#humour #KitchenFisasco #BachelorsLife #WhyPigsHaveWings #DifferentTruths
Here’s an interesting account by Soumya, a humourist, on cooking. We are introducing his humour column, beginning this week, on Tuesdays, exclusively on Different Truths. I am a foodie. My girth hints at it. I take a keen interest in the creative process of cooking too, but all strictly theoretical. I also enjoy cooking as a spectator sport. The glamorous cooks on television make it look so sexy. [ 933 more words ]
Category Archives: Gender
#humour #KitchenFisasco #BachelorsLife #WhyPigsHaveWings #DifferentTruths
The End, Chapter 30, the Final chapter of Memory, a Novella
Written for Nanowrimo extended
Copyright (c) Soumya Mukherjee
BOYS DON’T CRY
This is one maxim that made life difficult for Boy. Long before it was macho and cool for men to be in touch with their emotions and not being afraid to show sensitivity, Boy had the unfortunate predicament of being ahead of times. He cried watching films.
Not all films mind you. He did not cry at Laurel and Hardy films. But Charlie Chaplin was another matter. Action films left him dry eyed. But not if they were action packed patriotic war movies. Ditto, action films to do with martyrs in the freedom struggle. These made Boy cry buckets. As did the first Hindi film he saw, ‘Haathi mere Saathi’. Anand left him cold, but Fiddler on the roof was a three hankie film, even before Boy had daughters of his own and identified with poor Topol.
This was his shameful secret. AND IT HAD TO STAY THIS WAY! If not quite his life, but his reputation and his young manhood depended on it.
Cinema halls being dark, it kept a veil on this Achilles heel and no one suspected that the snivelling could be coming from the irreverent comedian which was Boy’s public persona. Add the fact that his spectacles and frequent colds he pretended to suffer from hid the symptoms of his shame from the casual eye, and Boy was as successful in keeping this alter ego a dark secret as successfully as Dr Jekyll.
Books were another matter. Boy was addicted to the printed word and spent every bit of free time, in public transport and communal spaces as well, stuck in books. He would completely lose all sense of space time continuum when in the throes of this narcotic world, and would often laugh out loud or exclaim audibly. Giggles were frequent. Now, while laughing aloud while reading is tolerated as eccentricity, with mild censure, and even giggling attracted bearable amounts of hazing, snivelling would have spelled a death knell. Boy’s tastes did not run to soppy stuff, and tearjerkers made him laugh, so one would think that there was no danger of disclosure, but no, not quite. You see, what got Boy’s tear ducts running were stories of triumph against odds, the little guy winning, the new kid scoring the winning goal, the 1911 Mohanbgan victory in the IFA shield in a real life Lagaan scenario and similar stories of heroism and success. Boy used camouflage in the form of loud laughter or eye irritation as a cover up.
But you can go only so far in covering up an overactive lachrymal gland. Rumours regarding his manhood began to circulate. It was only the fact that Boy was an enthusiastic sportsperson, had the advantage of a scathing tongue, and a reputation as a scrappy fighter helped him survive those whispers. Not crying in physical pain helped salvage Boy’s name somewhat whenever he was beaten up defending his honour against any slur of emotionalism.
It was years later that Boy could openly cry with his daughters watching Lion King or Chak De India.
One would expect that this albatross around Boy’s neck would come to his rescue one day when he really needed the relief of letting the tears flow and the howls rise to wash away his anguish and unburden his soul when something actually affected him in real life.
But like Karna’s knowledge, the bitch deserted Boy at his moment of trial.
Boy was keeping vigil in the loneliest place in the world, the waiting room outside the ICCU. The one person Boy hero worshipped in childhood, confronted in the arrogance of youth, and grew distant from in the labyrinths of their own lives, the one person who always supported Boy and was there for him without expectations of reciprocity, who’s debt would forever remain unpaid, was inside, hooked up to a ventilator.
Boy was called inside and it was explained that there was nothing further to be done, and he had to take the final decision of flipping the switch. He was given a moment alone with the patient. Boy desperately waited for the welcome release of the warm flood that heals, but nothing came. He was dry eyed and stony faced. Boy went through the motions of bereavement in automation.
On the one occasion that boys can cry, Boy couldn’t.
That day, Boy finally grew up, and became a man.
