ACHCHE DIN CHRONICLES
I may lose the best cook I’ve ever had, and it’s all the BJP’s fault. Regina came to me this afternoon, looking all excited, and said she is planning to leave me.
I clutched my racing heart. The thought of living without Regina’s fiery fish curry and vindaloo is terrifying. I was sure she was being poached by my neighbour, Sumati, who always pops in at lunchtime on some pretext or the other and then stays to lunch.
After I calmed myself down by breathing into an empty bag of banana chips, I tried to deal with Regina’s proposed defection.
“Why? Is it because you want more money like DevyaniKhobragade’s maid? I’ll give you a raise,” I offered recklessly.
“I don’t want to be a maid or a cook anymore, Meddem, – I want to go to college,” Regina said. “And that minister dame said she got a degree in just six days at one of the best colleges in America – good, no, men? Just like me she’s not even finished school or something, same to same.” Regina’s eyes were shining like those silver glitter–encrusted stars on Christmas trees.
“Smriti Irani didn’t get a degree at Yale, for God’s sake. She just got a certificate.”
“What’s the difference?” Regina said, with an impatient wave of her hand.
“Big,” I said and shook my head sadly. How does it matter? The Union HRD minister doesn’t know the difference either.“How big?” Regina demanded.
“You can wrap fish guts and other rubbishy parts in a certificate and throw it in the dustbin,” I sighed.
Regina thought about it for a few minutes and then cackled. “Her full name is Smriti Z Irani, no? The ZZZZZZ must be because she was sleeping in class. By God, Meddem, she’s a better actress in real life than she is in TV serials.”
Spent the rest of the afternoon on Google, looking for tips on growing veggies in balconies or window boxes. I cannot afford to buy them anymore and with tomatoes at over 90 bucks a kilo, I cannot even dream of throwing them at annoying netas — if ever I feel the urge to get close enough to any of them. I have researched this in the newspapers: if you draw cartoons of netas you are arrested, but ink and tomatoes are okay — you just get beaten up a bit by party workers/bodyguards.***
Sumati called to ask if she could borrow Regina for a dinner party next week: the theme was Goa. I told her it was okay with me but she would have to haggle with Regina over her exorbitant rates. I added with a snigger, “And you’d better not allow women guests to turn up in skimpy clothes or Goa’s prudish ministers will throw a fit.” Sumati proceeded to utter several unprintable things about the ministers. After she calmed down, I discussed my balcony veggie-growing plans with her. She scoffed, “You who screams at the sight of a lizard, what are you going to do when worms start crawling into the living room and bedrooms?” I shuddered, hung up and Google-searched for recipes without tomatoes.
While I was listlessly surfing channels offering re-runs of ancient TV serials, I chanced upon a funny-looking man in flared khaki shorts. Oh, goodie, I thought with a giggle — I was dead sure he was going to do an impersonation of that nursery rhyme, ‘I am a little tea-pot short and stout’ he looked the part. I yelled to Regina to get the popcorn popping.
The funny-looking man did a pretty decent impersonation of Hitler instead, and pompously proclaimed that all Indians are Hindus. Regina gasped – “I’ll give him good pasting,” she growled and dramatically kissed her cross pendant.
“I am going to leave this country, Meddem, try stopping me!” she declared.