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….
Lost… Are we?
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;”
Quote from Shakespeare’s ‘As you like it’..
If the entire ‘world is a stage’ and the stage is our life, ‘merely players’, who come into our life play their part in making a difference to our lives and leave memories either good or bad before exiting into oblivion once their part is done.
Everyone might have a player who left behind some memories….just like the one that I want to share with you.
Lost… Are We?
Youth festival is the season of fun, colour and cultural extravaganza in the life of every college student. Our University Youth Festival used to take us across the state to various colleges to compete in all forms of Arts, music and theatre competitions. It was period of high emotional dramas. Tempers rose high, tears flowed, and laughter echoed in the front and back stage. All who were present were ready to entertain and to be entertained. I loved being a part of College team, not on stage, but behind the stage as a college representatives or as we called it then, ‘Team Leaders’. Our job was to lead each set of performers to the venue and make all required arrangements, including paper works.
At one such festival venue, the stage and dressing room were in two different buildings and it was a 2 minute walk across an open pathway to reach each place. I was leading our team of Kathak dancers from the changing room when, halfway through; one of our participant’s costumes became undone on one side. There was no reason to fret; only another few more minutes of readjustment and the girl could have performed without a hitch. But as fate may have it, a group of boys seated on their Motorbikes nearby burst out laughing, passed rude and embarrassing remarks that were loud enough for other guests and participants in the area to notice the mishap. The poor girl ran back to the room crying and refused to come out for her performance. No matter how hard we all tried, she would not calm down. The rest of the dancers had to do perform without her, resulting in our perfect group dance number to receive no medals. Of course, when the blame was passed around, I had a finger pointed at me for not ensuring… ‘God only knows what!?’.
The whole evening, we drowned ourselves in disappointment at the outcome. A huge amount of money, efforts and patience was spent at perfecting the competition item. If anything went wrong, there were lot of answers and even more questions that got thrown around. But, the Show must go on. I continued with my assigned duties.
The next day, at a different venue, I was standing with another couple of contestants for their turn , when I heard some more snide remarks from behind us. When I looked around, I noticed that it was the same set of boys, who caused all the trouble the previous day. I was not yet over the previous day’s foul mood and seeing them again got me fuming all over. I was worried. If their comments discouraged our already tensed participants, I was going to be in big trouble. I glared at the boys.One of them, a tall dark broad built guy, who looked like their leader responded…
“OOO…the body guard lady is going to beat us up….I’m scared…mummyyyy”….. A roar of laughter erupted from the group. That was it… I lost my temper.
“Oh yes I would!! If you boys think you are being heroic by teasing us, then you do need some good spanking……”£$ %&*?@>”
I don’t remember what I said after that point. But I do know that once I got my entire anger out of my system, the whole hallway of the venue was quiet. The Chest number of our college was called and the contestants went in. I turned away from everyone and stood facing the ground outside. For the entire event, I stood like that, trying to control the tears that were threatening to ruin my tough performance. It was very rare that I lost my temper, but when I did, it would end in tears.
Thankfully by the time the participants came out, the boys had left, sparing me another round of whatever would have followed. The day went ahead uneventfully. Lucky for me, my performance was not publicized, so I was spared from the wrath of our convent sisters.
In the evening, the Clay modelling competition had only one participant from our college. The venue was in the lab building of another area. It was in the far out corner of the huge Campus which spread out in about 3 acres of forest woods and the buildings were spaced out by a few Kilometres to each other. It was not possible to walk from the main building/venue to the lab building, where the competition was kept. We were dropped off by the college van. The van had to leave for commuting other contestants from various other venues, and we hoped to catch a lift from the host college representatives. The competition was scheduled for 3.00pm in the afternoon, and we hoped to leave by 5.00pm. However, the event got delayed by nearly two hours. The contestant’s father was present with his scooter to take her away as soon as the event was over. Clay modelling was a messy affair and she was almost half covered in mud and clay. I was not worried as there were plenty of people at the venue and a painting competition still in progress. It would be easy to catch a ride to the main gate. I went up to the top floor to finish the closing paper works, as was my responsibility. There was a queue to wait out. I was the last to finish the paper work. Since, it was nearly 30 minute ride back to our accommodations; I stopped to use the wash room.
When I came down the building, the area was deserted and it was quite late, almost 7.30pm. The street lights were spaced far out barely showing the way out. It looked eerie. I tried to call a friend from my mobile; there was no range in the area. I cursed myself for not having sent a message with the contestant itself. I was wondering on what I should do, when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around, thanking my stars for having someone else around and then I froze…
“Well, well…..Lost … Are we? He smiled. My heart sank.
