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The Diwali Confusion….

Savithry was waiting near the doorway, as Seenu walked in. She followed him to where he left his sandals – under the stairway, to the bathroom as he washed his hands, feet and face and to the sitting room again, where he settled in his favourite rocking chair.

He looked at her, expecting some great news. This was a traditional preface to any ensuing event.

“Shyami  called. She is leaving for Jaipur for a conference and is back only on the 9th evening. She says, she has told the maid about our arrival and asked us to proceed as per our plan. The maid has been given instructions.”

Shyamala was their daughter who was in Delhi; a doctor by profession. The son in law was currently in Germany, where he had gone for a Science meet and was expected only after a month. Seenu and Savithry were leaving for Delhi by the next day’s train.

“Oh! Is that so? Okay, you can sit there in peace and prepare the sweets and other things before she comes back.”

Deepavali  this year was on the eleventh of November and both of them had decided to celebrate it there since the daughter was alone.

It was a busy day for them packing all the things and getting things organized here. She had got the channa flour(besan), rice flour  etc. ground in the mill on the next street, as she did not want to rely on the branded stuff which her daughter would surely be using, in Delhi All she had to do now was to make the Mysore Pak and the Ribbon Pakoda after reaching Delhi. She had already prepared the daughter’s favourite sweet Ukkarai – the traditional Deepavali sweet made with Toor Dal and jaggery .

The train arrived at the Nizamuddin Station on time. As they got off the train, Savithry had her own fears.

“When we came last, it was four years  ago and they were staying in Green Park. It was easy to find the house. Now –this Vasanth Vihar..”

“Don’t worry Savithry. It won’t be difficult.”

They got into a taxi outside and as it cruised out, Seenu told the driver haltingly,  “Dekhiye Bhai Saab. Hamko Vasanth Vihar mem Sector  Five  ko janewala….”

The driver turned back and smiled at them and said

“Thamizhlaye sollunga saar. Enippadi kashtappattu..”( You can talk in Tamil. Why are you struggling- )

Seenu and Savithry were thrilled  that  they  had  stumbled  upon  a taxi driver with whom  they  could  communicate  without the  fear  of  being  misinterpreted.

The driver kept chatting with them and seeing the address, took them straight to the cluster of buildings  within  a vast compound.

As they got off the taxi, the Security guard came towards them and the taxi driver spoke to him in Hindi. After being paid twenty rupees extra, which he profusely refused, the driver left.

The security guard called a woman who was going towards the entrance.

“Bhaiju..Mem Saab ke Maa aur Pithaji hai. Upar leke jao.” ( parents of your Memsaab…take them up)

Bhaiju, the maid looked thrilled to see them and took them up to the fourth floor.

Savithry was very happy to see the spacious apartment. The previous one was not so big. This was well ventilated. A sit – out from the living room; a verandah adjoining the kitchen. Bhaiju  said that there was a sit out in Memsab’s bedroom too.

Bhaiju prepared good tea for them and they  had  their bath and settled down. Savithry looked around for the Pooja Vigrahas or pictures. Shyamala had quite a few of them in her kitchen in the previous house. To an enquiring Bhaiju, she folded her hands as if in prayer and asked her where the lamp was. Bhaiju’s face lit up and she replied  “Mem Sab bedroom.”  Savithry mumbled to herself, “Of all the places , Shyami has to keep the Pooja in her bedroom! Strange !”

She examined the fridge and took out the vegetables for the day’s cooking. She could understand nothing of what  Bhaiju spoke but they had a nice time talking in signs. Seenu asked her,

“ Kis duniya mem janma?”(where were you born?).He had  picked up all these words long ago seeing some Hindi movies and was very proud of his little knowledge of the language which very often  turned out to be a comical jargon !!

Bhaiju laughed aloud and replied she was from Bihar. Seenu looked at Savithry with pride and told her that Bhaiju’s Hindi was strange to him as she was from Bihar.

After lunch and a short nap, Savithry prepared tea and settled down to making Mysore Pak. There was no coffee powder in the house and they missed the brew.

