Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Ravinder weds Ravindar

“But sir,” the nervous attendant at the Check-in counter stammered, “I’ve already handed you the Boarding Pass for Ravindar Dugal!”

“That was for Ravindar Dugal. Now give me the Boarding Pass for Ravinder Dugal!”


“Check the spelling” Ravi urged him, nary a trace of exasperation in his voice. He’d been through this before. A zillion times.

But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Sikh names, for some strange reason, are gender neutral. So it’s not uncommon to see a neon lit sign in Maler Kotla cheerfully proclaim `Mahinder weds Surinder’, or a garish `Harpreet weds Manpreet’ lighting up the skyline of Kot Kapura.

Or even in Bombay, as in the case of Puja’s in laws, a card being delivered at your doorstep, reading `Ravinder weds Ravindar’!

Ravindar and Ravinder
Ravinder weds Ravindar, seriously?? You’d be forgiven for thinking that this guy called Ravinder was really taking narcissism to a new level. But no, if you looked closely, you’d notice a minor glitch in spelling. An `a’ versus an `e’. And, if you read the fine print, there was also the case of a `Singh’ versus a `Kaur’ 

Of course this only adds to the confusion. Seriously, what on earth were they thinking?

To come back to our case in point. We had just returned from the nuptials of Puja and Sukh at Ananda near Rishikesh, and were trying to check in at Dehra Dun’s Jolly Grant Airport for our flight back to Pune.

So Ravi was being patient. The check in clerk was a meek, mousy little guy, unlike the beefy, no nonsense African-American female at Newark, with whom the Dugals had had a similar altercation. She had almost chucked them into a flight back to Bombay!

Ultimately, the clerk saw the light, and realisation dawned. His eyes, behind their nerdy glasses, actually twinkled! Relieved that he wasn’t on Candid Camera, he notched this incident up as yet another sardarji joke!

And then there are the highly anglicised Sardar nicknames. All Grewals are invariably `Gary’, and anything ranging from a Harminder to a Harpreet to a Harsimran is automatically shortened to a `Harry’.

Check how their conversation goes.

“Hi Harry!”

“Yo, Gary!”

Having exhausted their angrezi, both Harminder and Grewal immediately revert to their roots in Phugwara.

Hor kiddan??”

The word `Hor’ in Punjabi is loaded. Punju etiquette dictates that when the first `Hor dasso’ comes up in a conversation, you start looking furtively at your watch. By the second, you raise your collective asses off the couch, and you should actually be well past the door when the third one is uttered.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore this community. Anybody who has spent 30 odd years in the fauj will tell you the same. And now that I have a Sikh samdhi, how can I even afford no to?

But gender neutral names? Seriously?? The confusion is best summed up in the limerick

Harminder wed Sukhjinder in Khartoum
And when they finally retired to their room
They spent that night
In one hell of a fight
As to who should do what and to whom!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

On Crab Curries and Besan Laddoos..

In the summer of 2012, we planned a family weekend at Dubai. I called my then `net friend’ Samina who was based in Dubai, to enquire about decent hotels out there.

“Why do you need a hotel?” she asked, “I have a huge house here, and you guys can bunk in here!”

Now we had been `net friends’ for about a decade, but had never met or even spoken on the phone. Even this conversation was actually a chat on Facebook Messenger!

So I simpered bashfully (or as bashfully as Fb Messenger would allow). “No, no, how can we bother you?” etc etc.

“Look,” she cut me short peremptorily “Don’t expect any khatirdari. I’m too busy with my work, the kids have their school, so you’ll be pretty much on your own! Haan, I do have a Bangladeshi maid cum cook who you can bank upon, although knowing her abilities, I wouldn’t advise it!”

I was bowled over by her straightforward, no nonsense approach. She had, after all, been the wife of a Pakistan Air Force officer. We faujis are a clan, no matter the colour of our uniform!

The trip turned out to be wonderful. And as Saby (Samina’s delightful daughter), Heena (the ibid maid cum cook) and Puja shared a sofa, it was like a mini SAARC summit – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, sipping tea together around a coffee table!

So when Course mate Rajeev Khullar called from Bhiwadi to say he and his wife Vinny were making a road trip to Pune, and asked me to book a room at the RSI for them, I pretty much gave him the same no nonsense pitch Samina had given me.

“Stay with us” I told him. To my utter delight and amazement, he didn’t simper (bashfully or otherwise), and immediately grabbed the offer. Even though we barely knew each other! We had been in different battalions at the Academy, and had never met formally.

And there was nary a word of protest from either lady. The Course mate creed, like Barney Stinson’s `bro code’, is sacred. Even to the Army wives. Especially to Army wives!

I had to guide Rajeev to Pudumjee Park once he drove into Pune. I asked Vinny to turn on the speaker phone. “Turn right at Mahesh Lunch Home” I guided him.

