Saturday, May 31, 2014

No-Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s… When women meet

  When women meet
There is never a dull moment in a ‘Ladies Club’ meeting! Just have a peep at one of them! The meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m., Saturday afternoon at the women’s League Hall. The secretary mails a card to all the members, asking them to attend (I might mention that she asks her husband to mail them and as all husbands do, he forgets about it till Friday) and promptly lands up at the venue armed with her file and folio - Around half past four, Mrs Puri arrives, ”Got your card just now I had to make  sandwiches for children’s ten and the butter had to thaw. Anyway, where are the others”? Talking of devils, Mrs.Kamal appears, “I had the cake in the oven and couldn’t possibly leave till it was done“. Lata comes panting as her car had a flat tyre on the way and her spare wheel had no air, so she had to walk it. Suman says she was canning pineapples and forgot the time.
Meanwhile, the treasurer trickles in, smelling of pickles as she had just been making some. ”What pickles”? cries Deepa who is expecting her first baby. “Lime” answers, the pickle maker. “How did you make it”?
“Ladies”, says Secretary in an authoritative tone, “this is no place to discuss pickles, the meeting is about to being“and she bangs the table.
“Secretary”, says a more authoritative tone, ”I am the President and have come. So why do you bang the table. “Sorry“, says  the Sec, “l was only swatting a fly”.

“Fly or no fly, you have no business to bang the table. It’s the President’s prerogative”.“Shall we begin the meeting“? says Vice–President and the meeting begins. “Ladies, the meeting begins. Sec., read the minutes of the last meeting”.
“Forget it” says, Prema,” we know what happened, why go over it again, let’s go on with today’s business, I‘ve got to go for the 6.30 show”. Which movie Prema“? Asks Sheel who sees one every day.
“The one at .....”
“Ladies, sorry to interrupt your interesting conversation”, but let’s get on with the meeting. As no one wants the minutes to be read, we’ll proceed with the agenda Sec - please read the agenda”.
“But l don’t know what the agenda is - you did not tell me“.
“Very well, what shall we discuss then”?
“About lime pickles, I’d like to know how Leena made them“ says Deepa who seems to have a hang up about pickles. “No, I’m not fond of lime pickles so we won’t discuss that, says President.
“Let’s take a vote on it“, says –Vice-President - who considers herself a legacy of the League of Nations.
“Good idea. As I’m allergic to pickles I’ll push off. ‘My cooking gas is over and the chap said he’d bring it at 5 - so see you at the next meeting bye”, and Kamal trots off on her platform.
“Ladies “, says Meena, ”I’ve just become an agent for the National Saving Scheme, how about all of you saving money“?  
“Meena”, chides President “this is a business meeting, but you can’t conduct your private business here”.
“O.K, I quit. I‘m not going to waste time discussing pickles“.
“It is getting late for the movie I’m going, let me know what you have decided at the meeting. Any one wants a lift”?
That leaves the President and Secretary.                              
“When’s the next meeting Secretary“?
“Next month first Saturday”
“Good, we will go home now“.
Secretary picks up file and folio, but drops a handbag with a bang on the table.  
“Sorry”, says Sec, “I did not mean to bang on it, it was my bag”.
“That’s OK“, says President knowing there is no one around. ’It’s only a matter of principle you see’, the Sec, ‘sees’ and they leave.

