The Art of Monkey Pedaling

A variant of the post below appeared in The Hindu’s Open Page

Every now and then, the productive bug gets the husband, and he sets about trying to improve our lot. Last Saturday morning, he was making a nuisance of himself trying to keep us ‘occupied’ in the home, and handing us tasks meant to enlighten and what-not. He was settling steadily into the listen-to-this-podcast routine, when I realized that this handing-out-tasks is a two way street, and told him to get the son started on riding a bicycle. There was a sigh of relief from all the occupants in the house, and I bowed like a maestro acknowledging a master stroke.

I see you pulling out the old monocle from the pocket and pegging it on your nose-tip to give us the penetrating stare. The one employed to make us feel like our spines just melted into goop. but it won’t work. It is true that we let the toddler beg us into teaching him to ride, shamelessly ignoring the bicycle with training wheels propped behind the dining table. Every time the poor fellow hinted that fellows younger than him were riding the cycle, we shooed him outside to play.

Anyway the point is that the nourish-n-cherish street played witness to several scenes that merit enactments on the Broadway stage. A couple of days later, the son was to be seen wobbling along with copious tears cascading down his cheeks, the husband mildly breaking into a sweat, and the rest of the street muttering soothingly. Children came and told heroic tales of their own learning how to cycle. One fellow said he broke not just his arm, but almost broke his mother’s arm too. Some went for the inspirational angle and said that once he learnt to cycle, the adventures never end: One can fly down from pavements and cycle without holding handle bars.

Every story was worth noting down to sit and devour on a rainy evening.  This learning-how-to-cycle is one thing you can always hope to get good stories out of. Ask anyone how they learnt to cycle and depending on where they hail from, the story is bound to entertain, amuse and sometimes curdle one’s coffee.

Watching the son cycle made me think of dear Mr Bopaiah with a pang. It was Bopaiah Uncle who taught us how to ride a cycle. He may have taught the whole street. He had bought a new one for his son who was a couple of years older than I was. The times were such that cycles were not toys everyone had. In fact, toys were not something everyone had. So, obviously, getting a brand new cycle was gripping stuff, the breaking headlines of the street, that toppled the mildly interesting news that the servant maid had run off with the local vagrant.

Mr Bopaiah graciously let us monkey pedal on it (it was too big for us). On that one cycle, he thought 4 kids how to cycle in one week. One glorious week in which we waited with shining eyes our turn to get on the cycle. Praying that the rains would not dish our efforts come cycling time. Armed with the simple trusting confidence that Bopaiah uncle was holding the cycle and would not let us fall.  The hopeful look on our faces as we glimpsed back every now and then to make sure he was jogging beside us holding the cycle.

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Mr Bopaiah was the Physical Education teacher at school, and he probably enjoyed teaching us to ride as much as we enjoyed riding.  It is a knack learning to cycle using the monkey pedaling technique, but we all managed it with his help. I also fondly remembered the delicious, large helpings of tea cake that awaited our labors at the end of the cycling sessions. Mrs Bopaiah made the best cake I have ever eaten – to date it beats all the creamy and Mickey mouse shaped ones hands down (Her butter-making was an equally fascinating act) . Many a happy day have we spent at their house, and all the memories of the dear family came flooding back.

Mr Bopaiah passed away last month, but I could almost see him send an approving nod to the son as he wobbled along on his cycle. When the golden evening sun shone down on the street of excited children, and whoops of victory came from the now over-confident cyclist and his friends, I am sure he smiled down at us. It was the kind of thing he would have liked.

Nature’s Adventures

The son and I read a chapter book together. Hitherto, we watered gardens with Liam in The Curious Garden, or ate cookies out of a tin with Frog and Toad. This time we decided to spend several days with Edward and Avon in ‘The End of the Beginning‘. Avon, the snail wants an adventure and he seeks it with the help of his friend, the ant Edward. Over the next twenty odd chapters, the pair of them meet salamanders and have perilous snail crossings on narrow bridges. The beauty of the whole thing is that they had never really left their tree branch. At the end of their long and arduous journey, the pair of them find themselves facing the end of the branch and turn back. The Beginning of the End. Or does the end signal a new beginning?

The book had many philosophical sayings, and the next time the son and I observe a snail, we shall wonder what goes on in that animal’s brain.  Adventures do not need exotic settings or the need to traverse large oceans. It is all right there on the tree branch.

