit it with handles from a similar brand. Being a perfectionist himself who was interested in seeing all the gadgets in top working order, Ramu ordered the repairman to do all the repairs and replacements.

The man ran a bill of Rs 700. More than his work, I was amazed at his correctly spelt English and pearly handwriting in the invoice. His advice regarding the cookers was no less than a doctor’s about the patient.

One year later, when I was busy getting some security additions to the house befitting that of a single woman, the pressure cooker man rang the bell again. I was in no mood to talk to one more person dealing as I was already with the workers. But then I did have certain problems to discuss with him.  He solved them and said that the bill came to Rs 280. I paid him Rs 200 and was about get the rest.

He looked at the picture of my husband. It was plain as I did not believe in garlanding it or putting the kumkum on his forehead. I preferred to look at him as he was in real life. The cooker man hesitantly asked me, ”Ma’m , where is Sir?”. I told him that ‘Sir’ was no more. The man said, ”Oh, I am so sorry. How did it happen?”  I told him about his brain hemorrhage and the terminal coma. The repairman was very concerned. “I cannot believe this ma’m. After seeing his photo I was hesitant to ask. He was so lively and fit looking last time I saw him. But then brain haemorrhage is a serious thing.’

I excused myself to get the rest of the payment due to him. The gentleman said, ‘Don’t bother yourself ma’m. Just make sure that all your cookers are in good order’ and walked out sadly.