NAMES AND MOBILE NUMBERS


Brown haired man in blue collared shirt and black pants listening to a smart phone ring, right hand holding the gadget, left hand inside pocket

The extended-family trip to Melkote by road had been planned well over a month ahead. 14 of us had been scheduled to go. Rooms had been booked for overnight stay.

But as the day for departure approached, many changes had to be made in the program. The hosts consisting of 6 members decided to take a separate vehicle as the attendance of the other members had become doubtful due to unexpected family problems. Later, one more group of 3 separated itself and took a cab so as to visit other places too on the way.

Finally, six of us were left. Our plans were kept in abeyance till the very last as the weather had turned highly stormy and rainy due to the cyclone VARDAH in Chennai. Nevertheless, we decided not to go the previous night but to make only a day trip the next day.

An “Innova” had been arranged. I was the first of the group to be picked up and that too before sunrise- at 5.30 am! The driver of the Innova rang me up the previous evening to confirm the pick-up and to ask for the landmarks to my place. As I had to board alone and also as I did not want to be abducted by a strange vehicle, I asked the driver for his name (which I clearly heard as ‘’Illyaz”) and  the car number. In the morning at 5.25 he gave me another call to have specific directions to my house.

Though the drizzling continued, time passed quickly during the journey chatting.

During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that the driver’s name was Illyaz. But my sister-in law who had booked the Innova contradicted me and said the name was Dinesh. We decided to ask the driver himself when we stopped for coffee. But he turned out to be a highly reticent, “mumbliferous” guy whose scant lip movements did not throw any more light on the controversy. We discussed how people change their names to suit the conservativeness of their employers, like, Bobby would become Babu, Mumtaz would become Mamta.

Well, we reached the house in lower Melkote which was to serve us our breakfast. While having  Pongal, we suddenly decided that the driver was not with us. My sister in law said she had his number (which later happened to be the Agency number) and rang up but got no response. I took out my I-phone with a flourish and offered to ring him up as I had his number from two of his calls.

As soon as I rang up the number (unknown), a voice said, “Is that Vimala Ramu?” Impatiently I bawled out, “Elli hogbitri? Breakfast gay begaa banni (Where have you gone? Join us quickly for breakfast”) and put down the phone as the Pongal was getting cold. The person sitting next to me said , ’’I think it was a lady’s voice that answered you”. Not believing him I argued that the driver might be having a squeaky voice (which probably explained his reticence). But when he did not turn up, I rang up the same number. This time the voice did not give me a chance to extend the breakfast invitation. The voice said, “Mrs Ramu, I have been asked by the SBF people to contact you as I heard you have undergone the therapy successfully” and blah, blah.  Feeling like a dork with a capital D, I apologised to her and asked her to contact me two days later when I would be back home.

I then recollected that the driver had called me both times on my landline with no caller identity.

Later when I asked the driver to write his name and mobile number on a piece of paper he wrote “Dinesh” and gave his personal mobile number.

cartoon courtesy vectortoons.com

 

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BHEEM SINGH AND THE GLASS OF MILK


Bheem Singh was more of a phenomenon than a house help. Those were the days when Pahadi(hills) boys forimagesmed an integral part of every household in Delhi. Just as the Gurkhas were known for their valour and loyalty, Pahadi boys were known for their adaptability and honesty. But unlike the previous generation, the present one was smart and literate.

Bheem Singh was a mere lad of 15 when he came from the hills and found employment with Bhallas. By the time he was 25, he had become literally an all-rounder! He had learnt to cook the food in the Punjabi way and serve his employers the way they liked. He would not only wash the car and keep it shining, he would also drive the old couple around the city. He could be trusted to pay the car insurance, property tax, Electricity, Water and telephone bills in addition to other bank jobs. He would keep a strict watch on the household staff by handling all the keys himself. His personal attention to Bhallas was remarkable. He would never ever forget to serve coffee/lassi/nimboo pani at 10 in the morning and a glass of hot milk in the night. With their sons staying abroad, Bhallas used to wonder how they would have ever managed if not for the God-sent Bheem Singh, more so as days passed, they had found themselves more and more tired which they attributed to their fast approaching old age (Both were in their 60s).

This legendary Man Friday of theirs was indeed the envy of their friends. Still a bachelor, his only outings used to be a week- end movie with his cousin who worked in a 5 star hotel, apart from the annual two week visit to his native place.

Once Bheem Singh had gone on his yearly holiday to his village- a little longer this time as he was getting married. Mrs Bhalla had to attend to everything at home. Though she had her maid to assist her, she missed the morning and night drink which Bheem Singh used to serve them without fail. But surprisingly, the house work seemed to energise her than tire her. Even Mr Bhalla had brightened up considerably. He was showing interest and enthusiasm in all his activities.