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It also brought back some of the best adventures I had had as a child in the Nilgiri Hills growing up in those wonderful surroundings cradled by Mother Nature. Everyday from our Elementary school a few kilometers away, we took a different route walking home. One day we stuck to the narrow roads laid out by the municipality as an occasional vehicle passed us. Another day, we slid down the hills, picked some berries at the bottom of the hill and found another narrow footpath leading home. There were days when the walk took us twenty minutes, and days when it took us an hour. The whole place was tiny enough to not merit a marking on the map of the state, but it held adventures enough for a lifetime for us.

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The toddler son and I enjoy taking a walk in our neighborhood and finding little by lanes within our neighborhood. For us, it is a revelation of sorts. One path leads you to the shaded path with oleander trees sagging with the weight of the summer flowers.

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Another path in the neighborhood has an plum tree that shows you how squirrels thrive near that tree. We see clusters of plums flung to the ground with nothing but a bite taken off of them. Every time I see those little eaten plums, I think back to one glorious summer afternoon spent in a friend’s garden. We had a blue quilted comforter laid out on the lawn and were watching the breeze gently ruffle the grass and skim the trees  as the children played. The son was then a baby and sat up in that adorable fashion that made him look and sway like a bowling pin used to prop open a door. Pretty soon, the topic turned to squirrels and fruit trees. Our host then set about plucking plums from his tree before the squirrels got them. We sauntered over to inspect, suggest and generally hinder the fruit picking process when I heard a slurp. Turning around we saw we’d saved the plums from the squirrels, but the baby human squirrel in our midst was looking triumphant: red-lipped, red-cheeked and red-chinned having bitten into the plums himself. Talk about being caught red-handed .

Night Life

There are wonders galore in our own little branch, if only we set out to find them.

An Asian Reading Fest

Regular readers of the blog know that we recently returned from an Asian vacation. Every time I take a vacation with the sister in the Middle East, she has a set of books ready for me to read. The books she had laid out for me this time included books written by Jean Sasson, who happens to be one of her favorite authors. Jean Sasson  was a nurse by profession and spent a little more than a decade working and living in Saudi Arabia. One of the princesses of the Al Saud family solicited Jean’s help in telling the inside story of a Saudi princess’s life. She has since written eleven books dealing with various problems faced by middle eastern women.

This time, the book I chose from her pile was ‘Growing Up Bin Laden’. It is a book about Osama Bin Laden as told to Jean Sasson by Osama Bin Laden’s fourth son, Omar Bin Laden and his first wife, Najwa Bin Laden. She uses their alternating voices in the book to tell the story of his life. It is the first book of the kind and is an interesting read.

I am following up this book with two books that I hope to write about soon in conjunction with Growing Up Bin Laden:
Al Qaeda, The Islamist State And The Jihadist War by Daniel Beaman &
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

I suppose I expect to get a glimpse of the view from within Bin Laden’s family, from a professor on Middle Eastern Affairs and a President who finally caught Bin Laden, but is abetted by a world that is still host to a variety of terrorist organizations.

Serious fare thus far you will agree, so I followed it up with delightful fare.

What better mode to release those endorphins than by paying a visit to Malgudi?

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I fell in love again with R.K.Narayan and his writings. Every time I read one of his books, I am amazed at how simply, how nonchalantly he takes you on a stroll along the Sarayu river after passing through the tantalizing wares on Market Street or on quieter days muse and saunter along Vinayak Mudali Street, passing Albert Mission College on the way. The charm of Malgudi never stales. I have come back and scoured the local library for books on R.K.Narayan and find very few.

Note to self: Buy some books by this great writer and donate to the library the next time I visit.

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While I visited the hills of Dehradun with Ruskin Bond, or Malgudi with R.K.Narayan, the husband took off on his own into the Tamil world of Sujata.

Blissful are the days when one is visiting another world while sipping tea in a cool room.

The Olympic Spirit

Another glorious Olympics have come to a close. Heroes from within the contingent of heroes were selected, the human spirit soared itching to hear about what drove these champions to achieve, to relentlessly push themselves. 

