Reading about an immature 24 year old in Manasa's Blog made me think---there is a thin line between being immature and childlike or childish.Immaturity shows a lack of sensitivity and understanding towards the World at large--- but even mature people can be children at heart--without compromising on their maturity.Sudhir and I had both traits in plenty--maybe that is why we could live with each other and bond--thanks to the necessary element of Fun!!
Sudhir's sense of Humour was very childish---he'd crack some silly PJs (Poor Jokes)--and double up laughing at his own joke--while I laughed because the sight of him sitting cross legged on the bed all doubled up--his eyes sparkling with mischief was funnier than the stupid joke he'd just cracked!!This incident took place way back---in early 1973.That night we had a party at our House--but since it was a Stag Party we women served Dinner and then went to bed after that.That night on T.V. in the news the death of a prominent Lawyer was announced--and it was someone both Milind and Sudhir knew pretty well. The next morning when we woke up he told me that he'd just had a dream--and in that dream he saw that one Baba's friends--a prominent Lawyer had passed away!!!As I was making Tea i heard Milind say that they'd be attending the funeral of the same person Sudhir dreamt of--and I was stunned!!I rushed into the Dining Room to tell the rest of the Family that Sudhir had dreamt of the tragedy---only to have all of them break into peals of Laughter--with Sudhir standing behind me-- grinning from ear to ear at how he made a fool out of me!!!
T.V. came to Bombay in 1972--and was confined to just 4 hours--6.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. each day.Also we had only the one Channel called "Door Darshan" and it was a Government Enterprise.Into those 4 hours we'd get multi lingual and varied Programs--the languages used were English,Hindi and Marathi.At 10.30 p.m. the Announcer would be back with a very sweet smile to wish us "Good Night"!!Every night Sudhir would call his older sister Kunda and ask her whether she'd seen the last Program on T.V. that night---and each time she'd bewilderedly ask "which one?" to which he'd promptly reply"Shut down" and crack up while she'd start laughing at her end too!!!This went on pretty long--I've a suspicion that she played dumb all along after the first instance just to keep her younger brother chuckling!!
Sudhir loved to tease me--his best form of irritating me!!Each time I blew my lid he'd sit back and chuckle---winking at our Girls who'd have preferred it otherwise--for once I got started I'd rake up incidents from the past--I'm blessed with an Elephant's memory--and one never knew where my tirade would end!!So this was one joke of Daddy's they did NOT like!!He also loved to startle me--hiding behind Doors and on top of Closets--just to say "Boo" and scare me.Now I don't scare that easy--and his face would fall each time I didn't react.Once however he got such a reaction that it cured him of startling me forever!!I had a penchant for moving around my Furniture very often--and in the 1980s the traditional Indian Look was very much the rage.So I'd gotten rid of our Sofas and heavy Furniture and substituted this with thick Cotton stuffed Mattresses set on the Floor covered with sheets of Traditional Indian Weaves.The Tables were two large round Brass Trays set on Wooden stands and the Mattresse had thick Bolsters to support the backs of those seated on these with lots of Cushions thrown in as well.We also had an ancient Gramophone with a Brass Horn that actually worked--as well as an old Brass Telephone from the early 1900s--which worked pretty well too!!It was truly a beautiful Room--with the Light filtering in through the Lace Curtains with Brass Plant Holders placed strategically in various positions to add patches of Greenery to it!!!Usually those days Sudhir came home by 8 p.m. in the evenings.One day I brought my Kitty Friends home after the Kitty Party because they wanted to see how it all looked---and I opened the Door with my Key.The first one to enter was my friend Kanta--who started screaming like a Banshee the moment she set foot inside the Door!!Reason???His Highness had arrived early that day and was lying in wait to scare me in the semi darkness surrounding the Front Door!!I don't know who was more scared or scandalized--Kanta or Sudhir!!!!Suffice to say that this incident put paid to his trying to startle me any more!!
Both Sudhir and I were children who never really grew up---and because of this enjoyed our lives--finding something to marvel at every day!!It could be a bright Moonlit night--the dark shapes of the Trees etched with Silver in the Garden--the elusive scent of Flowers whispering on the wet Breeze during the Monsoons--the wild beauty of a tropical Thunderstorm roaring and flashing in all it's glory by the Seaside--or just holding hands and listening to the pitter patter of Raindrops on the wet Earth below.We both loved the scent of the wet Earth that rose up to perfume the Air after the first Showers hit us after a hot,sultry Summer and watching the Birds circle and fly around in the huge Vegetable Garden next door.Winter and Summer we'd love to hear the noisy wake up call of the Birds early each morning--specially the dulcet notes of the Cuckoo in Summer--or "Koyal/Kokila" as that bird is called in India.We lived for and with each other--finding pleasure in small things--that are God's Gift to all of us--rather than Material Pleasures.I wish everyone keeps the child alive in our hearts--for just that gives us true Happiness!!!
