Five Domestic Devices My Sons Would Never Use: Part 1

April 23, 2009

Over the last few decades we have seen the introduction of so many new gadgets, utilities and conveniences. Most of these have become part of our lives so much so that we wonder how we survived without them! Some obvious ones are the internet, email, mobile telephones, iPod. Heck, even mundane things like an ATM machine, credit cards, a remote-controlled TV, a split a/c, I can go on and on. How many of us who are now 40 years plus would have seen these in our school days, or even college days?

While it is easy to list out the new stuff, you should take a look at some gadgets which were very much a part of our growing up days and are now virtually extinct. Ever think our kids would operate or even see any of the following?

The Dial Phone:

In the real old days if you wanted to speak to someone over the phone, you could do so only via an intermediary, the telephone operator. He or she would juggle with some complicated connections inserting wires in multiple slots on a switchboard in front of him and then connect you with your desired number. With the advent of the dial phone and automatic exchanges, getting connected became a breeze!

For some reason all the dial phones were black in colour. In its dying years though it did get into bright red and pastel green avatars. These chunky phones occupied the pride of the place in the living room. An extension into the bedroom or any other place in the house was possible but P&T department would charge you an extra rental. Hence telephones with extensions were not too common.

Old-timers would remember the telephone dial where the numbers went clockwise from 0 to 9 with each digit having a dedicated slot on the periphery of the dial. You would stick you forefinger into the slot and rotate the dial clockwise till you could get no further. Then for the second digit of the phone number and then the third… till the process of dialing the entire number was concluded. And then you would pray and hope that the call would go through. It was perhaps a 40% chance that the call would go through at the first instance. When it did not, you would repeat the dialing process. Again. And again. Some creative ones would even rest their fingers and use objects like a pencil to do the dialing work.

The dialer community had two distinct sub-types. Those who would dial in consonance with the natural speed of the machine and stay with the dial on its return rotation to its orginal position. Then there were the others who would zip through the clockwise rotation as if they were driving their Bullet motorcycle on a highway and then stare helplessly at the dial on its return movement crawl back slowly to the original position in the manner of a moped (remember Luna?) negotiating the bylanes!

Very often the dial’s return mechanism malfunctioned forcing the dialer to apply considerable reverse force to get the dial to its original position before the second digit could be dialed!

When we got our telephone connection, my father had enough influence in the telephone department not only to get an out-of-turn allotment but also to get a number which others would find easy to dial: 5111. (Jamshedpur had only 4 digit number those days). This was a matter of great pride for us and a source of envy for others who had numbers like, say, 6987!

The slots in the dials also enabled enterprising fabricators to fashion little mechanical brass locks which could be affixed to the dial to prevent “unauthorized” people from using the phone. Or so the lock owners thought! I remember circumventing this several times. The system-beater, if you do not know, is simple! Taps of the button on the telephone cradle!! One tap= digit 1, four taps= digit 4 and ten taps for digit 0. This came in very useful on two occasions when someone thought he was being very nice to me by allowing me to receive calls but was “clever” enough to lock the phone so that I could not dial a number on it. The hostel warden in Nagpur where I did my plus 2 course and my landlord in my early days in Bangalore when I was a Paying Guest resident!

Why I had to do this is a different story altogether!

The Record Player:

This gadget was a major symbol of cultural sophistication of a household. Or its affluence. The record player -also called a gramophone- occupied the place of pride in the living room. Often draped with an embroidered cotton cloth or a white lacy covering to keep the dust away!

We never owned a record player. Could not afford it! My experience of a record player has been either at my friends’ or relatives’ place.

Records would come in different dimensions, though all were black and round. The difference was in the diameter of each and hence the speed you could play a particular record in. The largest one- called an LP, for Long Play- could be played at 33 1/3 rpm while the smaller one- EP or extended play- at 45 rpm. Some really old ones could be played only at 78 rpm! The rpm was set by a knob on the record player, positioned at: 33 1/3, 45 and 78! If you wanted some real entertainment, you could play a playful Kishore Kumar (like in his Jawaani Diwani movie track) at a slower rpm and hear his voice convert to K L Sehgal’s! Or imagine playing a Lata Mangeshkar’s 78 rpm record at 33 1/3!