“You have a Mahesh Lunch Home out here!” Vinny squealed in delight “Wow! They have the most amazing sea food! Their Mangalorean Crab Curry is simply to die for!! Then in a space of seven seconds, she gave us her take on sea food in general, and Mangalorean crab curries in particular.

“Vinny ji, unko direction toh dene do pehle” Rajeev’s tone had all the resignation that comes from a 40 year old marriage.

Now Rajeev and Vinny are facebook friends, and self confessed fans of `Mitti Pao!’. While Rajeev is the quintessential Infantry officer, complete with handlebar moustache and a deliciously uncluttered attitude to life, Vinny, a Malyali born and brought up in Bombay, is a different kettle of fish.

Trained in classical music, she is a registered singer/performer at All India Radio. She is also a foodie, and apart from having run her own restaurant a few years back, has also helped her son edit a food magazine called `Chef at Large’!

She sure writes as well as she cooks, as this piece by her on her grandma’s minced meat cutlets shows. One can actually feel the smoke, and smell the aromatic spices as they’re hand ground in that kitchen! Do look it up at
Sid gets his laddoos!
So when she posted a pic of some besan laddoos that she had prepared, on Facebook, there were loads of salivating approvals! I had dutifully `liked’ the post, while mentioning that these were Sid’s favourite. Matter forgotten. Or so I thought.

Along with some thoughtful gifts that she had picked up for us, gift-wrapped in cellophane and neatly tied with red ribbons, she had also brought a box of the most aromatic, melt-in-the-mouth besan laddoos that she had prepared specially for the ocassion. “These are for Sid!” she smiled.

Vinny and her crab!
As gestures go, this was simple enough. But then, I’m a sucker for sentimentality, and was totally bowled over. To me, this woman can do no wrong. Not in this lifetime, for sure!

PS – We did have that lunch at Mahesh Lunch Home, and between them, Puja and Vinny demolished that crab in a manner any ISIS jihadi would have been proud of! You can take a woman out of Cannanore, but…  

Monday, 3 November 2014

'Phittey Muh!"

My mother had no formal education. Yet her witticisms, in earthy Punjabi, have become the stuff of legend in the Puri household, and have been gleefully passed down from generation to generation.

Here are a few of her pearls of wit and wisdom.

“Phittey Muh!”
Frankly, I haven’t the slightest idea what this means but, depending upon the severity with which it is spouted/spat out, it could mean anything from a plain `Dogone it!’ to a mildly reproving `What the hell!” to a totally exasperated `Holy shit!’

The expletive can also be personalised to a more pointed “Phittey muh tere ehejey de!” which is, of course, “Phittey muh to someone like you!”

Literal meaning – Ash!
Mummy’s meaning – Bullshit! Nonsense! Balderdash!!
Usage – When we reported completion of any task she had assigned us, she’d inspect our efforts and exclaim “Swaah keeta tu ne, kakh nahin keeta!”

The more forceful version of this was “Swaah sataan chulyaan di!”
Literal translation – Ash from all the seven chulaas!
Mummy’s meaning – TOTAL bullshit! UTTER Nonsense!!
Why should ash be equated to nonsense, and why should it come from precisely seven fireplaces is something only the Wahe guru can explain!

Literal meaning – devourer of your spouse (husband, actually)!
Mummy’s meaning – Idiot! Khota (donkey)!
Used liberally at every slight, even though it totally beats logic, I mean how can a lad of ten actually devour his husband??

“Comkaan nu tusi phooko, agg lao!”
Literal meaning – Burn those comics, set fire to them!
Used when we were buried in books or comics, and refused to surface despite her repeated entreaties.

“Tu keda maklawa lain jane ae?”
Literal meaning – You fancy you’re off to fetch maklawa??
Now I haven’t the slightest idea what a maklawa is (maybe someone more well versed in the nuances of the Punjabi language can educate me), but this was sarcastically intoned every time I tried to `deck up’ before leaving the house.

“Haye haye kar lao tusi pehlan!”
Her reaction whenever her grandkids greeted each other with a `Hi!’ rather than a `Namaste!’

“Gal vi es tarah keeti ae, unth de padh vargi!”
Literal meaning – You words have the wisdom of the fart of a camel!
Pretty self explanatory, I’d say.
A camel? Seriously??

“Chittadan nu goond laa ke bae janda hai!”
Literal meaning – He applies glue to his buttocks before sitting down
Mummy’s reaction to any guest who overstayed his welcome, or refused to leave after a decent interval.

There were plenty more, and while her grand kids will no doubt be ROFLOL reading this post, I’d beseech them to sober up and come up with a sequel.

As for Mummy  herself, I can picture her reaction to someone telling her that her favourite son had written a post on her sayings.

“Hor kee karna si khasma-nu-khane ne!”

What else could I have expected from that idiot, she’d exclaim!