My Sister Makes A Wish!

“If you are a dreamer come in.

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,

A hoper, a pray-er, a magic-bean-buyer,

If you’re a pretender come sit by my fire

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin,

Come in!

Come in!”

Shel Silverstein

 

They say, ‘if wishes were horses beggars would ride.’ Not always, I say. Getting a wish sometimes isn’t quite the “beggar’s horse ride.”

My sister made a wish… and she got it! It all started as a game and became a terrifying reality. But I must start at the beginning.

Daddy had decided to put in his papers and take an early, premature retirement. Premature it was; he was only forty-five and had a long way to go. But his heart was set on dedicating his time totally to evangelism.

So in 1965, he left the service and we moved to his hometown in Punjab. He was going home; we were going to Never Land! Of course, the descriptions differed in each of our minds. I am not sure what Never Land signified for my siblings, for me, it was rich in every way: experiences, adventure, fantasy, challenges, and fun.

My eldest sister didn’t fancy it much I guess because as soon as she completed her Senior Cambridge, she came to the “village” from the boarding school in the hills, and dashed off to Delhi to train as a nurse. Daddy wanted her to join the college in Ludhiana and get her Bachelor’s degree. She didn’t want to stay in Punjab. She had mummy’s support and she joined her nurse’s training course in a hospital in the capital city.

This left four of us kids (my younger brother had arrived by then) with Grandpa, Grandma, Mummy, Daddy, the cattle; cow and buffalo, chickens, rabbits and a dog named Tommy; fruit trees, open spaces, and rolling fields around us.

It was a marvelous new life for my elder brother and me because we had no school to attend (the new session and admissions would start in two months), and we spent the whole day exploring the surroundings. Shooting at pigeons and whatever flew or ran or crawled with our catapults!

I don’t remember how my elder sister spent most of her time, but there were rare occasions when she would join us to spend the afternoons in our treetop getaway. We would carry up some books, a few munchies with lemonade, and while away the lazy afternoons swaying gently in our hammocks that were way up the tree! We had to climb up a ladder placed against the trunk of the Tali tree to get to the hammocks.

Looking back, I admit, it was dicey! Climbing from the ladder into a swaying hammock more than eight feet from the ground wasn’t safe. I was barely ten years old then. Anyway, life was different then. Kids played and survived many outdoor games and activities; things parents wouldn’t allow their kids to do now.

To get back to the story, on one such rare day, the three of us were sitting around in the vegetable garden behind our house and sharing our wildest dreams, wishes, and fantasies. As we tried to outdo ourselves in our imaginings; she blurted out that she would love to see two planes right above us in active combat. My brother and I guffawed. We knew she was right off her track because she wasn’t into these sorts of imaginings. She was very ‘girlie-girlie’ and didn’t dream of such stuff. Besides, we were not at war with anyone. However, we agreed that she had indeed outdone us in ‘bizarre’.

Not much later, we heard the roar of planes and looked up. It wasn’t unusual to see these fighter planes in practice sorties, as the Air Force base wasn’t far in airspace terms. There were two Gnats chasing a plane we couldn’t identify. It was bigger than the Gnats. My brother and I were intrigued. By then, they were almost over us and he yelled.

“It’s an attack! Run! That’s a Pakistani plane. Look at the insignia.”

It happened in the twinkling of an eye. Before we could even digest what he was saying. The air was rent with staccato gunshots. I ran and hid behind a Jasmine bush nearby and watched. The other two stood transfixed and watched. There was a dogfight raging in the sky above us.

I can recall the feeling even today. It was all in the extreme… the fear, the excitement, and the amazement. Then, in front of our eyes, the Pakistani plane took a fatal shot and burst into flames. It careened wildly and began a wobbly descent, thankfully, away from ‘our’ airspace and crashed in a field close to where we were.

Our yelling had brought out my uncle who was on one of his breaks between joining ship again. He wouldn’t believe us because by then the plane had gone down, but the trail of black smoke convinced him. He ran out with the others who appeared from nowhere in an instant. We followed; my brother and I.

I was slower and lagged behind. My uncle who was way ahead, saw me coming and stopped me at a distance. All I saw was the plane burning with huge, angry flames, and a mob shouting and yelling curses and abuses at the dead pilot. It was a terrible sight. But not as terrible as what was to follow. We were at war with Pakistan.

I peered at my sister, later that night, when we were huddled in the trench and our town lay trembling as some flak from attacks on the Air Force base and the G.T highway strayed and fell around us. She smiled wanly. I knew she was thinking what I was thinking but I had to say it.

“Couldn’t you wish for something better,” I shouted to be heard through the cotton plugs in her ears.

She wouldn’t reply. Her teeth were clenched on the handkerchief in her mouth. I stuffed mine back into my mouth as Daddy yelled a warning. A bomb exploded two-hundred and fifty meters away.

