Thursday, March 22, 2007

Parrot Saga Part III by Subha

Just two days ago, Sankaran, our pet parrot decided to make me exercise a bit as I was putting on weight!
It was 7.00 AM. My husband had left for our house in the village in the early hours and so I was somewhat free. I took my time reading the newspaper and switching on the rice grinder for making the batter for Idli. I left the kitchen so that I could freshen up a bit before making breakfast. While near the wash basin which was across from the kitchen,I saw some bird flying inside. I was wondering how could a crow enter the kitchen as the back door was tightly shut. Then I thought probably one must have entered through the kitchen window which was open. Anyway, I wanted to have a closer look and chase the crow out.
Ah, my heart stopped beating for a second! It was Sankaran the parrot who was flying in and around the kitchen and above the whining grinder! I didn’t faint, that’s all.
The cage was shut properly which I had checked after feeding him earlier. Somehow he managed to escape and was having a gala time. Anyway,- I had to do something about it. If only Sankaran managed to fly out, that would be the end of him as the cats and dogs were on the prowl most of the time, and in addition, crows might also try to chase him. I rushed to close all the three windows in the kitchen and the Puja room and the door leading to the dining room.
In the meantime, Sankaran had realized his folly and coolly went and sat on the gas tube of the kitchen stove. Fortunately, the stove was not on. He was staring at me and was looking happy and amused at my predicament.
As Sankaran would not allow anyone to touch him, he had to be caught with a towel and then put back inside the cage, a job which could be managed only by Ammini, our servant maid who lived behind our house. I went out closing the work area door and shouted ”Ammini, Ammini, Come at once! Sankaran has escaped from the cage. Before he is lost, we have to put him back in the cage” She immediately started to come to my house. I knew that it would take at least 5 minutes for her arrival.
I was worried that if only he went closer to the grinder, he would be ground with dhal and we would end up having a parrot dosa special for our breakfast the next day! I wanted to give a try in catching him. I dislodged the big cage from its hook and tied the door in the open position with a wire. I took it and went gingerly near Sankaran . He immediately started flying once again and when I was looking at him pathetically, he decided to sit on the window rod. I just rushed and jammed him between the window pane and the cage and holding it in that position, just commanded” Sankara, Ulle po, hmm, udane po! ( Get in Sankara, right now!) . Like a tamed bird, he bent his neck in a cute angle and entered the cage with a “Kyuin” and was jumping with joy that he had found his usual perch in the house.
I heaved a big sigh ! O K, back to the work area and hooked the cage. Ammini who just entered the house was happy that she didn't have to risk getting pecked by his beak while catching him. She cleaned his cage and Sankaran was fed with the cucumber which he relished sitting comfortably on his own perch.
As for me, I just hope that I had lost at least a pound in running around and from the tension I experienced!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Luck O' the Irish

M is enthralled by St.Patrick's day, leprechauns and Pots o' gold in a big way this year. The idiot box has been contributing its share to this fad as well, pushing images of shamrocks, leering leprechauns and fake Irish accents for the last week. M fell for all this hype and pestered us with questions about shamrocks, leprechauns and the like. To top it all, she came home crying from school because the Leprechaun bypassed her classroom for a visit.(Very likely triggered by a brag from a schoolmate with a teacher creating a treasure hunt for her class!)

She grabbed a sheet from the printer tray and industriously wrote a letter to the leprechaun.
"Dear Leprachan, please leave a treasure hunt in my house. Write your name in the blank ___________ Love, M".

"Amma, are leprechauns real?"
"Do you think they are?"
"I think so. They leave pots of gold at the end of rainbows too. Can you put this letter outside the door for the leprechaun?"
"Honey, it's cold and snowy outside, how about placing it between the storm door and the main door?" - not wanting to open the storm door to a blast of icy cold air.
"No, no,no- it has to be outside!! Otherwise the leprechaun won't get it" -Start of tantrum in sight. I crack open the storm door and place the sheet of paper between the doorpost and the door, hoping that it wouldn't fly off into the snow. It stayed in place.

The next morning, she flew to the door and peeked. The sheet dangled, its end wet in the snow. Disappointed but unfazed, she ran off. "Maybe the leprechaun will come later!". After a good breakfast, I took her to the local Balavihar class for an hour or so.

When we got back, S announced excitedly to his sister "The leprechaun's been here and left you some clues for a treasure hunt". M started following the trail of handwritten notes around the house, leading finally to her favorite 'warm spot' next to the sofa, where she found a cache of candy that she instantly recognised.
"Anna..." ( Elder brother)- she roared in dismay.Peering closer at the notes, "This is Anna's handwriting- You tricked me! This isn't the leprechaun's treasure hunt."

Oops! Red faces and hilarity all around, except for M who was extremely miffed that S had tried to fool her.
"Never mind, perhaps the real leprechaun will only come in the night", he soothed. Still a little annoyed, she nevertheless chose to believe that and ran off to play.

Another window of opportunity came in the afternoon, when I had to take M to a birthday party. I dropped her off at the party and after a leisurely round at the local Kmart, entered the dollar store next door. I called my husband on the cell phone."Is there anything I can get for the leprechaun's treasure hunt?"
"How about a pot? I've got some candies for the hunt"
I managed to find a suitably rustic pot and a handful of golden mardi gras beads, and sneaked them into S's hand as soon as we got back "Don't let M see this till it's ready!"

The next morning, again a mysterious trail of clues. M followed them eagerly to her 'pot o' gold' in the dining room, festooned with the gold beads and a cute little green bunny. "Oooh the leprechaun did come after all! And his name is Figgle!. Here's his picture on the last clue. I think he must have typed these on the computer though- it looks like a computer printout."