One day  before Bheem Singh was to return, Mr. Bhalla decided to go through his house papers to calculate the new property tax that was about to be brought in. When he put on his specs and opened the file, he found all his papers missing. He contacted the City Corporation office but was told that the house had been made over to one Mr. Bheem Singh! Alarmed, Mrs Bhalla checked her jewellery boxes. Sure enough, she found most of the pieces missing along with all the expensive sarees and dresses.

Totally at a loss, they rang up their nephew who stayed in another part of the city. The smart and efficient young man and took charge of the situation and lodged a complaint with the police who posted 24 hour security around Bhalla’s house.

When Bheem Singh returned, he was surprised to see a sentry in front of the house who would not let him go in. Even as he was arguing with the guard, a police jeep stopped in front of the house. An inspector got down with two constables. They hand cuffed Bheem Singh and took him to the police station. On employing the usual police methods, Bhim Singh confessed. He took them to his cousin’s room in the hotel  where not only all the valuables taken from Bhallas were found, (including the house papers) but all the cutlery, crockery, linen and other items, stolen by his cousin from the hotel were found secreted in a steel trunk under the bed!

PS- Names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.

picture courtesy Shutterstock.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE OPEN TANK


“Bangalore roads are not meant for constitutional walks. Try to take walks in your own compound or on some level ground.” Thus advised my orthopaedist when I complained about not being able to go for walks outside my house.

Fortunately, I had discovered that I had no problem negotiating the staircases. So I decided to go up two flights of steps, some 30 in all and walk on my terrace. It was a good decision. The tiled terrace not only provided me with level ground to walk, but it also gave me an unpolluted air with the fragrance of the ‘road mallige ’flowers which had profusely blossomed on the tall trees situated on the next road.

The houses were built back to back. So, at that altitude I could get a bird’s eye view of the terraces all around my house and thus I had a fairly good idea as to the general fitness and tidiness of the inmates.

On the back of my right side neighbours, there was the house facing the next road, whose members (let me call them ‘Joshis’) hardly ever bothered to come up the two floors, while their left side neighbours (let me call them ‘’Sharmas’’) seemed to be highly environment and fitness conscious. Sharmas’ house had been built to include a coconut tree. I would often see the lady of the house taking brisk walks on the terrace and the couple would often be seen making full use of their sunny terrace for activities such as making pickles and preserves.

But, coming to Joshis,there was a small cement water tank on  their terrace, which had been covered with a light corrugated zinc sheet and weighted down with strips of light wall tiles. In addition to this tank there were two covered ‘Syntex’ tanks also. From my vantage point I could not see whether all the three tanks were inter connected or not. So, I had no idea whether the water in the cement tank was flowing or stagnant.

One evening, I was shocked to see the corrugated sheet had shifted. I could see big chunks of scum floating on the surface, making it an ideal breeding place for mosquitoes. I had heard that an area of 2km radius around any stagnant water was most vulnerable and there was a great danger of diseases such as dengue and chikungunya affecting the whole neighbourhood. How to convey the information to the Joshis and ask them to cover their tank? I was not acquainted with them as their houses faced another road. With my arthritic legs, I could not negotiate the bumpy footpath to go around the block, locate their house and inform them. I was desperate. It carried on for 3-4 days like that. On the 4th day, I saw Mr. Sharma on his terrace. I was not acquainted with him either. Moreover, my voice would break if I shouted across two houses, which meant a distance of 80ft. So, I clapped my hands and managed to attract the attention of the gentleman. Using sign language and a husky voice, I managed to convey the situation to him and requested him to ask the Sharmas to cover their tank. He nodded his head and assured me that he would do so.

Next evening, I was gratified to see the corrugated sheet back in its place weighted with  more wall tiles. I heaved a sigh of relief that I could relax till the next gale dislodged the sheet on the cement tank.

video courtesy you tube.

 

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BINDI -THE INDIAN RED SPOT


Image result for picture of an Indian woman with Bindi

 

Our generation in India has had a strange dichotomy built into our psyche. While we were being taught Science in schools and colleges, our Indian films have been consistently and persistently nurturing our minds with superstitions.

Indian Hindu women have always sported a red spot on their heads to signify that their husbands are alive. So much so, in the sign language of the aurally handicapped, the bindi signifies India. This red spot was made up of a red powder called kumkum. People would display different shapes and sizes of the same, some doing it free hand and some using the copper coin with the round hole in it prevalent in those days for geometric perfection.