She asked Bhaiju for some ghee, as the ghee in the bottle was not enough and was stunned to see her bringing a five- kilo tin of the stuff. She wondered why Shyami should be buying so much ghee. Bhaiju said, “ Saab ko paranthas bahuth pasand. Subji  bhi ghee me pakatha.”

The smell of ghee and besan permeated the whole house and the Mysore Paks turned out to be delicious. Savithry and Seenu were very generous and were happy to see Bhaiju relishing  the stuff.

In the evening, Seenu walked across to buy vegetables from the Super Market. Bhaiju made lovely phulkas and some tasty curry.

The next day was a day of great expectations as Shyamala would be arriving by the afternoon flight.

Savithry hurried with the cooking and then  prepared the Ribbon Pakodas. Bhaiju flitted around , helping her with this and that. She was humming a Bihari Folk song and Savithry joined her humming and started singing a Bhajan. Seenu stood near the doorway enjoying the sight.

Soon, there was a small steel drum filled to the brim with tasty spicy stuff. Savithry was very happy.

 

*************

Shyamala`s  flight landed  in Delhi by three in the afternoon. She was humming to herself in the taxi during the drive back home The conference had gone off very well and the paper she had presented was lauded by a couple of Doctors from abroad. And the thought of her dear parents made her heart sing. She looked forward to endless sessions of chatting with them, singing along with her mother, discussing Vedanta with her father and of course, relishing Mom’s Food.

The maid opened the door and the very first thing she said was, “Your parents have not come.”

Shyamala was shocked. She immediately dialed the Madras number. It kept ringing.

Where were they?

She called  Kedar, her husband.  Must be lunch time there, she told herself.

“Yes Shyami…having a lovely time with your parents I suppose. Your pop must be rolling my head.”

“They are not here,” she said. “I am worried Kedar.”

“Ah! Come on. I know your father. They must have met some old friend of his at the station and gone  to his house. Just wait. They’ll  be  home  by night.”

It was just like Kedar. He never worried about anything. He was ever calm. He would give an answer to every question.  He continued, “Remember last time they had come? He met some distant relative in the train and brought him over and was I harassed ! Oh ! They talked and talked and talked..”

Shyamala recalled the evening and started laughing. Yes. They must have gone to some one’s place.

She went to her room and opened the windows and drew the curtains.

She could see Dalbahadur, the Security sitting there and chewing pan. She had warned him a hundred times that it was just not good for health.

She sighed.

Hey wait! Who’s that!  Looked like her father.  The man was carrying a bag of something and going into the next building.

She asked the maid to close the door and went down and crossing the cemented drive- way, went across

Savithry was waiting near the doorway, as Seenu walked in. She followed him to where he left his sandals – under the stairway, to the bathroom as he washed his hands, feet and face and to the sitting room again, where he settled in his favourite rocking chair.

He looked at her, expecting some great news. This was a traditional preface to any ensuing event.

“Shyami called. She is leaving for Jaipur for a conference and is back only on the 9th evening. She says, she has told the maid about our arrival and asked us to proceed as per our plan. The maid has been given instructions.”

Shyamala was their daughter who was in Delhi ; a doctor by profession. The son in law was currently in Germany, where he had gone for a Science meet and was expected only after a month. Seenu and Savithry were leaving for Delhi by the next day’s train.

“Oh! Is that so? Okay, you can sit there in peace and prepare the sweets and other things before she comes back.”

Deepavali this year was on the eleventh of November and both of them had decided to celebrate it there since the daughter was alone.

It was a busy day for them packing all the things and getting things organized here. She had got the channa flour(besan), rice flour  etc. ground in the mill on the next street, as she did not want to rely on the branded stuff which her daughter would surely be using, in Delhi All she had to do now was to make the Mysore Pak and the Ribbon Pakoda after reaching Delhi. She had already prepared the daughter’s favourite sweet Ukkarai – the traditional Deepavali sweet made with Toor Dal and jaggery .

The train arrived at the Nizamuddin Station on time. As they got off the train, Savithry had her own fears.

“When we came last, it was four years  ago and they were staying in Green Park. It was easy to find the house. Now –this Vasanth Vihar..”

“Don’t worry Savithry. It won’t be difficult.”