We kids could never figure out how these flat black objects would store music and songs so well! There was something magical to these discs. They would be reverentially pulled out of their cardboard sleeves, wiped free of dust and grime by a special duster and placed gently on the turn table which was covered with a soft felt padding. The “needle” would be placed lightly on the disc taking care that the impact of the needle on the disc was minimal lest the disc get damaged.

If the disc did get scratched, the needle would get stuck and the same small piece of the music would keep playing. Like if you were enjoying the aforementioned Jawaani Diwaani number and the needle got stuck, you might here the following: “Yeh jawaaani, hai deewani, hai deewani, hai deewani, hai deewani…”, till someone rescued the situation by nudging the needle along manually!

So now you know the genesis of the Hindi saying, “uski sui atak gayi hai”, used when someone goes on and on about the same issue. (commonly muttered under the breath by the husband when the wife goes into a nagging mode)

Totally scratched records too had their uses. Like the artistic one in the family would paint on the black surface a landscape, or a bunch of flowers or even portraits of Nehru or Tagore and this disc with its newly acquired work of art would get displayed prominently on the living room walls.

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(It has been a long post already, I will come back later with the remaining three devices. Suggestions, anyone?)

(To be continued)


Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Street Delights

April 18, 2009
Hi Chi Minh's statue in downtown Ho Chi Minh City

Hi Chi Minh's statue in downtown Ho Chi Minh City

City of Two-Wheelers:

Walking around the streets of downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, you can’t but notice the incredible number of two-wheelers zipping around the streets. This city has 1.2 crore residents who among themselves own a whopping twenty lakh two-wheelers here!

These little creatures swarm around like bees. Watching them at the red light seemed as if one was watching a phalanx of armymen, ready to fire (= zipping off the moment green light comes on).

Two wheelers stop impatiently at the traffick Light

Two wheelers stop impatiently at the traffic Light

And they whizz off the moment light is green...

And they whizz off the moment light is green...

The Masked Riders

The Masked Riders

Many of the 2-wheeler riders wear masks such that only there eyes are visible under their helmets. I was told that this was legacy of the dreaded SARS disease which had spread in this part of the world a few years ago. Plus of course the pollution caused by the two-wheelers themselves.

Cable Tangle:

The streets offer another unbelievable sight: miles and miles of overhead cables and wires snaking along the streets supported by the telegraph posts. It is not just one or two cables but dozens of them bunched together. I wonder how the repairman figures out which cable to fix! This maze of cables is transformed to some post-modern street art with complex twists of turns at street junctions when the cables have to take different routes, some turning left, the others right while the remaining going straight. And yet another set of cables joins this melee!

Here are some images from cable “art”:

Cables across the street

Cables across the street

Some more cable across the street

Some more cables across the street

Cable maze

Cable maze

Even more cable maze....

Even more cable maze....

The Lovely Street Vendors:

Street vendors are not new to me. I see tons of them in India. What was interesting in Ho Chi Minh City was that nearly all vendors were women. And all of them were smiling and cheerful. Some were happy to pose for photographs. Most were selling fruits: the small yellow banana, oranges, sweet potato and jackfruits.

Banana Seller

Banana Seller

Sweet potato seller

Sweet potato seller

Orange seller

Orange seller

Art galleries:

As you walk along the streets you see small art galleries which you can step right into. Artists work here and also display and sell their paintings. Many of them are copies of masterpieces.

Art gallery off the street

Art gallery off the street

I am not much into art but I could recognize a couple of Van Goghs, including the famous Sunflowers. There was also a recurrent motif of bare-thighed fat women. I wonder which artist drew the originals. I was told that Vietnam has a flourishing art market with some really good artists who do excellent originals. I suppose they must be doing these copies to support themselves financially.

Hand Embroidery:

Hand-embroidery is elevated to a work of art here. The craftsmen embroider landscapes in multiple colours. From a distance these look like exquisite paintings!

Embroideries or paintings?

Embroideries or paintings?

Typically they are landscapes, farming scenes, boatmen, artisans, labourers. And there are a large number of flower embroidery too. I have picked up a few pieces which I shall have framed.


In Which We Lose Our Mobile Phone and Learn a Lesson

April 14, 2009

It all began with a badly-behaved private bus driver taking a sharp turn to the left and braking to a complete stop right in front of my car. Which eventually led to my mobile phone disappearance.

