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Sunday, February 23, 2014

The secret diary of P. Chidambaram

Hah ! There hasn’t been a squeak out of Narendra  Modi since I  put him in his place firmly  by vetoeing  his brand of  school boy debates. That he is still roaring like a Gir Lion let loose is another matter !! However,we, in the UPA , believe in ratty politics and so  do not talk about lions. But give us rats and we can talk ad nauseum about them. Talking of rodents  reminds  me to give myself a pat on the back for distancing myself so neatly from  the UPA  (  This is something I have learnt from Madam. When the party has to be criticized  hop onto the Sarkar ka   bandwagon. When  the government has to be pulled up , hop back to the party side  ).

I took the budget speech as an opportunity to  vindicate  my  stand, my ideology (  of course I do have one !) and  my performance. Well, I had to be clever, you know –subtle- and so I also   painted  a rosy picture of the UPA’s performance over 10 years, but the thrust  of the speech  was about  my monumental  role in rescuing the economy over the last 18 months. But, dear diary, the speech resulted in   a peculiar problem- some  Mr clever   spotted the fact that I  love the ‘I’ word . One  writer   even did   a scan of my budget speech and discovered that  I had  used   the  “I” word  92 times in my  budget speech . That is one “I” every 71 words. The nosey parkar carried on to say that “ the tone of tenor of Chidambaram’s speech also conveyed the same “I-ness”.  How do I  explain , without opening a can of worms , that if I had not been there , in the thick and thin of  my Government’s state of stagnant motion, things would have been worse ?  Yes, I  of  the impeccable credentials -  Harvard educated, Tam Brahm , sneer perched elegantly on my nose, accent ,attitude and lungi   firmly in place .

Accent reminds me of that poor sod, the one in the Government , the one whose accent I could not place. It wasn’t Harvard, of course, nor Cambridge,  Eton , or Yale. I was trying to figure out if it was a Bengali , Bihari or Haryanvi accent and in the process of figuring out my sneer became more pronounced and the local born and bred went to town about it. To put it more succinctly, he kind of ratted on me .

With elections looming in the near horizon, I have been getting all sorts of strange offers of re employment. But the strangest one was from someone called Rohit Shetty. Apparently he has  made some  movie called the ‘Chennai Express’ . Since I do not watch hindi movies I had no idea what it was all about. That is , until he told me the movie starred Deepika Padukone. I sat up straight and  offered  him my left  ear . Gokka Makka ( my goodness) !  Shetty  has offered me an item number- with Dipsy.

 It is going to be called ‘ Lungi Dance II’. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

In my Private World - a poem

                                           Do you ever feel you are an Island?
                                            surrounded by people on all sides
                                               hemmed in by conversation,
                                              by schedules, to do lists, duties
                                                  and , of course ,by love

                                                     On a Valentine Day
                                                   there is music in the air
                                            plenty of love in deep blood roses
                                        in the solitaire my friend flashes in my face
                                            in the hand he puts on my hand

                                                   I look out from my window,
                                            half hidden by the drapes from the street below,
                                                a black dog dashing at a brown squirrel
                                                       a  whistling lad walking homewards
                                           yellow and orange flowers brightening my courtyard

                                                      There is life around me
                                              books, music, poetry and beauty
                                               children, husband, family and chaos
                                                     why do I feel I am an island?
                                          surrounded by everyone and yet alone


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Ode to the Dappled Sunlight In my Courtyard

I see the sunshine dappled on the floor,
     A bit of warmth and happy rays serene;
Striking a beam now on the bedroom door,
     Light and the Shadows makes one lovely scene.

This glimmering light shimmers throughout the day,
     Moving and slanting as the hours go by;
It is a fascinating gleaming ray,
     Here for a while then fades and then I sigh.

Yet while it lasts I ponder many things,
     Of all the golden memories I hold dear;
Filling me with Hope and Love as it flings,
     Joy, Light, and Shadow—lovely and so clear.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Sinners and their Sins

What’s with the rich and the powerful? Have they or haven’t they heard of the seven deadly sins ? those transgressions which are supposed to be fatal to spiritual progress. They are committing these sins every day without thinking about the rich tradition of eternal damnation in which they are participating. And what’s with us ? the junta, the reader, the onlooker- do we remember their transgressions till kingdom come- or do we move on to fresher pasteurs and to yet another sin exploding in a ‘breaking news’ ticker?

