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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Notes from India: Don’t Angry me


‘Don’t Angry me!’

My friend had advised me.

The advice was from the context of managing household help in India, ‘You will be surprised how effective it is … Just be stern and bossy and say the Rowdy Rathore dialog from time to time’

‘Don’t Angry me - is the mantra’

***

We were moving from Boston to Bangalore for a year.

‘One full year!’,  I was already counting the things to do, places to see and friends to visit. Having lived the USA for fourteen years, our bi-annual India trips were mostly a flurry of short stays with friends and family spread across five to six cities packed tightly in a three week schedule.  The pace at which things happened in those trips could put Flash Gordon to shame.   

I could almost feel my body relax as I conjured images of a fun filled, laid back pace at which we would get to really experience India.

‘Laid back and peaceful …’,the words floated through my head as I stood in front of the Villa surrounded by Palm, Gulmohor and  coconut trees  in a quiet gated community in the outskirts of Bangalore. This was going to by our home for the next year.

 ‘So we have a gardener, two housemaids, a cook and a driver ... all of them working at our place! ’ , my son remarked, ‘ I won’t have to put the garbage out ! ’, he beamed

‘And I won’t have to water the plants!’, my daughter chirped.

‘Yes’, my wife smiled’ that will give all of us a LOT of spare time, isn’t?’

***

‘So let me get this straight - the water is pumped to the house two times a day..’ , I was trying to keep my cool as I spoke with the person managing the water supply of our gated community.

Yes, two times – morning and evening’, the man nodded un-affirmatively.

‘We did not get the water in the evening’, I tried to explain.

Yes, it is only morning for your block sir’ the man nodded and shook his head again.

‘We are out of water ...’ I implored.

‘Please wait till morning, sir..’

“Don’t Angry me !”, my friends’ words rang through my head as I saw my only hope ride away in his Honda Activa.  I had the perfect Rowdy Rathore expression ready for him– only if he had glanced back.

The much awaited water did come in the morning. That is when we realized that the water pump had burned out since we did not know that the water storage was empty and had kept it running the earlier day.

‘No issues ... Electrician is just a call away’, I feigned a smile as my wife stood with a battalion of helpless house helps standing in attention behind her.  The gardener had the water hose in his hand to make a point I think.

The Electrician arrived sooner than I expected.  ‘ I have been working in this colony for ten years sir..’, he boasted, ‘ The security does not even ask for my ID – they recognize my bike’ , he said taking a strand of his mustache hair out of his nostril. He fixed the pump much sooner than I expected.

‘It is fixed ’,  he declared.

‘Can we turn it on?’

‘There is no electricity ..’

‘We have a UPS !’

‘The UPS does not drive 15 AMP circuits ..’, he gave me ‘you don’t  even know that !’ look.

‘So how do you know that it is fixed !’, I was trying to conjure up my Rowdy Rathore look even as the electrician started his bike and rode way into the dusty horizon. ‘ I know ..’ his voice seemed to echo across  time and space. 

The battalion of helpless house helps nodded their head affirmatively   - ‘He knows ..’  the silent message threw me out of balance.

I picked up my phone. ‘Mom , we need you in Bangalore. Now!  It is urgent!!’

***

It had been a few weeks since my Mom arrived. 

I was sitting on my Yoga mat in a quiet corner of the terrace. This corner is shaded by the coconut tree growing in the backyard.  Beautiful, southern-california-style-sunny morning.  Deep blue skies and a perfect 72 degree temperature.

‘Laid back and peaceful …  at last..’ , I thought as I lay down on the mat looking up at the sky through the coconut leaves.

I suddenly heard a rustling sound behind me that makes me jump up. Precariously perched on the coconut tree was our Cook. He was trying to cut out a bunch of coconuts with his kitchen knife “ Your mother has asked me to use fresh coconuts in the curry’, he said half apologetically.

Before I could respond, I head a clanging noise.  The society water supply guy stood on the top a twenty feet long bamboo ladder, peering into the overhead water tank. ‘The pump is working well Maaji – there is a lot of water in the tank ….’  I was amazed. I walked up the front of the house and my mother was standing on the Lawn. ‘Make sure that there is enough water in the tank …or else you will have to come again’ she fumed. ‘Don’t Angry me’

“Prune that Branch – don’t cut it !’ , she shouted at the gardener , who is sitting on a branch of the Gulmohor tree , visibly shaking. ‘ Leafs from that branch fall on the car …’either you fix that branch or start cleaning up the car everyday ..’ , she declared. ‘Don’t Angry me’

My attention shifted to yet another person participating in aerial acrobatics – this one was sitting on the highest point of the roof of the Villa. Straddling the top of the inverted V that framed the elegant edifice of the house. It was the electrician, putting Diwali lights. ’ I want the light to go through the point where you are sitting – and make the edge look sharp...do a good job otherwise I will make you climb up there again … ’, mother bellowed her commands. ‘Don’t Angry me’

I could almost hear silence floating across the air, punctuated with a silent ‘Don’t Angry me’ as the four men worked silently from their high altitude work spaces.

Don’t Angry me was indeed the mantra !

Author’s Note:

‘Laid back and peaceful …’   hmmm not really (at least not yet). But helluva lot interesting. Especially for folks like me who have been out of India for some time. Please stay tuned for more adventures and reporting from the old home.

8 comments:

Varsha said...

Quite an interesting read. Some things that residents take for granted becomes funny when someone points out these rituals of daily life that the residents face without blinking an eye. Residents don't see the humor in these actions. Banna, you are such an adept story teller that one realises that a bit of sense of humor goes a long way in tiding over difficult daily disturbances! Very interesting. Waiting for more.

Sudhanshu Srivastava said...

Nice ..getting visuals of your adventures :)

Ankita said...

Nice story Banne bhaiya,remembering Bangalore days again. For a while change the mantra to 'All is well' :)

Bhupesh said...

Great read .. Not much seems to have changed since my summer trips there in the 90s . We used to go there for ' hill station weather' and to shop at the Wearhouse - baggy style pants ..those good old mc hammer days are long gone ..

rachna said...

Ha! Ha! Loved the glimpse into your coconut shaded life in Bengaluru. Your wise friend forgot to tell you that "Don't angry me" has to be accompanied with a don't-mess-with-me-I-bite attitude.
What to do, we are like this y-only!!

Shobha said...

What a wonderful read! Thoroughly enjoyed :) Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures in Bangalore.

Keta Agarwal said...

Banna...I have always loved reading your creations. This one especially was very interesting to me. For me, who has been dreaming of moving back to India (unsuccessfully so far) haha...but it took me right amidst the setting of beautiful coconut trees, clear blue skies and then..back to reality. Aaj paani nahi aaya :)) Hope you guys are settling well in India. Keep sharing your experiences. Mazaa aaya padh kar. Love to Tanya and Sid & Anisha.

Monica said...

Loved reading and could visualize everything :)

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