To be continued……..
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….
She lived a life which was luxurious compared to normal standards. She wanted to have everything in life. No morals posed a barrier for her. She was very influential… her very pious husband, cunning daughters, useless sons, all fell in line when she wanted them to… except her eldest son. She had a faint idea why but she was not one to be outdone. She schemed and tortured her eldest daughter-in-law, and even reported untruthful accusations to the poor girl’s mother. Even then, the eldest son never spoke a word against his mother. But finally one day she had her husband and others kick the eldest son out of the house, along with his young wife and kids. He warned her that her ways would bring her only more suffering but being heart-broken, he left with his family without further conversation.
Time passed by. Her husband departed his body, blissfully unaware of his wife’s wrongdoings. Her eldest daughter-in-law asked that she better come and stay in her eldest son’s home. But she refused, ridiculed the eldest’s family and put her faith on the money and sycophants who were behind her.
Years rolled by. Money played and changed hands. Betrayals built upon each other. Slowly, one by one who had been supporting her left from her side along with what they could take.
Finally, there came a day where she was left with nothing more than a small bank balance and an emaciated body. She was like a coconut shell, grated and thrown out on the street. No home, no sons or daughters to take care of her festering, foul smelling body. She lamented about the good old days, but that did nothing to change her heart and attitude. She landed up in a relative’s house, who took her in partly out of sympathy and partly for the money she said she would pay them. When the soft hearted girl in that home or the hired nurse came to clean her foul body, she would yell and curse at them. If asked what she wanted to eat, she would complain that the food was fit only for dogs.
Only her eldest son kept coming and visiting her, his broken heart still bearing a burden of duty, at the relative’s place. Yet, she spewed acid at him. He bore it with a grim face and set about his duties just for the sake of it. On one of his visits, she screamed and sobbed.
“Why? Why am I made to suffer like this? What sin did I commit?”
The son, shocked at the outburst, recovered and retorted.
“What sins have you not done, mother? You think I did not know what you were up to in your able days?”
It was her turn to be shocked. The son sighed and stared at the wall.
“Oh yes, mother… I knew of your doings. Even father was unaware of it. But I kept silent because I did not wish to shame our family. You were only after pleasure and money. You wanted people to be at your beck and call. You thought you can buy love with money, buy affection through gifts.
“But when you got an idea that I might know what you were up to, you felt fear for the first time… fear that your status and righteous image might come crashing down, fear that what you call as ‘mine’, won’t be with you anymore. You couldn’t confront me directly, so you chose to target my wife. Oh, how I wish I could have spoken up against you that time? I saw the poor girl being put through hell by you, but did not do anything. I have repented for that mistake a thousand times over. If had been any other girl would have divorced me, then and there.
“You hungers didn’t get satisfied even with my exit from our home. Who all were your sidekicks and how many were your indulgences? So much money you made by selling father’s lands. And much did you give to my sisters and brothers. But, where are they now? My father, a pious man, left you in good condition, but what have you done? You have sucked everything dry by your indulgences and indiscreetness. You feared that someone would steal everything from you, yet you were handing out everything to the very thieves you feared!”
She started sobbing.
“It is only the good deeds of father that have kept you going till now. You have grown old. But even at this age, when your body is rotting and the cold call of death is nearby, you do nothing but think of money and luxury. You curse those who help you. You curse my family, but I don’t fear your curses, for I know my Lord will save me. But what awaits you in the afterlife? I wouldn’t wish what you have been or about to go through even for my enemies!
“I have spoken to your doctors. There is nothing they can do now. At least now, throw aside your pretence and sincerely pray for forgiveness and mercy if you can. Let the Lord have mercy on you and ease your passing. I have been doing what I can as a matter of duty… and I have one last duty left.”
She sobbed more. She cursed more. But her voice had started becoming lower and trembling. The son smiled sadly, switched on a tape recorder which filled the room with a soul livening kirtana. He went out of the room, sighed at his relatives and went away. Within 10 minutes he was on the train home, but his thoughts went back to her. And he prayed.
“Oh Krishna, no one knows how you make this world work. I know that my mother is suffering for her sins. No matter how much medical attention is given, I have seen that there is no improvement. Have pity on the poor soul. Did you not say that what one remembers at the time of death, they will attain surely in the next birth? Your names are not different from you. So, at least for the sake of this poor fallen devotee of yours, grant her passage out of this misery in your presence.”
Suddenly, his mobile phone rang and he answered. A strange, sad calmness engulfed him. He got down at the next stop and caught the train going in the opposite direction.
Written by Ambi