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Sunday, September 20, 2009

In Memorium.

The ceramic cups. I don’t know why I remember those beige ceramic cups, or the navy blue tin tray they were set to match with. But as I sit back today to think of the times I spent with my grandfather, somehow it is their image that flickers in my mind.

Which is bizarre because there is so much more to choose from, now that I must choose what to remember him by.

Every second Sunday of my life in Delhi was spent at my grandfather’s place in Faridabad. We would typically land at his doorstep in the blazing afternoon sun, trooping in with large vessels full of lunch my mom had prepared. By ritual, we were invariably late, which was invariably my father’s fault, so my mom would invariably be scolding him at the end of the journey. But the moment we entered his airy bungalow, all was calm respite.

At his long dining table, we’d load our plates and my sister and I would eat double our usual appetites. The food always tasted better at his place, even if it was cooked in ours. Plus, there was at least one dish on the platter which wasn’t made by my mom – the dhal –something my grandfather insisted on preparing for the potluck.
And after lunch when my mom went for a short nap, and my father pretended to read the paper but was napping sitting instead, our grandfather was ours.

My sister and I would lie on our stomachs on his bed, our faces propped over our elbow and hands [a posture which evolved to just hanging around his room when we got older] while he would sit ramrod straight in his half-sleeve shirt and white pyjamas [a posture that never changed till after he touched his 90s]. And then the story telling began.

Not fairy tales nor folklore, but real life adventures that my grandfather had lived through. He had worked for British Railways as it trespassed through Kenyan jungles owned by man-eating lions and affronted tribes and everything he narrated held an exotic attraction. He would pick an episode at random, speaking in a matter of fact manner, which made the narrative all the more real. He would talk of when he decided the leave the police force after seeing his colleagues rob a civilian. Of how tribal natives blew up rail tracks with explosives to bring trains to a standstill. Of why construction crews were terrorised when one amongst them started disappearing every night… His index of events was inexhaustible, as was our wonder.

It would end all too soon once my mom awoke. The discussion would become more grown-up and staid. And always including him needing a new supply of jaggery for the nibbles box by his bedside. Nothing worth evesdropping over, so my sister and I would use the time to treasure hunt through the house.

The house was, and still is, really a bungalow. Built under the supervision of my grandfather, it has front and back gardens, a large terrace and several bedrooms (one with delightful spring beds whose elasticity we can attest to wholeheartedly). In other words, there were innumerable hiding places for play and limitless closet spaces for junk. The garage, for instance, had piles of dated Sputniks and Reader’ Digests we pored over many summers. It was also there that we discovered a wooden Chinese chequers board as large as ourselves, which had its set of coloured marbles to play with. (We got bored of the game very soon, but not before we managed to lose most of the marbles.) Then there was the exciting period when we figured the required acrobatics to reach the roof (we could never figure where the key to the terrace door lay), which had a very low ledge that we could bend over. It was a treasure trove, that house, all of which we trashed without ever getting scolded, and the only uninteresting item it housed was my grandfather’s bicycle which neither of us ever grew tall enough to ride on.

At the end of the exciting day, we would emerge all cob-webbed and dirty feet. And grinning.

And finally, before leaving we would have tea. It’s the only time during the week I would drink it, and I’d have the way it is supposed to – dripping with Marie Biscuits.

I guess that is why I remember those tea cups.

It is time to say good bye.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Driving, or something like it

I suspect my husband has taken out a huge life insurance policy in my name. I was in Delhi recently, and he just wouldn't let off insisting that I practice driving there. Seriously, what other purpose besides dying can driving in Delhi possibly serve?

Anyway, under the influence of the intoxicating chemicals in Delhi's air, I agreed to his idea. Delhi air can do that you. Consider what prolonged exposure has done to Delhiites: they actually believe what they do on roads with their cars can be labeled driving. [driving! seriously! Next they'll tell me what Rakhi Sawant does in movies is acting.]

Likewise, my dad's been living in Delhi for donkey's years, and finds it a welcome prospect that I will wreck his car [something he's been trying to achieve since exactly donkey's years].

Anyway, so it is that I ended up in a refresher driving course, to fortify my skills as someone who hasn't driven here in a while. And if you fall in the same category, here are the Golden Rules:

1. Red lights are the signal for inching forward
2. Green lights signal that the race has begun
3. Orange lights are green lights in disguise
4. Speed limits are a challenge to be beaten
5. Using side mirrors is dangerous as they may get ripped off by cars overtaking you
6. Parking is a fundamental human right which can be exercised any where, any time, any how
7. Horning is not only a mandatory greeting but also responsible driving, alerting the obviously blind drivers on the road to your presence
8. Only losers give way
9. One-way road signs need to be followed only by foreigners, learners and possibly women who cannot handle the pressure two-way traffic on a single lane road
10. You can drive on roads, footpaths, dirt tracks; you can drive forward, reverse, or laterally; but for God's sake, Don't even think about approaching the Naraina "soon to become flyover" highway or your corpse will rot waiting for the jam to clear!

Happy driving!