Later, stickers called bindis came into vogue. These used to have maroon coloured velvety surface on one side and a non -drying adhesive on the other side. Though dancers and teenagers used glittery, sequined ones to adorn their foreheads, the round, red stickers were more popular with the middle aged people as they came close to the traditional spot of kumkum.

The sticker bindis had one advantage over the traditional powder as they never got smudged. But  our filmwallahs continued to use kumkum on female characters, as  smudged kumkum  was a very handy symbol to indicate a rape victim or a new widow or a bride who has had successful consummation on her bridal night. Thus except for the third one, the smudge had always been associated with undesirable events. As a student of Science and later as a teacher of Science I never believed in this bunkum till I was jolted into confrontating a similar situation.

Ramu had been lying in coma in the hospital for 5 days since Sunday. We had not given up hopes in spite of dire prognostications by the doctors. My sister and I would come home every morning for bath and breakfast. Our kind son-in law would drop our daughter in the hospital to keep the vigil and bring us home and take us back to the hospital in his car after our hurried morning ablutions.

It was the month of March and very hot in Bangalore.

On Friday, I had my bath and was sweating profusely. I was about to light the oil lamps in the Shrine when I remembered that it was the day of routine Lakshmi Pooja. I also discovered that I had forgotten to stick my bindi on without which a Pooja would not be conducted. So I dipped my hand in the kumkum bowl and applied it on my forehead. As I was conducting the Lakshmi ashtottaram Pooja with more kumkum on the idol, sweat was pouring down my face and I had kept wiping it off.

As I came out of the Pooja room my sister gave an almost audible scream and asked me to look at myself in the mirror. I was shocked to see kumkum combined with sweat had spread all over my forehead in a bizarre pattern.

Two days later Ramu breathed his last never surfacing out of his coma.

Was my smudged kumkum a macabre portent or just a coincidence? It was almost as if fate had told me that I would no more have a right to wear one.

Whither my Science and Scientfic temper?!

(picture courtesy Pinterest)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Weighty Come down


Vector illustration of vendor pushing vegetable cart.

THE WEIGHTY COME DOWN

Couple of years back one of my friends complained that the vegetable vendors visiting her road refused to sell 1/4Kg of any vegetable to her. She being a loner and not believing in storing them in her refrigerator lest they lose their nutrients did not want to buy more than a 1/4Kg of each variety. Thus she had to face the sneers and snubs of the vendors.

But now the prices have shot up so much- doubled, trebled, quadrupled…… that the sellers themselves have become aware of the fact that if they were to empty their merchandise they better dispense the quantity the consumer demanded. Earlier in their disdain, they would not only not carry the standard 1/4kg weight, they would even bring a stone from the roadside and claim it to be 1/4kg. But now it being a buyer’s market they are forced to carry one. While cucumber used to be quoted at 5 for Rs 20, they are now willing to sell them piecemeal.

I remember those good old days when vegetable sellers in Delhi would dish out freebies such as a handful of green chillies or a bunch of coriander leaves along with the vegetables bought. Of course, we never came across such generosity on part of the South Indian sellers. On the other hand we were rudely asked not to touch their vegetables more so with the left hand lest their sales suffered then on. If one were to dig one’s nails into a cucumber or broke the tip of the ladies’ finger (okra) to test their freshness or maturity, it would be calamity and a permanent full stop to the seller-consumer dynamics.

Now it is a moody market. If tomatoes are sold one day for Rs 50-80 per Kg, another day it would be strewn on the roads next to the village farms as the transportation charges to the town market would far exceed the price they would fetch there. Of course, the Spanish festival Tomatino is beginning to find flavor with India after the movie ‘Zindagi nahi milegi(a) dubaara’.

Another thing that has found flavor with Indians is Capsicum or Bell pepper as they are known abroad. When Pizzas were introduced in India, the farmers made a good profit out of the growing demand for the vegetable.

I have a vegetable vendor who takes a big load of fresh vegetables on his cart every day early morning without shouting his wares. In fact, he sneaks past our houses pushing his cart without making any sound as the vegetables are probably meant for a posh colony where he is guaranteed a better return for his goods. If I happen to see him and stop him, he dishes out the items with such a bad grace (as refusing to sell to the first customer does not augur well for his further sales that day) that I get a vicarious thrill making him stop and sell the vegetables to me.

