Boo boo in select company

Boo boo in select company
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Friday, 18 September 2015

Gone up in the World

Definitely we have gone up in the world, I think a bit wryly. We have a cleaner and a gardener once a week, though it was not long ago that the family did the gardening and the cleaning, in our small house in Churchill Road. I plead age these days. I certainly cannot push the lawn-mover around any more and digging deep to turn the soil is a sure no-no. I weed, walk around the (now larger) garden with my walking stick and the cats follow me. Another phase of life, I say to myself.

   It was however, when I watched myself peel a potato that I noticed how old habits have survived. In our kitchen in India my cousin did not peel potatoes; she scraped the skin off carefully. Now my daughter and I peel generously. The tomatoes are an even stranger story - old habits die hard: I find myself carefully cutting the stem away and using every last bit of tomato around it. My daughter slices the stem area and throws it away carelessly.

   Indeed tomatoes, cabbage and beans were known as English vegetables, rarely bought in Kerala households. We had the local Brinjals and Ladies'-finger. And many different kinds of spinach.

   It was the bathroom soap that really did it. It made me think of all the things we used so carefully, growing up in India.I found I had stuck the last soggy bit of Pears soap on to my new cake of Sandalwood soap from India. How precious soap was - and to me it is still hard to throw away the things I arrived at the hard way. In our house in Thalassery, on the Arabian sea coast, only my father had soap. All the rest of us used moong- powder or channa-powder to clean ourselves. Instead of shampoo, we used pounded hibiscus leaves for our long hair. I often came out of the bathroom with tiny bits of leaf stuck in my hair. My aunt would chase me back to wash my hair again.

   I was well into my twenties when I started using shampoo. Now of course there are three different shampoos crowding the shower-shelf. I have to read the small print on them before I know which one is appropriate for my scant, dry, old-woman hair.

   When I was about fourteen years old I asked my father for a cake of soap, and thus I came into my first Rexona soap. Luxury! I hoarded it from everyone else and kept it with my saris. 

   We had a huge Bakelite box radio, which went up in smoke one day when I was listening to Swamithan's commentary on the test match (there was no other kind of cricket then) between India and England. The one in which Len Hutton scored over four-hundred. Today the house is littered with I-pads and computers and many different screens, all chattering at me and driving me out of rooms , just to find a quiet corner.

   I slept on the floor on a mat in many houses in India and made-do in other ways in England. Now there are four bedrooms and we are still looking for more space to store junk and spread our unending possessions. I remember I arrived in England in 1974 with two suitcases and lived as a lodger ( nine guineas a week) in two houses before I bought my re-vamped council property. 

   This is all bewildering if I think about it. I must stop thinking.