Rebound, chapter 26 of Memory, a Novella
Written for Nanowrimo Extended
Copyright (c) Soumya MukherjeeA SUITABLE BOY
A friend recently posted a link on my facebook page which listed answers of various American children to the question “How do we know whom to marry “with many intriguing responses. This took me down memory lane to the time Boy’s eldest had posed the same question to his wife.
He listened in for a while to the very sensible discussions between mother and child as to knowing the person and following the heart and kept having visions of his little child growing up and meeting all kinds of undesirable lumpens and following the very unsound advises of her heart.
He could also for the first time sympathize with his poor father in law, whom till now he had considered an unreasonable ogre for his vehement opposition to his daughter’s selection of a perfect boy like Boy for a life mate.
The venerable gentleman’s objections were based on their different religion language and caste, and not on Boy’s qualities character education or socio economic standing as a suitable groom for the apple of his eye, which Boy found unreasonable. Boy suspected that his pigmentation may also have had a bearing on his decision. Boy had cheekily offered to stop shaving and grow his hair if it helped matters, as a full flowing beard and unshorn locks were the hallmark of the community the pop in law belonged to
What Boy realized now was that it was his natural caution as a doting dad of not losing his little girl to a smart-alecky stranger from an alien culture. Combined with this would be the very natural fear of the traditional middle class patriarch, “what would people say?”
Unencumbered by any such wisdom or scruples and armed with the arrogance of absolute certainty that is the prerogative of youth; Boy had eloped and got married ignoring his veto, no doubt bruising his ego, but also breaking his heart.
Now visions of Karma floated before Boy’s eyes and life flashed before him in fast forward to the background scores of ‘Sunrise….Sunset….’ He could visualize being introduced to young men in dreadlocks with piercings and tattoos or with orange hair, or perhaps someone darker than him with an afro hairdo, or maybe a skullcap and beard. Scenes from ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner’, ‘Father of the Bride’, Meet the Parents’, and ‘Kanyadan’ flashed before his eyes and his sympathies were all with the beleaguered dads. He could totally understand Topol’s anguish in Fiddler on the Roof as he watched his daughters leave without the aid of the matchmaker to impecunious youth, radicals and even a Russian! Now objections on grounds of race religion colour or creed didn’t seem so outlandish.
Boy couldn’t hold out any longer. Ignoring all homilies on good parenting, he interjected –
“No, No! Don’t listen to mummy, she doesn’t know, I will tell you how you will know whom to marry; ASK DADDY! DADDY WILL TELL YOU WHOM TO MARRY.”
Years later, when such discussions were close enough in time frame to a potential selection of suitable boy to be serious, they joked about her childhood query and Boy’s response. Boy tried to establish his liberal credentials by declaring that he don’t believe in race religion or nationalities, but adding a rider for safety that socio economic and educational and cultural compatibility leads to happier relationships, and asking whether he should take his dressing gown out of mothballs and get a pipe, in preparation of upcoming interviews with young men ala fathers of brides in old bollywood. But the GenY lady’s response had Boy completely stumped and re-evaluating his perceived liberalism. She asked Boy,
“Does it have to be a boy? Why this gender specification? “
I guess the young will always teach their parents new lessons in tolerance and adaptability
Caste. Chapter 24 of Memory, a Novella
Written for Nanowrimo extended
Copyright (c) Soumya Mukherjee
Boy,s new bride was undergoing an interview with her grandmother in-law. It was their first meeting. They did not share a common language so a bevy of eager aunt in-laws were acting as interpreter. Favourite grandson had brought home a bride from a different community, and she was being magnanimous and getting to know the girl.
‘Are you a Brahmin dear?’ , was the opening salvo to break the ice
‘No’ her frank admission brought the chill back in the atmosphere.
“Ummm, you Are a Hindu though?” her nervous counter query
“No” Pindrop silence in the house
Visions of the unthinkable unnerved the fond grandma and excited the eager aunts.
A nervous follow up query from the matriarch – ‘ Um, are you, err.. a, a Muslim?’.
There. The unthinkable was out in the open. The M word was out. Was a scandal about to rock the conservative bastion of the Ballygunge Brahmins? The aunts hoped for Breaking news that would enliven the kitty party for months. Grand mom feared the worst and only good breeding kept her from shifting away a little .