I just read Manasa's Blog yesterday--and her Blog gave me a new Idea to Blog on so here I go.When Sudhir and I married on 11 October 1970 both of us were very thin--almost to the degree of being called emaciated---with hollow cheeks and bones sticking out prominently all over.Looking at us anyone would think that we survived on Air and Water----but in fact both of us possessed gargantuan appetites!!Our stomachs could be very easily described as "bottomless Pits" and the amount of Food we needed on a daily basis was simply awesome--to put it mildly.
As Newly Weds we were invited out for most Week-Ends for Dinners and one of these was to Sudhir's childhood friend and class mate Nitin's home.Nitin's father was a friend of Baba's--Sudhir's father--and both Nitin and Sudhir too were very close friends.Nitin and his wife Nalini had married a year earlier and we made up a regular foursome for Films and after Dinner drives together to enjoy Ice Cream or Kulfi at Chowpatty--South Bombay's famous Beach.Nitin's mother was known to be a fabulous Cook and so when we received the invitation we looked forward to enjoying a beautifully cooked Gujerati Meal.Those days Dinners used to be lavish---and extremely lavish if it was a Gujerati household.There would be so many courses that it would be impossible to finish the initial helpings and then move on to the seconds--and it would be served with a lot of love and insistence to add a little more of everything to one's plate.This loving insistence caused a lot of people to suffer from overeating---but not Sudhir and me!!
Finally on the appointed day we reached Nitin's Sea facing Flat and were ushered into the Drawing Room.On the way there I peeped into the Dining Room--and there saw the Table set with Silver "Thalis" or round Dinner Plates--Indian style-- with Silver "Katories" or individual Bowls arranged around the edges in a semi circular fashion. This made me look forward to the Meal in anticipation of all the delicacies that awaited us.The pre-Dinner welcome Drink was home made Lemonade followed by Mixed Vegetable Soup--for Nitin and his family were Vegetarians and then we moved on to the Dining Room--for Dinner.As we took our places at the round Dinner Table their domestic Staff began to serve the Courses.There were boiled Potatoes seasoned with "Chaat" Masala in one Bowl,boiled, salted Mung Sprouts in another,smoothly beaten Fresh Yoghurt in a third ,crisp fried tiny Chick Pea beads called "Bundi" in the fourth,Sweet Tamarind Chutney in the fifth and a fragrant Green coloured Liquid scented with Mint in the sixth and largest one!!!Large Silver salvers containing crisply fried tiny "Puries" or fried puffed Bread were placed evenly all round the center of the Table.It was a "Chaat" Party--and not the traditional Dinner we'd anticipated!!
Nalini had prepared everything at home---including the Poories which needed a lot of skill to make--and as I adored "Chaat" I dug in with relish and gusto!!Poor Sudhir--who needed his Curry and Rice at night just ate because he was hungry--and put on his smiling "Social" face each time Nalini looked at him!!!
The Party ended way past 12.30 a.m. that night--and as we drove back home Sudhir wasn't very happy about the Meal.Of course he'd eaten his fill and the Food had been exceptionally tasty--but according to him it wasn't a Meal--these were just Snacks that one had around Tea time!!!So on reaching home I rummaged in the 'Fridge and warmed up the Fish Curry,Dry Vegetable Curry and Rice I found there and fed him his "Dinner" at 1.15 a.m.!!!Finally satisfied and satiated he went to bed on a happy note!!!
My father was an extremely Anglocised man and I learnt to dress for Dinner,use the right Fork and all the other Airs and Graces at a very young age.I was brought up by my Amma--as was the norm those days with my mother sprinkled over my days in bits and pieces--for in the early days my parents lived an extremely social life.Both my parents came from typically Indian backgrounds but looking at them one would find that difficult to believe because both wore their polished sophistication with an easy flair.For me somehow this part of our life lacked appeal.Instead I loved being a part of Amma's family.Her Aunt "Phupee" lived nearby and Amma took me there to visit them often."Phupee" would welcome me with a lot of Love,cook my favourite dishes and place these in front of me.Once I'd begin to eat Amma and she would gossip away in the "Pahaadi" dialect--one which very lyrical and sweet to hear.For me this was not new--for this was the Dialect I used while speaking to Amma.