Let us take the case of the turbaned commentator, Navjyot Singh Sidhu. Sidhu is many things to many people- ‘stuffed shirt’,’ monarch of the mixed metaphor’, ‘loudmouth’, ‘overrated’- to name a few. The comments, like Sidhu’s own, are both ad infinitum and ad nauseum. But almost all of them take him on as a commentator and as the laughing jackass of reality television. How many of us remember that Sidhu has got blood on his hands : that in a fit of rage he clobbered a man to death in a parking lot, and in his inimitable style bounced back to win an election and spout some more sidhuisms?

But why pick on poor Sidhu alone? Whatever happened to ‘Dabangg’ Khan’s midnight tryst with drunken driving which resulted in the mowing down of some underdogs sleeping on the pavements of alpha city, Mumbai? The box office collections of his movies more than  prove  that a few deaths here and there have done nothing to dent his popularity and his swagger.

The grand old man of Indian journalism, Khushwant Singh, once wrote that public memory is short and the media memory even shorter. He highlighted this in an article in which he gave many instances of ‘wrong doings’ by the famous, the infamous, the almost there and the wannabes. “ Stories break out but seldom come to a conclusion. Some instances come to my mind. What happened to the crores recovered from the house of Pandit Sukh Ram, Congress minister and a part of the Cabinet; or to the case against former Foreign Minister  Natwar Singh, his son, Jagat, and the latter’;s buddy, Sehgal, in the Oil-for-Food scam worth thousands of crores? “

Where is yesterday’s news? Whatever happens to the stories that the media pursues like a pack of hounds for a while and then- suddenly, mysteriously, inexplicably and uniformally falls silent ? One explanation for this lies in the truth that the public is a fickle mistress- and just as a mistress needs new temptations to be reined in , so does the public. So, Shiney Ahuja, all fresh faced, oozing innocence, charm and softness, with wife tucked by his side, was served to prime time television viewers. Here was a man who was supposed to have done to his maid what Prem Chopra was famous for doing on celluloid. By the time Ahuja’s interview had ended one was left feeling, not only skeptical about the veracity of the charges , but also sympathy at the plight of the actor.The maid, fresh faced or otherwise, was nowhere on the scene and so no feelings registered for her in the collective psyche of  the audience.

 If we are speaking of maids , can the ex IMF chief , Dominique Strauss Kahn and Arnold Schwarzneggar, former Governor of California, be far behind? The IMF has repositioned itself many times since its inception post World War II. It has been receptive to the changes in the economic environment of the world and adapted accordingly. This leads us to the question- is the IMF also adapting to the changing societal structure-where it is no longer moribund that the man at the helm of affairs be above any ‘affairs’, consensual or otherwise? Or , as our very own Prime Minister , at the helm of the  extremely sorry state of affairs in the country , intones,”be above suspicion-like Ceasers wife ?”

 Tossing many pre-conceived  east vs west notions out of the window ,comes the finding that the West takes its errant sons and daughters more seriously to task than we , in the East ,do. Whether it is Winona Ryder who was found guilty of shoplifting, Hugh Grant who was caught with his pants down with a prostitute, Martha Stewart who was jailed on charges of insider trading, or Mel Gibson who spouted anti Semitic abuse at a cop when he was pulled over for drunken driving, everyone has to show contrition and beg forgiveness before they can reclaim their place in public life. And not everyone gets a second chance either. OJ Simpson is still a social pariah even though he has been acquitted of the charge of double murder; Kahn’s race to French Presidentship was over the day he stood exposed and Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s troubles were manifold, with public sympathy and a hefty alimony –all going to the wife.

We, in India, seem to be taking the sinner and his sin, with a pinch of salt. So, whether it is Sidhu ( anger ), Shiney ( lust), most of the politicos ( greed and sloth) or the remaining three deadly sins we carry on being pretty gung ho. Or is it really so ?  The idea of sin may be dying in the land of the holy rivers- and so also public anger and angst at the sinner- but do we forget , and forgive, what and who hurts us where it pinches the most?
Ask Chetan Sharma. The days of cricket being played in the Sheikhdom of Sharjah ended many moons ago- but do we still remember a certain six? Yes, we remember Sharjah, we remember  the six that was hit off the last ball, and we will never forget Chetan Sharma.“Yes, it haunts me even now and it will haunt me till the end of my life,” fifty year old Sharma said in an interview.

