Wednesday, November 18, 2009


It seemed like a good time to move out of Delhi. We won’t stay for more than two years, husband was categorical. So Bangalore it was, exactly 10 years ago on November 18, 1999. Three days later, walking alone on Old Airport Road at 10 night, I called friends in Delhi to tell them this! It was amazing that I could walk that stretch without anyone gawking at me during the day even. What a respite!

There were things I couldn’t get used to in a hurry and then there were the rest…

EVERYONE called me 'Amma'! Aiyyo why? I clearly remember the day I graduated from ‘baby’ when I travelled alone, the train attendant called me ‘madam’ and I was quite shocked. But Amma? The maid, I did not mind. But the doc called me Amma, the autowala, the school teacher, everyone.

At around 4 in the evening lovely hunger-whetting aromas arose all around. Bhajjis! Ah! fiery peppers and crunchy capsicums, mangalore and maddhur wadas. Totally addictive. But the carrot was ‘ello’ (when I first corrected C for using that she told me if she said ‘yellO’ no one would understand!) and ‘jamoon’ did not easily evoke the taste of gulab jamoon but remained the succulent purple-tainting fruit. ‘Bhaiya’ could not be used to soften the heart of plumber/ electrician/ security. Everyone spoke in a sing-song kinglish and a sentence became a question by just elongating the last word. The all signifying ‘aa’ made all the difference ‘going out aa (!!)’, ‘going out aa (?), ‘going out aa (.), going out (~) ’ Similarly ‘pa’ ‘da’ ‘la’ – good fun!!

Nor was the ‘one dosa parcel’ easy 'cause parcels came in post and not at food take-away counters. The trucks and buses ‘sounded horns’ and never horn pleased. The traffic cops wore bowler hats. Women wore flowers in hair to work – not one or two, entire bushfuls even with trousers. They rode bicycles in sarees. There were lady bus conductors, petrol pump…nah 'bunk' attendants and postwomen too! The cows had elongated and very pointed horns. Red light se right lena, bhaiya was not understood. 'Signal' it was. ‘Where is your native?’ was hello. And ‘tell me’ after hello wasn’t meant to sound as rude as it did.

Now we look forward to 'meals' not thalis and eat soft mounds of fluffy rice slobbered over with spoonfuls of gee (just as g becomes gh, as in 'gar' meaning home, gh become g, and same interchange for 't' and 'th') as spice induced tears of sheer pleasure stream out of our eyes. We break into the impromptu 'jinke marina' at balle balle moments. I 'remove my phone' from my pocket to talk into it. And use Amma, Ma liberally for aunty, neighbor, kid, store attendants, loo keepers… When at indecisive shopping moments, I place my hand on five silk sarees and tell them I want only one, the exasperated shop attendant points to one and says, 'chennagidya', which I now know is not 'go to hell', she’s helped me select.

Why I’m writing all this? Chumma!

PS: All you scandalized north log, 'chumma' in not the jumma ka chumma but simbly JLT !! yeah, that took a while getting used to!

Monday, November 02, 2009

न दस्तक ज़रूरी, ना आवाज़ देना...

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Catch you on Facebook?

What’s the world coming to? Or again, am I getting old and hankering after old-world niceties? Okay, latter. But here’s talking of an exception.

When I see the packers and movers truck parked under my bedroom window, I try and figure out who’s moving out from my neighborhood or who’s moving in. Because before I know it, it will be too late. Last week when I bumped into a neighbor in a store 10 km from our place and commented on her new hairstyle, C politely interrupted to lead me to the far end to look at pickles because she was afraid I would say something to reveal that I had no clue they had moved out of our complex months ago.

But being what I am I still look forward to new neighbors introducing themselves and the moving out ones, ringing the bell just to say, they’re leaving. Yeah, that’s all. No need to leave your new address. On good days I make plans for visiting friends next year.

My relationship with neighbors on the left starts on the wrong foot. Some Vaastu problem, I’m sure. But it always gets better. Good Vaastu. I would be terribly miserable if I did not get along with immediate neighbors. So I was really pleasantly taken aback when the couple who bought the flat on the left appeared at my door. Never mind it was 3 on a Sunday afternoon. I’ll take good manners over the snooze any day. To compound matters, they were very young, too young to be nice and well-mannered.

Now what brought them to me was me. Sundays are no tolerance days as far as ‘bang-bang’ goes in our apartment complex. We try not to drill tunnels, chop down unused cabinets, solder new grill designs on Sundays. So when the bang-bang next door began, my fluish mind, a little hurt with the former neighbors leaving without a word of farewell - I had no intention of holding on to their legs crying, mujhe chood ke mat jao, started heating up. As the noise continued, I called the Manager who called them and quietude was restored. Apparently, they were not aware of the unwritten rule.

They came to introduce themselves and apologize, OMG! What’s the world coming to? I’m better off romanticizing my good old days and sighing.

One of my favorite Robert Frost poems:

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.