I was headed to a dinner with a friend staying at The Oberoi, Bangalore. I was driving myself. After getting onto the MG Road where the hotel is located I was driving to the left of the road keeping a careful lookout for the entry gate; Oberoi having the entry, exit and service gate adjacent to each other. And these all look alike. I dare not miss the entry gate as that would mean taking a circuitous route around the hotel to make a second “approach”.

As I was focusing on the task at hand, a bus cut across sharply and screeched to a halt right in front of my car. It was only with great difficulty I could brake inches away from the bus. The bus disgorged a couple of passengers and sped off immediately. “Ah, safe!”, I thought to myself, silently cursing the bus driver.

I was about to resume my drive when both the front and the rear doors on the left opened as if by magic and in swept two women who sat themselves in the car.

Before I could say, “Who the hell are you?” commanded the one at the rear, “Let’s go!”

“Go where?” I don’t quite encourage strangers plonking themselves in my car uninvited and asking to go for a drive; least of all strange women

The one at the front leaned close to me and smiled “Let’s go and have some fun.” I could smell whisky on her breath.

I was quite taken aback by all this. “Fun?” and then the penny dropped!

So these were hookers. And they were aggresively looking for business!

I have never been in such a situation earlier, and I wondered what to do next. I weighed my options. Taking up their offer was not under consideration even for one moment, let me hasten to add. In a fraction of second words like “underworld”, “blackmail”, “extortion” sprung up in my mind!

I could visualize one of them screaming at the top of her voice and attracting public attention on this busy road. “Help, HELP! Oh this dirty man!” A crowd would gather watching the fun and from the shadows would emerge the gang-leaders armed with a knife or worse still a revolver and force me to cough up money! And the crowd of bystanders would certainly include someone I knew.

“Oh, my, what have I got into!” I was sweating bullets now! Headlines in next morning’s papers: “A senior MNC executive caught eve-teasing” Or worse still: “A senior middle-aged MNC executive caught molesting red-handed”. Or this horror: “A senior MNC executive accused by hookers of non-payment of dues.” Next would be a picture of mine with my face wrapped in a length of cloth in the normal manner of a criminal being led to the police lock-up.

“Oh, my, what have I got into!”

I got out of the car immediately lest these wily women start the howling. I stood on the road and bravely stuck my head into the window beseeching them to leave. They realized they had dialed the wrong number and lurched out of the car.

I heaved a sigh of relief and drove right into the Oberoi parking. Catching my breath l reached for my mobile phone which I always keep along with house keys and my wallet on the co-passenger’s seat in the front when I am driving alone. And there was no phone! Neither my wallet. I looked under the seat and I found my wallet which must have slipped down when I had braked behind the bus. The phone was gone! The women had stolen my phone; my lovely blue Nokia 6100 which I had bought just a few month ago.

Sheepishly I narrated the incident to my friend who by the end of the story was rolling with laughter. “Serves you right for parking your car right in front of the hookers looking for business at 9pm in the evening.”

“But, you I know I did not”

“Of course you did, never mind the reasons why. How are these women to know that it was an accidental stop and not a deliberate one?” He continued, “That is how these things operate. A single male cruising around looking for fun, finds two women hanging around and stops right in front of them. The women would get into the car, but obviously.”

My friend obviously was a lot more informed than I. So I asked, “But why two women?”

“Simple”, he said. “Two women drive with you. They negotiate the price. You choose which one you want while the other one takes the agreed remuneration 100% in advance and disembarks. At least the money is safe for them. And you drive away with the woman of your choice.”

I could see the point.

Morning after:

I walk into the office half expecting people to surround me and tell me what they saw on MG Road the previous evening. Nothing of the sort, mercifully. I had earlier decided to keep this whole episode a secret. But then I decide to tell all so that others do not get caught in similar circumstances. Everybody of course has a good laugh at my expense. Someone even has the temerity to suggest that the next time I go to have fun, I should not be carrying my mobile with me. Dirty guy!

Three days later:

I buy the replacement handset. I was very happy with my blue Nokia 6100 and I see no reason to change the model or the colour. I walk into the office and start my day’s work.

A couple of colleagues carrying their coffee-cups walk into my office for a chat. They see my mobile phone. They say nothing and walk out after a few minutes of chatting.

Moments later, news is rife in the entire office that yours truly went back to the women and recovered his mobile back! How very adventurous of me, and how very thoughtful of the women.

The Nokia 6100 has long been replaced with something more contemporary, but to this day, I am the butt of jokes in the office regarding my mobile escapade! The story of how I was immobilized by a woman who later restored my mobility!