Does anyone still doubt that , for us, God is in our cricket and anyone who violates that God is a sinner. The one who will never be forgiven or forgotten.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Talkative Indian

I ask the guard at the gate for directions to C 2/110. " You want to go to the shaadi ka ghar? I almost cry out- 'Sherlock Holmes'  in admiration but then a glance at my right hand clutching the ubiquitous envelope makes the statement elementary. I nod and  as a reward am informed that the bride came back  home at 5 in the morning ( in a new ' badi gaadi ') , that the chacha -chachi had left but the mamaji-mamiji were still there and ...  I am still waiting for directions but the fellow is in full flow. Apparently wedding celebrations started a week back. There was gaana -bajaana everyday and a never ending flow of the best liquor. Here , I interrupt his  flow and ask the way again.

A couple of minutes later I am standing outside the apartment. The door opens before I can ring the bell and a woman comes out ,talking loudly on the phone pressed to her ear. She sees me and ends the call abruptly. I tell her that I am Saurabh's colleague and would like to meet his mother. It turns out she is the mother."Why didn't you come for the wedding ?  " I open my mouth to tell her the reason but it is really not necessary- my opening my mouth. She continues, " Itni beautiful shaadi thi- all the guests were so impressed. And the food !  Chandni Chowk ka halwai tha - the same one  who had cooke for the unit of  Dilli 6 .." By now I am feeling this compulsive urge to hear my voice- just to make sure that I can also do it , talk that is. So, cleverly, I wait for the moment when mother dear will have to pause for breath , but it takes a long time in coming . When she does pause, it is the moment I am gulping down hot tea and laddoos, and so the golden opportunity is lost.Ten minutes later I teeter out . The last thing she says is, " why didn't you come for the wedding- you should have come". I don't even try to answer that one. A wan smile and I am in the elevator. 

I reach home and park the car. A bartan wali ( you know the ones who take old clothes etc and give you steel bartans in return) is sitting outside the gate. " Bibiji, take a look at my basket. I have got so many new utensils". I smile and shake my head-" don't have the time." She is made of sterner stuff and repeats her plea. I again shake my head. That is not good enough for her. I am made to hear about all the neighbors, apparently with truckloads of old clothes and an equal amount of time , who took shining new bartans and shared their plans for what to do with the new thingies. So, Mrs S ,three houses away, chose a sieve because her purani sieve had been stolen by her jharu-poche wali ; and that Mrs P took 6 new steel glasses because this will be her daughters first karva- chauth and apparently steel glasses are de rigueur. I tell  the woman that I can hear the phone ringing and rush inside.

Dinner is over and the husband and I are watching the news ( Rajdeep Sardesai - so totally adore him). Suddenly , this look of animation comes over the husbands normally stoic countenance. I am mildly startled and quite curious to know the reason for this post dinner transformation. I don't have to wait long. " Guess whom I met  in the bank today?" I wait for him to answer his own question. " I met Z- you know the one who migrated to New Zealand 12 years back? Well, he is now in Singapore and...."  I heard about Z , his life, his wife, his children , his business for a full thirty minutes. 

I am seriously contemplating joining Buddhism.
 Buddham Sharanam Gachcham.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why the Aam Aadmi Party has caused more heartburn and agony than any other party

Tushi , not her real name, was in the U.S of A when the Anna Hazare movement was launched. Her husband, a doctor, had a comfortable practice and life was cruising along well for them and their children. The movement touched a chord in the couple's heart and they decided to move back to India, settle in Delhi, the epicentre of the movement, and work for Team Anna. Tushi recalls, " the moment we came back to Delhi, we threw ourselves , heart and soul , into working towards the success of the movement and ensuring the passing of the  Jan lokpal Bill." There is a faraway look in her eyes when she recounts how the couple was a witness to the falling apart of Hazare and Kejriwal. Tushi and husband  went with the  Arvind Kejriwal  faction because they were convinced by Kejriwal's conviction, his ideology ,his commitment to uprooting corruption  and his thumbs down to the existing system. Today Tushi does not want to talk about AAP. Her disillusionment is complete and total. When did she feel that things were not going well? " I realized even before the Delhi Assembly elections that AAP is just another political party , following the same agenda as any other party, and playing the same politics as the other parties."

