The Priceless Biscuit
It was a hot summer day in Kerala and a perfect day to visit relatives. My sister tagged along with my parents since there was nothing better to look forward to at home. My mother packed at tin full of cookies and a lovely packet of crème biscuit for our cousin who stayed in a college hostel far away from home. He loved the variety that we got in UAE; it was truly unique if one compared it to the biscuits in India.
My father who was always a multitasker when it came to going places, would go from point A to point B with a dozen stops in between for shopping, delivery, things he wanted for his business and doing things we would never dream of. Mum was always irritated at the sudden stops and the changes in conversation that followed with it. Each one of them tended to lose a track of what the other was discussing.
“What do we get him?” Dad asked as he weaved the Maruthi Omni though the busy potholed roads.
“Well, we are seeing Shibu for the first time, I packed a few goodies” Mum said as she held on to her dear life when the van jumped.
“The reception will not be too grand, for …..” dad’s loud thoughts failed off as a bus from the opposite side blared its horn. His mind was still working on the wedding reception of cousin Nebu for which they had to drop in the next day.
Mum had missed out on the mention of the other cousin during the change of lanes.
My sister listened on to the strange conversation that took place thereafter.
“What does it matter how the reception to his place is?” asked mum puzzled. A boy’s hostel would have limited facilities. She could not figure out why Dad was worried about the reception area. It was not like they were visiting a king.
“Well, we have got to think of what his parents will think of if we don’t give anything at the reception?”
“We are giving him some nice chocolates ….”
Dad gave Mum a look that said ‘How could you be so obtuse?’
“And some nice…”
“Don’t be silly, chocolates will not do…”
Mum looked frustrated. She wondered what had gotten into Dad. What else could a college boy who left from Abu Dhabi possibly need? Kentucky out of the question during those days..
“We need something more special, after all we are coming from the Gulf.”
“How about a nice shirt?”
“No! A shirt for the reception! No way”
” Emmm…Chicken puffs..”
“Don’t be silly”
“Let’s take him out for a good meal”
“Mea?l! At this reception?” Dad was thinking of the prominent people at the wedding and the puffs present. He nearly passed out.
“For God’s sake the reception isn’t so grand!” Mum said, thinking of the aging brick structure and moss covered exterior of the hostel she once saw.
“We have a reputation to protect!” said dad as he steered sharp right.
“I give up! You think and say” Mum conceded defeat.
“You think! Am drivings!” Dad muttered. He was steering like a madman.
” Ohhhhh! You re always like this…” Mum felt irritated. The lovely biscuits that she packed were in a huge tin. It looked like a month’s supply of crème delights. Shibu would love them.
The van kept bobbing to sides and my sister felt road sick and queasy. It’s just like being sea sick, except you are in an Omni that is driven on a potholed road by a speed lover with frequent brakes.
“Let’s buy a biscuit!” Dad suggested.
“What! Are you insane? I just packed……” she could not complete her sentence.
Dad screeched to a halt in front of a building with a Bakery and Gold Shop situated next to each other.
My sister and Mum looked a bit disoriented at this point.
“What is the current rate for a biscuit? I hope we get a good rate” he said as he gave Mum a few thousands.
“The maximum will be Rs.100 on the kilo for a good one” Mum replied dryly as she looked at the cash.
“One kilo! Don’t be daft. Who wants a kilo of the biscuit? Buy a small bar”
Mum’s eyes popped out.” A bar of biscuits?!! Is that supposed to be special?”
At this point my sister started to giggle. She kept imagining Shibu getting a gold bar to bite on and Nebu getting a bar of crème biscuits for his wedding.
“Go and select something nice!” dad plodded, without realizing the misunderstanding that was going on.
My mother looked like dad was off his rocker. She kept thinking of the lovely tin in the van as she approached the bakery.
“What are you doing?!” Dad asked when he saw mum asking the cashier for different varieties of crème bites.
“Checking on the Biscuits…just like you told me… a few seconds ago.”
“Yes, but why are you checking in the bakery?”
“Don’t be silly! Where else does one check for it? ”
“At the Gold Shop!”
“Have you lost your mind? Who would check for crème biscuits there?!!”
“Crème Buscuits?!! Why would we gift Nebu those?”
“Nebu? Where did he come from?”
“We have to get him Gold for the wedding reception…”
“Gold for Nebu!?? I was talking about Shibu!”
“Shibu?! Who asked about him?!!”
My sister began to laugh out loud when the Nebu and Shibu questions kept going back and forth.
“Weren’t we going to his place? What were you talking about?” asked Mum.
“We were discussing Nebu’s wedding reception! Not Shibu’s hostel reception!”
In the end, everyone at home came to hear the tale of how the Priceless biscuits delayed Dad by two hours and how Mum had the crème biscuits delivered to the right cousin.
Until the next confusion… confusingly yours….
Fantastic Four and the Health Management Programme!
The four of us were always up to no good despite our differences. We were two girls and two boys with 10 years difference from the first to the last. Nothing alike in appearance and this in itself was the factor that enthralled everyone about us. Of all the things that we grew together with, this experience still has us cracking up.
At the age of six, my younger brother could cook a breakfast of eggs and toast for 6 people. Three eggs for him and one for each of us. If asked, “How come you got 3?!” his quick reply was “The cook needs to eat more!! Don’t touch my eggs!!”
As a food lover, he was always chomping on something or the other. He was heavy built and would not move his rear for anything other than eating and sleeping. My father was at his wit’s end on how to motivate him to exercise his body more than his mouth. The first brother on the other hand was no where close to what the younger brother was. He was tall ( 6 feet) , lean and always up to no good. One would always catching him teasing us girls or simply irritating the younger brother to tears. My sister was of an athletic build and I was plump.
My father was always experimenting on how to reduce one brother’s weight and to increase the other’s. He was health conscious and so he tried the food routine by giving my brothers the vegetable called Vallarika (white cucumber like thing) for breakfast. The vegetable was supposed to make the fat brother thin and the thin one fat. We, the sisters, sat wondering how the vegetable could decide on who is thin and who is fat! Every morning, my father would religiously cut it and present it like it was a watermelon to the boys. The boys would spend an hour trying to chew the veggie down while eyeing the tasty breakfast mum cooked for the rest of us. It added to our amusement and was always the reason for a fight.
After two days of trying the breakfast of just the veggie, my father decided that we were all to go through a round of Waterbury’s Compound (a tonic that claimed to increase the haemoglobin level and tasted like washing liquid or in chemical terms phenol!). Despite our loud protests, we girls were included in this round. The boys were happy. They now had something to tease us with. The compound was supposed to make us active. Apparently, holidays were not meant to sleep late and eat whatever while being lazy. By the end of the first week, we were united in our response to this health fad. Breakfast was a sorrow and gagging after this traumatic breakfast every morning was accepted as a norm. Nothing could be worse.
A week later while we were still reeling from the after effects of the healthy eating & tonic routine, Dad found a bottle of Dabur Chamanprash paste and decided to add it to the menu. The expressions on our faces were priceless. We looked utterly defeated and decided to sabotage this health routine “ All for One” we cried as the lean brother decided enough is enough. Off when the Waterbury tonic, down the drain, one evening and in its place a bottle of Thumbs Up stood firm. The next morning, my mother had pity of the boys and served them a good breakfast. With a stomach full of breakfast, my brothers were ready for the Thumbs Up… only to find that Dad broke the old Bottle by mistake and brought a brand new one just for three weeks! Yuckieeeeeeeeeee!!!
Not ready to give up, we dumped the content for the second time and this time kept challenging Dad to taste it for himself before forcing it on us. As the protests grew louder and the refusal to eat stronger, my Dad decided to set an example and one evening showed us how tasty the Waterbury compound was by drinking two spoons full of the liquid and downing a huge piece of the Vallarika. The Thumbs-Up inside was two weeks old and tasted weird at this point. After consumption, the expression of Dad’s face kept changing like a book of colours. It looked red first and then a bit yellow and finally green. In a few seconds, he rushed to the bathroom and a loud retching was heard.
We had succeeded in eliminating the drinking and the eating! HOME RUNNN!! We rejoiced for a few days at our brilliance… until Dad came back on the third day with a bottle of Cod Liver Oil and a spoon!!!
All we could say was YUCK! YUCK! YUCK! Time for a new plan….