Who knows a time may come when vegetables like beans and ladies finger also would be sold at a rate per piece instead of in fractions of Kgs?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE KINI-GATE


Cartoon Characters Swimming

THE KINI-GATE

The other day in a resort in Kodugu where we had gone for a week long holiday, an elderly lady expressed a desire to get into the pool though she did not know swimming. Her daughter who owned a full body swimsuit lent it to her so that she could have some fun in water. The younger lady used to don the full swimsuit as she was allergic to sun and ultraviolet rays. Nobody had any objection to the suit as it was health based. Then I wondered why all the furor by associating such a suit with religion, calling it ‘Burkini’ and linking it to  the highly religion-associated costume ‘ Burkha’ and to the  fanaticism and asking for its ban in the pools of the developed world?

Men have an easy thing wearing the universal trunk. The problem arises when we women get into water. Our mothers would take religious baths in rivers and ponds in their 9 yard sarees. Half the saree would be tied around and the rest floating. Apart from standing in a shallow area their upper body would hardly be under water. They would just have a ritual dunking of their heads in the water, their fingers tightly pinching their noses to prevent water getting in.  But, if they were to get into the swimming pools, would they have chosen to do so in ‘madisaar-kini’ or ‘mel kacche –kini’? Just a thought!

When I started going for swimming, my mother-in law asked me naively, ‘What do you wear while swimming?’  Probably she thought I would be modest enough to wear a saree or a petticoat with a dupatta for the upper body. She was quite taken aback when I told her that I wear a single piece swimsuit. She was polite enough though not to reveal her mental shock. People forget that one can look more sexy and ‘revealing’ in a wet saree than in a practical swim suit as proved by many of our film heroines.

Bathing in rivers is quite different to swimming in a pool. Apart from the fashion statements, a swimsuit is highly practical allowing free movement of limbs. Wearing a bikini like the world class swimmers though does not guarantee a world class standard of skill.

Of course, when one is not interested in the exercise resulting from serious, brisk swimming, one can just hang around the pool wearing attractive bikinis which I have noticed quite a few young girls indulge in.

Swimming is a unique experience. Water is a totally different  element where one experiences wonderfully  the gravity being countered by buoyancy. Aquatic exercises are particularly advised for Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. One can start teaching swimming even to toddlers; earlier the better.

I feel the medical benefit and pleasure one derives from swimming is more important than what one wears to get it. One should be allowed to wear what one feels like. Nobody should make unnecessary religious associations and go to the extent of getting it banned. So long as one doesn’t get into the water in street soiled clothes, the pool authorities should not bother as to what one wears (or doesn’t wear as in some cases).

Let’s hope that with Burkini, there will be a revolution in the field of women’s swimwear- shalwar-kini, jeans-kini, leotard-kini, dhoti-kini !

Illustration courtesy illustrations of. com

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The Ubiquitous Sisters-in law


32147498-crowd-of-indian-women-vector-avatar[1]THE UBIQUITOUS SISTERS-IN LAW.

The word ‘sister’ has only one definition. She is the one who is born of the same parents as yours. Of course, there can be a half-sister (referred to as step-sister in India) who shares only one parent with you.

But ’sister-in law’ ? There can be many definitions. It could be your brother’s wife or your husband’s sister or your brother-in law’s wife. And then these sister-in laws might have their own wide network of their own sisters and sisters-in law. With both my father and father-in law being prolific sires (as was the norm in the plentiful, prosperous 20th century) I have a whole lot of sisters and sisters-in law in India not to talk of those who have settled abroad.

During my teaching career, I would be commuting to the schools I served in by school buses or private ‘Matador’s. There not being a very big fleet of them, they would take a circuitous route all over Bangalore picking up the teachers and the students.

It so happened that wherever we went along the route there was bound to be a sister or sister-in law residing in that area and I couldn’t help pointing it to my co-passengers.

Once a North Indian colleague who was of the firm conviction that fair complexion was the monopoly of the North asked me incredulously, “Are you from Bangalore?” I replied, “Yes indeed, born, brought up, educated, married and hope to die in Bangalore.” One of my fellow commuters burst out with gusto, ”She is not only from Bangalore but anywhere you go in Bangalore you will find a sister or a sister-in law or sister’s sister-in law or sister-in law’s sister or sister-in law’s sister-in law of Vimala. I don’t think there is any place in any part of Bangalore where she doesn’t have a relative!”

But God bless them all. They are a sweet lot (unlike in the TV serials) and I cherish their company.

By the way, I forgot that in our Indian custom we call our cousins also brothers and sisters. So, it happens that the spouses of our male cousins  and the husband’s cousins (female)  and spouses of his male cousins also become our sisters-in law.

I think I better stop before the heads of my readers, specially of the modern generation believing in ‘We two, ours two’ go spinning beyond  limits.

 

 

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