Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spaniard Goes to a Birthday Party

Because Veena wants to know what could preoccupy me more than the woes of iBankers

I am happy to report that my son has reached the age when he no longer needs me around at birthday parties. I am sorry to report he counts among his classmates folks who live in small palaces and it would be a crime not to sit through three hours of a birthday party and check out what happens.

What follows is entirely my fault. Waste no sympathy on me, Falsie. (And nobody mention tea, please).

This place we're going to is in a lane that's named after the scion of the family whose great-granddaughter we're going to hand over a gift to. This is the first time I'm going, so I only have my mother's directions to help me along.

"Turn into the lane after the petrol pump. It's the first house on the right."

I turn into the lane. There are tall buildings a mouldy wall but nothing that looks like a house. Then there are balloons. Behind the balloons, a large circular driveway. A fountain perched atop a few statues of semi-clad women. Other statues placed casually here and there. On our right is the 'house': sweeping steps, whitewashed building like the ones in paint ads, with old-fashioned green trim on slatted windows.

"Where can I park," I ask my host.

"Oh, anywhere," he says, with a generous wave of the hand.

There's a music system playing 'Hips Don't Lie'. This party is going to be fun.

My son runs off to play and I join a bunch of mothers. Now, since my son goes to school by the bus, I don't know what these mothers look like, much less know their names or anything about them. But I join them and listen.

While a troop of women - maids by their slightly worn clothes and their dupattas tied around their waists like girls going to bharatanatyam classes - ply us with Frooties and chips and samosas, the women talk school and check out attire. I hide my very torn fingers from general view. These women are, if not desperately well-groomed, at least dressed as if they've made an effort.

Meanwhile, the kids are running wild. There's plenty of place: a seesaw, a slide and a couple of swings, and plenty of trees and low walls.

Someone wants to know - she asks a Bong, naturally - where one can find Dhakai saris in Hyderabad. I'm all admiration for this lady. She's dressed in back, has on a matching pair of dark glasses (which means black, let me specify, with white stripes on the handle or whatever), and in the space of one minute has spoken in Hyderabadi Hindi, Telugu and Bengali.

Someone organises the kids and starts a game. They are all given paper and pencil and are given a picture. They have to find 13 words in the picture that have a double-'o'. "Like this is a football," the grandmother says.

Mother Alert! Some of the moms rush to their kids and help them out in loud whispers. After time's up, one or two (mothers) are still copying down words from other kids' sheets. My son has written the word spooky. Now, that's clearly disallowed, because it's not an object in the picture, which is what he was supposed to find. "Where's Spooky?" one mother asks me. I shrug.

The next game is rather fun. The kids are given a piece of paper with an animal's name on it and they have to find other kids in 'their' family by making a noise the animal commonly makes. No one is interested in finding anyone else, but everyone has a good time mooing and bleating and making the bloody kind of racket they're not allowed to at home.

Someone asks, over the noise, whether I also have a problem with my son not wanting to write. "I don't know," I say. I'm a careless mother like that.

"I'm looking for a cursive writing class for my daughter. Can you believe they haven't started teaching them cursive writing yet?!" The conversation moves to all the available extra-curricular activities these kids do: theatre, tennis, abacus classes and kathak, apparently, are all good.

A little later, once the animals have found their families, a game of musical chairs begins. This is really interesting to watch. I didn't realise until today what a conservative game it was. These eight year old kids already know caution: as the music starts, instead of running along they are walking cautiously, moving the chairs just a little bit so they can slip through the gap to the chair that faces the other way, if the music should happen to stop. They linger near chairs, listen to the beat and make intelligent guesses based on how long the music played one time and how long they thought it would be before it stopped the next time. Very illuminating.

Lunch - after the cake was cut - was pani puri, more samosas and veg manchurian and noodles. The maids had arranged themselves behind a long table and were serving everyone. As I sat some way away, I noticed one of them slide gracefully into a faint and fall under the table. A lid went clattering. Someone brought her some water. Others hovered. She continued to sit under the table for a good long while, covering her face with her hands. A girl behind me said 'fuck' and suddenly started talking in whispers.

In a while, the return gifts came out.

It wasn't until I was home, though, that all those samosas and pani puris started waging war in my stomach.

There's another invitation for a birthday party tucked into my bag somewhere. It's in Nallakunta (the party; not my bag). I am so not going.


Veena said...

What fun! Wherever Nallakunta is, you should so go there too.

Your son doesn't want to write? SB, I am telling you again - he will turn out to be a gamer boy and grow up to be as dumb as the kids in that movie you posted about. Better send to cursive writing class now. there is some hope that way.

Also, in this party, where were the Dads?

Space Bar said...

Veena: No thanks. I'll pass.

He doesn't mind writing, so long as it's not cursive. And bite your tongue.

That's a good question about the dads. It being Saturday, they ought to have been there but weren't.

swar said...

Small palaces and no bling bling ladies?

Ludwig said...

ooh. may i make some guesses? this place that you went to, where the lane is named after the scion...does said lane/scion's name start with the same letter of the alphabet as the name of the thing you gave me for my birthday?

i think i've been to this house. the nubile nymphets in marbles scattered through the verdure, with a tendency to peek out between bushes and startle you, the sweeping staircase, the driveway...

i might even be seeing the granddaughter at a certain activity tomorrow morning.

[feeling smugly mysterious. and mysteriously smug.]

Cheshire Cat said...

