Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Afternoon Tea at the Admiral's House.

It was one of those typical hot summer days of Delhi. As the temperature soared, so also did our woes. The biggest of all were the dry faucets. No water meant our moving from CR Park to the in-laws house for a week. So off we went to those sprawling bungalows on Akbar Road where some of the fattened politicians also resided. As things would have it, we were living peacefully, catered to by all the stewards in crisp white uniforms with peaked caps. We, the commoners unfortunately insisted on dressing shabby or rather more colorfully than Navy white. My husband was wearing bold printed Hawaiian shorts with blue and orange leaves and I was in some deheela dhala pajamas. We essentially looked liked bums. Anyway, breaking the reverie of one such afternoon was a tinkle at the door. There was one Mrs Junior Officer's Wife come to meet my Mum-in-law. This is how the conversation played out when she saw me:

Jr Officer's Wife: Madam hain? मैङम है ?
Joyce: Jee, hain. Kaun see Madam, Choti ya badi Madam? जी हाँ, कौन सी, छोटी या बणी ?
Jr Officer's Wife: Kya matlab? कया मतलब ?

I think I detected panic in Jr Officer's wife's eyes. I thought, she thought, could there be a scandal brewing in the Admiral's house. Was it possible that two ladies resided side by side in one house? I quickly clarified the situation to Jr Officer's Wife and said that Choti Madam was the Admiral's daughter and Badi Madam was his wife. Jr Officer's Wife sighed with relief. 

Jr Officer's Wife: Kaho Mrs Junior Officer ayeen hai. कहो जूनियर अौफिसर आयी है
Joyce: Yes, Madam. जी मैङम

I went in and promptly called my husband, thinking this drama must be played out to the full. It was my husband's turn to add to the confusion when he accompanied me to the door.

Bapi: Yes Madam. Aapko kisse milna hai?  जी मैङम, आपको किससे मिलना है ?
Jr Officer's Wife: Mrs Admiral Ghosh ko bula do, abhi. Admn Mrs Ghosh को बुला दो, अभी !

Jr Officer's Wife must have detected some disorganization in our faces so made sure we went in and fetched Mrs Admiral within the next few minutes, not days. I'm pretty sure she had never hoped to see Hawaiian shorts and pajamas being paraded in an Admiral's house. Such a disgrace for Indian Navy, she must have thought. Anyway, my husband and I went in to call my Mum-in-Law aka Admiral Mrs. Ghosh. As I related the tale to my mum-in-law, she decided we continue with the game. She also immediately barred any Stewards from getting to the door. 

Stewards were those decent people in the Admiral household who not only prepared breakfast and dinner but kept all necessary appointments intact; they also polished all the brass in the house till we were ready to be blinded by the glint. These were people who made it impossible for commoners like me to eat in peace. Stewards standing silently behind my back interjecting occasionally with one arm or the other to serve or clear the table, clearly put me in a state of disarray. Nonetheless, my husband and I returned in our regal pajamas and Hawaiian shorts to confront the Jr Officer's Wife, still waiting at the door.

Jr Officer's Wife: Kya hua? Aur tum dono ke uniforms kahan hain? कया हुआ, तुम दोनो के युनिफारम कहाँ हैँ ?
Bapi: Maloom nahin. मालूम नही !
Joyce: Madam ne kaha hai thoda rukiye.   मैङम ने कहा है रुकिये

Bapi and I went back in, leaving the Jr Officer's Wife with her mouth open. We eventually came back to the door with my Mum-in-law with both of us tucked under her arms on either side. As my Mum-in-Law apologized she still refused to say I was the daughter-in-law and the other miscreant her son. As we walked to the living room, I did not get a chance to see the Jr Officer's Wife's face. 

The party settled down, Bapi and I left the living room to come back in with some tinkling cups and saucers to complete the pretty picture of two Navy ladies having their afternoon tea. When finally my Mum-in-law formally introduced us, there was much tripping, sitting, standing, fumbling, jumbling and a few gasps as well. Let's just say the Jr Officer's Wife's face did not look relishing at all. I wouldn’t have minded staying and saying 'yes madam' the entire evening but my husband decided it was best we retired to our room if the two Madams didn't mind. 

1 comment: