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Aaksfurd, Chaimburs and Suppuramani! March 19, 2011

Posted by prasadhms in Pickles.
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As a kid, I grew up (Huh? How obvious is that now?!) in an officer’s quarters…before you picture my dad to be a uniformed civil servant on a green scooter from the canteen and my mom’s maiden name to be ‘jasbinder jolly singh’, let me clarify its the state’s housing board staff quarters we lived in and  I just chose to call it ‘officers quarters’ to place a challenge on who can deny my dad was not an ‘officer’ (in the context of this post I should be saying “aapeesurr”).  Well I just whooshed (word credit: my daughter’s “Genie in the Bottle”) to the next tab on my browser and got the dictionary meaning of the word “officer” and it reads as “One who holds an office of authority or trust in an organization, such as a corporation or government.” See…I told you dad worked for the Government (“guverrmentu”)  and hence on dictionary grounds he was indeed an ‘officer’. Ok…now what? Will you beat me up for calling a staff quarters as officers quarters?! No…right?! So…ya…we used to live in a quarters that was actually someone’s brainchild in the department who had to build carsheds for the VIP residents of the 8 storeyed Tower Block in that area and when they built the car sheds they found it had a roof (Oops! Really?!) and maybe to insulate the cars from the heat of direct sunlight they built rooms and created houses on top of the carsheds. Well the mystery remains unsolved if the sheds came first or the houses? Whatever it was…I now love to imagine that the guverrmentu wanted its aapeesurrs to live on the first floor…like the luxury of house on stilts…and hence built the houses first and then saw empty space under them and decided to give it away as carsheds for the poor affluent neighbors! Coming to think of it…I think coz the quarters were built on the banks of the Cooum that was known for notorious flooding activity during monsoons they gave us house on stilts!! Will explore that on a different posting later.  So whether that brown haired big-belly uncle thought we lived on top of his car or whether I thought that poor uncle’s car lived under the shelter of my little red tricycle…that is not the context of this post! Its about one thing that came closely associated with living in that neighborhood…the ration shop (“rayyshun kadai”) that was and is still there…and the monthly ritual of going there to stand in the queue…of course with no mobile phone or ipod distractions but just the undiluted entertainment of Meena-ma, Lavanya-ma and My-ma discussing family matters…well remember mega serials had not become part of families yet then! While am generally awestruck by the nostalgia the thought of that place gives me now…I am amazed at the literary contributions we’ve done as Chennaiites even by then…my all time favorite “Krisnaayil” just doesn’t stop intriguing… depending on the socio-economic profile of the sayer it was either called ‘krisnaail’ or the well-read-full-style ‘krishhnoil’ or the wannabe’s ‘krishnaail”…I grew up thinking it was actually Krishna’s Oil that came in big barrels and it was used to burn things and it smelt aweful or awesome depending on your attitude towards substance abuse! Just when I came to terms with the imagery of krishnaayil, I was introduced to “paamaayil”…now where did that come from…well I was too young and innocent then (yes I was!) to etymologically decipher it and link it to Pamela Anderson! Hmm…I need to googlify to check if she was popular in India of the 80s…but even if she did why in the world would Pam let herself be associated with cooking oil?!  Well! Whatever…we used to go to the raysshun kadai where they sold krishnaayil and paamaayil that we had to buy in the baatill and if the bags were heavy you could always take a rikshaa…and those to me were the earliest contributions Suppuramani and Kumaare made to the Oxford and Chambers of Ingleesh in India! (See how I ended that with an Incredible India! effect?!  Hehe!)

Will pickle again!