I sneaked a peek at the clue sheet- "Go to the room of dining, and ye shall find ye treasure that ye desire...Figgle"

She was floating around in a haze of glory the whole day. At night, while putting her to bed, she said "Amma, can I take Lepra to school tomorrow and tell my friends about the leprechaun's treasure hunt?"
"Take who??"
"Lepra- that's what I named the bunny Figgle left me. "
"Mm..I don't think that it would be a nice name for a bunny. Can you think of another name? How about Shammy?"
"Why isn't Lepra a good name?"
"Because it sounds like 'leper', which is a word for someone who has an illness called leprosy."
"I think I like Shammy. It sounds better than Rocky too, for this is a girl bunny and Rocky sounds like a boy's name."

And so, Shammy it was, as M drifted off to sleep, perchance to dream of smiling leprechauns with pots of gold at the ends of rainbows. Irish blood may not run in our veins, but S did a great job of capturing and distilling the luck o' the Irish for his sister.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Shopping While Brown

Shopping While Brown: a sister syndrome of Driving While Black and Flying While Arab.

The newspaper ads screamed in 150-point fonts about the GRAND OPENING of a new department store Boscov's to replace an old flagship store that had closed. While I'm not exactly a shopping maven, I decided to set aside time to visit the store, especially after a pair of tickets to the 'exclusive preview' arrived in the mail. These promised an extra 'free gift' of a nice-looking(in the ad at least) Lenox cookie jar.

The grand opening day arrived. I was all set to go out on my own to Boscov's when some good friends of ours stopped by for a chat. I coaxed P into accompanying me, waving the extra ticket and the promise of the freebie.

We happily wandered around from floor to floor, looking at the offerings, much the same as any usual big departmental store. A refreshing change of salespeople, I thought, as I caught more glimpses of other skin colors than exclusively white behind the cash registers. We were politely directed to the location where we could pick up our free cookie jars and wandered near the suitcase area. One red 3-piece luggage set caught my eye. Advertised as a special at $14.99, I had seen shoppers wheeling their prizes all around the store.

I saw one propped up at the empty register and pounced on it. No sign of any employee to ring it up. P wanted one too, but decided to check back later after we looked around the children's department. So we went up the escalator there, and I helped pay for her purchase, along with my suitcase set, since she hadn't brought her purse.

We went down the escalator again, this time seeing an employee at the suitcase department register. He took one look at our clothes ( I was in full salwar-kameez, bindi regalia) and did a double take as he saw me holding the luggage set- "Was that placed here on the register ma'am?" he asked.
"Yes, it was. I couldn't find anybody to ring it up here, so I paid for it upstairs", waving my bill to show him.
"Sorry, ma'am. You have to pick this up at the door. I can't give it to you right now. It's my last piece"
What a curious procedure, I thought,. "Why?" I asked. "Store policy, ma'am" he replied.
"Alright". I walked to the door, while P browsed another display in the home electrics section. I waited for about 5 minutes with no sign of the employee showing up with my suitcase. I walked back to the suitcase area register to see him ripping off the product wrapper ( and with it the barcode that matched what was on my receipt) as he handed it over to another gentleman at the register.

I lost my temper then.

I marched up to the counter, grabbed the suitcase and wrapper from the startled employee and demanded to speak with a manager. The employee spluttered "This isn't yours, ma'am". I said"Yes, it is. I can prove I paid for it. Why did you try to remove the wrapper and barcode? Are you trying to tell me that I haven't purchased this, when I showed you my receipt? I couldn't care less about these silly suitcases, but I want my money back, if you are going to discriminate and offer the products only to people of a certain appearance."

The store manager reached the bottom of the escalator at this opportune moment. The employee "Let me try to explain..." I interrupted " No, you listen to me first", and I laid out the whole story to the store manager before he could get a word in edgewise. She was apologetic, promising to get an extra suitcase set from the stockroom for P, and falling over herself assuring me that I was indeed entitled to walk away wheeling the luggage set that I had purchased. The employee rang up the new purchases, apologetic yet whining about how he had been misunderstood and that he had thought that I was trying to take the suitcase without paying for it.

Well, that ended my expedition to the new store on the block.While I always keep out the usual sharp eye for good deals in the local department stores, my shopping trips have not taken me back to Boscov's back again.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Cloudy Skies

It happened again! The never-fail situation of eager anticipation of a major astronomical event, clouded by errr... cloudy skies!

The day of March 3 dawned bright enough, with the usual light cloud cover normally giving way to brilliant blue skies. I scanned through the weather websites only to find a white blot on the radar map headed straight for my area. My neighbor had kindly promised me a walkout on her balcony to view/photograph the eclipse without too many trees impeding the view, but the clear skies didn't hold up.

The moon rose in totality, under heavy cloud cover. We had been to a friend's house for dinner and amid snide comments on the zillion taboos we were breaking ( Munching on pakoras during a lunar eclipse, no less, sin compounded by watching Mallika Sherawat slinking sinuously on the large screen TV), we still stampeded onto the chilly deck to catch a fleeting glimpse of a 2/3rd moon, just as the shadow was moving away at the end of the eclipse.

I had zero luck viewing the recently spectacular Comet McNaught, captured here in the early stages of its glory by another resident of the same township, a photo that had me turning green with envy the day he posted it on I dragged my son out in freezing weather one evening at sunset, and we stood frozen-fingered with binoculars, trying in vain to locate the comet near the western horizon. The ever-present clouds blocked our view. We gave up and returned home after half an hour of numbing wind chills.

Now, if M can draw me a 'Clear Skies' Krishna, maybe tacking that on my office wall will do the trick...