7

Its All About Sammy

A few years ago I first visited the land of the Star Spangled banner. I had re-connected with a close school friend, Buddy, after a gap of a mere half century. She was class topper in every subject and extra curricular activity. After graduation, she went to the US for further qualifications, and settled there. My holiday plans were excitedly discussed, and we both looked forward to spending quality time together.

Rather an irritating fly, in our present ointment, which sadly couldn’t be swatted away, was Sammy, Buddy’s husband. They had met while both were students in the U.S, and married soon after. Sammy was the original grass-roots scholar, from the wilds of obscure erstwhile Uttar Pradesh. Buddy’s father had been a ‘Boxwallah’ of yore, working for a Multinational company. The couple was as alike as dhal and rogan josh.

Sammy, if you blinked while crossing him on the street, you might not register his passing. This little person, eyes, small and beady, glinting behind rimless glasses. He was the self-proclaimed Fount of all Wisdom, firmly ending every discussion with, “I know because, ‘They Say’!” This, “They Say,” I eventually learnt, alluded to Uncle Sam. He seemed as ashamed of his bucolic Indian roots, as much as he struggled with assimilating mainstream Yankeehood, down to his painstakingly nurtured, execrable Yankee twang. This slipped ever so often, to straw-sucking, original bucolic Hinglish!

Sammy had two favourite pastimes. Increasing his wealth and guarding his health. His parsimonious nature may have been from a frugal childhood. But caring about his health was his special passion. I oft wondered how Buddy married him, he was such a self-opiniated bore. Within a few months of getting back from my U.S holiday…tragedy struck. Buddy passed away, losing an overnight battle, with a hitherto undetected malignant tumour. I had kept in sporadic touch with Sammy. So, when he came to India a few months later, he wanted to visit Bangalore. Remembering Buddy’s affectionate hospitality, I instantly agreed. That is the rest of my story.

My frail, elderly mother had been dragged willy-nilly into Sammy’s proposed entertainment. I threw her way, various proposed topics of discussion with him—Indian politics, classical Indian music, and his remaining connections to India. Sammy had decided that our city was not his scene.It was polluted, the sky shrouded in a grey haze, garbage heaped all over the roads, traffic a killer, and more of the same. His opinions about Bangalore were amazingly out of line. Considering his Indian home base Gurgaon, was an arid, unsafe, moonscape, lurking with hirsute, testosterone-overloaded examples of Indian male-hood, strutting on potholed roads leading to glass-encased office blocks. I decided that I might do better to take him out to nearby coffee growing country. Then on to Mysore, a classic heritage city. Concluding with a climb up to the Blue Hills of Ootacamund, where he might still be able to snatch some glimpses of the erstwhile British Raj.

Hotel bookings needed Sammy’s Passport information. He was aghast that I had asked for such high security details online. How was I to know that the world, their wife, and their pet parrot, were waiting for a chance to hack this information from the Web? “Now you even know my actual age!” he joked. I wasn’t able to read his humour, “You don’t look a day older than eighty” I wrote back! Sammy arrived. Getting down from the cab, smiling widely at me, he said, “Cummon, give me a hggg!” Duh? Stood I, deciphering his Americanese a few seconds later, to mean “Hug.”