So, granted that there is a lot of disillusionment with AAP. But why is it more so with AAP than with the Congress and BJP. The answer , my friend,  is blowing in the wind. The Congress is a party which has become infra dig for most of the voters. There is nothing new which the party promises; Rahul Gandhi is the son or younger brother who needs protection from big ,bad ,wolfish questions; the party  is synonymous with scams , corruption and stoicism and for most of us , the party is over for the Congress. Conclusion : zero expectations. BJP has pulled out its trump card, NaMo, and certainly there is a lot of hype and hoopla for the man from the land of the Sabarmati. But there is also a strong sense of resentment that the party did not make a concerted effort to bring the UPA government down, that it allowed it to mis govern its way through ten long years- years that saw the country's economy, polity and  foreign policy take a beating. The feeling is that the  BJP is part and parcel of the same system , the system that includes the Congress.

Kejriwal came, riding on the promise of change. His broom promised to sweep away the existing system, and sweep in the Utopia that one had heard  of but never dreamt of seeing. Hundreds and  thousands of Indians succumbed to the lure of the promise of change, of honesty, accountability and transparency. Suresh and his family moved into one room and gave up the rest of the house for party work. Ginny, living in faraway Florida, cut down on movies and saved up money for the party. Grandfather Sakhija spent his mornings at the Pitampura Metro station, speaking to  commuters about the need to vote for AAP. Rekha,a housewife, cut down the monthly household budget by half, so that she could donate money for 'Arvind ji's party'. Yes, every political party has its workers and they all work. The difference is that while the other political parties pay their workers, either in cash, or through favors granted, the men and women working for AAP did so  as a labor of  love, belief and commitment and not for personal gains.

Today, those same people have picked up the threads of their old life. Different lives, different men and women. The only thing they share in common is their disillusionment with AAP. The Utopian dream has broken from the gossamer thin threads holding it  and vanished into the world of the cynics and the  cynical - the ones who had in any case prophesiced, ,' here, nothing ever changes - not the politicians, nor their politics. Mark our words, AAP is just another party".

Sad, but it has turned out to be true.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A poem for 'Phenomenal' women by a woman

Dedicating this poem to my daughter- tiptoeing her way to womanhood. 

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reacting to readers reactions to an article on reactions !

   At the very outset ,let me apologize for the tongue twister of a heading - I know it is very alliterative, but although I thought and thought ( with my thinking cap firmly perched on my head ) I absolutely could not escape the truism of the above sentence and so decided to go ahead with it. So, to begin from the beginning , it so happened that one  wintry, January evening, over a cup of steaming ginger tea, I  wrote a blog on reactions of family and my 'mali' to my Kitchen Garden Society meetings.( next day I went through the above mentioned blog and felt pretty happy about it- happy as in all chuffed up. In this happy and chuffed up state I googled out the email addresses of the  national newspapers  I admire / like to read, and dashed off my humble piece . Well, what do you know, on a miraculous Thursday one receives a mail stating that The Hindu is running the article on Sunday in its Open Page. I read the mail again  and re read it  - just so that in my addled state I was not mistaking a rejection slip for a yes. 

The piece did come out on Sunday and the husband and children showed the correct amount of excitement and  deference and the day went off well . Monday morning I sat down with my laptop to check my mail and basically flaff about on the net. Surprise, surprise- my inbox was full. A quick glance showed that most of the mails were re: ' your article in Hindu'. To confess , for a second I was torn between this sane voice urging me to junk all the Hindu mail and the other voice ,of course the devil's, egging me on to open the Pandora's box. What did I do ? Bit into temptation and opened the box and out tumbled the following reactions ( The best reaction is at the bottom of the pile) :

Reader 1:  "Hari Om! Anju, The 1000/ spent on Art Of Living is the Annual Income of the slums, the Life Long Income of the Beggars, what not in the poverty ridden India? ...Next, calm & relaxed & Floating state of mind can be achieved only if one is prepared to really control one's senses which comes not forcing one's mind but adopting to several means-say for example, ...No amount of money resources can provide all these. Rather one can do business taking advantage of man's sorrows & worries in the name of Art Of Living."
 Reader 2 : " Hello Madam:
I am introducing myself as a 80 yrs. old person devoting my time for Organic Roof Gardening.  I read your write up in The Hindu today i.e. 2nd Feb. 2014 titled "Those Kitchen Garden Society meetings and immediately I thought you will be the right person to take of publication of the importance of Home Gardening or Roof Gardening in organic way in The Hindu.  I am giving you a gist of my views and you can make your own programme of publishing such news/articles etc. periodically as a weekly item. " Reader 3 : " HELLO,YOU MAY WANT TO READ MY BOOK -- KARMA SUTRA-ADVENTURES OF A STREET BUM -- RELEASED BY HARPER COLLINS. AVAILABLE GLOBALLY ONLINE AND IN BOOKSHOPS. 