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We thumped our fists in the air when the first Iranian woman, Kimia Alizadeh, won an Olympic medal, cheered the many girls who overcame societal pressures and barriers to go on to the Olympics from the Indian contingent. We pondered about the need for a personal struggle in order to achieve, we loved the concept of the Refugee team, and rooted for the heroes from this contingent as did the rest of the world. There were a few media gaffes quickly pounced upon by the judgmental social media audience: armchair solutions to world problems, that we mused about on our couches.

We went on to have discussions with the daughter, that we hope will stay with her long after the Olympics are over. In times of strife, humanity can be a marvelous force.

We are not folk who regularly watch Sports in the home. The odd cricket match aired at odd times is watched by the husband with bleary eyes. A few final matches of basketball or tennis comprises the bulk of our Sport watching thus far. However, I cannot fail to notice that every time we do so, it has a profound impact on the toddler (like the time Stephen Curry came to play) .

Every evening depending on the Olympic event aired, there was an inspirational performance at the old home.

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Simon Biles and Dipa Karmankar flew to perfection in the gymnastics events, only to be followed by an evening of the toddler and his sister jumping off the broken sofa and spinning before landing perfectly on two feet. The doting brother gave his sister a score of 9.9 for this impossible feat.

The swimming events inspired many strokes and dives on the Queen bed.

Courtyard badminton flourished. Flighty shuttles soared to tree tops requiring brooms and sticks to dislodge.

The track and field events saw much charging about the house. Feverish runs between the kitchen and the garage were timed. After every fast charge up and down the house, we noticed the toddler also ran the slow motion version of the run. He thought he needed to run the slow-motion replays telecast by the television networks too.

The Men’s marathon was run in the rain. That meant he needed another hasty shower before bed, since he sprayed water on himself and ran 26 times around the house.

As long as there are broken beds and shuttles stuck on tree tops in enough number of homes, the Olympic torch will burn on as bright and promising as ever.

Onward to Tokyo 2020.

The Saga of the Family Photos

The Saga of the Family Photos – Part 1

Our visit to India was long overdue. We had met sections of the family over the past few years, but we had yet to gather in one place together for over half a decade, during which time children had been added to the family tree as well. The occasion, we agreed, demanded a family picture. You see one of these specimens in most houses – all of the children are looking divine and innocent, the adults are looking calm, relaxed and are smiling into the camera, the grandparents are sitting regally in a sofa like object or two wooden chairs depending on the studio, while their brood clusters around them. The women are decked up in heavy sarees or ornate ethnic wear, the men in kurtas or sharp, freshly pressed trousers and shirts, and the children are clothed in themes that can go with the grand settee from which the grandparents rule.

Every time we see pictures like that in other people’s homes, the husband pipes up that it would be nice to have a family picture of both sides of the family taken, and I guardedly agree. It is not that I have anything against family photographs, it is just a tricky business.

You see, I have attempted to take a family picture of mia familia during my brother’s wedding. It was not a success, although the harried photographer would disagree. The father, social dinosaur that he is, feels compelled to holler at those near and dear to him to join in on every photograph. In fact, with the father, it takes a level of willpower to not be included in a photograph if you happen to be in the vicinity. One time, we took a picture of him in front of Lake Tahoe, and were hard put to find the 72 mile circumference lake in the picture. This sort of behavior at an Indian wedding results in photographs that look like Victoria Terminus Railway Station at 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

Most pictures had a lot of people jostling together in them, but they certainly had no theme.

Could this be one with us and the father’s friends? No – my father’s sister is in there, and so is my mother’s student.

How about this one? This could be one of everyone on the father’s side of the family, except this couple – they belong to both the paternal and maternal sides of the family (Second cousins got married. When the couple joined in the picture, so did their parents and it looks like avial and kootu were mixed together in the fridge during archival time –  sigh!)

Is that the guy who sold balloons outside the function hall?

Family Picture

And so it went with my side of the family.

With the husband’s side of the family, the problem took on unexpected dimensions. It turns out that the father-in-law is fond of photographs. In a bid to appease him, the photographer was instructed to spare no moment, big or small. He didn’t.  Every time, anybody gave somebody a Tamboolam (or haldi-kumkum : basically a plate with betel leaves & nuts, vermilion & turmeric) , the pesky photographer took a photograph.