The day after Sammy’s arrival, I ticked off the first item on his tourism agenda, taking him to our local club, having also invited some friends to make up the Sammy entertainment committee. Dress code was jacket and trousers, shoes and socks too, I had warned him. Sammy emerged from his room, looking dulcet, in a deep rose-pink, hand-knitted , woollen waistcoat. I surreptitiously looked down to his shoes, hoping that I wouldn’t be in for a further shock, in finding his feet in socks to match his pullover. They weren’t! He looked expectantly at me, I tried ignoring that pullover! ‘Rose pink,’ when on the shady side of sixty? He also had, slung snugly across his chest, a bag of ‘briefcase’ proportions, that most tourists to Third World countries consider a necessary accessory. As he rather lacked in inches, this accessory flapped knee length, rather than trendily hip high. “Why phor that?” I asked. My Hinglish was immediately understood. “Oh! My bag? I always carry my passport on me when I travel, plus a few medicines, a hand towel and a change of clothes. It isn’t safe to leave an Amrikan passport in my room in India. Since his present room was in my house, chemists were a dime a dozen all over Bangalore, we were going in my car, and no rain, nor a flood forecast for the next few hours, the bag was wholly unnecessary to complete his charming ensemble! I let his implied insult wash over me. I pithily informed him that there was nobody at home who was desperate to nick his passport. Adding in my inimitable, best diplomatic style, that with that bag slung over his shoulder which announced, ‘tourist’ ripe for rich pickings, he might as well have slapped a label on his forehead written ‘U.S.A Citizen,’ ! He pretended not to hear me! We ordered our drinks. What needs must Sammy do? On a cold January evening, he asks for it on the rocks. This addition to his drink had an unfortunate effect on Sammy’s delicate constitution. The next morning he awoke with a tickle in his throat, and no amount of ginger infused beverages or, rinsing his throat with saline gargles, helped. A day after, he woke up saying that he might need to consult a doctor before his tickling pharynx turned worse, or the bug decided to emigrate to his lungs!

Keeping in mind the dire possibility of cancelling our entire trip, scheduled departure for the next morning, my fingers went into over drive. I fixed an appointment with a reputed GP. Sammy heard the doctor was female, and immediately announced that she wouldn’t suit him. I asked him if his throat and lungs felt shy of being examined by a lady doctor. After a bit of humming and hawing, it was revealed that his plumbing too was playing up. Not to worry, said I matter-of-factly, to a by now very squirmy Sammy. A common complaint for men not exactly on the threshold of youth! He paled, as if I’d dealt him a blow to his solar plexus. Verdict? No biopsy, no throat swab for culture, in fact, no life threatening drama. We returned home, and a shattered Sammy retired to his room, without eating even a morsel of the khichdi that my mother had made. He said that he was quite exhausted after the morning doctors’ visits, and needed to recuperate. Considering that it was I who had done all the running around at various doctor’s clinics. I stared. He ignored. Sammy awoke from his recuperative siesta, and after drinking a cup of restorative ginger infused tea, wondered if we could think of postponing our departure by a day, as he hadn’t been able to sleep very well the previous night. I took the reins firmly in my hands then. No, we couldn’t postpone our departure, not least because I had planned for the house painting to begin when we left, that our hotel rooms were all booked and paid for, and, but left unsaid, that my mother had by now run out of topics of conversation.

Departure day dawned. The hired car arrived, the baggage loaded. The foot wells in steerage were packed to the gunwales–with bottled water, home-made sandwiches, hygienically packed and branded Indian snacks, et al. I had made a bit of the back seat my nook, leaving the best seat in the house, the front one, for an honoured guest. Sammy reached the car, had one look at the seating arrangements, and threw a fit. Now what, I thought.
“Why am I being seated in the front?” whined Sammy.
“Because, it’s the best seat in the house,” I said.
“But I want to sit in the back with you, so we can chit-chat, and I can do some reading.”
“Well, there’s no leg room in the back, neither space on the seat, as you may have noticed. You can read equally comfortably in front. Besides, I’m not really a ‘chitty-chatty’ traveller.” And saying so firmly, our travels, and my travails, commenced.

Sammy sulked, and sat in the front seat, I relaxed and lounged in the back. We had barely traversed the city when, travelling through a seedy locality, Sammy told the driver to stop at any Restroom. Ah! Sammy’s plumbing again, I guessed! Sammy returned, I didn’t ask him about the condition of the Restroom…some things are better left unasked in my country! We continued, till we stopped for a coffee break, and drove on to coffee country. He approved, and how, about the verdant and hilly district.
“I’m looking at blue skies, breathing in rich, fresh air, for the first time since reaching India!”
I shrugged, looking relieved, that Sammy approved of my motherland.
“Now my lungs will clear up, and I’m sure I should soon feel better.” So, it was all about his health, and nothing more!