Reader 4 :
"Dear Anju,
I am ____ residing at Chennai. I read your article in The Hindu Dt 2nd Feb. I would like to know more about KGS. Waiting to listen from you.

Reader 5 :
"greetings. How are you doing,  your article about kitchen garden society meetings are wonderful,  yes when we small veges like ladies finger, tomatoes, egg plant grow its like a decorations  around pleases the mind.
we had a small get to gather with girl children age between  than 6-11 year old,  on 24th Jan 2014 commemorating  GIRL CHILD DAY,  we explained why girls are so special in the eyes of DIVINE ALMIGHTY,... observance where we found equipping the girls in right direction is an opportunity . Please pray for the children. your comments and good wishes always expected. thanks "
Reader 6 "didn't able to comprehend what you exactly want to convey through your article in the hindu on 2 feb 2014. can u plzz expln?"
Reader 7
"Ma'm I just read the article written by you in The Hindu. Overall I found it very interesting and engaging. I must admire your sense of humour. You are a gifted writer and writing comes naturally to you. You should write more often so that avid readers like me can get a chance to relish a piece of your wits. I must commend the last paragraph of your article that made me spellbound and must have given your husband a shock and must have left him his mouth gaping wide open. Hope to read from your pen very soon. With all humility & Sincerety______________Patiala, Punjab"
Reader 8 "Dear Anju, We do not know each other but having read the reference in your article about my Uncle Gally's elder brother Clarence, I could not but help respond and offer my humble clarification; my offer to commend this piece to the BS&A Argus still stands. I am unsure if the below would pass muster with the worthies at the Hindu so thought I might indulge in this spot of presumptive activity on a lazy Sunday afternoon- and for a change, the sky in this neck of the woods today was a cornflower blue.
My congratulations on your Kitchen Garden Society article, I shall inform the Shropshire Agriculture Society about the emerging keen contest....With kind regards,
Lord Emsworth's retreat is called Blandings Castle and not Blandings House and he has a Head Gardner whose name happens to be Angus McAllister, he also has a pig man who oversees the nutrition of the Empress of Blandings and perhaps can tell you a thing or two on the subject of the manure that you refer to- his name is George Cyril Wellbeloved. Are you confusing the two? For the honourable Mr McAllister does not usually speak as much as your Mali in this article. He just "garumphs" according to Lord Emsworth. 

I shall report on you to Constable Evans who I should meet in the tap room of the Goat and Feathers in Market Blandings and I might commend this article be published in The Bridgnorth, Shifnal and Albrighton Argus, which as you are well acquainted is incorporated with the Wheat Growers Intelligencer and Stock Breeders Gazetteer."

I am still debating whether writing the article was more enjoyable or reading the reactions...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Salads and Salads


 For the longest time ever, salads meant cucumber and tomatoes, sliced and arranged on a quarter plate . The plate would then be put in the centre of the dining table at lunch time. However, as one evolved from being a U.P behenji to a Delhite one realized that there are salads, and more salads and not all of them need cucumber and tomatoes. So, one started experimenting with different ingredients, noticing what went into a dish made by someone else and also looked up recipes on the net.

Here are some salad recipes- all tried and  tested .

  • Cabbage Salad with Peanut dressing( serves 4)

You need:   1 cup finely sliced cabbage
                   1/4th cup chopped and roasted peanuts
                   1 tablespoon Soy sauce
                   1 tablespoon lemon juice
                   1 teaspoon pepper powder
                   1/2 teaspoon sugar
                   Salt to taste

Mix all in a bowl. Serve  immediately.