My early years were spent fraternising with our domestic Staff---- my Nanny Amma,our Cook Narayan Das and our Bearer Ramu as well as other children and their Nannies.While it fascinated me to sit in my Bedroom Window at nights--- in the dark seated cross legged on top of a strategically placed Table----looking down on all the Joie D'Vivre and Gaiety of their parties in the Garden below-- the whole thing somehow aquired a surreal look--like something out of Movie--not part of real life.As I grew up I decided to be a hands on mother--that my children would not lack my attention was a resolve that grew stronger with each passing day.After Amma left us--by then I was 13 years old---my parents too reduced their socialising and slowly we all began bonding together as a family.The only regret I have is that I got very little time with my father---he and I were buddies since my early childhood but he was a workoholic---and that put paid to many of our plans once too often.
I married Sudhir on 11th.October 1970---and conceived Lotta almost immediately and we became parents a little before our first Anniversary.Lotta was a real live plaything for me--a Doll and I spent the day dressing her up in different styles---and once I stuffed her fat little arms into a tiny "Choli" or fitted Blouse---which stuck to her like a second skin----my sister-in-law Suhas--Sudhir's sister---gingerly had to cut open the sleeves while I held Lotta---for the li'l madame's fat little upper arms had stuck to the sleeves like Glue!!Lotta was just 9 months old then.There are many such incidents where poor Lotta has suffered because of my ineptitude.Once my Pediatrician and GP,Pilloo Aunty asked me to start her on steamed Fish---I promptly came home, boiled 2-3 Jumbo Prawns and fed these to her for Lunch.By evening her left side had swollen up,her fair skin turned an angry red and was burning hot to the touch--and I was terrified!!!We rushed her to the Doctor--Pilloo Aunty, a Parsi lady---and what a dressing down she gave me as she administerd the Anti Histamine Injection to contain the Allergy!!!!Even today that memory makes me laugh and cry--both simultaneously!!Lotta and Sudhir shared a wonderful rapport---and because for one year she still attended her old School near our old family home. Sudhir would drop her at School each morning.From there after School she'd be fetched by my sister-in-law Nina--Milind's wife--- who would look after her at the old home till Sudhir came to fetch her home.Then the two of them would ride home together.Father and daughter came closer still because she'd share every little bit of her day with him as they drove home every night from there.These conversations with her were a cherished memory for Sudhir after she grew older and joined Bombay ScottishSchool near our home and started taking the School Bus instead.
Sayali on the other hand got a much better mother--- there was no trial and error method with her--I was better equipped to deal with her both physically and mentally.She was a Brat ---and a very wily child as well.She knew exactly which buttons to push and get her own way with her father--me--- I was impervious to her wheedling and there were plenty of arguments and fights!!Daddy was a pushover for both his daughters--but while the older one was never as demanding as the younger one---people in our Condominium thought that Sayali was the favourite one-but they were very wrong.Sudhir had no favourites between his daughters---each relationship is different because the people involved in it were different.Lotta was a diffident child so he was extremely careful and protective about her.Sayali on the other hand was a very confident and adventurous child--and had a tendency to lead--so she shared a more equal relationship with her father.She'd tell him every tiny detail of her day since she was very little--she called it her "Daily Report" and it continued till the day he died!!
With me I'm sorry to say the relationship was that of a Ringmaster and His Lions in a Circus Ring.I cracked the whip and my daughters grumbling and grousing under their breath obeyed my commands!!Lotta actually got the worst of it---both verbally and physically.Because she lacked the guts to rebel she'd give in to my rules--and brood about it later.Sayali would instead try to blackmail me into letting her be--and sometimes her tactics worked--and sometimes not---for it depended on how strong a moral ground I was standing on!!!Today I admit that I could have been a better mother----a much much better one if I had been more understanding and loving than I was.
Today I'm a good Cook but when I got married in 1970 cooking was something that I'd not done too much before.Besides in Bombay our family preferred to eat the lighter Marathi style food on a day to day basis keeping the heavy Punjabi style of preparing Food for the Weekends and Holidays.My repertoire was not very extensive but after shifting to our new Flat here in 1975 I needed to broaden my base a little---and to do this I started attending a Cooking Class nearby--run by Kunda Tai--a fabulous Cook.Her forte was teaching us to cook wonderful Mughlai Food as well as light as air Cakes and Pastries.Kunda Tai was a garrulous and lively lady and I loved learning from her because she turned the entire lesson into an extremely enjoyable experience.