In hospitable Indian style, my friends and relatives invited Sammy to visit and share meals as well. They said that they would also show him the local sights. But my hopes of handing him over to friends, for entertainment, were dashed. Sammy didn’t want to do any ‘sight seeing!’
“I like people, I like interacting with people, what’s with looking at scenery and views?”

In translation this meant, that he wanted to continue his verbal diarrhoea with my friends, relatives and countrymen, and which ailment he didn’t want treated. His was not a bubbling personality, nor was he famous. So what prolonged interaction could he expect from my friends, all them strangers to him. I had envisaged this trip to also be a culinary experience for him, along scenic drives. His opening lines at eateries would invariably be, “I hope the food wont be spicy, or have too much oil?” “Do they make it fresh for customers here, after we place our orders?” This last query, after he had ordered for a portion of lip-smacking biryani, a dish that normally takes some prolonged cooking.
I hastily informed the hovering waiter, in the local lingo, “This customer is an Indian, but believes that he has attained Nirvana as he left our country, and now is as American as his bag announces. Do please get him his order, as you normally cook it in your kitchen.”
Before Sammy could ask me, I translated my dialogue with the waiter, explaining to him that I had passed on, his specific dietary restrictions in minute detail, to the Chef! I did not expect to go to Heaven anyway.

Mysore was next. Worse was to follow, after reaching our modest, but squeaky clean hotel, late in the evening. I desperately needed to hit the sack. I was exhausted with our travels within coffee country, and preempting Sammy and his high NRI, critical expectations. The hotel where I had booked us our rooms, did not measure up. He came to meet me in the lobby for dinner, looking decidedly unhappy, a frown pinned on his face.
“I don’t like this hotel. My bathroom has naphthalene balls in the wash basin and shower areas. Can you call ‘Housekeeping,” and have them immediately remove the poisonous balls?”
“Hmmm! ‘Moth balls.’…So?” I distractedly responded. I failed to understand that I was treading on dangerous ground. Of Sammy’s blind faith and belief in the ‘they say’ horror, of breathing in potentially fatal naphtha fumes.

I, casually, “The moth balls are placed, just to prevent cockroaches from climbing out of the drainage. If you don’t like having these in the bathroom, just flush them down the toilet.”

Sammy, ominously, “Must I do so myself? And then how do these get disposed off after flushing?”

I, silkily, “This being a small hotel, the housekeeping staff would have long since gone. As for the route taken of the usual contents of toilet bowls, I will have to enquire from the local sewerage board about their city’s underground sewer maps.”

Saying so, and Sammy not noticing the last but one straw on this camel’s back, I marched with him to his room, yanking his room key from his nerveless fingers, my fast vanishing cool, already at boiling point. I strode into the bathroom, picked up the moth balls, and threw them down the toilet bowl.
“Now, Sammy if you wish, you can search for another hotel. I don’t want dinner. I am off to my room. I need to sleep!”

The next morning, he appeared at breakfast. Very much in residence, I disappointedly noted. The moth balls had not done their job! He didn’t move hotel. I added, that if he wished he could move, but I would not. Later, he accompanied a cousin and I, on our tour of a select few museums and monuments. He was not impressed. He did not evince more than a passing glance at the beautifully sculpted Italian marble statues, of the erstwhile Mysore Royals, that dotted the City Squares and heritage buildings. I soon gave up, and decided that we may as well move up and on, to the Blue Hills of the Nilgiris.

Sammy’s day, come rain or shine, couldn’t commence before noon. You see he had this set routine which he strictly adhered to, including a few visits to the toilet. I humoured him, even if I felt that half my own day was over by noon. The car was loaded and awaiting our arrival. There was another valiant attempt at an announcement by Sammy, to nobody in general, but to me in particular, at the commencement of our journey to Ooty.
“I don’t know why you insist that I sit up front, in the most dangerous seat in a vehicle. When Buddy and I used hired cars during our India visits, we always sat together in the safe back seat.”
I quashed this feeble try, with a “Well, I am not Buddy, and we could switch seats, I will move up front, to the dangerous seat. Lest you begin to think that I have evil plans of your speedy disposal under mysterious circumstances!” I had actually, had a few fleeting dreams of just something like that happening, to cut short a trip with this trying man. But Sammy wasn’t to know that. Our Bangalore house painting was not over, so I had to carry on.