Anyone who attends any South Indian function worth its name knows where that sort of thing leads to. Pretty soon, we had 1200 photographs of the mother-in-law giving haldikumkum to maamis and maamas in varying degrees of  exhaustion. The point is: not one of the thousand odd pictures are fit to go up on a wall for posterity and bored guests.

However, this time was to be different, I was assured by one and all. We cart only the relevant people off to a studio and flash the lights on their face. So unless the father calls for the photographer’s assistant to join in, we are safe, and the father-in-law shall have his pick of photographic combinations: passport size photos if need be, along with the family photos.

We just dress up and get there. Dress and Dazzle. It is all you need to do.

Yes Sir!

Part 2: The Family Photo.

Newton’s Sixth Law of Motion

A trip to visit the relatives in Asia is always one fraught with culinary splendors and calorific disasters. Indians are a breed that show their love in myriad ways from throwing approving glances at the foreign-returned daughter wearing a bindi to making aloo parathas for breakfast.

Image Courtesy: Google – Idlis, Dosas, Sambhar, Chutney

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Unfortunately for me, my reputation in the cooking department hit an all-time low with the aunts. One morning as the toddler son sat down to a breakfast of idlies, he announced in horror that idlies are not breakfast items, but items that make an occasional appearance in his lunch-box or sometimes at dinner, never for breakfast. (South Indians are a sturdy breed that can wolf down a half dozen idlies for breakfast followed by a  lunch with three – five servings of rice, and a dinner of dosas. ) Therefore, this simple statement had a variety of responses, all of which psychologists will be delighted to note, were dramatic in the extreme. To make things worse for me, the toddler then sat down and polished off the idlies on his plate in rapid succession.

The aunts rounded on me:

Poor child loves idlies.

How long does it take to make one plate of idlies for breakfast everyday?

The poor dear says he eats just cereal.

The mother pushed her oar in with glee and the lot of them roasted my reputation over a slow grill, while the emaciated toddler bounded off to play. It was, therefore, a sobered me who made her way through the streets of India. The one you saw eating pooris, dosas and white toast with marmalade before the gong hit nine, was one who had been told off for not giving the children nutritious breakfasts.

It was during one of these breakfasts that I moaned about packing the daily calorie count by 9 AM. The brother-in-law, assured us that he would help us stay on track and henceforth appointed himself the Calorie counter for us. The brother-in-law is a confirmed case of being a gourmet, and has been declared incurable by the best of cooks. He can detect a repaired sambhar with a single glance. With one taste, he can tell you the archival date of said sambhar, and the best by date of the repaired version. For one that fond of the right tastes, I was dubious with his self appointed role as Calorie Master.

I need not have worried.

The next morning, as we set off on an early morning walk, the Calorie Master started counting. Every few steps, he upped the calories expended. A small hillock counted for 500 calories, and every few steps the calorie counter charged up ahead like an auto given a hot boost at the rear end with a rhino’s horn in 108 degree heat. By the time we settled in for  breakfast, the Calorie Master announced that we had expended 2000 calories and we were therefore deemed fit to consume a sumptuous breakfast of 500 calories (pooris + masala dosa + slices of white bread with butter and jam + tea + fresh fruit). I must admit, I liked this version of the Calorie Counter better than the slow one that the bulky contraptions in gyms boast of.

Everybody questioned the Calorie Master, but nobody went unanswered. Unconvinced maybe, but unanswered, never. Pretty soon, scientists were called upon to lend their laws and principles to the cause.

Calorie Master

The uncertainty principle said that: While it may be uncertain whether a 500 meter amble is 500 calories or 600 calories, there is no uncertainty in the fact that it merits a serving of ice-cream after lunch.

When Newton saw an apple fall, he knew that falling involves energy. Food falls into the stomach, therefore we are expending energy while eating food.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity also states that food prepared by relatives do not have as many calories as food prepared by non-relatives. Therefore, it is safe to up the idli count.

My favorite was the Newton’s Sixth Law of Motion: When you eat, you motion.

Heisenberg, Newton and Einstein may have turned in their graves, but armed with these principles, I am proud to say, that we defied all natural laws of calorie consumption. We also laughed heartily the whole time the calorie calculations were afoot, that should have expended another 1000 calories a day at least.