PS: Soon after the episode I decided to get an auto-locking device fixed in my car. A lesson learnt! No more taking chance in the Bangalore traffic and with some of the Bangalore traffickers!


Five Domestic Service Providers My Sons Would Never Encounter

April 12, 2009

Here is a piece about five domestic service providers from my growing-up days in the late 60’s and early 70s. My children would never encounter these gentlemen I think!

Mobile Barber:

Hiraman, the barber, strolled the streets with his boxful of implements. Implements to prune and shape your hair, to shave you, to clip your nails. Carrying his green-painted wooden box he would walk up-and-down the streets of our locality, announcing his presence. He would walk into some homes knowing fully well that he was needed by the men-folk in the household that particular day.

Ever had the pleasure of getting a hair cut on your favourite chair, sitting in the warmth of your balcony on a winter morning? Such a joy that was! Hiraman was not only an efficient barber, he was also a great raconteur. He was an endless source of tales. I actually looked forward to his hair-cutting session. Always sensitive to father’s instructions, he would never use a razor during his operation (Razors were banned on us till we had our Upnayan Sanskar done), it was always the trimmer which was called a “machine”. But for the grown-ups he would use the razor with alacrity, stropping the razor ever so often.

Over time Hiraman went on to start his “saloon”, the word then in vogue for a hair-cutting establishment. “Hiraman Hair Cutting Saloon”, it was called.

I moved away from Jamshedpur for my higher studies. I would get sporadic information about Hiraman from my father who continued to patronize him. When I visited Jamshedpur last year Hiraman Saloon had gone, there was chemist at that location instead. Wonder where Hiraman is now.

Wherever you are, thank you Hiraman ji, you played a key role in my grooming through my schooling years.

Family Dhobi:

He would come every Monday evening to pick up his load of clothes for washing. And to return the load of the previous week neatly washed and starched and ironed. Agnoo dhobi, our family washerman, was unfailingly punctual. Those were the days when there were no washing machines. No packaged starch liquid either. So father’s khadi clothes had no choice but to be left to the care of Agnoo. And our school dresses. And the home linen.

I used to address Agnoo as Spiro Agnew who was then the Vice President of USA under Richard Nixon (late 60’s to early 70’s). This was mostly to show off my general knowledge and partly due to the respect I had for Agnoo. Mr Agnew subsequently had to resign, under criminal charges, the only US VP to so. Our Agnoo’s performance was ever impeccable. No missed clothes, no burnt clothes, no misplaced clothes.

Agnoo was always clad in his white dhoti and kurta with a white turban on his head. He would reach the verandah, sit on his haunches and light up his bidi. A big smile played upon his moustachioed face. Father would take stock of the washed clothes returned by him as we would pile all the stuff to be washed. Agnoo would scan all the clothes for his special marking; two vertical parallel lines like an “equal-to” sign rotated by ninety degrees with dots on either end of the two lines. Those which did not bear the marking would be diligently marked with Agnoo’s code. He would pull out a flat black seed from his kurta pocket in which was embedded a pin. The seed had some kind of a permanent dye. He would remove the pin with a flourish and draw painstakingly his code on the new garment. He would then tie up all the clothes in a bundle, fasten it to his bicycle and off he would pedal away for his next customer.

Around the late 70’s when I was leaving Jamshedpur for further studies, Agnoo stopped coming. His place was taken by his son, a retired armyman. Agnoo was not in good health I was told. After I left Jamshedpur I forgot about him. I do not know whether he is alive now or not. But wherever he is, thank you Agnoo ji, for seeing me through my 11 years of schooling!

Flour Mill (Or Atta Chakki-wallah):

That was the time when readymade atta was looked down upon. There were no branded attas. No Shaktibhog, Annapurna or Pillsbury those days. Wheat was bought from stores, either red or white. Ration shops sold red wheat at subsidized prices and very often of “subsidized” quality too! In the 60’s and 70’s a ration card was eagerly sought after not for proof of being a citizen of India but to actually buy stuff. Like wheat, sugar and kerosene. In those days of mehengai and also short supply of essential products.

I was dispatched with a bagful (jhola bhar key) of wheat fastened to my cycle carrier to the nearest flour mill, or the atta chakki. The chakki-wallah would carefully weigh the wheat and would hand you over a little chit stating the weight. And you would place your bag in the queue of bags with wheat waiting to be ground. I would fascinatingly watch the mill owner tip the content of each bag on the hopper affixed to the top of the mill, stir the contents of the hopper a bit with his hands to hasten the passage of the wheat through the machine, occasionally shaking the output cloth pipe through which freshly ground atta would drop right into your bag. Once done, he would set aside your bag and proceed with the one next in the queue.

I would carry the bag, now filled with fresh hot atta to the weighing counter. The gentleman would weigh the bag afresh and deduct the standard percent in lieu of the wheat which may have “burnt-off” or “evaporated” in the grinding process. If did not belong to the school of thought which believed in this compensatory charge then you had to pay a higher grinding rate.

And I would return home ready for some hot rotis made of freshly ground atta.

Doodhwala:

Doodh, or milk, is what is delivered in neat packets early in the morning at home. You keep the coupons outside the door at night, 3 coupons if you want three liters of milk. When you get up in the morning and open the door and there you see the milk packets lying outside. Along with the morning papers. You get to see the doodhwala maybe once a month when he comes round at a saner hour to collect money for the following month’s supply of milk coupons.

There was no packaged milk when I was growing up. Milk would be delivered at home by the doodhwala every morning and evening. He would come on his bicycle carrying cans of milk slung all around the cycle. Some on the rear carrier, some on the handle bar and others elsewhere. He would choose the appropriate can for a household and walk up to deliver the milk. Each of his cans carried milk with differing dilutions catering to various differing rates he had contracted with the household. He would pull out his quarter liter measure (“pauwwaa”) and measure out the amount of milk required. And at the end he would pour in an extra fraction of the volume of the measure. This is called ghalua, or something served gratis.

There was an ongoing battle between the milkman and my mother regarding the dilution of milk. The joke for us kids was whether the chap added water to milk or milk to water. The cheerful soul he was, he would take all this ribbing with equanimity.

If one was hopeful of getting a better variety of milk then one would need to go closer to the source. This meant walking all the way to the neighbouring doodhwala, right next to his buffalo when the milking process began. Since this would happen early in the morning, only the elders would venture there. I remember going there a few times with my father. Customers would surround the animal and its “milker” as the milking started. They were always watchful of the fact that the ever wily doodhwala could still add water to the milk. The rumour went that as he squatted down to milk the cow, he would wear a tube filled with water across his waist and release this water surreptitiously into the bucket where the milked output was collected. And of course he had the possibility of serving the froth of the fresh milk into a customer’s vessel thereby severely reducing the amount of real milk he would serve!

The cat-and-mouse game between the customer and the doodhwala would go on and on!

Family grocer:

In those days when there were no supermarkets and credit cards, Bhagawati, our friendly neighbourhood grocer was a saviour for us. He ran this little grocery shop “Rajesh General Stores” which was probably named after his son, Rajesh.

Grocery purchase for our family was a monthly affair, synchronized with Pitaji’s salary date. Eborate list would be drawn up by parents;10 kg wheat, 15 kg rice, 5 kg sugar, 6 cakes of bathing soap, etc. And off I would march behind my father to order the month’s supply of grocery Father would first pay up the dues of the prior month and then order fresh supplies. He would read off from the list meticulously written in his diary as Bhagawati would note down the stuff into long and narrow sheets clipped to a grubby cardboard base. He would always repeat what my father stated. And he even asked clarifactory questions. Like the following transaction:

Pitaji: “5 kg sugar”

Bhagwati” 5 kg sugar” as he scribbled onto his writing pad in a handwriting which only he, or his staff could decipher. Just like a doctor’s scribble in the prescription pad which only the chemist can make out!

“10 kg wheat”

“10 kg wheat”.

“Half a liter of coconut oil”

“Half a liter of coconut oil”, Bhagawati would interject, “Professor sahib, loose oil or the branded one?” My father being a college teacher was always called Professor sahib.

“Tata Oil”, my father would say.

“Surf, one packet.”

“Half kg pack or a one kg pack?”

And so on it went.

Once the list was done with, the piece of paper with the item names was transferred to Bhagwati’s staff and my father and the grocer would settle down to a chat on the goings-on in the world. Half-an-hour later, all our ordered stuff was ready to carry home. These would get loaded onto a cycle-rikshaw and then is when my role started. I accompanied the rikshaw on the short ride home while my father carried-on with various other activities in the market place.