We reached the Ooty Club…..a beautiful Englishy island in the haphazard town that now constituted Ootacamund. In the delightful garden and flower beds, werecplanted vibrantly blooming flowers, trailing climbers of white wisteria, yellow rambling rose and the pale, sweetly perfumed, mauve of lavender. The skies were blue, the evening crisply chilly. Finally, the food in the Club’s dining room, served by impeccably uniformed, and well-trained waiters, met with even Sammy’s reluctant approval. I looked to just vegetate in these surroundings, book in hand, lolling in front of a blazing log fire. But fate intervened. As we were about to retire for the night, I had a call. My mother had fallen and suffered a fracture. Surgery was scheduled by noon of the following day. It was a six-hour journey to Bangalore. So I explained the situation to Sammy about wanting to reach her bedside before she was wheeled into surgery. We had to leave before daybreak…about five in the morning. Or else, he could always stay back in the Club, and return later to Bangalore, as scheduled?
Sammy said that he would like to be in Bangalore to help me out. He could rush though his routine and be ready by ten the next morning
I told him I was leaving by five in the morning, and arranging for a Club approved cab for him to travel later, at a time suiting his convenience. Sammy blanched, he gulped, but agreed finally to my suggestion. Next morning as I was leaving, Sammy called from his room.
“Are you ready to leave already? I was thinking. How can I let you travel alone to Bangalore, under such circumstances? Also, is it safe for me to later travel alone, in a strange cab?”
That straw had finally broken this camel’s back! Hanging on tenuously to my temper, I hissed.

“The cab company is guaranteed by the Club. Whether the driver might have this fatal attraction for your charms, Sammy, he has to guard his reputation. So, all things considered, I guess you will be alright. He might just make a few passes at you!”
Sammy was ready and packed in ten minutes. We set out for Bangalore, and home together!
The trip had been thankfully, cut short. I helped Sammy pack and moved him to a hotel for the night. We parted friends, since he wasn’t aware of how close to nearly getting strangled he often was, during our travels. Sammy returned home, not necessarily to his roots, soon after that trip.

Sammy’s Utopian adopted country isn’t as rosy anymore without sheet-anchor Buddy, but he’s back there, living his lonely nuclear life.
I recently had a call from him.
“Hey! Guess what? A college friend of Buddy’s, now settled and retired in Australia, has asked me to join her and her husband over Christmas, on a road trip through Oz and New Zealand?   ”
The poor, unsuspecting souls……..

14

Her Incredible Journey

In many a person’s passage through life, certain circumstances, certain happenstances, certain individuals, or even certain of god’s better creations, stand apart. These come and they go, much like meteors.

They sometimes leave an indelible mark on our psyche. One such unique creation was Patch.Dog Running

Being a family of animal lovers, we had recently suffered the heartbreak of losing two similar members. A Daschund, ‘Frankfurter,’ he of Teutonic-Dravidian origin, and ‘Jigme,’ who was a gentle Lhasa Apso. Not directly in the line of succession to the benevolent tribal chieftans reigning over the Himalayan ranges of our country, but Jigme was regal enough, nevertheless. Franky looked proudly Aryan, and understood Tamil, as he was tutored by his loving Tamilian caregiver. He routinely responded to party tricks such as, “Prangee, pilate kondavva!” A loose translation from the Teuto-Dravidic tongue being, “Franky, bring your plate!” Or, “Prangee, po-lamma?” “Franky, shall we go?” etc. And Jigme? Well, he spoke the lingua franca of my neck of the south Indian woods, the Queen’s English. So conversing with him needed no interpreters. I resolutely informed the children that I was emotionally drained by our losses. Hence, no more canine additions to our family.