They got into a taxi outside and as it cruised out, Seenu told the driver haltingly.  “Dekhiye Bhai Saab. Hamko Vasanth Vihar mem Sector  Five  ko janewala….”

The driver turned back and smiled at them and said

“Thamizhlaye sollunga saar. Enippadi kashtappattu..”( You can talk in Tamil. Why are you struggling- )

Seenu and Savithry were thrilled  that  they  had  stumbled  upon  a taxi driver with whom  they  could  communicate  without the  fear  of  being  misinterpreted.

The driver kept chatting with them and seeing the address, took them straight to the cluster of buildings within  a vast compound.

As they got off the taxi, the Security guard came towards them and the taxi driver spoke to him in Hindi. After being paid twenty rupees extra, which he profusely refused, the driver left.

The security guard called a woman who was going towards the entrance.

“Bhaiju..Mem Saab ke Maa aur Pithaji hai. Upar leke jao.” ( parents of your Memsaab…take them up)

Bhaiju, the maid looked thrilled to see them and took them up to the fourth floor.

Savithry was very happy to see the spacious apartment. The previous one was not so big. This was well ventilated. A sit – out from the living room; a verandah adjoining the kitchen. Bhaiju  said that there was a sit out in Memsab’s bedroom too.

Bhaiju prepared good tea for them and they  had  their bath and settled down. Savithry looked around for the Pooja Vigrahas or pictures. Shyamala had quite a few of them in her kitchen in the previous house. To an enquiring Bhaiju, she folded her hands as if in prayer and asked her where the lamp was. Bhaiju’s face lit up and she replied  “Mem Sab bedroom.”  Savithry mumbled to herself, “Of all the places , Shyami has to keep the Pooja in her bedroom! Strange !”

She examined the fridge and took out the vegetables for the day’s cooking. She could understand nothing of what  Bhaiju spoke but they had a nice time talking in signs. Seenu asked her , “ Kis duniya mem janma?”(where were you born?).He had  picked up all these words long ago seeing some Hindi movies and was very proud of his little knowledge of the language which very often  turned out to be a comical jargon !!

Bhaiju laughed aloud and replied she was from Bihar. Seenu looked at Savithry with pride and told her that Bhaiju’s Hindi was strange to him as she was from Bihar.

After lunch and a short nap, Savithry prepared tea and settled down to making Mysore Pak. There was no coffee powder in the house and they missed the brew .

She asked Bhaiju for some ghee, as the ghee in the bottle was not enough and was stunned to see her bringing a five- kilo tin of the stuff. She wondered why Shyami should be buying so much ghee. Bhaiju said, “ Saab ko paranthas bahuth pasand. Subji  bhi ghee me pakatha..”

The smell of ghee and besan permeated the whole house and the Mysore Paks turned out to be delicious. Savithry and Seenu were very generous and were happy to see Bhaiju relishing  the stuff.

In the evening, Seenu walked across to buy vegetables from the Super Market. Bhaiju made lovely phulkas and some tasty curry.

The next day was a day of great expectations as Shyamala would be arriving by the afternoon flight.

Savithry hurried with the cooking and then  prepared the Ribbon Pakodas. Bhaiju flitted around , helping her with this and that. She was humming a Bihari Folk song and Savithry joined her humming and started singing a Bhajan. Seenu stood near the doorway enjoying the sight.

Soon, there was a small steel drum filled to the brim with tasty spicy stuff. Savithry was very happy.

*********

Shyamala’s  flight  landed at three in the afternoon and as she went home in the taxi, her thoughts were on her parents. She was looking forward to eating the lovely dishes made by her mother. The discussions  on books and Vedantha with her dear father.

He Bhajan sessions with her mother…the expectations were endless.

As the maid open3ed the door, the very first words she uttered were

“Your parents never turned up !! “

Shyamala was shocked.

She rang up her home number and the phone kept ringing.

She telephones Kedar. It must have been lunch time in Germany.

“ Aha!! Having a great “gossipy” time with your parents?” Kedar asked her.

Shyamala was in tears as she narrated to him that they had not come home as yet.

Kedar laughed.

