Drinking Habits

I sometimes wonder where I get my idiotic sense of humour from, but then I remember some of the things my mother says to me (and some of the things my father has done) and I am no longer surprised. Case in point:

I was chatting with mom about a container of soup I have ordered for lunch, but can’t finish. She suggests I bring it home, to which I demurred, because the container is of the flimsy plastic variety, and there are good chances that it will spill. To which my brilliant mother says:

“Why will it spill? Are you drunk?”

Right. 3 reasons why this is crazy:

  1. I am a teetotaller; a fact she knows very well, being one herself.
  2. It is the middle of the afternoon.
  3. I am at WORK. In an OFFICE. With OTHER people.

Yep.

Payment Terms

I thought I knew all my parents’ stories, because to be fair, I have heard them many times over. It is a source of constant joy, as I think of them coming terms with the world as rather adorable. Neither of them spared themselves or their pride in the retelling, so the piquancy of each tale has lasted.

So when I heard a new story about my dad a few days ago, I was really thrilled.

When he was working in Goa as a hotel general manager, he had a trusted lieutenant in the form of his HR manager, AM. AM, in turn, had immeasurable regard for my father and, since his passing, has kept in touch with my mother regularly. My father had only praise for this younger person, and always said he would go far.

A few days ago, AM messaged my mom to express how much he missed my father and his stewardship. He stressed on how much he learned, just by being with my father, and he narrated a tale to that effect.

One evening, a security guard was yelled at and slightly roughed up by some of the hotel guests or surrounding taxi drivers. He was understandably upset, and marched off to the HR manager to lodge a complaint. My father called him into his office, offered him a seat and a glass of water, and asked him what had transpired.

The security guard went into a harangue against all and sundry. Once he had quietened down a little, my father asked him what his name was. He replied: Namdev. Next: what is your salary, Namdev?

AM, in his retelling, said that he was in shock when he heard this question. What was the GM up to?

The guard went very quiet. My father asked again: what is your salary Namdev?

15000, he replied.

And what does a guard usually get paid?

5000, he replied.

That’s right. This is a difficult business [the hotel had a casino attached, although my father had nothing to do with that part of the business], and there are going to be upsets. We will take action as necessary, however the fact is that we pay extra because being a guard here is difficult.

“You get 5000 to be a guard. And 10000 to take shit.”

I was so flabbergasted on hearing this story. My father was a practical man, but he had a very kind heart. But above all, he had charm and humour oozing out of every pore. I was stunned when AM said that the guard nodded and left without further discussion.

Apparently, I haven’t heard everything.

Attempted Homicide

As I mentioned in my previous post, I love horror movies even though they scare me A LOT. I thus have a few criteria that need to be observed:

  1. No watching at night. [I used to do this, because ambience, and gave myself nightmares AND night terrors.]
  2. No watching when I’m alone at home. [Every sound is terrifying. Everything creaks. There are ghosts and beasties everywhere. FACT.]
  3. No getting disturbed while watching. [Why don’t you just kill me with a knife? Less painful.]

It is a very simple set of rules, which my mother well knows. After a great deal of procrastination, I fired up The Conjuring on Netflix one afternoon. My aunt was over, so she and mom were chatting in the living room. In eye sight.

I plugged my ears, because I live in Mumbai and the traffic drowns out everything. Nothing is scary when some idiot honks all the way down the street. Those are times you kind of wish you could set a ghostie on the idiot any way.

I was well into the second half of the movie, and the reveals were coming in thick and fast. My heart was beating hard, and I closed my eyes at many instances. That’s the moment my mother chose to tap on my shoulder.

It is a wonder I am alive to tell the tale.

Strong is Easier with Support

I would consider myself a feminist. I want equality for womenkind, and I prepared to stand my ground when I encounter any patriarchal nonsense. I am a strong, independent woman after all.

But that’s because I have feminist parents. So, it isn’t that big of a deal for me.

During a relative’s wedding (please note: not ‘family’, but ‘relative’) I was asked the inevitable question about marriage that every unmarried Indian girl/woman above 18 gets:

“So beta, when are we going to be dancing at your wedding?” an uncle asked archly.

I was irritated of course, but I was in a loving relationship at the time, and personally would have liked nothing better than to get married to my hunk of a boyfriend. But he was getting a divorce, and it wasn’t happening. So sore spot. Also, the ineffable cheek that Indians have to ask such personal questions. Argh. So:

“Uncle, why should I get married? I’m quite happy the way things are. Freedom!” I quipped with a grin.

Arrey, marriage is an experience.”

“Of course, my my parents are married, so I have that experience already. Big deal.”

“No, it is different. You have to experience it yourself.”

“Oh?” Then, drawing upon vast reserves of fake innocence that I didn’t know I had, I said: “What I could I possibly be missing?”

Of course he was flummoxed, because he vaguely meant sex + children, but couldn’t really say that to a young relative. I let him stew uncomfortably for a few minutes, before I decided to really make him squirm.

“Oh uncle, do you mean children?” I asked, batting my eyelashes with the wide-eyed wonder of a toddler.

“Yes,” he gasped in a flood of relief. “You should have the experience of having children.”