Destiny had other plans. My teenaged kids and I had noticed this bag of bones, from time to time, sidling out from the building under construction next door. With her udders not quite sweeping the ground, her hip bones jutting out above her tail, the two sides of her belly very nearly concave, each miserable rib on her could be counted. The poor creature couldn’t have been more emaciated if she’d tried. She was more white than black, with black patches smudged at random over her dull lifeless coat. A black nose, a white muzzle, two apprehensive toffee brown eyes under beetling white eyebrows, peeped at the world through the black patches on her face. She had recently littered, and my interested teenagers correctly assumed that her pups were housed somewhere inside this building. She was the understudy to the building’s Watchman, on twenty four hour duty. Not a strange vehicle, nor any stranger, could use our road without this black and white fury shooting out of her shelter, chasing them off her territory. She took her duties very seriously, and all in exchange for inadequate handouts of food thrown erratically her way, with the accompanying kicks that were a given, from her usually inebriated owner. Her motherly instincts were strongly atavistic. She scavenged for morsels all the time, everywhere, any time, in struggling to ensure full bellies for her brood. In her search for nourishment and scraps she was ably assisted by my kids. I hardened my heart to cringingly appealing toffee eyes, choosing to ignore the many plates of food that I knew my two children secreted out of the house. “Feed her if you must, near her building, but not near our gate,” was my war cry. “I don’t want her stepping inside. Not another dog.”

And then one day folks it was, Show Time! That fine morning, Patch, for the kids had named her so, trotted to our gate, with her eight, yes, eight, plump pups hotly in pursuit. A prouder mother was never seen. No wonder she always looked starving and emaciated, she had given her all to her babies. By this time of course, my children had fed and nourished Patch back to some semblance of caninehood, and her pups too were not forgotten. It was amazing what a difference just regular meals, over a couple of weeks, could make to a dog. Patch had flesh filling out all those concave hollows, and smoothing over her rib cage. Having weaned her voracious puppies, her figure had nearly returned to that of a curvaciously fit canine. She was a transformed personality. There was a sheen to her previously lusterless coat, not only because the kids had introduced her to her first bath. These ablutions were initially fraught with apprehensions about its success. Patch was convinced that she was being led to the slaughter, and growled, howled and barked blue murder. After squealing her way through every mug full of water, a rigorous scrub down with a medicinal soap and anti louse shampoo, Patch and the kids emerged in wet triumph, a gleaming, squeaky clean whiter than white dog, and decidedly bedraggled humans. What was also revealed was her doubtful lineage. Some Dalmation?

Dalmation Patchs' Incredible Journey PIJAssociated to the many black spots under those layers of grime and dirt! That rangy stride, was there a hint of a hunting hound? She was an interesting potpourri. Patch was now refreshingly huggable, and got a lot of those from our family. A newly acquired swing to her gait, her eyes unhesitatingly looked every human in the face. Her tail, which appendage had emerged from between her legs with her new found poise, was held high, like a standard. Patch’s ‘make-over’ was complete. Or was it? It was then that we noticed that all things being equal, there were a few inherent flaws in her genes. Patch didn’t quite have 6/6 vision, in fact she had a decided cast in one of her eyes, which gave her an eternally enquiring gaze from a tilted head. Also, no amount of calcium syrup with which we thoughtfully augmented her diet, had succeeded in making both her ears reach to the skies. One ear flopped down, while the other remained disreputably aloft. But that smile, oh that grin, that split her long muzzle in two, nothing could beat that.

She had by then, decided that our family needed being taken under her wing. She had to only see one of us, and a smile lit her up like a lighthouse. If any of the family chose to visit in the neighbourhood, Patch was our self appointed outrider. She would jauntily lope ahead, tongue lolling out, chasing a lowly stray out of our path here, flushing the odd bird, that dared to stray into our path, there. Once my mother had gone visiting a neighbourhood store, to reach which, she had a busy road to cross. No amount of firm admonitions made Patch return home. She resolutely ignored my mother ordering her back, pretended instead to investigate an interesting scent, and then did an Usain Bolt across the thoroughfare, adeptly avoiding all vehicles, and disappeared around a building. Shopping over, my mother emerged from the shop, to discover a long suffering dog, waiting patiently outside the store, to escort her home. Fellow mongrels she chose to totally ignore, choosing to believe that she was born to the Purple, and so for her they did not exist. But if a dog with an obvious pedigree was being walked, that always reduced Patch to a fawning, grovelling cur. She was a shameless social climber, who loved rubbing haunches with rich and famous canines. She performed for their edification. She pirouetted, she cavorted, did a belly up, a coquettish flick of her fore paws, a few steps to the front, a quickstep back. Her repertoire was endless. Everybody knew Patch was ours. “Uh huh? Since when?” “Oh! Never mind.” But the dog walkers, they all loved her obviously sycophantic antics with their charges.