Sympathy?! The only person I'm feeling sympathetic for is myself, being far from any place that serves reasonable samosas or pani puri. And for being far from the age where it would not be thought tomfoolery to play games that involve finding objects with "oo"s in their names.

Falstaff said...

SB: You know, I was doing well with not feeling sympathetic until you mentioned drinking Frooti. No one, not even I-bankers (let alone poets) should have to go through that.

Space Bar said...

swar: no ya. this palace has been around way to long in the family. and as for me, i was just unprepared.

ludwig: got it in one. if i'd mentioned birdwatching you'd have had no doubts at all, no?

cat: there there. Maybe I'll put up an image here and we can do a pop quiz. no one need feel left out.

falsie: it wasn't just the frooti. can you imagine pani puri with the kind of boondi they sprinkle on dahi vada in the kamats? sacrilege! i had one and yearned for malviya nagar market chaat (cat, you weren't missing all that much).

Banno said...

Sounds like great fun to me.

Ludwig said...

absolutely, would've cracked it pronto. i met the umm...parties in question early this morn. there was talk about the party, and i desperately tried to overhear, but was too sleepy to remember gori details.

Space Bar said...

what a nonsense person you are, ludwig? didn't you know i'd be very interested in knowing what they said?

km said...


Frooti and Veg Manchurian.

dipali said...

Have you recovered from the party and its victuals yet?

Ludwig said...

> what a nonsense person
> you are, ludwig? didn't
> you know i'd be very
> interested in knowing
> what they said?

Shiite ya, I know. Mea culpa, really should've kept my ears peeled or whatever. But just as they started talking, someone opened a packet of Marie biscuits. And that, as they say, was that. Sorrytosay.

Lekhni said...

I am feeling sorry for myself :( Where are these parties with samosas and pani puris? Especially pani puris?

I wonder why the maid fainted. Do you think, in the midst of all this plenty, she actually hadn't had time for lunch? :(

Space Bar said...

km: esp when the veg in the manchurian is almost entirely green chillies!

dipali: just recovering!

ludwig: what? no left-over samosas?

Falstaff said...

km: Nah. It's a testament to how much I miss Indian-Chinese that at this point even the prospect of Veg Manchurian (SB: especially the kind that has nothing but green chillies) seems vaguely tempting.

Space Bar said...

lekhni: sorry. your comment came in late to my inbox. Yes, I expect she was hungry, tired, been out in the sun - many reasons, no?

and please - rather you than me with those pani puris. they had boondi! I swear!

??! said...

No Appy?

I wanna Indian-Chinese!! Especially with sundry dishes named '65'.

Anonymous said...

I thought there was a connection between the reason why the maid fainted and why the girl behind you said f**k. I'm beginning to suspect that even surfing saas-bahu soaps is injurious to the imagination! :)


sumana001 said...

Brilliant piece of writing! It's always such a joy to read your writing, Dala.

(Aside: Who 'discovered' cursive writing? And what good has it done us?!)

Veena said...

??!: Hop over to Wimbeldon - there's a place called Dalchini which serves Manchurian and 65s with copious amounts of ajinomoto.

swar said...

What? Maid faints and covers her face is NOT related to girl says 'fuck' and whispers hotly? So I wasn't clever then, just dirty-minded.

??! said...

You sanity-saver, you. Mwah! Mwahmwahmwah! (Ok, excuse the affection this once).

I was going with the maid being pregnant, and the woman behind you recognising her as the maid her driver was having an affair with, which is why she cursed.

Not right?

Space Bar said...

now now. look at all of you people. of course, she might have been pregnant, but an eight year old girl trying out a word in the company of her friends has nothing to do with it. (At least, I don't think so).

Falstaff said...

ah, but was the girl who said 'fuck' really 8 years old? Or was she just disguised to look 8 years old?

And are you sure the maid just fainted? Did you check for bullet wounds?

??! said...

Or blowdarts sticking out of the back of her left knee?

Falstaff said...

??!: Exactly. The whole thing is beginning to sound more and more like a case for Inspector Clouseau.

"May I hive some Frothy pliz"



"You said Frothy."

"Yes, yes, may I hive some Frothy pliz"

"Oh, you mean Frooti?"

"Zat iz wat I hive bin saying"

SUR NOTES said...

damn i missed the party on your comments page.

when is the next one?

and dishes named 65 can only be found in b'lore and hyd. not even bby, and surely no delhi.

its a pity, oily green chillies with occasional meat or veggies is so so good for the soul.

and an 8 year old said, fuck? my three year old said, these bastards, at a traffic signal. and then calmly looks at me and informs, thats what papa says. i am way past passing judgements on 8 year old and her upbringing.

damn, there is a bloody good post and 27 comments to comment on- i shall leave politely before i become ' nuisance people' as they say in the land of chicken/veggie 65!

??! said...

Oi! Don't underestimate the ability of Bombayites to swipe another city's speciality and pass it off as their own. '65' dishes are quite the rage now - although they're not quite as deliciously greasy as the ones in Hyd & S'bad (especially, if I remember rightly, the ones on SD Road in S'bad, which were quite in a class of their own).

Space Bar said...

sumana: nice to see you back! so this is what it takes to unearth you?!

??!/falsie/sur: it is a mystery, this Case Of The Fainting Maiden. I suggest you order in a chicken 65 and watch what happens next. KM will pluck out a tune on his guitar.

??! said...

So you're going back to get us the latest updates?