To Live Like Sultan

It has been fifteen years since I saw Bangalore. 15 years in which I heard stories about the beautiful city bursting to its brims and enduring horrendous traffic snarls. I had spent some very pleasurable years early in my career in Bangalore, and some of the friends I made there still warm my heart, so I was obviously interested to see how it fared a decade and a half later.

I was dismayed at the way the city had exploded. Every place has to fall prey to urbanization. There is no way around it, but in Bangalore, once known as the Garden City, it was particularly brutal to see matchbox like apartments all over the city. The roads were struggling with cars from every one of those apartments, and the infrastructure was barely holding up. As I looked up into all those apartments, I wondered how many fellow residents each one knew, and the answer was what saddened me even more. In every apartment block of maybe 100 homes, residents hardly knew another 5 families. It seemed to me that more the people clustered together, the less we knew of one another.  

I stayed in Bangalore for just a day before we made our way to our childhood home, the dear old Nilgiri Hills.

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It has been about a decade since I visited Nilgiri Hills – the home of my childhood days. This time, I was determined to go and visit. When mia familia heard  of my wish to do so, everybody joined in, and pretty soon, there we were bumping up the hills in a van loaded to the brim with luggage, children and people. Traveling light is a concept we often hear about, but we have absolutely no idea as to how it works. Maybe an experiment would help one day.

As the van made off with 11 people and 14 pieces of baggage, not including the toy cars and planes that had to ply within the van to ensure sanity and peace, I noticed that the pace of life steadily slowed down as we got farther and farther away from Bangalore city. Like an aircraft slowing down from 500 miles an hour to zero as it comes to rest. It was marvelous to see how it all culminated in one grand stroke to life with sultan.

I was looking forward to hop off at the sunflower fields en-route to the Nilgiris from Mysore. The sunflower fields were marvelous after the never ending concrete jungle that Bangalore has transformed into.

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Likewise, once the van started bumping up the hills, I was happy and contented to take in the scent of the Nilgiri Hills and found myself taking in large gulps of the pristine air. Every now and then, we spotted elephants, bisons and deer freely roaming the forests.

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Bisons in Mudumalai
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Deer in Mudumalai
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Elephants in Bandipur and Mudumalai

We stayed for a couple of days in a resort in Masinagudi. The beautiful resort was nestled in the hills with only 7 cottages, plenty of rolling hills, deer, bison, horses and a donkey. The children spent a good half day marveling at touch-me-nots as they folded and unfolded.

It was here we met Sultan. Sultan is a donkey and he was found by the resort owner in the streets of Chennai, where he was being teased and not given his due. She took pity on him and had him transported to this resort.  Sultan’s mates at the resort were two horses who occasionally gave the children a ride on their backs. Sultan had no such obligations as no one seemed interested in taking a picture riding a donkey, so he just grazed, all the while thinking he was a horse. He was a great favorite among the guests and was often called upon for a loving pat on the nose or a rub on the chin. Sultan knew all the residents of the resort.

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It has since become a motto of sorts within our family to Live Like Sultan. A life of love, commendable self worth, fresh air, a contented mind and a slow pace of life to relish the many gifts that Earth has to offer.

The Exciting Night Life of Plum & Polly

“What do you do in the evenings?”, asked a young colleague after telling me about the exciting things that city life has to offer. Maybe my twenty year old could have stood the revels. Hectic – yes, that is the word I am looking for.  I myself prefer the quiet lifestyle. I suppose everybody wonders from time to time what everybody else does. I told him I take a walk around the neighborhood in the evenings.  He gave me a withered look. I must have sounded like a septuagenarian to his young mind.

“Err … any night life where you live? “, he quizzed, clearly not willing to give up on me just yet.

I felt it best to keep away from the domestic angle of things and spared him the details of my many culinary adventures to feed the family, and instead went for the wild flora-and-fauna angle. You know, give him the exciting side of things and so on. I told him that I recently found that a rather fat mouse comes along to the garden every night and scratches around near the fence for some food. Whether he finds it, I don’t know, but he makes enough of a noise to attract the fat black cat, and I sometimes fear for his safety, but as he(the mouse) himself seems happy enough, I cannot do much. He looked astounded. Impressed at having impressed the fellow, I plunged on. I told him that the birds coming home to their nests is a welcome sight at dusk. He thought I was cuckoo.

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So walk huh? he said circling back to what he thought was safe ground again.