Friday, May 30, 2014

No-Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s…When I greyed

  When I greyed
The  moment is very dramatic in a Hindi film. The lady looks into the mirror and spots a grey hair, nesting innocuously in her luxurious black tresses.
She stares at it and there is a flashback showing her lover boy sniffing her hair and burying his face in it. It’s now time to battle with the cruel stamp of the rolling years. A song immortalises the sad moment and all the women in the cinema hall, hurry home and to look into the mirror.
But nothing so subtle and poignant happened to my hair. I don’t know how or when it happened but a grey streak appeared at my temples like a clumsy make-up man had worked on it to add respectable years to my face. This grey patch has added colour to my life as it has provoked many observations from friends and foes!
“You are greying or what?”asked my colleague when she saw me combing my hair, in the cloak room. It was difficult for me to answer such a profound question. I could not possibly say ‘no’ as the streak was so obvious. A ’yes’ would mean confessing a guilt!
“Even you have started greying!” exclaimed my husband’s friend. How can I explain to him that I’m an ordinary mortal, subjected to the ‘stings’ of time and have no supernatural powers to stay its course? If millions of women can grey without their being questioned, why shouldn’t I?
“Expect for your grey hair, you don’t look your age”, cooed a lady sweetly when I revealed the dark secret of my age. How very comforting it is to know that! One better came from another who said, “Don’t worry, it’s better to go grey than bald!” That’s what I call a choice between the devil and the deep sea.
“Now you look like mummy,” said my sons proudly. They were a little perturbed because one of their friends had mischievously asked them who ‘that dame’ was when they saw them with me! He wanted an “intro” I believe! Very flattering to me but “infra dig” for the boys! They refuse to let me dye my grey locks. It gives them a sense of security they say. Perhaps there will be less juvenile delinquents in the world if there is a ban on hair dyes!
“Gives you an intellectual look,” was my hairdressers comment when I asked her to snip some bangs and cover the grey. But what decided for me was my husband’s observation –“You know you have a wife’s face and a mother’s head. ”Now, I carry my grey with grace!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

No- Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s.....Of dogs and madmen

Of dogs and madmen
Everytime I see a dog, I remember my poor dead uncle. His greatest regret when he was alive was that he wasn’t born a dog as his wife was more fond of her six dogs, than of him!
Indeed, l often hear people preferring a ‘dog’s life’ as it has a pretty good time compared to human beings. It does not have to do an honest day‘s work like the unfortunate donkey, to earn its daily bone. All it has to do is wag its tail for the right person and do a few antics before friends and relatives.
“Fetch“, “beg”, “down” and “shake hands“ are stock phrases to which he should react to and have a couple of tricks up his paws, like cocking an ear to the right or refuse to eat his biscuit till ordered to!
I’ve seen people go crazy about their dogs. My friend Usha thinks her Scamp has the soul of Wordsworth as he likes to sit on the window sill and watch nature! She claims to know when Scamp has a headache and thinks he’s very intelligent as he knows just where his food bowl is hidden!
My poor dead uncle’s wife and her and her six dogs are a big joke in the family. She used to bring a couple of them when visiting us and then call up her home to “speak” to the “poor doggies woggies.”
Her daughter at the other end, would hold the receiver against the “doggie woggies” ear while aunty cooed silly nonsense like “my poor little one - are you miching me? –nexsht time, I’ll take you out for a waikie walkie – “l always felt that four legged beings have more sense than two legged ones and aunty’s behaviour confirmed that!
I have heard of teenagers who are so besotted as to have their dogs cuddling up to them at night and even share their breakfast! My neighbour regularly takes her two poodles for a haircut and tie blue satin bows on their head and tail! She even takes them to a studio and distributes their pictures expecting us to exclaim over their ‘cute’ expression! It’s not only in movies that birthdays of dogs are celebrated. Our industrialist friend invites us every year for a party and all his dog owner friends are invited so that the canine collection can have a good time. In the U.S., I believe they have dog sitters and T.V shows are screened for the lovely Dogs.
There was a time when dogs were expected to guard the house. Now, human beings guard them. They are “safely” looked up in the flat and escorted to their morning and evening ablutions. If a bitch, her chastity is jealously guarded so that no alien will contaminate her pedigree. There are some who draw a family tree of their dog to prove the purity of breed and seek alliance only from good families.

As the cliche says, “love me, love my dog“ -the best way to worm oneself into the heart of a dog lover is to pretend to love the darling creature! The master will do anything for an admirer of his pet. Samuel Butler said, “The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too!!”