‘Oh no!’, her reply dispersed the tension in the room. The old lady relaxed visibly. The aunts tried to hide their disappointment.
“Oh, so you are a Christian?’ grandma asked, considerably relieved. Having been the wife of a Civil Servant in British India, she had seen a lot of Englishmen, who despite being Christian, were quite acceptable. Moreover, most of the family had studied in Christian schools, so they were not so alien. The previous generation who went to England for higher studies occasionally brought back an European wife, and although tut tutted at, they were tolerated. Basically, Christian was passé.
‘No, I’m not’, the bride replied.
‘Then why did you scare us unnecessarily?’ the beaming grandma retorted.’ Not a Muslim or Christian means Hindu. So what if you are not a Brahmin, marrying one makes you one.’
Feeble protests about Sikhs being a distinct community were lost in diffidence and translation.
Relief, disappointment, vague frustration at sudden loss of identity were the various emotions flooding the room.
It wasn’t till a generation later that members of the not be mentioned community were at a wedding reception of the Ballygunge Brahmins as respected in laws.
Unfortunately, the matriarch did not live to see this day
Marriage, Chapter 23 of Boy, a Novella
Written for Nanowrimo Extended
Copyright(c) Soumya Mukherjee
Whenever a boy gets out of hand, the first solution that Indian parents think of is,
“Let’s get him married. That will settle him down”
The hero of our story, Boy, is in a way my offspring, and had been getting troublesome of late. So I too, am planning the time honoured solution of getting him married off.
Boy met her in a dirty dingy government office, surrounded by mountains of dusty files, peering out from behind huge ledgers, to the background music of clattering typewriters. This was the pre computer Stone Age of snail mail, manual computing, adding machines, and files bound in tape holding typed letters. Finding this difficult to believe? And no, there were no dinosaurs then, and the world wasn’t black and white.
Hearing rumours that the presence of a young lady is about to improve the tone of the accounts department infinitely, Boy had gone to investigate.
He returned crestfallen, as the petite lady had actually
made an appearance, and was to head the department, but Boy’s breezy intrusion met with a dead pan visage, and his attempts at witticism with a freezing ‘oh really, how interesting. ‘
Boy learnt later that he was just the kind of smooth talking long haired unreliable boys her mother had warned her about.
However, as they were the only two non geriatric beings in that vast dungeon, they sort of started to hang around together at lunch. It looked like other than being new recruits in this maze, they had nothing in common. Then one day, when Boy found her solving a crossword puzzle, he was elated. Pitching in, unasked, to help, Boy completed it to her mild irritation, but his skill with words must have impressed her a bit, as she seemed to thaw a few degrees. Finding at last that they had some common interest, Boy jumped in, and discovered that they shared a common passion for books, art house cinema and although of drastically different genre, music.
They began to relieve the tedium of work by exchanging books and cassettes, (remember those?) and news of exciting new writers, bargain prices for old books, or views on world cinema. Remember this was the pre net, Google, Wikipedia and download world, when knowledge and information were at a premium and the exclusive purview of the ‘in’ set.
Boy was introduced to the melodious world of Hindi music, and he in turn exposed her to the disruptive world of Rock, and the mystical realms of Rabindra Sangeet.
They progressed to visiting bookshops, Mandi House- the Mecca of theatre, and Shakuntalam- the auditorium for offbeat cinema. Next step, they become each other’s confidants. Boy shared the woes of his latest unsuccessful attempt at long time relationship, while she confided her problems in getting her dad to accept her unacceptable boyfriend.
Thus Boy learnt that she was of that rare species that was thought to exist only in Bollywood or Hollywood, one who was willing to do the unheard of naïve act of actually marrying for love, with no concern for Economics, History or Geography of the groom. Armed with this revelation Boy took the only logical course, that of scheming to replace this undeservedly lucky guy.
At first she thought it was an attempt at comedy, and Boy’s absolute inability to be serious about anything didn’t help. However, Boy launched a marketing strategy of perseverance, irreverence, and proximity. Brand promotion by his friends, and scientific product promotion helped by market feedback from her friends started wearing down her resistance, helped along by jealous tantrums of Boy’s predecessor. Finally, persuasion in the form of Psmith, who gets his Eve by telling her that the plus side of marrying a mad man is that you never get bored, swung the scales, to Boy’s eternal gratitude to P G Wodehouse.