Resignedly, I faced facts. It was high time to put an end to Patch adding her periodic gifts of puppies to our locality, apart from them eating us out of house and home, inspite of officially belonging to the alcoholic watchman next door. I called up the local Animal Shelter, with a request to them to send their ambulance for the pick up of a mother dog and her pups. No, I didn’t have any dark and dubious intentions. I merely wanted Patch neutered, reunited with her watchman, and the pups put up for adoption. The pick up day dawned, with the kids darkly muttering, sotto voce, whether they would ever see Patch again. Dog Mongrel and Girl PIJAnd I secretly hoping that some kind soul visiting the Animal Shelter would fall hopelessly enough in love with Patch, to adopt her. Mother & pups were shoved willy-nilly into the ambulance, and I was assured by the driver that after another pick-up of an injured cat elsewhere in the city, they would drive straight onto the veterinary hospital and animal shelter, which was about ten kilometers away.

The friendly staff at the animal shelter had been informed that Patch should be returned to our neighbourhood only after she was fully recovered from her surgery, which meant that she should be away at least about two weeks. Imagine my surprise when, after barely a few days, my mother called me up at work, informing me that a dog, looking suspiciously like Patch, was seated expectantly outside our front gate? Quite irate at the Shelter having flouted my express request, I called them up immediately, set to do battle. On my enquiring of them the reason for releasing Patch so soon after her admission, I was emphatically informed that they had not done anything of the sort. In fact a few of her pups had been adopted, and they were in the process of scheduling her surgery. Patiently I requested them to get to the bottom of the confusing business. Within a few minutes, I got a very worried Shelter staff calling me, to say that Patchs’ wire-meshed enclosure and cage door were securely shut and locked. It housed a vanished dog! Her remaining pups were in their cage, but no mother dog nuzzling them there. While back home, my mother was petting and feeding choice scraps to a smiling black and white ‘Dalmation,’ with a face-splitting grin and a furiously wagging tail. “Elementary, my dear Watson!” Patch had obviously clawed and climbed her way out of a 6 ft high, wire meshed,secure enclosure, without a backward glance at the gene pool she had abandoned to their fate. Houdini had escaped from the confines of the Animal Shelter. A place, where she had been taken to in a vehicle, as opposed to being walked there. She had then traversed miles of a large city’s bustling roads, circumvented strange scents, stranger sounds. Dodging traffic, hostile canine street packs, cruel humans, she had headed to her sanctuary, her family, our house, much like a homing pigeon with an inbuilt GPRS, but safely home she had unerringly reached.

I was as putty in Patchs’ paws after her incredible journey. Quickly we completed Patchs’ official paper work. A generous wad of crisp currency notes changing hands with her watchman owner, was all it took. Easy peasy. Patch was now legally our’s. We were a complete family again.

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25

Taamara of Troy

I have never been the deeply maternal sort. So when my daughter announced her pregnancy to me a few years ago, I was kind of looking forward to grandmother-hood with decidedly mixed feelings. Soon after, she presented me with this red-faced little bundle of grandchild, and thus began my journey into slavery. Of course the transition period of conversion between practical matriarchy and slavery took a few months. The root cause of this journey was Taamara, my little lotus.