Monday, May 26, 2014

No-Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s…A burst of feminism

                                                         A burst of feminism
“I don’t believe in surnames“. I declared to my husband one day, with a burst of feminism.“Why should I tag your name onto mine when I have a perfectly pleasant sounding one? Moreover why should I identify myself with your name? I am an individual and need no ‘branding‘ to declare who l am. From today I will sign only my name.” I announced firmly. My husband looked at me with what I thought was sympathy in his eyes (later he explained it was disdain) and it was heartening to get his support to drop his name.
The next day l tried out my signature with a flourish several times on my scribbling pad.Alone, without the crutch of a ‘Mrs‘ before and a surname. After it looked impressive and independent. ’I am the master–sorry–mistress of all I write,’ it seemed to say. I gave a flowery curve to the ‘a’ and a rather longish tail to the ‘y’. Satisfied with the results I waited to use my new found individuality.
The first opportunity came with the arrival of the postman bringing me a money-order from dad (a belated birthday gift). I signed my name and eagerly held out my hand for the money. The postman looked at the signature suspiciously, figured his moustache thoughtfully, scratched his head speculatively-but no money came out of his pocket.
 “Please sign your name exactly the way it is addressed”, he   said, making up his mind at last. There was a bit of argument over this issue and with a sign-it-or-forget it –air he prepared to leave frustrated. I thought one more day of servility did not matter and added my surname giving me a how–much–fuss-for-a-little-thing-look, he parted with the money.
Another disappointment awaited my new born feminism when an article I had written was unceremoniously returned by the editor of a magazine.
As she had assigned the piece I was wondering why it was being so summarily dismissed and called her to solve the mystery. ”Oh, was that yours?” she asked. ”You see, I knew you were writing on that topic for us and rejected the piece thinking it was someone with same name .Why  did you leave out your surname?” Well – and she is one of those who believes in women’s lib?
I was holding an exhibition my handicrafts in my cousin’s flat and sent out invitation to all my friends. None of them turned up all because they thought it wasn’t me. ”Why didn’t you write your full name?” they wailed. That much for my not needing a ‘brand mark’.
One can’t fight a battle alone even if it’s for one’s own name. When I went to a newspaper of office to apply for a job, the former had to be filled in with your surname first, I introduced myself to someone in a party and she wanted to know my surname. It’s no use. I’ve accepted defeat –the flowery curve is reduced to a wilt, and the ‘y’ is not so pronounced. Anyway, I guess my name looks OK with that distinguishing pre and suffix!  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

No-Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s…Me and my conscience

Me and my conscience
It’s like a venomous serpent lurking somewhere, raising its hood and striking at the most inopportune moment! It’s like an octopus, gleefully spreading its tentacles, when everything is tikety –boo. It’s that horrible thing called Conscience that has been bothering me ever since granny gave me that word at the age of seven. In school, it prevented me from having fun and smote me just when the teacher was about to sit on the chair on which we had spilled glue. “Madam don’t!” I shouted as she lowered her generous bulk. The culprits feigned ignorance and I was hauled up by head mistress for the mischief. My friends shunned me and I was getting nowhere. “Your conscience is clear, my dear, so why fear!” quoth granny solicitously.
In college I sat through painful lectures, all because my conscience whispered dire consequences if I were to bunk. My friends got away scot free and passed their exams, while poor me plodded on.
Many people travel ticket less on buses and trains and get away with it. Even financial crisis will not induce my conscience to permit me to do this. What price conscience? While traveling in a bus in Bombay, my arms were loaded with packages; and in the process of clinging to them, the strap overhead and my modesty, the ticket flew away. When I got down, an Inspector surfaced unexpectedly, would not believe my hard luck story and charged me a penalty of Rs.10. yet people say truth will prevail.
Why this hue and cry, you might ask and well you might! This afternoon, I wrote an exam – a difficult one, which warranted much head-scratching and pen-nibbling. While I scratched and nibbled, all around me students pulled out slips of paper from under their belts, hats, watch-straps and blouses and wrote furiously. The guy before me temptingly displayed his answer book; I could not help reading it. The girl next to me whispered loudly to the boy in front of her, the dates which were eluding my memory. The boy on the other side accidentally let a printed page flutter near me. My pen hovered hesitantly over the paper and I had visions of a I Class.
But with regret and a sigh, slowly I kept my pen away, closed my answer book – gave it to the supervisor, and walked out of the hall with a ‘see-you-again’ air.
If only, if only I didn’t have a conscience.