Now, in true filmy style, politics played spoilsport. Members of her community were being targeted in communal riots by people of Boy’s religion. Her NRI dad planned her wedding with some suitable boy of their clan on the next available date. Her protests that she had other plans were peremptorily dismissed, especially when she produced a new candidate; this time, Boy.
Next logical step was elopement. While her dad was busy making arrangements for her quick disposal, they decided to close the deal. The registrar requiring some notice period, the Arya Samaj Mandir agreed to play cupid. They were assured that it was quite legal. Having no time to inform anyone or make any arrangements, they planned to meet at the venue next day, get the certificate and promptly leave for Boy’s hometown.
Now more hitches started developing. Those were the days of long distance calls being made from post offices where you had to shout out your messages in front of a waiting crowd, that too after waiting for an hour for the expensive ‘lightning’ call to materialize. After going through this trauma, Boy learnt that his father was abroad on work, his mother having accompanied him, and his school going brother’s assurances that dad was returning the next day, and that Boy was not to worry but catch the train, little brother will take care of all issues, did not boost Boy’s confidence.
By now, the jungle drums had spread the news, and there were a bunch of Boy’s friends waiting with him at the temple, doing their best to add to his nervousness. Her delay was explained as second thoughts on her part, late realization of her blunder, or her father having imprisoned her or worse.
Boy’s worry was that a Wodehousian story shouldn’t have a similar complication, where Boy waits by the Arya Samaj Mandir on Hanuman road, while she waits at the Hanuman Mandir on Arya Samaj Road.
Another helpful explanation offered was that she gave me a subliminal message in gifting a Talat Mahmood album, which speaks only of lost love.
In between there is a subplot of a bunch of Boy’s other friends, the girls from his college, having organized the wedding at another venue, which message did not reach him .As Boy had no telephone and was seldom home, this wasn’t surprising. Remember, this was the pre sms watsap, facebook and email era. Thinking that Boy had changed his mind without informing them, they refused to speak to him for years afterwards.
Finally she arrived explaining that she had to balance the books or some such office exigency, ignoring the fact that Boy had aged a decade in the meanwhile.
Quick ceremony over, certificate in hand, they proceeded to Boy’s ‘Barsati’, a rooftop shelter that he shared with his friends, a typical bachelor pad of those days, familiar to all who have seen Chasme Baddoor. The plan was that Boy’s bachelor day’s roommates would move out, and she would move in. As Boy was completely broke, and she was leaving home with only the clothes she was wearing, his friends contributed to get them the basic furnishings and kitchenware to start a home.
Boy had warned his friends that he had neither the money nor the time to organize a party, so they volunteered to bring provisions. When Boy took stock, he found that everyone had brought liquid refreshments of various degrees of potency, and many had brought other aids for expanding the consciousness, but none had thought of getting food. A helpful neighbour produced eggs, sausages and bread, and a riotous party ensued.
Leaving behind various comatose bodies, a few relatively sober friends managed to load them on to the train. En route, at every station Boy wanted to jump off and head back.
At the station Boy’s kid brother was there to receive them, but refused to disclose situation at home beyond the enigmatic message that they would soon find out.
A complete nervous wreck by the time he reached home, there was a sight waiting for Boy that he will never forget. The house was decorated in the traditional way to welcome the new bride and relatives had gathered over for the ceremony.
Boy’s brother explained later, that after his father’s return and receipt of the news, dad had initially broken the world record for sitting high jump. But his next reaction was that the poor girl whom his idiot son had got into the mess had to be made to feel welcomed, and a traditional ceremony was organized overnight, with a diktat issued to all relatives that everyone was to be present to receive the new bride. The patriarch’s wishes were followed and a warm welcome was given to the girl from an alien culture.
Boy wished that he could be half the man his dad was, in showing love and support to his children when they really need him.
So, finally Boy is married off. But does this make him a man? Does our story end here? No dear reader, you don’t escape so soon, for Boy has this Peter Pan complex, and refuses to grow up. You have to suffer another five chapters or so, so that the original target of thirty chapters is met. Happy reading