Poor sap, because:

“Ah but, uncle, I don’t *need* to be *married* to have children no?”

That finished the bugger. But, while it was immensely satisfying, it was not a victory. Why? Because if he had turned around to complain to my folks about their out-of-hand daughter, my parents would have laughed in his face and said I was right.

It is so easy to be strong and brave when you have support like that. So the feminists I truly salute are the ones who fought against everyone they loved for what was right. My grateful wishes to you all.

Snow Shoes

A few months ago, mum and I went to stay with her twin in Pune for a couple of weeks. My aunt had been telling us that we needed a break for years, and we finally closed up the house and took her up on the offer. It was a lovely break over New Year’s, and therefore the weather was cool. Pune is actually known for nippy winters, although nowhere as cold as Delhi, Rajasthan, or Himachal Pradesh.

I have shuttled between various climes in my lifetime, and so my ability to bear changes in weather is quixotic and unpredictable. My mother, however, has only ever lived in Mumbai, Dubai, and Goa. All these places are hot in summers and moderate in winter. Although we had air conditioning in Dubai and Goa, she can’t take the cold. At all.

One evening in Pune, she was feeling dreadfully cold. She was sitting on the bed, shivering, so I wrapped a shawl around her. She was still chilled so I wrapped another shawl around the first one. No dice. She asked for a bedsheet too. After my wrapping, she looked like a samosa. Small, triangular, and wrapped in layers.

I snapped a pic of her, and posted it to Facebook, commenting on how my midget mother was freezing in 24 C temperature.

Of course, this started a train of thought. My father used to see her shivering in perfectly comfortable weather and comment: “How will you ever live in Europe?” He had lived in Germany for 3 years before they met, and I had lived in UK for 2 years. But she hadn’t. But she had been there several times.

Back in 1987 or thereabouts, my mother was the financial comptroller for Dubai Hilton. She was flying to Vienna or Amsterdam for a comptrollers’ meeting, but had stopped in Switzerland to check out the computer systems in Zurich Hilton.

My mother was, at the time, a sari-clad lady. And you cannot wear closed footwear under saris; they just don’t go. So, in the dead of winter, December or so, my clever, clever mother wore chappals under her sari. To Switzerland. SNOW-covered Switzerland.

She was met by a colleague at the airport, who gazed at her feet in disbelief and asked, with what I consider incredible restraint, where her boots were. [I would have flat-out called her nuts.] She scornfully replied that one doesn’t wear closed footwear under saris.

The airport was heated. The city was not. It had snowed the previous week, and the ground was covered in a thin layer of snow. Her feet, shockingly, started to get cold. It started to rain. Her petticoat and sari got wet. And FROZE.

I think it was when her feet started turning blue that my mother turned to her colleague, in what I hope was abject penitence, and asked to be driven straight to Bahnhofstrasse to buy boots.

As I looked my the tiny samosa, I can only imagine the midget freezing for the sake of fashion 30 years ago.

Law Teachered

So today, I tagged along with my midget mother to attend a food fair at her old stomping ground. We checked out all the stalls, and she reminisced quite a bit, and bored the pants off of a few students there, although they looked obligingly attentive.

As we were about to leave, she passed by a knot of men near the entrance. One of the older chaps appeared to strike her as somewhat familiar, and as she was being less than subtle, he realised that she was looking at him in some confusion.

My mum was on a mission to find someone she knew, but hadn’t at that time. I had jokingly remarked earlier on that she should stick to looking for silver-haired or balding souls in the crowd as viable options. This guy fit both descriptors.

When she peered at him, he disengaged himself from the knot, and bounced up to her in that amazingly pompous manner Indian male teachers seem to cultivate as they lose teeth and hair. Without waiting to ask her name, he pointed to her (rather rude, I thought) and said: “I taught you!”

Now my mum is no shrinking violet, but she was quite taken aback by this confident assertion. So she asks, in return: “Um, really? I don’t think so. Were you a student here?”

“Yes, yes!” he guffawed mighty patronisingly.

“And when did you graduate?” she said, before he could take off again.

“1976!”

“Well, I graduated in 1974. Unlikely you taught me.”

Credit to the man to not visibly deflating, but he was seriously discombobulated. In fact, as it turns out, she taught him law, during his second year and her fourth year.

Karma has to be a feminist.

The Brinjal Lady

My dad comes from an illustrious family, in that a few of his relatives were truly erudite. Several had PhDs and most had a master’s degree at the very least. My father wasn’t too much for the book learning, and didn’t even finish school. But he gained a wealth of experience, which carved a path for him to the top.

He regaled mum and me with lots of stories about his family, although he was always sketchy with details. This was more to do with the fact that my father had no patience though.

One great aunt kept coming up, as, according to him, she had discovered a type of aubergine. It was apparently named after her too. She was a botanist, and was renown in the family. My mum and I knew about this lady, but didn’t know her name.

Till she appeared on my Facebook timeline.

I only realised this was the lady my father talked about because she shares the same initials as my grandfather. Also, it wasn’t an aubergine that was named after her, it was a magnolia.

Awesomeness.