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

Jun 23, 2010

McBhel

You can climb Mount Everest and achieve immortality. Or be President of the country or discover the cure to cancer. Or run a bhelpuri stall. Just of Hill road on the road leading to the Pork market. The cart is wheeled into place every evening. Blue wheels, stainless steel counters and glass cabinets. In which lie daily replenished mountains of sev and ghatias and puris and kurmuri. The dry ingredients that go into bhel. The handle bar mustachioed owner with his silver ear ring exchanges the days news with the now vacating fruit wallah. The culvert on the side is dusted off . The first in are the school children. With grubby coins and currency notes whose DNA has been joined forever to chewing gum in school uniform pockets. Sukha bhel. With six puris. One for each of the shareholders in the bhel buying enterprise. Which Mummy had expressly forbidden in the monsoon. Unless you want to die of jaundice or cholera or typhoid or luke something .
“ And don’t think I’m going to look after you if you fall sick ! “
The six shareholders have a split vote. Wheter the bhel should be meetha or tikka. With the wisdom of Solomon Mr. Bhelwalla informs them that he can do meeta tikka . And knowing the catholic palate of his target audience the meeta far out weighs the tikka. The puri of share holder No.2 has broken. His own fault. Because when it was his turn for a scoop he tried to push too far down. He knew that you can’t really balance six inches of bhel vertically on a 1.5” diameter puri, but his puri died trying. Mr. Bhelwalla aaka know as Bhaiya or more correctly as Arre Bhaiya out of the largesse of his heart hands him another. Shareholder No.6 wants water. Which comes to him in a rolled up sheet of paper. You have to drink it before the paper gets soggy. The scooping puris remain with the bhel having run out halfway thru the second round.
“ I told you only four people should share”
Promoters quota?
The puris are munched on, on the walk home. Where a planned feigned apettite for bread pudding becomes real.
You have to buy new rain shoes. At Batas.
‘ No football today. Change out of your uniform and be ready at 5.”
“ OK Mummy “
The route goes within hailing distance of the Bhelwalla. Pavlovionally, he salivates.
They get the shoes. Slightly oversized.
“Then they’ll fit you next year also.”
Back the way the came. With old Bata chapplas in a new shoe box and new shoes being put into every puddle to test for sea worthiness. Discreetly.
“ Do you want bhelpuri ?”
“ What? “
Is the Pope a German Catholic ? Is Bal Thackeray Maharahtrian? Is Sonia Gandhi Indian or Italian ? Stop at the first two.
“ Don’t tell your brother and sister that we had bhel, And definitely don’t tell Daddy . He’ll want to know where’s his share and it’s bad for his cholesterol”
Bhelpuri Bahiya and Mummy have a familiarity that makes you think that he too is a member of the Ladies Sodality.
“ Arre Baba vapaas”
Mummy “ Vapaas?”
“ Jo- boy wanted to have bhel so I came with him. But I didn’t have .“
Mummy “ Bhaiya ek meeta bhel aur dho puri. “

Jun 15, 2010

Shades of Grey !

Uncle Aldo died. So every relation from wife to fourth cousin was in black. Or white. The men and the women. Clara wanted to be a big girl. So she wore black too. It was easier. Stains didn’t show up as easily. It made being found out at hide and seek more difficult. The men all had a little black patch on their button. And so it went . After Uncle Aldo it was Phillip his brother. They couldn't use the family grave for him. It took two years to go back to dust. Claras had the red dress. On a hangar.
She’d change at her friends house. On her way to the party. With the black dress laid out and ready for the journey back home. Sometimes the white. Daddy died. Even in his coffin with his best suit on him the black patch peeped thru.
The picture for her passport was rejected. Because they required it to be in colour.
“ But it is. “
“It is ?”
“Yes , it’s just that the dress was grey .”
“OK”
“Red ? You want a red bouquet ? “
“Yes.”
“But lavender or lemon or peach or sky blue . They’ll look prettier. “
“ Red bouquet or the weddings off “
So she walked down the aisle with her white wedding dress and her white wedding shoes and the blood red roses in her hand.

Jun 12, 2010

Inuits have fourteen words for white !

Bathrooms were always white. With white commodes and white basins. Johnson white. Showers could only be had cold. The geyser ? No, it was’nt connected to the shower. So if you wanted a hotwater bath it was with a bucket. Into which you first let the hot water dribble. The slower the dribble the hotter the water. You had to first open the tap. Then switch the geyser on. With dry hands. Other wise you stood a chance of increasing the electricity bill, to say nothing of the funeral expenses. The red bulb that shared the small piece of marble with the switch and the little steel container lit up. You then tried to find the sweet point. That flow of water which gave you a bucket full of water hot enough. But not so hot that you needed to add some cold water to the bucket for your bath. To slow a flow of water and all that came out of the little boiler that could was steam. Which was fun because you could then write on the mirror.
The magic was in getting all the planets to align. The flow of water hot enough, the rate of removal of water from the filling bucket, the soaping and the rinsing, and the final lift of bucket off the floor to pour that last inch of water that the mug could’nt retrieve. Only to find that there was still some soap behind your left ear. Ok cold water from the basin would do for that.
There was soap on a rope. Fishy in shape . Scales and everything that would hand from a rope that would hang from a wall that would be furtherest away from the geyser. The basin had it’s magnetic soap. Which was a bar with a magnet attached to the underside. And when you opened a new bar of soap you were allowed to open a bottle of coco cola for the billa. The billa was the cap which was metal , which you then pressed into the soap which allowed the magnet to hold onto it. You don’t get magnet soap holders anymore because you billas today are aluminum and coke bottles are mostly plastic.
In the middle of the floor was another slab of marble. Spoiling the symmetry of the Johnson tiles and their always requiring cleaning joints. Which was what old toothbrushes were used for. The marble was for the clothes. The clothes the bai washed and then beat the living daylights out of until they gave her all the dirt.
The overused window ledge held everything. From Readers digest’s [ there is no better toilet reading ! ] to tooth brushes, tooth paste, dentures, glasses, wedding rings [ until discovered gratefully in the panic of loss] scapulars, [ until discovered and forced back around our necks ] TP, washing powder, the clothes brush, and Tolstoys War and Peace. Gotcha !
One bathroom and five people meant that the condensed book section at the end of the Readers Digest would have to wait. Which you would remember about late at night. Only to find the last few pages missing. It must have been the butler who did it ?
Which explained itself the next morning when you saw toilet paper on the shopping list.