Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Flying Chair

These days the course I’m writing is for very small children – classes I to V – teaching and practicing English language and grammar through simple stories and rhymes in a fun, interactive way. I couldn’t help sharing the story I loved as a kid, my Papa’s story of the flying chair, the उड़ने वाली कुर्सी.

The memory takes me back to the room where it was spun 
 each night, a new adventure.

In his book and paper smelling first floor room that opened into a small balcony over our lush garden, along the window, sat the big mez with three typewriters – two bulky ones, one of those Hindi and the sleek portable, Remington which he mostly used. The big table was strewn with big, open books and papers and under those lay wonderful childhood attractions – the paperweights, the hourglass in-cased in glass along with a sea horse and shells, a stopwatch, a small handheld slide magnifier, seals and boxes of photo slides. 

Papa's chair looked a lot like this.

Office chairs had not invaded homes (nor offices) – no swivel, no recliners. Ergonomics?  The word wasn’t invented. Straight-backed, no nonsense, good lumber support, if you slouched, it hurt so if you were stiff from sitting, you got up and walked some. The chair in question was a carved armchair with a cane-woven back and seat. A cushion on the seat, and two when I sat on it. I can still feel the smoothness of its arms when in make believe, I sat on it typing important imaginary things on the typewriter.

There was a single cot in the room and at night I would climb into it next to Papa (mornings, I magically woke up in my own bed), under the ubiquitous mosquito net. Then the story would begin. The story of the flying chair. The magical chair. I imagined the one in the room spouting wings and taking Papa over Kamla Park and the Bada Talaab, the lake. He would describe the chair covered in red velvet and I would feel its softness and mossy texture. When he sat on it and asked the chair to fly, I felt the lightness in the head like on being airborne when a Ferris wheel takes off the ground. Papa-on-the-flying-chair would do good deeds like saving people from robbers and helping those in need but he would do a lot of naughty and fun things too like whisking off ice-cream from someone’s hand; chance meetings with my friends and school tormentors who seemed comic in the situations he created. 

May every childhood be blessed with such wonderment and memories to last a lifetime...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Remember lemon drops. Above all.

          Photo credit: Shibani Mehta. More by her, here. 

My claim to the experience is by virtue of having cut myself twice. Cuts that required sewing. Many have been through worse bloodshed, but for more gallant reasons than pottering about the house. From this, arises my notoriety, the singularity of purpose that makes people ask ‘how did you manage?’ before they say ‘aww…’. Nah, the second time round no one says ‘aww…’, they say ‘but seriously!’ all the while trying not to laugh so much that they begin to hurt. So here’s my ten rupeeworth. 
  • Cut yourself when you’re properly dressed. Both times, I've been in bed clothes and the changing even into hospital-going ones was a bloody mess. Bad blood!
  • Don't tell the husband to quickly get a towel. He doesn't know where towels are. And you are not in a position to say no if he dashes to the spare room farthest away and gets the cleanest, whitest ones you've saved for guests, so well hidden. Until then. 
  • The car door will slam on the hurt palm that feels nothing as easily as the palm bangs into random, solid, heavy, hurtful things. 
  • Even though you wrap it in bath towel, it will soon be soaked as all nearby hospitals refuse to look at it and then the blood will flow down your elbow into your clothes and when some hospital finally takes you in and asks you to lie down, you are going to feel really cold. 
  • Those that refuse you do not do so immediately but take you into their OT, placing a basin under your cut to catch your blood and then you are temporarily amputated from the situation as five heads, treaters and onlookers thick as blood brothers, bend over it and take their time marveling at how amazingly the blood is spouting non-stop. They will wrap it back into fresh towels you are carrying and hand you back your injury, saying ta-ta.
  • Don’t worry that the nurse who finally 'takes a look' when you are placed on the hospital bed is almost fainting at the sight of blood. Offer her lemon drops. 
  • Lemon drops are important. Always keep them handy. Start popping them in as soon as you’re done with the changing of clothes. After that you are required to do nothing more than hold up your bloodied arm to let the traffic part for you. Feels very Moses. 
  • You will need the lemon-drop energy to help the sweating-blood doctor in the OT who will ask you to hold the tread he’s sewing you with or the scissors, and with the sewing job topmost on his mind, he is bound to forget to check your BP or give you a tet vac... you will have to do all the remembering. You will need to keep your eyes open. Remember lemon drops. Above all, lemon drops.