Thursday 30 July 2009

English is a funny language

A particular incident happened in Air Force some years ago, between an Officer and a Non-combatant member. This Non-combatant member worked as an orderly for the Officer, at the workplace. One day the Orderly arrived late for Office. He was sure going to get an earful from his boss. When the Boss saw his orderly coming late to office, he burst out in English. The Orderly replied in chaste Hindi, that he had some urgent work at home and hence he was late.

The Boss wasnt impressed, and his shouting continued. After a while the boss cooled down and continued in undiluted English that he shouldnt repeat this in future. And he also added something along these lines as a final warning "Tomorrow you shouldn't dare come to office late, you can go now."

The orderly hardly understood any english. He understood some words though. To clear his doubt, he asked a Corporal standing besides, as to what the officer had barked till now. The Corporal explained that the Officer was furious, but then he cooled down because the orderly was a good worker. The final sentence of the Officer was translated thus by the Corporal "Tomorrow you can come late to Office, and since u have a pending work at home, you can go now".

The Orderly was happy to hear this. He understood some words that the officer told though, which included "TOMORROW, COME, OFFICE, LATE, GO, NOW". He thanked the Corporal and immediately left for home. The next day the Orderly turned up about 2 hrs late. The Boss was ready to explode any moment, since his orderly didnt reach office in time.

Finally, when the Orderly arrived, the Officer shouted in Hindi, and asked him how dare he come again late, and also why he had left as soon as he came the previous day, despite his stern warning. The poor orderly found that he was fooled by the Corporal, but to save the Corporal he said he didnt understand English and he had misunderstood whatever the boss had told him. The Boss didnt have anything much to say and the orderly was left free.

Sunday 26 July 2009

My Baby-steps to the Kitchen

I have always believed that one never enters the kitchen unless one is interested in cooking or due to sheer helplessness. Having eaten food throughout my life without having to cook for it, is a lucky thing in itself. This past sunday i went to chennai to be with my wife (Beena), who has been living alone for a month now. My presence would be comforting to her and ofcourse i thought of helping her in the kitchen too.

I would begin by cutting the vegetables for Beena and thereby saving her some time and trouble. Stirring and sauting was an interesting pastime too, as long as she took care of the ingredients going into the dish. The first three days were good to both of us. I was getting initiated to a new skill, and Beena was saving time.

The fourth day was going to be different. She fell ill suddenly. I had to tend to her even if she had to drink water. She was exhausted to the hilt. The onus to cook breakfast fell flatly on me. I cooked breakfast (idlis) for us and also managed a chutney. Though Beena certified that the idlis came out just right and the chutney was marvellous, i should accept that the chutney was little salty.

The fifth day i didnt know what to cook, so i made good with rice gruel and coconut chutney. And the next day we both had food at the restaurant and never cooked. Beena had almost recovered by then, and i didnt want her to take any troubles. Now i feel what i almost took for granted was not an easy task. My mom to me is more venerable now, and so is every mom who has been cooking for her children without a complaint. Time for some thanksgiving to our mummies.

Monday 13 July 2009

Rotating Chain

My first posting in Srinagar was an experience, but didnt know if it was pleasant or not. I was rather unaffected by anything that was happening around me. Everyone was elder there, as i was a fresh soldier just out from the training centre.

In the 2 years i spent there, i had the chance to meet 3 of the biggest gamblers i have ever met till date. Gambling was their primary job, while it just happened that they became soldiers by mistake; or so it seemed. Out of these three men, two were in their mid 30s and married for namesake (without any responsiblity towards their family). The third was a chronic bachelor in his late 30s.

There were other small time gamblers, but they had a limit to what they put at stake for play's sake. These 3 people would exhaust their entire salary on the very first day and without blinking an eye, would borrow and play again. Out of these 3 persons, one had arrived only a few days back. He somehow found out the other 2 big gamblers there. The new person who arrived there, had a thick chain around his neck. (Later, we were to know that he won it in gambling, while in Gwalior).

Soon enough all three gamblers become big time friends, and would play day and night whenever they got time. Slowly we started realising that the same gold chain gets a new person every next day, among these 3. Our intial reaction was that all three were friends and so they would be wearing the chain for a few days to be returned to the original owner. But on close scrutiny only, everyone came to know that this one chain and the wedding rings of two persons also rotated among the three.

Iam so content to say that a generation has passed since the protagonists in this story joined the services, but the scene now has entirely changed. Alcoholism is decreasing, though its available in plenty, studies is gaining priority for young recruits. Career planning has become the key word, for most of the youngsters joining services now. Thats a glad change. Whoever said change was painful??

Sunday 5 July 2009

Taj Mahal built Shahjahan!!!!

A girl in my neighbourhood was not particularly good at studies. I had the opportunity to take tuition for her out of pity, and the experience hasn't left me even after more than 20 years.

This particular girl was at that time studying in 5th standard. She never missed failing in every class starting from 1st standard. But everytime her dad was kind enough to pay money to the school authorities to get her promoted to the next standard. Obviously, i knew her knowledge levels could be quite low. One day i found her studying.

I took upon the idea to tutor her atleast for the chapter she was studying. After taking the text book from her, i read the contents and then closed the book. With my unique way of story telling, i explained to her how Taj Mahal came into being, his love for his wife Noor Jehan, etc. Once my explaining was over, i asked her to read the chapter. To my utter surprise, she couldn't read even one sentence. She was as good as an illiterate. Sympathies flowed from me along with pity for her. Then i focussed on just one sentence in the text book.

That sentence was "Shahjahan built Taj Mahal". It contained just 4 words. I read it loud to her for 20 times and made her repeat it right after me. All the 20 times i also explained to her the meaning of the sentence in her native language (Malayalam). After this exercise which drained my energy and tested my patience heavily, i asked her to repeat what she presumably learnt, just a moment back. To my utter disbelief and shock, she recollected from her memory what she just learnt, and said "Taj Mahal built Shah Jahan". Imagine my mental condition, at that very moment. Somehow I controlled all my emotions, and said i had to leave as there was some pending work to be attended to.

Incidentally, this girl reached upto 7th standard, ofcourse, thanks to her dad. But like everyone would expect, she couldnt clear her 7th standard public exams and the school was helpless too. Her studies thus ended, closing the chapter of agony for her teachers for sure.

More shock was to come 15 years later, and that was when i came to know that she was married and having a kid and over and above that she was taking tuitions for children upto 4th standard. My jaws just fell and I was wide and open mouthed for a long time. I firmly believe she is an apt candidate for the Red and White Bravery awards for having the gumption to take tuitions after all this. God save the children. Amen.