My bai (maid servant/cook) called at 2 p.m. Invariably at 2 p.m. I am doing one of the following
- looking up various news sites
- returning from a post lunch walk
It is a rare day that I end up in a work meeting and usually bai coincides her calls with these meetings. While I have the choice of not taking her calls, reality has taught me that excusing myself for five minutes may save me the trouble of finding no dinner at home. So I excused myself and sidled up to the farthest corner of the 30 ft by 15 ft room.
Bai (conversation happened in Hindi) – what vegetables should I cook? Shall I make potatoes?
Me – There is beetroot in the fridge. Why don’t you make that?
Bai – Oh. I don’t know how to make it. Can you teach me?
Me – (what! What? What!?) – hmmm. Alright. You need to cut it into small pieces and cook it.
I can already see myself mired in an entirely unproductive conversation. I don’t know how to cook beetroot either. I just remember the way my mom used to make it, the end product was grated and had some seasoning. I don’t know how to say ‘grate’ in Hindi.
Me – Please cut it into small pieces. Really small pieces. Use that thing for cutting into small pieces
By now my other two colleagues who had been in a deep discussion on what pricing they are likely to get for syndicating a loan, look up fascinated. Clearly I am proving to be a good diversion in a busy day.
Me – well, actually just cook it anyway you think is appropriate
I want the conversation to end.
Bai (persisting) – but you tell me how to make it. I don’t want you to waste it
Me – no I will eat whatever you make.
I put the phone down.
At dinner I ate every last piece of the beetroot. It turned out to be surprisingly decent. Unfortunately she forgot to put salt and spices in the dal as a result of all the focus on the beetroot. So I have had to waste a lot of it. But I ate the beetroot and that is what counts.
Was very good because I discovered
1. my friend P can really tell a funny story. We have only met in large gatherings and she is usually very quiet in these, letting her husband S do all the talking. S & P were in Mumbai and had come over to my house in the evening. It was one of those perfect hanging out sessions. We all stuffed our faces, then sat and chatted about various things, watching the sky turn pink and grey over the vast sea while P had me in splits with the story of their travel to Mumbai.
2. Mumbai’s lungs, the Aarey Gardens at Goregaon. Went for a walk with a friend, without expecting too much. It turned out to be 1000 hectares wide, with small roads crisscrossing the wilderness. Infact in some parts you can’t hear the traffic anymore, only the birds.
3. how to get Picassa to stop speaking to me in Hindi. Blogger, Mail, Orkut and sundry applications owned by Google operate in English for me. For some mysterious reason, the minute I log into Picassa it is all in Hindi. The struggle to change the settings has been going on in random 2 minute frustrated sessions over a couple of weeks but yes! I cracked it.