This was just the beginning… 

 

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Stolen Verses

I’ve taken the liberty to write about my parents; some of the stories they told us. I remember them because I love a good story and if it’s about someone I know… I seldom forget them. This one was retold many a time by my mother, in bits and pieces, because I’d ask many questions and she’d give me answers that made the story clearer to my young mind.

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Mummy at eighteen, a stenographer in the Navy, in Bombay (now known as Mumbai)

 

My parents were poles apart and had different ways of remembering their courtship. It brings the much-quoted line: ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus’ into sharp focus.

Daddy’s way was to tease; humorous, sweet and loving. Mummy’s retelling would be a sharp contrast.

She would recall all the old squabbles, grouses, and peeves, and then she would pout. I imagine the same way she must have done a long time back! One of her major discontents emerged from an incident involving her book of poems.

According to both of them, he got a lot of chocolates (which he liked so much) in his desk drawer from some girls working under him. It was more to placate him I guess; he was a stickler for perfection and discipline than any sort of romantic overture. However, as I told you, she thought otherwise! It did his ego good so he let it pass.

The only one who didn’t bribe him with chocolates or any kind of attention was Peggy D’sylva. But one day she “lent” him her book of poems. She loved to write poetry. That was the only thing she slipped into his draw because he’d “asked to read” it. This was her account. Daddy said he did no such thing! I’ll digress here to give you some background to the story and how they were together in an office.

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Daddy with his elder brother at Chatham

In 1945, Daddy got commissioned and was transferred from HMIS Llanstephen Castle to join Bombay as CCO (Commissioned Communications Officer). They called him Jimmy. This is where he met Peggy, a stenographer in the Navy. Women working in the Navy in those days were called WRINS (Women’s Royal Indian Navy Service).

When all Jimmy’s efforts to break the ice failed, he gave up and left Peggy to her own world which, in the office, was a small New Testament.

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The WRINS. The red arrow marks Mummy

Every minute of spare time would see the little book in her hands. She would devour every line and word. She was on her way to “being saved”, as they say. However, Peggy outside the office was another person! Anyway, this quite impressed Jimmy and he noted her “good character” even though her “holy” act didn’t appeal to his macho image.

In the meantime, a particular Ms. Cutting made her move and caught Jimmy’s fancy. Although Peggy wouldn’t admit it, Ms. Cutting had ignited a spark of jealousy and Peggy decided to show another side of herself to the boss.

One morning, Jimmy was surprised to find a diary in his desk drawer. It was Peggy’s offering to him. He was taken by surprise and as he read the beautiful verses she had penned, he was impressed.

There was an assortment of poems. Some funny, some serious and deep, many sad or pining and some light, happy ones with tones of romance. Peggy had given her heart and soul in that book of poems. If she thought she had executed a coup, she was mistaken. Ms. Cutting had the boss’ total attention.

Jimmy thanked Peggy for allowing him to read it and returned it to her with a word of praise for her talent.

Peggy was fuming. Country bumpkin, she thought to herself. Then, she decided to put it back on his desk hoping the message would be clearer this time.

The next day, she was in early and the book was lying on his desk instead of in the drawer. She waited impatiently for Jimmy but he didn’t come in. Finally, she couldn’t stand the waiting and got up in a huff, walked across the room intending to take back her precious book. Before she reached the desk, Jimmy and Ms. Cutting walked in.

“Good Morning, Peggy,” said Jimmy and sat at his desk. “Did you want something?”

“Yes, Sir… N…No Sir,” Peggy stuttered. Just as she turned to leave, Ms. Cutting picked up the diary and flipped the pages.

“You write poetry too? How wonderful! I love poetry and I’m sure you’ve written this for me, Jimmy. This is for me, right? This is the surprise you wanted to give me, isn’t it?”

Jimmy looked at Peggy. They stared at each other and the silence was ominous. Ms. Cutting also glared at Peggy.

Then the silence was shattered as Jimmy said, “Yes, of course, this is what I wanted to show you but it’s not…” Jimmy hesitated a moment then added, “it’s not yet typed out. I just wanted you to read it that’s all.”

“It’s beautiful as it is in its original form. Thank you so much for the gift, Jimmy. I’ll treasure it always.” Ms. Cutting took the book with her as she walked out the door. That left Jimmy alone with Peggy, to sort out the mess.

“Look, I didn’t want to give it to her. I brought her here to show her your book. Why did you have to put it on my table, right now? I just wanted her to read your verses. You write so well, Peggy.” He could have been telling it to the walls.

Peggy did not wait to hear the whole explanation. She was already back to work with deaf ears!

The rest, as they say, is history.

Jimmy took it upon himself to make up for his cowardice and “cheapness” in gaining brownie points from stolen verses. He even joined the Christian group Peggy had recently joined. As a result, he even got “saved!”