The delights of an evening walk, are free, and one either likes it or has not tried it often enough to enjoy it. The seasonal delights are there for the taking, and the mind is happy enough to disassociate itself from the cares and wont’s of the corporate world for that period.

As I take a walk down in the summer evenings, I am always amazed at the flower laden trees and plants. The Oleander trees are heavy with summer flowers of various colors, the rose bushes are thriving scenting the air, the rhododendron and bougainvillea overflow, even late daffodils peek out here and there. I just learnt the name of another flowering tree:  Crepe Myrtle.  That sounds like the name that can spark a thousand songs.

A peek of yellow hibiscus flowers is a welcome sight. I have seen red ones, they are common enough, but white and yellow ones are another treat altogether. It took me back to the days when we plucked hibiscus leaves, soaked them in hot water and then made a fine paste to use as a hair conditioner. To date, no commercial conditioner comes close. Yet, I feel I cannot walk to Mr. Chin Cho’s lawn and ask him to pluck some hibiscus leaves from his tree to condition my hair. It just wouldn’t do. Plus Mr Chin Cho doesn’t look like the kind of man who cares about the texture of my hair.

I learnt recently that I had spent vast amounts of time near Aloe, and knew nothing of it. I could have just cut a stalk and rubbed my face, instead of taking the car and dashing off to Traders Joe to buy their cream with nourishing aloe vera. (The gardener was instructed to remove the plant about a year ago. In my defense, ‘Instructed’ is strictly not the right term to use here. I asked him what plant it was in Spanish, and he looked sad, and waved his hand about quite a bit. The next thing I knew the plant was gone. )

Summer also means fruits. Apricots, peaches, and plums jostle on the fruit trees, and the squirrel, Polly, is very busy.

I thought about how much the little things in life matter.  A friend of mine shared her plum produce with me, generously giving me more than I could competently handle on my own. In her home, we tasted plum chutneys and plum jams, and I came home inspired.  Last night, I was the paragon of domestic efficiency and made plum pickle. The thing is looking very proud and beetroot-pink in the refrigerator.

Maybe I shall tell the young fellow about the exciting night life in my kitchen and seal my reputation.

Counting Hadadas in East Africa

For as long as mankind could dream, birds and flying have held a fascination for us. But the kind of flying we do in airplanes that start with a roar like a hadada, is far from the soaring of the soul that the birds seem to enjoy.  Fascinating creatures, birds. Every time I set out on a walk, my ears pick up trilling and cooing and cawing of the birds. One evening, I gazed upon two pretty swallow-like birds with maroon plumage on their chests. Such beautiful little things, and yet when they trilled, I could not believe the volume that emanated from them. I also realized, to my dismay, that I could not identify them. When I do identify birds, I seem to get them wrong quite cheerfully and confidently. Like the last time I called a Canadian Goose a Duck. Both species took umbrage, not to mention fellow human beings.

I needed to rectify these aspects, I thought to myself severely.  That is why you would have seen me with my beak buried in a book called ‘A Guide to the Birds of East Africa’ by Nicholas Drayson. I see your puzzled expr. Why East Africa? Why not America. Well, for one, the book cover looked better, and for another, I thought why not East Africa? I might visit Kenya one day, and that time, I shall be prepared to dazzle and stun all with my ornithological knowledge.

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As it turns out, the book turned out to have quite a few bird names, but little to identify species. It was, however, a thoroughly delightful tale about an upper class club boasting members of the rich Indian community in Kenya, called the Asadi Club. In the book, Mr Malik takes the bird-watching tour every Tuesday morning with Ms Rose Mbikwa, after his doctor ordered him a hobby if he wished to spare his old heart an attack. That is how efficient, quiet and sincere Mr Malik learns to enjoy bird watching, and his guide to bird-watching Ms Rose Mbikwa.

I feel I must tell you the short tale of counting hadadas to entice you to read further or not, depending on your sense of humor. Some people like that kind of thing, some others screw up their noses, look dignified and turn away with a disdainful look on their face.  Neither can thrive while the other survives.

In the book, the members of the Asadi club are reading the newspaper which carries a research article that states on average man farts 101 times a day. This fact is hugely debated by members of the club. Member #1 cannot understand how that is possible purely from a mathematical point of view, since that amounts to 4.208 farts an hour, and he is pretty sure he has not let off 4.208 farts just in the past hour alone.