I would also be dispatched to Bhagawati’s store mid-month if some essentials ran short in the household. This of course was bought on credit.

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Maybe you have some other service providers to suggest. Do let me know.


Curtain- Raiser

April 10, 2009

Among the many extra-curricular activities I indulged in during my campus days directing plays was one. The last play I directed while on campus was “Kamala”.

“Kamala”, written by the famous Marathi playright Vijay Tendulkar, is based on a real-life incident. An investigative journalist out to expose the trading of women in India actually buys a woman from a small town market. He brings her home and plans to keep her there till the time is right to announce this to the world.

The journalist’s wife, Sarita, who is well-educated discovers a kinship with the woman, Kamala. When she reflects on her own life and relationship with her husband, Sarita realizes that she is not any better-off than Kamala and that she was getting as much exploited as Kamala. Towards the end of the play Sarita decides that she has to do something about her lot. The play ends with her drunken husband entering the house at night after an altercation with his newspaper bosses. He stumbles in and falls in a drunken stupor. While Sarita is determined to assert herself, her individuality, she also knows that as a wife she has to be a pillar of support for her husband in his tribulations.

So that is the story of Kamala in a nutshell. But this piece is not about the plot of the play, but the first staging of my version of it.

While I had worked hard on the play, I had worked especially hard on the ending.

The way I had envisaged it was that the husband sprawls on the sofa in the living room. (Sarita, who has already made up her mind, decides to support the husband in his trying times). She takes her husband’s feet onto her lap and is in the process of removing his shoes. At this moment I had planned a freeze, a long freeze. While she is in the shoe-removal process (shoe-removal= being a support to her husband), wife looks away to a distant horizon (horizon= her emancipated future). The freeze was planned for ten seconds. This is a very long time for a freeze on stage. A spot was to come on to the wife’s face with rest of the stage fading into darkness. I had got a brilliant young carnatic flautist- a junior in college- to play Raga Bhoopalam which is the raga of dawn (dawn= awakening of the wife, in case you do not get it!). And then, after the freeze, the curtains were to come down on the play. I had briefed another helpful junior of mine to operate the curtains at the appropriate time.

After the curtains, would come the giant round of applause, I thought to myself as I marveled at my brilliant conception of the climax.

I was sitting in the audience and was watching the play. It was going on perfect! Even the moments where I had found my actors making odd movements during the rehearsals, their movements were fluid, with a capital F! And one of the key actors, who always forgot his lines during tense moments in the play, managed to deliver his lines pat! The audience comprised of my engineering college mates who, as anyone will know, can be very, very painful if the play does not go too well. Especially if the actors involved are their college-mates, which all the actors of “Kamala” were! The was a pin-drop silence in the auditorium! It was going on perfectly well.

I eagerly anticipated the applause at the end!

Came the climax scene. The husband sprawls picture-perfect on the sofa. In walks the wife and does her feet-on-the-lap and shoe-removal thing. Lightman dims stage lights and turns on the spot on wife’s face. Then freeze! Raga Bhoopalam comes on, as mellifluous as ever. Wow! I am about to start the clapping process myself!

Then suddenly, just after three seconds of freeze, our curtain-man decides to get active. He pulls the curtain! I am hopping mad. Hopping! Months of planning and my creative master-stroke shred to bits by a careless curtain guy! Apoplectic with rage, I run down the aisle towards the stage. The hapless curtain-puller in the wings sees me charging down and realizes his mistake. And guess what he does!! He opens the curtain back to full view! I give up and run away from the stage to the back of the hall. The wife and husband on stage mercifully are still frozen and the flautist and the lightman are still sticking to my brief.

End of second 12 and the curtain closes again. The round of applause does follow (my friends tell me later), but I do not hear it as I am already outside the auditorium, ruing the day I decided to do this play.

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Morning after:

I pull myself out of bed and walk towards the tea-stalls near the hostel for a smoke and a cup of tea. The moment I seat myself on the bench, I am accosted by some friends who evidently had been doing a critical review of “Kamala” and wanted to know from me what the symbolism stood for.

“What symbolism”, I ask irritatedly.

“Oh, the one about the curtains drawing, opening, and drawing again. Did this stand for tentativeness on Sarita’s part?”

I am agape with astonishment! The errors on stage were being analyzed for their symbolic meanings!

A few sips of hot tea clear my head. “Of course”, I say, “I am glad you were able to figure out the meaning. Good!”