Some of you have informed me in no uncertain terms that the last two posts werent all that funny. At first I was delighted, because I had consciously decided to take this blog to a more serious plane, and had hoped to create an electric intellectual atmosphere, and in such atmospheres, humour (apart from a little satire) is frowned upon. But when I was firmly told (with rolling eyes and a slap on the forehead) that was not coming off either, I decided to go back to what I do best- blog about how I’ve been goofing about all week. And this one’s about the relatives.
Had gone to my uncle’s place last week. My grandmom had come over, and I’d gone to pay my respects. Now the thing about my family is, everyone is an awesome cook. Which is of course great, but the problem is they specialize in sweets. Which is also fine, if you dont care about the weighing scales, only, the family has a grouse that I ‘always seems to be losing weight’.
Even the most amenable and friendly guest would look away with mirth when the said remark is addressed to me, but the family actually believes it. They deem it their duty to feed the malnourished boy (who actually needs so little nourishment, he could hibernate without any significant loosening of trousers ) before them.
And so invariably, a south Indian feast awaits me every time I visit any of my numerous relatives or specifically my grandmom. And they dont happen to believe in a single dietary plan, (such as three meals a day ) where I am concerned. Not a couple of hours after a meal so heavy it could feed a small Somalian village (and so good, you could write poems about it), I’ld be given a ‘little’ snack. And then something sweet to wash it down. This would be repeated a few times before the next meal. In fact the family regards it as nothing short of shocking neglect if they find at any point during my stay, I do not have food within arm’s reach, if not actually in my mouth.
Which is all very delightful for me, except, my conscience goes into overdrive. Every time my relatives look at me and comment on how thin I’ve become, I feel sharp jabs of remorse inside. I then resolve that by the time I go back there again, I would have lost weight. But then they put all the food in front of me- steaming rice with loads of soft, slowly melting ghee, delicately spiced vegetables and assorted fried things made by my grandmom herself on her terrace, fresh curd, tangy pickles and sweets that would melt if you look at them too hard. So, by the time I’m done and go home, even my normal diet feels like I’m depending only on atmospheric moisture and the mere thought of food for sustenance. And so, I always return to my relatives’, no thinner than before.
The previous weekend, I landed at my uncles’s, met the folks, ate a lot of their food during the day, and went to bed, with the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy in hand. It was really funny, and before I knew it, it was 3 AM, and I was still up reading the book. Things would have been alright, if (incredibly), my stomach didnt rumble a bit as the brain flashed the image of murukku. For those of you who dont know what murukku is, it is a simple fried snack- if my grandmom is not making it. When she does, it becomes a delicate food that causes flashes of pure delight and ecstasy to run through you as you eat it.
I knew where the murukku was stored, and wanted very strongly to go get it. But my grandmom’s bed was perilously close to the path I would have to take and I was worried I might wake her up. You see, though I hogged my food quite freely, I tried my best to keep out of sight of the relatives in the process. So for example, if offered a sweet, I would decline furiously, but mysteriously enough the sweet would go missing in a short while, and a look of content would appear on my face. My conscience is flexible, if a little quirky and it actually eases a bit when I dont go all out and hog in front of everyone. But right then, with this arrangement in jeopardy, my stomach and my conscience were headed for a showdown. However, a ferocious rumble, settled the contest in favour of the stomach and I stepped out of the bedroom.
But the task of stealthily approaching the kitchen, acquiring the target and returning, still lay before me. And I am no more built for stealth than the woolly mammoth. In broad daylight, I tend to block out sizable areas of vision of people in any room I move in, but I am no better at night. Even if I tiptoe, I am accompanied by the sound of creaking joints and a slight trembling of the ground. Not to mention that I am clumsy, and left in a Walmart, would succeed in knocking down all the shelves within the hour.
Nevertheless, the buttery taste of the murukku called me, and I pushed ahead. Despite the cool early morning breeze that drifted into the house, small drops of sweat were forming on my forehead as I made my way slowly towards the kitchen. My heart was pounding loudly, but I didnt dare backtrack. And so like a man walking the plank, I slowly covered the ground before me, and reached the kitchen successfully. Here, I accomplished the delicate task of picking the right jar without knocking anything else over, and made my exit.
As I crossed the dangerous territory, the little jar seemed to become a treacherous thing. Like The One Ring, it seemed determined to betray me. I briefly considered making a dash for it, but knew out of experience I was highly likely to crash into the fridge or something in the semi darkness. So, despite trembling hands and sweaty palms, I made my way forward, and soon reached the edge of the danger line. A few more steps and I would be across I thought.
The jar probably sensed this too, and suddenly, flew out of my grip. I froze as I saw it sail through the air slowly, in a lazy ark. I desperately hoped it would land on something soft, but the jar had judged its path well. It hit something metallic, and the resounding clangs at 3 AM in a sleepy town south of Bangalore sounded like someone had a metal sheet pressed against my ear and was pounding on it with a sledgehammer.
A passenger on an early flight out of Bangalore that day, would have seen several lights in several households in a little town outside Bangalore go on suddenly. What they would not have been able to see, was the thieves who ran thinking they were being shot at, or the embarrassed fool inside one of the houses with a ringing sound in his ears.