By the time Taamara was old enough to be left safely in my care for a few hours, she had wound her tiny little fingers very firmly around my heart. From the top of her head of dancing brownish curls, to the tips of her dusky skinned tiny feet, she was truly delicious, as only a grandchild can ever be. Even at this young age, she had a wicked sense of humour, and knew when she had her audience charmed, and would chortle and gurgle with glee when we would burst into laughter at her childishly impish witticisms. I was bewitched. Thereafter, every step she took, every glance she looked, every sound she made, was unique, was amazingly brilliant-to a besotted grandma. By the time she began talking, there was no looking back. She never stopped, talking, I mean. She could talk for hours, which we discovered for ourselves on a long road trip out of our city. She spoke non-stop for a major part of the journey, and only stopped because she fell asleep. By the time she was a little over two, she had mastered four syllable words, and used them almost as expertly as that of any reputed television channel’s News Anchor. With her increasing vocabulary, was her increasing confidence, and my, what a poised young lady she was by thirty months. Among her parents’ circle of friend’s children, she was the only girl, and the youngest. So at any given time, she was surrounded by this gaggle of boys, of all ages and sizes, all of them hell bent on engaging her attention, and hanging on her every perfectly articulated word.She had by now graduated into being permitted, under Parental Control, to watch ethnic folklore and fairy tales, on DVD. Her hot favourite was the animated version of the ‘Jungle Book.’

A friend visited me once, with her gawky fourteen year old son. He would have put a shrinking violet to shame. So shy was he that he did not utter a word, unless directly addressed. I was talking to the mother, with her son seated silently on a settee across the living room, as communicative as a rock.

Into the room swept Taamara, in search of me, and espied instead, the Rock. Her curiosity aroused, she stood expectantly in front of the teenager, giving him the clear unblinking, unabashed once-over, patented perfectly by the under-threes. He didn’t budge, he didn’t talk, he didn’t even breathe. The Rock just ignored her. Now, for a girl who was used to being quite the diva, with her exclusively male fan club, this behaviour just wasn’t on. That’s when Taamara shifted into over-drive.
“What’s your name?” No reply.
“My name’s Taamara.” No response.
Unfazed she switched tactic, turned smartly about and did a fast step.
“Hup, two, three, four! Hup, two, three, four!” for about ten turns, under this squirming Rock’s nose. Not even a muscle twitched on his inscrutable face.
Since the ‘Jungle Book’ enactment of “Colonel Haathi” training his soldierly herd, hadn’t had the desired effect on the Rock, Taamara changed tactics, yet again. She doesn’t have her Grandma’s genes in her two-and-a-half foot frame, for nothing! She switched to the fabled monkey act, which was a sure fire rendition, enough to strike terror into the most famous Brave Heart. She did a couple of leaps and cartwheels in front of the Rock’s settee. No Siree-he wasn’t impressed. She swirled like a dervish, hither and yon, around the living room, setting the city alight, with her long monkey tail spitting ‘flames’, as per the fable. The Rock’s heart remained untouched. He yawned, decidedly bored!

Sighing, Taamara then clambered on to the settee next to the Rock, and settling uncomfortably close to him, and with the same clear, unflinching gaze, gave him another once over. In her piping treble, she lobbed the ball a second time, into the Rock’s court,
“What’s your name?” Again, no response.
Being made of sterner stuff, she went on to her next question,
“You know to which school I will be going?” Not interested, conveyed the Rock’s expression.
“Do you want a chocolate?” was this little Eve’s ultimate apple. Silence.

By that time everybody in the room was sliding to the edge of their seats, having bitten their nails down to the quick, wondering what the result of this one-sided interaction, was going to be.

Fond grandmother that I was, I waited in trepidation for Taamara to get her first come-uppance.
Unfortunately my Lotus had a pressing social engagement, a birthday party, so her father had come to pick her up. The final scene of this clash of personalities had yet to unfold. We waited, we all waited. I took her away to change her to her party clothes, and after her transformation was complete, she raced back into the living room in unmaidenly haste. Heaving a sigh of relief to find that the Rock hadn’t vanished, Taamara delivered her coup d grace. She stood in front of this quivering jelly of fourteen year old. She stuck out one foot, shod in hip Diesel sneakers, and with her hand on her hip, looked expectantly up at him for approbation. Her look said it all,
“What do you think of this package buddy?” conveyed her expression. It was too much for the Rock.

The visit ended. Mother and son left. He a speechless, shattered teen. He’d been worsted by a thirty month old!
And Taamara? Well, her faith in fourteen year old wimps is yet to be restored!

