Friday, 28 August 2015

The Onion Story

Some years back

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. Wife was not at home. I was simply lying on my bed. I looked at my mobile phone, it was already 1 pm; I thought of preparing lunch. I opened the freeze and was delighted to see some frozen chicken. I then looked for other ingredients and spices which I'm aware of for preparing chicken. Ginger, garlic, chilies, potatoes, chicken-masala, garam-masala, jeera powder, well, everything was there. But there was a small problem though, I couldn’t find even a single piece of onion in the kitchen. I thought of buying some from the grocery store downstairs. I looked at my wallet. Oh shit, I had only one piece of note in my wallet, a ten rupees one.

I took downstairs, went to the store.

"Give me some onions, bro." I asked.

"Sorry brother, no onions," The guy smiled and I got little upset.

"Aree, give me at least a couple of pieces," I pleaded.

"Sorry, we don’t have even a single piece of onion in the store"

There was one more small shop nearby. The shopkeeper there was kind of weird, a lean and thin middle aged man. I usually try to avoid him, but then, we only had two shops in the locality. I crossed the playground and went to the shop.

"Do yo have onions?"

"Yes" I was more than delighted to hear that.

"Please give me some, I have 10 rupees with me," I asked.

"No 10 rupees, you will have purchase minimum of 15 Rs," the shopkeeper said strictly.

"Sir, I only have 10 Rs with me. Please give me some."

No luck.

"Okay then, give me of 15 rupees, I will pay you the remaining five in the evening"

Still no luck.

"At least give me a couple of pieces"

Pretty disappointed, I thought of visiting the nearby ATM. I walked for half a km and was outside the ATM, waiting. Those days ATM’s were quite limited, and on top of that we used to stay a little away from the main road. As expected, I couldn’t withdraw money from there. I’m kind of pessimistic by the way. So again I had to walk for another half a km to the next ATM. After withdrawing money I went to the nearby grocery store. I was confused not to get onion there as well. On the way back home I entered a couple of more shops, but nowhere I could find onion. Ultimately I went back to the same shop in our locality.

"Please give me a kg of onion," I asked.

"One kilo onion is of 150 rupees," the shopkeeper said sharply. It took me by surprise. Accordingly to my grocery knowledge it should have been of 30 or 40 rupees. I took half a kilo of onions and returned home.

It was a hell of a chicken I prepared that day. It was extremely delicious and I ate to my full. Later, while flipping through the TV remote I stopped at a News channel, there was some discussion going on about the soaring onion prices. Even though I was kind of relaxed after I realized it was not only me, the entire India was struggling to get their share of onions, but I also felt embarrassed about being so ignorant. I should watch News channels more frequently I thought.

I'm born and brought up in Assam. In our place, street hawkers selling ‘jhalmuri, peas, nuts, chanachur’  mixed with ‘chopped onions/chilies, spices and coriander leaves’ are very common. We grew up relishing such roadside refreshing crackers. I didn’t find  people selling such foodstuff outside Assam though, not in Bangalore at least. But I'm pretty sure it’s available all over Kolkatta. When I visit my homeland, every time I go out in the evening the "jhalmuri and other similar street refreshments keep grabbing my attention. More than the yummy factor it's nostalgia that overwhelms me.  One advantage about eating such spicy and crunchy snacks is that, one gets aware of the soaring onion prices much before the News reaches the media. Actually, in such situations, the jhalmuri/nuts sellers mix nicely chopped Muli(radish) along with the onions. The amount of Muli they mix is directly proportional to the price rice of onion. It is also a common practice that during these limited no onion days, the jhalmuri sellers would keep some finely chopped onions secretly tucked in one corner, for their special and regular customers.

Grab a copy of my debut book Story of Tublu from Amazon or Flipkart. It is a Contemporary Fiction novel, published by LiFi Publications Pvt Ltd. The book has its share of drama, that entertains; humor, that makes one reminisce; love, friendship and emotions that defines the amazing journey that is, life.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Fifteen Minutes Fast

          Every morning it's the same story with us; we have to struggle a lot to make Jia ready for school. It is a tough job, particularly for my wife Anjali and our helper Rinku. Jia’s school bus usually comes by 8 am at the nearby pickup point. Quite often we have to call the bus driver and request him to wait for a couple of minutes.

It was a perfect morning, Jia was ready for school, Rinku went to drop her at the bus stop. The wall clock in the hall was displaying 8:10 am. Well, we use to keep it fifteen minutes fast. So Jia was on time and we felt it wasn’t necessary to call the driver to wait. Rinku took more time than usual to return home. To our surprise Jia was also with her in her school uniform. So Jia missed her bus yet again, but how come? She was on time. Anjali called the school transport authority and complained about their irregularities. I was getting ready for office. I looked at the wall clock in the hall, it was displaying 8:20 am, then I had a look at my mobile, it also displayed the same time. I was surprised, as my phone should have displayed correct time. 

           The story started about a couple of decades ago. I was in my tenth grade. Few months before the board exams my father brought me a wrist watch. My father believed that the watch would be helpful during the exams, to complete my papers on time. It was a simple yet trendy looking Titan timepiece. I started to wear wrist watch for the first time in life. I adjusted the time and kept it fifteen minutes fast. I thought it would help me to do my things timely. My friends always used to say "what's the point, dude? You already know that your watch is fifteen minutes fast, how is it going to help you? If someone change the time without your knowledge then it would work.”  Even I knew that keeping my watch fifteen minutes fast is not going to work, but then somehow it became a habit.

I used my first watch, yes the Titan one, for almost a decade and throughout its entire lifetime my watch had to resist the force by pushing time fifteen minutes ahead. I remember one incident during my hostel days. I was in first year of Engineering. Dinner was served exactly at 8:45 pm in hostel. Mr Hiranya Kumar Das, one of our seniors, who was very tidy guy; also, quite punctual with his dinner timing. He was always among the first guys to have dinner. One evening on his way to the dining hall Hiranya dropped by our room. As usual few guys were gossiping and Hiranya also participated in the conversation.

"Come guys, let’s go for dinner," asked Hiranya after a while.

"It's too early for us; wait for sometime, we will go in half an hour," one of us responded.

Hiranya couldn’t wait that long and went upstairs. But soon he returned to our room, angry, upset with the cooks. He picked up my wrist watch from the table, "shit, it’s 8:50 and still dinner is not ready," he was getting hyper. Actually, he went upstairs after having a look at my watch few minutes back.

My friends laughed in chorus and revealed to Hiranya about my fifteen minutes fast story. Hiranya was little embarrassed and he burst out his embarrassment in his typical hostel friendly manner, with some good enough motherly words.

          In the year of December 2005, my elder brother gifted me and Anjali a pair of wrist watches on the occasion of our marriage. Both were of 25 Hours brand. My Titan piece was still ticking, but I thought it was time for a change. Since then, I’m using my second watch. It’s almost a decade and my 25 Hours timepiece is working perfectly fine. The first battery lasted for three years and thereafter I had to change the battery every year.
My 'fifteen minutes fast' habit got induced to Anjali as well. It wasn’t easy for me, but later, somehow I managed to overpower my age old tradition. I understood it nicely that keeping my watch fifteen minutes fast is not going to help me in any way. But Anjali got pretty much addicted to it and I think it will take a few more years for her to realize this.

          So that particular morning I dropped Jia at her school. I apologized to her teacher that Jia missed her school bus. She accepted my apology with her charming smile. I then drove to my office. Later in the afternoon I was surprised to receive a call from Jia’s school transport coordinator.

"Hello sir, Jia’s bus has already reached her destination. The driver is waiting for the last five minutes but there's no one to pick her up"

I was quite angry. I immediately called our home landline and blasted at our domestic helper, Rinku.

"It’s only 12:15, I usually go down at 12:20, wait there for ten to fifteen minutes. How would I know that the bus is going to come so early today?" clarified Rinku.

I doubted that our wall clock battery might taking its last breaths. After returning home in the evening I looked at the wall clock; it displayed time with a difference of 40-50 minutes. The battery seemed to be miserably exhausted. I went to the nearby shop to have a new one. I changed the battery of the wall clock. I adjusted the time and kept it fifteen minutes fast, as usual.

Grab a copy of my debut book Story of Tublu from Amazon or Flipkart. It is a Contemporary Fiction novel, published by LiFi Publications Pvt Ltd. The book has its share of drama, that entertains; humor, that makes one reminisce; love, friendship and emotions that defines the amazing journey that is, life.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Last Khep

The evening times were more fun during our hostel days. As it started to get dark everyone came out of their room one after another, went downstairs to the nearby dhaba, popularly known as Honu/Manoj dhaba. Some of the popular evening snacks those days were Singara Bhujia; well, it’s nothing but mashed somosa shallow-fried with chopped onions, green chilies, egg and finally decorated with chopped coriander leaves. Some of the other popular snacks were Maggi, paratha-sabji, bun-omelet, boiled egg, single fry, double fry and a few more.

After the sumptuous snacks, guys used to buy cigarettes from Honu/Sahabuddin’s shop. Snacks, cigarettes and everything else was always on credit for most of us. After returning to the hostel guys usually used to relax at the staircase. Someone would light a cigarette and then immediately someone else would request "my first khep, okay", then another would say "my second khep", "third khep". Khep is an informal term which is frequently being used among the buddies from our place. Even though the term is applicable in different situations, the meaning is more or less the same. In this case you must have already understood that the burning cigarette should first go the guy who said "First khep" from the original hand, then it should pass to the second and then to the third khep guy. The booking was usually up to third khep, and after that someone would usually  say "okay, my last khep". Last khep is actually interesting, it sounds more decent and also with the guarantee that you are going to have that last puff.

As I said the term khep can be used in some other situations as well. For example if a guy is trying on a girl, his friends wouldn't hesitate to comment "asshole is trying a khep".

Friends who try the khep thing pretty often are tagged as 'Kheparu'. We all have experienced Kheparu friends at some point of life. I remember we had some hostel buddies who were not regular smokers but were always the first ones to say "first khep" or a "last khep". 

Those were the days when the joy of friendship simply blossomed around the campus. The long meaningless gossips, the cigarette sharing, the late night teas and what not? Wishing all my friends a very Happy Friendship Day.

Grab a copy of my debut book Story of Tublu from Amazon or Flipkart. It is a Contemporary Fiction novel, published by LiFi Publications Pvt Ltd. The book has its share of drama, that entertains; humor, that makes one reminisce; love, friendship and emotions that defines the amazing journey that is, life.
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