  • Cashew Coleslaw  ( serves 4 )
1 cup finely sliced cabbage
1 medium apple , thinly sliced
1/2 onion finely sliced
1/4th cup roasted and coarsely crushed cashewnuts
2 tablespoon chopped coriander
1/2 cup hung curd / mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Mix well. Put in a bowl. Serve cold.

  • Nutty Rice Salad ( serves 4)
A salad with a delightful Indian flavor

2 cups of boiled rice
1 onion, chopped
1 fresh tomato, chopped
1 boiled potato ,chopped
1/2 cucumber ,chopped
1/2 cup roasted and crushed peanuts
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
salt and red chilli powder to taste

Mix everything well. Put in a serving bowl.Chill for 15-30 minutes. Serve.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Reactions To My Kitchen Garden Society Meetings


I draw a deep breath and tell myself to imagine I am back at The Art of Living sessions. This helps and I manage to unclench my teeth and say ,"This manure is very good. I got it from the kitchen Garden Society meeting ". The Mali , not having attended any Art of  Living course , doesn't even try to attempt any pleasantries. The 'khad' is terrible and he could have got much better and Kitchen Garden Societies are all hogwash and bibiji , not knowing any better, has being taken for a royal ride. Since I had only attended the ' Art  of Living for Beginners' I am, but naturally,  not able to maintain the calm and relaxed state  of mind which comes when one imagines one is floating in space. I tell him how helpful the Kitchen Garden society meetings are for people like me, whose gardeners , unfortunately, are not culled  from the same ilk as Lord Emsworth's gardener at Blanding Castle.. The mali , not being drawn to such irreverent reading as yours truly indulges in, pauses for a minute, but only to draw breath. He has by now discovered the plants that accompanied the manure and his nostrils flare some more. Taking a leaf out of Arvind Kejriwal's  battle strategy, that beating a retreat is sometimes more prudent than a prolonged confrontation, I tell him to make some hanging  baskets  and  well, beat a retreat.

There is a flurry of activity from within the house  as I enter. Cushions are hurriedly straightened,  chappals go back to where they belong, on the owners feet,  the television volume is lowered  and the son bends studiously over a book which till now had been languishing on his lap. The run in in the garden hasn't totally spoiled my good mood and I beam benignly at the family and pronounce myself absolutely  in love with the  KGS and with all its members, specially the President. The men in blue are not doing too well against the men in black and my comment seems to be headed towards oblivion but I dextrously bring it back into focus by casting an injured look at the husband. He  raises an eyebrow , and correctly taking it to be an invitation to tell more I launch into a vivid description of the many virtues of the President . "She wears the most drool worthy pashminas , has a sharp sense of style and her sarees..." Here my voice tapers off as envy wages an inward and silent battle with admiration.   I remember in time that envy is one of the seven deadly sins and so,  having saved my soul,  I turn back to the husband but find him in animated conversation with the son on the folly of Dhoni batting at number 5 instead of coming in at number 2. Blithely interrupting such trivial matters I carry on," and I made a new friend today at the KGS meeting. She was carrying a Birkin bag ..." The daughter, seemingly engrossed in a novel till now, looks up and asks, " pashmina and Birkin at a garden society meet? How shallow is that ,Mum"?  

The maid chooses that moment to announce that dinner is ready. I tell her to remove my plate from the table. There is a chorus of  " why are you not eating "? I run them through the tea that was served at the meet- samosas, dhokla, sandwiches, pastries, gajar ka halwa, coffee...I know there is something I have left out and rack my memory for it. Just then I remember, 'oh ! and Mrs Sharma  brought a whole lot of  melt in the mouth dahi bhallas" . The son , always the one to say the wrong thing, asks, ' you have finally joined a kitty party, mum "? I quiver in righteous indignation and tell him that KGS is not a kitty party. Very meaningful work goes on at the meetings of the   former and one learns a lot . I start telling them about the tray garden we were taught to make that day. I had just reached the point where the President, who was the one demonstrating how to assemble a tray garden, had put a clay lion on top of the rock , which was on top of the top soil, when the bell rings.  It is the delivery boy from the neighbourhood grocery store. The husband gets up to make the payment. He is back in a minute , looking all puzzled. " I had kept a thousand on the bedside table. Has anyone seen the money'? I tell him I had taken the money with me. " So, give it to the delivery boy".  " I can't'. " Why not"?   

 " Because I spent it all at the Kitchen Garden meet".