18

Madame Siddons

I have been driving since I was in diapers, well, almost. After sixty, one lives in a happy haze of long ago memories. That day, I had taken a bit of time off, and much against my policy, borrowed my son’s brand new car, to nip across to look up my grand daughters who lived close by. I am a self admitted fast, and also by self admission, competent driver. But seeing that I was using a borrowed car, Michelle Schumaker was being extra cautious, and toodling along at a sober, grandmotherly pace towards my daughter’s house.

As if in slow motion a scene from an action movie unraveled before my eyes. Hurtling towards me was a white taxi cab. A second cab, overtaking the first, seemed to be drag racing with it. And horror of horrors, from out of nowhere, or so it later seemed to me, I saw a motorbike overtaking both cars, completely in the wrong lane, and riding at break neck speed straight at me. By this time, I had slowed to a crawl, pulled over and stopped, nearly climbing the pavement in the process. Once I saw the bike rider applying his brakes, I waited for the inevitable. The bike’s wheels ‘locked’, sped into a side skid, the passenger catapulted through the air, the rider clung on to his bike, till he flung himself off at the last moment, only when realizing that he, along with his bike, were heading straight under my stationary car. This they both did, with gut wrenching sound effects from my hapless car..

 Before you could say, “What the *^>@!,” out of the roads and footpaths, crawled the ghoulish Accident Scene Rubber Neckers. Each had his own learned opinion to deliver. Thick & fast flew varied views, delivered in Hinglish, Tamil, Telegu, and Dakkhani -that marvelous patois of Nawabi Urdu, colloquial Hindustani with subtle undertones of Kannada. Mobile phones appeared as if by magic. Camps were formed. One Camp, championing the cause of all down trodden two wheeler riders. The other, espousing the pitfalls of being a lady driver, and of a Four Wheeler, no less. “Don’t worry, Saar, She will admit her fault, couldn’t she have “yepplied breaks’(sic)?”

 I was in total shock, but managed to open the door of my car. My first priority was to check if I had to go the hospital with an injured patient, or locate the closest mortuary, before surrendering myself to the Police. My son’s, till not-so-long-ago new car, I noticed was looking decidedly pigeon-toed, her bonnet had a lovely dimple which would have made the Shehzada of India weep, while her right headlight was merrily twinkling glass confetti all over the headlight assembly. The plebian two wheeler rider lying motionless under my car, for most of that time, was thankfully, not dead. He was just recovering his breath under the bonnet, sniffing the innards of the under chassis, the oil sump & the front shock absorbers of my car, all for free. He had actually been struggling to extricate his motorbike from under the car. Adrenalin kicked in, my foggy brain cleared, if I did not act fast, I knew that the scraggly gathering of ‘my’ Camp supporters too would swell into an irrationally irate mob. My Madame Siddons (that yester year Diva of the London Stage) act kicked in, and I gave the performance of my life. I began shuddering silently into a tissue, soon this turned to sobs, after which I informed all who were within earshot, that it seemed as if I was having palpitations and about to swoon. Their expressions grew anxious, many of the Rubber Neckers slunk away, lest they be called as witness to a fatal traffic accident. A few of the doughtier die-hards hung back.  Feebly, I made a few short calls, to rustle up the Cavalry. These arrived, the first contingent, my son & his friends, the next the local traffic police.

In next to no time, all was well with my world. The car needed towing away, the bike impounded, and the errant motorbike rider hauled by my knights in shining white armour, to cool his heels temporarily behind bars. It was with a sense of vindication that a fine was slapped against the rider. My prowess behind the wheel, restored to its earlier levels, and my driving skills much appreciated by my Camp Followers with, “Medam, inspite of being so yelderly, you have yemazing control over your vehicle!” A turn around, high praise indeed!

My ruffled feathers restored to order, my dignity intact, I simpered in matronly modesty. I was just getting set to sign autographs, when my son yanked me back rudely to reality with a, “Come on Ma, let’s hit the road!” Resignedly I gave the police my best regal wave, and Madame Siddons went home to regale the family about her mishap.