“ Hey ! Stop worrying ! Uncle must have met somebody in the train who was his cousin’s wife’s sister’s brother-in-law and gone with him to their place since you were not here. Remember, the last time they came, the old man brought with him a character who travelled with him in the train, a far relative at that  and that chap was here for an hour boring us? They will come anytime now. Stop worrying “ He rang off.

Shyamala was at peace for a while. Yes, her father was hare-brained and would do anything crazy.

She went to her bedroom and  drew open the curtains. She could see the security Dalbahadur  chewing  paan. And she had warned him so many times of the possibility of ending up with mouth cancer due to continuous “Paan Chewing “ !!

Hey wait! Who’s that?

Looked like her father.  The man was carrying a bag of something and going into the next building.

She asked the maid to close the door and went down and crossing the cemented drive- way, went across to the next building. The security saw her coming and quickly spat out the pan and saluted her. She ignored it and asked him in Hindi,

“Who was that who went in just now? An old man in specs, carrying a bag.”

“Oh! That ? It is that Madarasi Memsaab’s  father. Her parents came here last morning.”

She literally ran up the steps and got into the lift.

She pressed the calling bell of Madhavi’s house. Madhavi and her Sardarji husband  had moved in five months ago. Madhavi belonged to Tanjore and was consulting her regarding a health problem she was undergoing. The husband and wife were away on a vacation and  would be coming back only after Deepavali.

The door opened. Her father stood there.

She went in.

“Did you have a comfortable flight? Well we have just settled and your maid is great. Bhaiju, bring tea for my daughter.”

Bhaiju came out and wished her, “Namasthe Mem Saheb.”

Savithry came out too. She was happy to see her darling daughter. Hugging her, she asked, “Where is your suit case?”

She looked at them in silence.  She did not know whether to laugh or to cry.

Turning towards her father, she asked, “How could you make a mistake Appa? This is NOT our house.”

Savithry and Seenu froze.

“Not   …not  our house? But..but…as soon as we got off the taxi, the Security told Bhaiju to bring us up here!”

“Didn’t you see the number of the building Appa ?  It is C 7. And ours is C 8!!”

In a  frenzy, the old couple gathered the things and put them in the suitcases. As they were coming out, the phone rang and Bhaiju picked it up. It was Madhavi. After listening to the short call, she came out and told them, “Please wait for me Memsaab. I shall lock the house and come. My Memsaab wants me to go to her brother’s house in Noida and pick up some things.”

As they walked towards their building, everybody was pensive. They got into the lift in the next – their own –building. As they  enterd  their own home, Savithry was murmuring,  “ Sixty six Mysore Paks and a drum full of Ribbon Pakoda.”

“What ? You made them?” Shyamala asked.

Seenu piped in, “Well Savithry…the besan and rice flour is the stuff  WE  brought with  us . But you used up half the tin of ghee from that house, right?”

“It’s okay Ma. Let’s have some good coffee. Radha, here makes good coffee.”

“Ah ! Filter coffee? I have been craving for it.”

Genial mood set in and they relished their coffee.

“ Oh! No! “ said Savithry.

“Now what, Ma?” Shyamala asked.

“My dentures. They are in the bathroom of that house. And Bhaiju will be coming only tomorrow.”

There was laughter all around .

” I wish , your son in law was around, ” said Shyamala. ” He would have really  laughed at  this predicament of yours. Well. You can have a DeepavaLi sans your teeth !! ”

Seenu whispered to Savithry, “Don’t tell Shyami about the Ukkarai that you made at  Madras itself. We have left behind that too.”

*******************************************************

 

 

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Navneet Bakshi
2 months ago

“My dentures. They are in the bathroom of that house. And Bhaiju will be coming only tomorrow.”
There was laughter all around .

Hahaha- They were lucky that they didn’t find a Sardar Ji coming back in the evening to have their Ribbon Pakodas and Mysore Pak. With both husband and wife working these days leaving their apartments to the maids and servants, such a confusion is quite possible. You write beautiful stories. There was another one on similar lines, I read on Sulekha perhaps long back. South India is really unsullied culture. We Punjabees because of frequent invasions lost much of it. Making Mithai at home and Pooja Vigrahas and lamp stand- I think in most of our homes these essential rituals and traditions are lost.

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