Last year while leaving Gaogang, I had left all my belongings with another Indian who in turn left them with the owner of his apartment, with the instructions to dispose them off if I didn’t return by end of June 2012. Unfortunately, I returned in August and when I inquired from the landlord, he told me that he had disposed all the things off, which I am sure was a blatant lie.
Besides the point that some of the things were expensive, it takes time to go and get things again. When I told Smart Sulekhika that she will have to switch over to the Chinese cooking as all her Indian cooking equipment like Chakla, belan and Tawa ( Flat board, rolling pin and flat pan for making Indian chapatees –flat thin round bread) were lost too, she sent a box of full of cooking paraphernalia by air, ahead of her, spending ten thousand bucks for the things costing a few hundred rupees. For an Indian it is unthinkable to live without chapatees and daal :)
除了其中一些东西属于贵重物品之外，重新去买还要花时间。我跟Smart Sulekhika说她的所有烹饪用具都已经丢了，比如做印度煎饼用的平板、擀面杖和平底锅，所以她将不得不改做中国烹饪，可她在出发前就空运过去了一箱装满烹饪用具的箱子，这些东西仅价值几百卢比，空运费用就花了一万卢比。对于印度人来说，没有印度煎饼和扁豆汤（daal）的生活是无法想象的 :)
Long back when I was sailing, I happened to sail with Peruvians. I was the only Indian there. I taught the cook to make ‘daal’ and chapatees. Well daal would be more or less ok but making chapatees as we all know is not easy. He tried a few times and then gave up. Here are some lines form My Memoirs……..
Said Captain, “their” demands are small
Give them Roti and give them Dall
No Pork, No Lamb, No Veal , No Beef
Some Chicken, some goat meat, fish , grass and leaf
Asked the owner, Why only chicken and goat meat
and what is this Roti and Dall?
“Don’t know sir”, said the Captain, and no one can explain
Roti is unleavened bread of wheat flour, thin and plain
Something like a plate or a saucer which you can eat.
Dall, I think is derived from “ The All”
for if it’s there, they will eat food
and if not there, they won’t eat at all.
Though it’s nothing but a thick lentil soup
but its wondrous like the magic potion of “the Gauls”
Dall，我想取自于“The All”。【三泰虎注：“The All”是否是大杂烩】
How else can you explain
with kids sleeping with them in bed
and the cots lined up in the lane
No touching, no smooching when the lights are on
They achieve so much before the dawn.
Whatever they do you dare not call it wrong
You see a proof enough in the One Billion strong.
Kissing them on the streets you can never see
Love to most of them means
singing some songs, going around the trees
Night is a cramped reality of the ‘chawl’
yet thanking Him for His mercies small
I think, What matters is not being big or small
Nor it's being short or tall
All that matters is whether you have
or you don’t have dall
………..More on that later
This time Smart Sulekhika didn’t want to leave anything behind. There seems to be no chance of me going back to Gaogang even if I don’t yet accept that the chances of my going back to China are abysmally low. She asked me to arrange for some empty cartons. I took her command lightly. I am a habitual offender, recalcitrant at that. One day in a shopping mall I saw a hand like that of a drowning (wo) man waving furiously above a sea of Chinese heads. I was happily savouring the expensive liquors dreamily, standing in the section where they were stacked. I came back from heaven like a meteor, walked up to her and saw her beaming smile threatening to tear her lips. Standing next to two empty cartons she was like a proud hunter next to the kill or better like a svelte, simmering, sensuous model standing next to a new model of Lamborghini.
Well, she isn’t svelte anymore but she can floor any model worth her oomph, literally now, if she dares to entice me. When I first saw her, she floored me with the only disarming glance she directed towards me ever and since then that’s where I have been- On my knees, on the floor. That’s where I find my peace of mind and that’s where I find a restful hour of sleep. I was so stunned when I saw her the first time that my mother in law thought that I had a speech condition.
Unintentionally, today I have revealed to you why and how I became a writer. Since I lost my voice, my thoughts found another medium for coming out of me. I shuddered at the thought of being asked to carry the cartons home and I wasn’t wrong.
“Why are you trembling”, she said
“Nothing, Essential tremors, I get these involuntary shivers sometimes.” I said.
“You must wear more warm clothes.”
“No I think some alcohol will do me good. I will have a peg or two or may be three, when we get back home.”
“That you will have I know, why look for some excuses then?”
"Because I am an escapist!!" and most of this repartee occurs in my head.
“OK, she carried on- “I have got these cartons from the sales girl”, the smile spread further on her face like sunlight when sun peeps out from the clouds, suddenly.
You can’t be joking, I said. How can we carry these voluminous cartons all the way to Gaogang ?
In a taxi, she said answering with simplicity she finds befitting for replying to my stupid questions which means all my queries I dare to pose to her.
Are you crazy? We can’t spend fifty dollars for carrying garbage home. Leave them here. I will get you as many boxes as you need, in Gaogang itself.
You haven’t got any so far.
Well, it’s not yet time to pack things. We still have a week.
OK, I will take them in a bus. Now since the girl has been so gracious in giving these to me, I can’t leave them here.
“It’s not for money, honey that I say, it’s just being crazy carrying cartons home from here.”
“ We will be on the TV tomorrow for there might not be many foreigners doing that. As such people look at us amusedly and bring their children to speak to us. Carrying these boxes we will make quite a spectacle and the TV reporters will come running too. I don’t feel comfortable being an ass ( although I know I am one, but well I don’t want the whole China to know it). I didn’t say all this but, croaked.”
“The bus driver won’t let you in, unless we charter a bus.”
I knew no amount of convincing will make her change her mind, so I flattened the boxes and carried them home but the project wasn’t over yet.....More about the boxes next time
Navneetji, marvellous pictures !
I don't know if you have seen anyone kissing and smooching openly or even in a secluded place in a garden or elsewhere in the part of the country you live in, but in the north it's still impossible.
Sailor uncle, the pics are nice. Aunty certainly is beautiful and i liked your apartment too. :-)))No wonder people who can spend more are going to China for their interior shopping. Not to forget your poem is nice and meaningful too. Keep writing now that you have arrived in India and have more time to contribute.
海员叔叔，图片不错。阿姨肯定是漂亮无疑，我也喜欢你的公寓 :-) 难怪钱多的人会去中国进行室内采购。不能忘的是，你的诗写的不错，意味深长。继续写下去，你已经回到了印度，有更多时间可供支配了。
Thanks Ashu, Thanks for the poem. What to say of people all the chandeliers, fittings and interior decorations and you name anything- all are being imported from China these days.
Impressive china; unimpressive land lord. So he sold out your stuff.!
The carton story is unfinished; your wife did a great job.
Thats a pretty picture of her.
There is some more to come in the carton story :). We too felt bad about losing this but chalta hai...
纸箱的故事还有待继续 :) 我们也对丢失东西感到难过，但是就这样吧......
Navneetji Very good Pictures, giving a feel of the city in China where you lived and perhaps now you are far from it.Enjoyed your poem on "dal". Yes as the Captain said our needs are so simple, Dal Roti Khao Prabhu key Gun Gao.The line And thank him for the mercies small sums up the essence of life of so many people in India.God has given them so little and yet they thank him everyday.