As soon as I joined her Classes Sudhir had only one request--that I wouldn't try my experiments on him!!So I'd cook the new dishes for Lunch--and practice all that I'd learnt by trial and error--besides my mother and sisters were with me till their Flat became available--in 1977--so polishing off my "Experiments" was no problem!!!One day my M-I-L had come over and she asked me about how the Course was progressing and what different dishes I'd learnt to cook.On hearing that one of them was Biryani--a layered Spicy dish of Meat and Rice--she asked me to prepare it for her.So I made it for Lunch the next day--and she liked it so much that she carried a tiffin full of this with her to our old home.That night my brother-in-law Milind tasted it and loved the taste.He also called me and asked me to make it for his daughter-Shilpa's Birthday Party that weekend.
When I informed Sudhir about this he became a bit nervous for our Family is very fussy about Food--everything must taste just so--besides his Uncles,Aunts and Cousins too would be there making it a group of 45-50 people---a bit large for me to take on an "Experiment" of this size!!However Milind was adamant and so I set to work despite poor Sudhir's misgivings.Those were the pre Mixer/Grinder days and I had to rely on my considerable muscle power and my grinding skills using my Stone Pestle and Mortar to grind all the Spice mixtures needed to fine textures and pastes!!I needed to buy around 5 kgs. of raw Meat and 3 Kgs. of uncooked Basmati Rice to make my Biryani and I set to work with a gusto.Sudhir muddled around trying to help me--making a thorough Pest of himself in my Kitchen--till I shooed him out to fetch Lunch for all of us---there was neither the time nor the space to cook it at home that day!!Those days we survived on one Gas Cylinder per household per month and polished Brass Kerosene Stoves----and believe me these have seen me through umpteen number of Parties and Get- Togethers during those early years!!The reason I love to cook in the traditional manner is the beautiful Pots and Pans Indian Cooking needs.The various shapes of the Vessels made out of hammered Copper,Brass and heavy Aluminium is truly fascinating as well as useful.For Biryani we use heavy, flattened round bottomed Vessels called "Haandis" mostly made of Aluminium.It took me the entire day to prepare the rice and Meat preparations and by 5 p.m. I layered these in 3 "Haandis" and sealed their Lids with Dough keep the Steam in.We then loaded these in the Boot of our Car and transported them to the old Family home.I placed these to cook on a slow flame by 6.30 p.m. letting them simmer in their own Steam for an hour or so.By now both Sudhir and I were seething with Tension--me because I was nervous and excited--Sudhir because he was scared that I'd fall flat on my face---not being too sure about my ability to cook something new in this huge a quantity!!
As the evening progressed one after the other the "haandis" were opened and emptied--amongst a lot of vociferous appreciation from the entire Clan and that set Sudhir's mind at rest--my "Experiment" had arrived in style!!For me the greatest high was Sudhir's heart felt apology for doubting my Culinary capacity--and his promise to sample my "Experiments" with an open mind after this Success!!I can truly say that he was my biggest Fan and honest Critic after this incident---making it a point to appreciate my Cooking very vocally--and always showing off my ability as a Chef by throwing a large number of Parties till as recently as 2009 February--for that was when my Heart attack put paid to his Public Demonstration of Appreciation of my Cooking Prowess!!I continued to cook for his Friends--for Sudhir would carry Food for all his Friends at Court 2-3 times each fortnight---coming back home in the evenings--beaming with Pride and grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire Cat at all the compliments the Food received!!!
Maybe today my life is too peaceful---and running on an even scale--compared to the way it was just 5 months ago.Despite all his Love for me and his obsession about my health and well being Sudhir was very eccentric--and idiosyncratic to live with!! There are many such incidents that bring a smile to my face today---which then used to make me livid with rage!!One really irritating aspect was his pernicketiness about his Tea!!
He needed Fresh Milk in his cup of Tea each morning.In India we get Pastuerised Milk in polythene bags delivered fresh, early each morning.The Milkman earlier would come at 5a.m.---but over the last few years gradually adjusted his time to 7.30-7.45 a.m.---and so if His Highness awoke a little earlier---it became a problem to serve him Tea--- for he hated his Tea made with yesterday's Milk--and would grumble long and loud---complaining about it throughout the day!!Not just the Milk he also needed a specific Brand of Tea leaves for his tiny little Cup of Tea---I'd carry at least 2 Kgs. of it with me to London and L.A.!!!To counteract this problem I started saving a 1 litre Bag of raw Milk in the Chiller in the 'Fridge---in case the Milkman arrived late--but that too worked only as long as he did not know that it was yesterday's bag of Milk!!Imagine measuring out 1/4 cup of Water and then adding exactly 3 tsps. of sugar,2 tsps. of loose Assam Tea Leaves and 3/4 cup of raw Fresh Milk---and allowing this to boil exactly 3 times on a slow flame before pouring it out into a tiny Demi Tasse or Coffee Cup---not spilling a drop of the hot liquid--and then presenting it with a flourish every single morning!!It had to have that particular Colour and Aroma to it--or he'd drink it grumbling about it not being up to par--and each time he did that--according to him "yesterday's tea" would be perfect!!
