If you have to ask you'll never know ! [L.Armstrong]... thats Louis not Lance.

Apr 26, 2008

and the living is easy...!

The exams are over. Its the best kind of double whammy. One , the exams are over. Two the holidays begin. No more books, no more uniforms, no more tutuions. There are books actually and depending on which stage of your life you were at, these were now either Archie comics or Desmond Bagleys, or Alistair Macleans, or westerns [ Sudden was and is the best ], or Asterixes or Lucky Lukes or TinTins and Phantom's or Mandrakes.
There were circulating libraries where you would sometimes be exchanging your comics twice a day if you could wheedle the ten paise per comic reading charge out of anyone. You hired your comics. You read them. Your siblings read them. And then you traded them. Who says we catholics don't have a streak of Bania in us ?
Cycle rides in the early morning would find us speeding down Pali Hill trying to manouvre our bikes with both hands in the air and adjusting our direction by subtle weight shifts in the seat. The building compound would have a badminton court marked out and the neighbour whose wall formed one of the boundaries of the court would be requested to keep her windows shut. So that the court conformed to International Badminton association specs. In size at least. Racquets were wooden framed and co-operatives were formed for the purchase of shuttle cocks. The only reason play was called to a stop was when those elders in flats that had a ring side view of the action felt their siesta was more important than the game of rounders that decided your place in the sun. The top of the water tank was our table tennis table. The water tank was partially under ground and about two feet came thru the earth to form a TT table that for anyone below fourteen was the perfect height.
Card games that Las Vegas will never know were played with a skill that Bandra Gym Card Room regulars never saw. Seven hands evolved into Mehndi Court. Money Money was banned between 2 and 4 in the afternoon because the game generated excitement and the excitement generated shouting and the shouting interfered with said elders said siesta. Rummy would sometimes be played with as many as ten packs . Sometimes before the time your were done dealing someone would have declared hand rummy. Donkey Donkey. Why was it always Donkey Donkey and not Donkey. Money Money and not Money. The guy who wrote Louie Louie must have been from Bandra.
Holidays were when summer clubs opened in every parish. Summer clubs that had a cupboard full of comic books that you could read as many times as you wanted. Which had access to real TT tables with real nets. And at the correct height. With chess and snakes and ladders and ludo. With school fields attached that were now devoid of students and the private domain of the members of the summer club. Thursday evenings a bedsheet would be hung up on one wall of the many out of use classrooms. Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Bud Abbot and Lou Costello would join us.
Pigeon shikar would happen so regularly that the surviving pigeons would be contemplating moving to Canada or New Zealand under the asylum seekers quota. Trips to the beach were yours for the asking. Or cycling. Dont go too deep. Dont track sand all over the house when you get back.
Guitar skills were honed. Songs were copied off record jackets. Piano and violin lessons came to a standstill. The Beatles ruled while Eta Cohen and John Thomson languished below the piano stool.
But all good things must end.. And April advances into May and May advances into June. And new text books are bought by your older brother. And your mother insists you put new covers on all his old text books that you have inherited. NO. just putting new labels wont do. The pants he's outgrown are the ones you've grown in to. Just like the pair of shoes one size too large that has cotton stuffed into the toes so that they don't slip off.
New school bags for every one. Even the maids son. Somebodie's old is someone else's new.
And school begins again . And the living stops being easy anymore.

Apr 25, 2008

The Nana of Spices.

Many many moons ago there lived in the village of Manori a girl called Emily Ferreira. She was from the largest house in the village called " The Big House ". There was even a special chair in The Big House for the Bishop who was a regular visitor. She enjoyed playing the violin. She enjoyed the parish feast. She enjoyed cooking .
And then from the mainland came a proposal. A proposal that would take her away from the island of Manori to Khotachiwadi. To another big house.To No.1 Khotachiwadi. Which she entered as the bride of Joesph Chaves. Where she started her family. Where she soon had nine children. Where she went to church everyday. Where her children went to school. Where they grew up. Where her children went to college. Where they got married. Where she went to the chapel for the roasary in the month of May.Where her husband died. Where she wondered how to stretch a rupee to pay for the college fees for the younger ones in her brood.To pay the taxes on a house fit for a king without being a king. The stables had already been rented out. The old servants quarters too. She the turned to what she knew best. Her own special hand ground masalas and her wine making. She'd always taken the tonga or the tram to Crawford market to get the freshest ingredients for her masalas and the best grapes for her wines. But now she made more than what she needed for herself. Much more. And she sold it. And that paid for the school fees, the uniforms, the college fees. For the Nurses training fees for her eldest daughter. Only to see her contract TB . And the weddings. One joined the convent. The ones who started working chipped in for those still in college.Her children got married. And soon they had children of their own. And thats when she became Nana.
The weekends were when the family would descend onto the old family house. Coming in from far away Bandra. To spend a Sunday. When Nana would take the cutlets out of the meat safe. The meatsafe with bowls of water in which its legs stood. To stop the ants from getting to the cutlets before we did. When she would have left the dough for the fugias to ferment overnight and would hand them over for instant consumption as she lifted them off the fire. Where the chicken for the came out of her chicken coop which was right next to her kitchen.
Seventeen grand children. The only time she sat down was to pray. When she would say seventeen decades of the rosary. One for each grandchild. When she saw the longing in a grandaughters eyes who saw somebody else with a game called Monoply. She went out a bought her one too. So what if the currency was in rupees instead of pounds. And the trading was for Bhendi bazaar and Churchgate instead of Trafalgar Square or Charing cross. She still made the masalas and she still made the wines. And she'd still be sold out before evryone who wanted them got as much as they wanted. And her house always smelt magical. With the mustiness of old cupboards. In which lurked old blotters and mortuary cards. With sausages hung to dry from kitchen beams. With wine and fugia dough fermenting. With a grandfather clock that tick tocked right thru the house. A balcony big enough to play badminton in. With windows so large and so many that in kite flying season kites would come sailing in. With drumstcik and loveapple trees that gave fruit expressly for her grandchildren. With wooden floors that would be polished till the mirrors in the house were redundant. Rooms that were so big that when an extra bedrooom was needed all that was needed was a partition. With bathrooms that you had to walk so far to get to that when you reached them you'd almost forgotten why you'd started out in the first place. Tenants who lived in the old stables and made the best puranpolis in the world.
She loved Laurel and Hardy comics. She would tell our parents not to be so strict with us. She would always have an envelope for us on our birthdays. And we'd be looked upon with envy by other kids because we were Auntie Emil's grandchildren.
She did'nt get a day older in the twenty odd years of my life before her death. One day she was there, and the next day she was'nt.
All her life, she did not go gently into that still night. She raged, she raged with all her might.