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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!

So much for customer care… April 10, 2010

Posted by prasadhms in Pickles.
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I was on an international flight last evening and like most of my flights there was something interesting to capture on this one too. I was flying with a friend and the seats in front of ours was occupied by an old South Indian couple…one of those who’ve probably seen the world and old enough to expect shoes to be polished to a shine even if it was a suede!  The knot in the story was tied way before take off when the stewardess walked around to mark the vegetarian seats and did so rightly for the two where the couple sat. Guess they’d marked themselves as vegetarians during the booking of their tickets. The marking was over and the pilot got off with his job of lifting us off the ground…I often have this imagery of Hanuman lifting Sanjeevani mountain when the pilots lift the metal bird up! Then the most awaited “feeding the fanatics” scene opened out. Trolleys being pushed, food trays being passed, drinks being poured and aluminium foil being crushed. The trays landed on the couple’s tables and then it was “Lights Camera…anddd Action!”. Our old gentleman with the beret and his partner who had pushed her sleeping blinder to her forehead to check out the food…blew their fuse over the food that was served. We thought the reason for the furore was probably the serving of chicken vindaloo in place of mutter aaloo! But the issue was apparently the absence of rice in their dish…as the fight with the crew captain continued, my friend and I watched with a giggle after taking a ‘sneak preview’ inside our dish and found rice there! Hey hold it…we were not being rude by holding the couple’s packs with us…every other person, I could peep over, including the couple’s son had rice in their dish but not the couple! While a simple replacement of the dish would have diffused the situation, the guy who was “negotiating” was reasoning large enough for the whole world and the elephant to hide behind! He gave up…the couple gave up…when the decibel levels interfered with the flight’s radio transmission system!  Eating continued but the embers will still glowing…ready to fire up anytime someone touched it! And yes…the food taste was good / bad enough to trigger it all again! This time the complaining was about the taste of the food…and boy! did the old couple look like school kids complaining about the boy in the front bench who stamped their white canvas shoes before assembly time! Guess the issue still was the absence of the rice and not so much the taste…one of the ladies probably caught this and figured out the best way to shut down the telecast was to give them the rice! And lo! came packs with rice and the telecast toned down to an ‘understanding grumble’…an empathetically toned “you know the food while we flew from chennai was so good…” to the lady who gave the rice dish…and here came customer care at its best…the lady listened to the couple and with the ‘sincerest’ face and puckered up lips she could manage at that altitude, she said…”hmm yes ma’am. we will fire the chef! we will definitely fire the chef! bad…very bad!” . As she was in front of the couple and we were staring right into her face, from behind the couple, she had to do all of this while battling distraction from two men and their guffaws in response to the ‘care for the customer’ exercise she was into…and how everyone except the couple knew that she really dint mean what she was saying…Phew! “Fire the chef?!!?” Give us a break!  Situation diffused and smiles returned…well that bit of exaggeration did help indeed! So much for customer care…

Will pickle again!

Pigeons in the Rain… December 20, 2009

Posted by prasadhms in Pickles.
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God never wrote books. Who said so…maybe every single life form was authored to be a book each. If you can imagine the Earth as one of the many shelves that some carpenter made for God, am sure you can imagine every life form as a book on it for you and I to pick up and read. Though we walk with, through and between these shelves everyday, guess we walk so fast that we don’t quite notice the books, leave alone picking one up to read. I took a pause this morning and noticed a nice little book titled “Pigeons” that had fallen off the shelf and  turned to a page titled “Pigeons in the Rain”… – It was 7 in the morning and the day was breaking beautifully with the sound of houses in my silent neighborhood waking up to a nice and slow Sunday and the first rays of the morning sun peering through the clouds that were leaving for the day after their night shift. Just when the last of clouds was about to leave, someone had an idea like a colleague on a Friday evening suggesting beer, and the clouds gathered up and put on their party wear and picked up their big rain mugs and said Cheers! And their revelry caused their mugs to splash and spill and it came down as rains. I walked up to our balcony under the pretext of saving my shoes from the rains and let the rain drops splash on my face and fingers, looking around to make sure my wife and daughter were not watching me. What could be funnier to them than watching a bald head reaching out to the rains! As the revelry intensified, bigger and heavier drops fell down from the sky. Well guess thats the point when the thin line between fun and trouble is crossed. As big drops pelleted the trees and buildings, a flock of pigeons took off from a building…about 40 of them at the same time. This is the point where the lessons began. Some pigeons flew random and across, looking for the right spot to hide or maybe just dancing in the rain…some quickly found a sun shade to hide under…while some continued to fly in panic. There were 3 pigeons that flew up to the parapet wall of the terrace and perched themselves there and stood in the rain…not moving a bit even when the drops came down heavier. There were 3 more that found a small pipeline attached to the wall and perched on it in the most awkward and painful looking way and tried to find shade by moving closest to the wall and almost becoming part of the wall. The natural slant,  if any, of the wall above them is all that would save them…and that again not for long, but just until water starts running down the wall. I leave it to you to read that again and interpret it any which way you want by relating to things that we do in our lives.

I came in to start this post and stepped out again to check on the pigeons as the revelry softened a bit…I found that the 3 bravehearts on the terrace were not to be seen, the fellas who found the sunshade had moved on to another one, while the fellas on the pipeline were still there, this time fluttering their wings to counter the slipping that was happening with the wet pipe under their feet. The chapter ends here. All I know was it made good reading and its upto the reader to interpret and make senses. But there sure is some big meaning behind each of these acts that other life forms orchestrate for us or maybe for themselves.

Will pickle again!