Then it would be his Breakfast---he loved Omelettes but only the ones Sayali made for him.She made her Omelettes using 2 Jumbo Eggs----adding Tomatoes and Cheese as well to the Seasonings--and there was nary a peep out of him while it all disappeared down his throat with relish and gusto!!Mine---he just ate for the sake of eating---funny thing is that at home in India I'd make our Indian style Omelettes by finely chopping the Onions (we get Shallots here),Green Chillies and Fresh Coriander Leaves,seasoning these with pinches of Salt and Black Pepper and leaving the mixture for a few minutes till I would whisk just 1 Jumbo Egg till slightly frothy.I'd then fold the Seasoning Mixture in and spread it flat on a large frying Pan--greased with Pam's Spray.This would set covered on a low flame---giving me time to make his buttered Toast and Tea.Then I'd dish the damn thing and place it before His Highness----and the cribbing would begin!!"I like it nice and thin--this is too thick" or if not that then"This is too large--I can't eat so much early (at 9 a.m.?) in the morning"!!!Every Monday I'd give him 2 buttered Toasts with Jam for breakfast because it was the day we fasted---then it would be "look at the size of those Slices--how can I eat such large ones??"But what really got his goat was the way I'd not reply to his cribbing--I'd ignore it and continue with fetching my Breakfast mainly Oats----and eat calmly till he'd finally keep quiet!!This however was a new developement----earlier it would almost always lead to a verbal Battle with me showing him the egg Shell of that silly single Egg as evidence!!
Lunch too was the same problem--any and every serving was too big!!It was only Dinner that he'd eat without grumbling--provided one served him small portions of everything--and small portions of seconds too!!Our help Vanita had perfected the quantity of each serving--and she'd serve him everything in exactly the right amounts--so that was one peaceful Meal!!Today I miss cooking for him for he liked well cooked Food--and was not fussy about anything--only it had to be perfectly done!!Indian Food with a little Chinese and Thai thrown in was what he'd need for Dinner--and since he wasn't much of a Luncher--that was the one Meal we'd eat out each time we visited the Girls---he liked Edamame and Miso Soup with Udon Noodles each time we went out for Sushi!!Of course there were glitches with Lunch too--like the time Sayali insisted we eat at a Greek restaurant in New york for Brunch--and he just couldn't swallow his "Shak Shouka" at all--finally making a meal of the Greek Breads and Feta Cheese!!
Besides this he was very particular about many things--for instance our entire Staff would get paid first by the 29th.of each month--till the date started retreating--it could be any day of the month--it just had to strike him that the Staff had to be paid!!Finally the Domestic staff--Chhaya Bai,Hira Bai and Vanita requested me to stick to the 26th. of each month-----that suited them the best--and reluctantly Sudhir was forced to agree!!For our chauffeur Pradeep,his Court Clerk Babu and his Junior Advocates--they had no choice but to deposite their Salary cheques immediately they received them!!He also would just take all of these to Lunch if they were late coming to the Court Canteen--then all of them would go to either the Samovar at Jehangir Art Gallery or Chetana Restaurant at Kaalaa Ghoda in Fort for Lunch--it would always be Sudhir's treat!!
He was an extremely generous man--he believed that the best form of Charity was to look after the best one could of the people dependant on him--and all the Employees were given any help they needed--including their Medical needs.His idiosyncrasy also extended to asking each Employee to name the figure he/she wanted as a raise in the Salary---luckily not a single one of them abused his Trust--they'd all leave it to his discretion!!He had this penchant for asking the Courier Boys to sit for awhile and would serve them Lemonade----making it himself if the Bais--Chhaya and Vanita--- had left for the day and I too wasn't at home!!He had got the proportion down to perfection--and this would be a welcome treat for those boys---specially in the hot sultry Summer days!!!This was one of the reasons I prepared litres of the Lemonade Concentrate from scratch--ensuring at least 2 full Bottles of it in the "Fridge at all times---though I was under instructions to hand out the glasses of the stuff through the Window in the Safety Door--he felt it was too dangerous for me to invite them in!!Today many of them treat me with great courtesy and kindness each time they visit---and I too continue the tradition of serving them glasses of homemade Lemonade!!I think it was this instinctive kindness and generosity that endeared him to God---and The Almighty rewarded him with such a marvellous Death--one couldn't ask for a quicker or more merciful one!!