Valid point.

Member #2 feels that an average takes the high frequency hours with the low frequency hours and the past hour cannot be a reliable indicator.

Also valid point.

Enter Mr Singh, a retired magistrate, and the betting vein is tapped. Mr Singh gets the bets going, and sets terms and conditions to decide the condition. Since one cannot count the flatulence levels or fart frequency during sleep, all parties agree that a count during a 12 hour period should suffice. If a member is able to notch up 51 in 12 hours, Member #2 wins, if not, Member #1 wins. As they look around for a reliable person for the actual counting, poor sincere Mr Malik is roped in. Everybody agrees that if it has to be an unbiased outcome, it has to be vetted by someone with the efficiency and sincerity of Mr Malik’s calibre.

So it was that Mr Malik’s help in the house, a lad from a nearby village, is assigned the task of noting down the farts. To spare the boy the details, Mr Malik, an ardent birdwatcher tells the boy that he will tell him every time he sees a hadada, an ibis like bird that makes a loud noise haa-daa-daa hence the name, that is native to the African savannah. The boy dutifully notes it down, though seriously wondering how on earth Mr Malik saw several dozen hadadas, when he himself saw at most 4 or 5.

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It is a tale with many diversions and one thing leads to another and before he knows it, Mr Malik is up against Harry Khan, in a bird watching competition to see who can ask Ms Rose Mbikwa’s hand for a ball, and the hadada-counting boy from the village lends Mr Malik a hand (As it turns out, the boy has superior ornithological knowledge by virtue of growing up around plenty of birds).

A delightful read, if you don’t wish to exercise the bean much, and one in which you get to know the names of many birds even if you cannot identify them. As you amble along with these characters, you get to take a peek into Kenyan culture and life.

Also, Counting Hadadas is a useful euphemism to employ in public. You are welcome.

Stephen Curry Comes To Play

T’was the NBA finals – San Francisco Giants vs Cleveland Rainbows or something. There was much excitement in the neighborhood, entire families were agog watching the match. Pizzas were ordered in, for though the athletes themselves had to keep fit, there were no such demands on the audience. Some Indian neighborhoods went all out and had samosas, chaat and tea for basketball viewing. Living in California, I could take a walk, far from television, and still figure out the direction of the match when I took a walk. Loud cheers meant SF Giants basketed a ball, and moans meant the C Rainbows did the same.

The last few minutes of the match was tense judging by the tension emanating from the Television areas to the street. Right enough, I headed home to find a certain clamoring for my presence. The children’s faces were shining with excitement and so it was that I got to watch the final 5 minutes of the match. What with the replays and the fouls and the drama and the penalties, the final 5 minutes took a goodish twenty minutes to watch.

After the match was done with, commentators tripped over each other in rehashing the match, the personalities that drove the players, the flaws that seemed to have surfaced. I moved off towards more pressing demands on my time like watering the garden, getting dinner going etc, musing all the while on the whole game viewing experience.

I was never one who enjoyed being plopped passively in front of the television, and spent a good part of my childhood not knowing the difference between a 4 and a 6 in Cricket. Blasphemy. I know. All I knew was that there was a major din every time there was a 4 or a 6, and since this happened multiple times during the day, and for several days at once, I did not really see the point. The brother did his best, since he spent many mornings lovingly polishing his cricket bat. He shook his head at my cricket-ry ignorance, but loved me all the same. What is with boys and cricket?

The basketball match seems to have left a mark on the toddler in the house too. After the match was done, there he was, using his blue football and trying his best to throw it into the clothes hamper. Not just that, I noticed a certain skip in his step, and every move was complicated by the ducking and falling in vague angles that seemed critical to the ball-into-hamper process. The commentators seemed to have made an imprint too. For there was a live commentary going on, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Stephen Curry, far from calling it a night after an exhausting match came to the old home to play with the son.

basketball

When Stephen Curry passed the ball, the son took it and on the way to the clothes hamper skirted a chair, deftly avoided me walking to the kitchen, dunked the ball into the hamper and then fell spectacularly.

His doting grandmother congratulated him on scoring a goal.

“You don’t score a goal in basketball Paati. “ he said shaking his head at such foolishness as he picked up his blue football again.