Before long, Ms. Cutting was out but not forgotten because Peggy was in and she never let Jimmy forget her or the stolen verses!

This incident became a funny story (in a sweet way) for me, but for Mummy, it wasn’t funny. She never accepted Daddy’s explanation for what transpired that day back in 1945-46. Her argument being…

“You didn’t take the book back from her. You were more concerned about how she would feel. Why should I believe you?” she’d pout.

Playing Devil’s advocate I’d side with her telling Daddy that he was mean.

“I’m here so where’s the lie?” he would counter.

I’d nod my head wisely with a smile plastered across my face and ask Mummy what was her problem. She’d pretend to be annoyed but the laughter bubbling inside would break through.

Yes, women are from Venus… they’re love personified with all the add-ons… jealousy, possessiveness, martyrdom, and phenomenal memories included! They never forget and don’t let you forget either.

This excerpt sits well on their story except for the “clumsy, balding fellow” bit!

“I squeezed her hand and said nothing. I knew little about Keats or his poetry, but I thought it possible that in his hopeless situation he would not have wanted to write precisely because he loved her so much. Lately, I’d had the idea that Clarissa’s interest in these hypothetical letters had something to do with our own situation, and with her conviction that love that did not find its expression in a letter was not perfect. In the months after we’d met, and before we’d bought the apartment, she had written me some beauties, passionately abstract in the ways our love was different from and superior to any that had ever existed. Perhaps that’s the essence of a love letter, to celebrate the unique. I had tried to match her, but all that sincerity would permit me were the facts, and they seemed miraculous enough to me: a beautiful woman loved and wanted to be loved by a large, clumsy, balding fellow who could hardly believe his luck.”

― Ian McEwan, Enduring Love

 

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Chile Diary – 16

The Native Returns

Friday, 9th April 2010

It’s a cold, cold day today! For me, it’s winter even though the Chilean calendar says it’s still Autumn. A chill wind started to blow last night and it was mucho frio. I had hoped for a sunny day as I have promised to put mehndi on Gabriela’s hands. The cold has got to my back and one spot, on the right, is acting up. I’m resting it out and hopefully, I’ll be able to keep my side of the promise.

Gabriela is a pretty, young and vivacious waitress at Manchester. She knows a bit of English so we talk whenever she has a moment to spare. Yesterday, she learned that I was from India and got all excited about henna art. Her grandfather is Arabic and he has given her some henna.

I’m not sure about the quality of the henna powder nor do I know how to apply mehndi (henna) with a wooden pen. That’s how the Arabs do it. In India, we use a cone filled with the mehndi paste which makes it easier to make the intricate designs.

Anyway, I’ve asked her to make a paste with the henna using a bit of water, lemon juice, and sugar. We use eucalyptus oil too while applying mehndi. But, Eucalyptus oil or any other essential oil is out of the question for her. In all probability, it won’t be available or then too expensive.

But it all depends on my back.

Last night, Ranjit found a beautiful apartment. It’s on 4 Norte, very central to the shopping areas and the spot where the office cab picks them up. The most important thing is it is on the first level. Second, it is bigger in area than the present one, which is spacious, and it falls cheaper too. Since I won’t be here when they move into the new place, I plan on seeing it before I leave. But one has to fix an appointment with the property dealer first.  So now, it rests on the dealer and the landlord.

On another note, on Sunday, we have an invitation from my friend Roxanna. They’re having an ‘asado’ (aka barbecue) at home and we have been invited too. I’m looking forward to that. I’ll tell you about it when we get back.

12th April, Monday, 2010

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Our gracious hostess…

The morning dawned grey and cold but the sun has put his hat on and is out now. Our lunch was fun even though it wasn’t an asado, as planned. I’m sure the joy would have doubled if I knew the language. I could have enjoyed the jokes more. Jokes can be made and understood better if not translated. A lot of the humor is lost in translation.

There were only two people who knew English; Gabriel and Raphael. Later in the evening, Gonzalo joined us. He also knows English. But there wasn’t much conversation because he walloped his food and got into the Table Tennis fray! Still, it was enjoyable. Roxanna is such a warm hostess and there was nothing left wanting in her hospitality.

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And it was a sumptuous meal… finger-licking good!

The food was made by her and the menu was: Mango sour (a pisco drink with mango juice) and freshly baked queso-olive empanadas for starters. The meal consisted: Baked pineapple chicken in a cheesy sauce, Beef pot roast, whole fried potatoes, fresh salad, Chilean pan (bread) washed down with a choice of wines, Sprite or orange juice. Dessert was a choice of three ice creams. This delectable fare was served in the patio which opens onto the lawn. Great ambiance too!

Post lunch, the boys got into table tennis matches as we, the girls, watched and cheered. Roxanna kept up a steady supply of cold drinks and iced water. Our wonderful lunch ended on a high note of joie de vivre on Sunday.

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Prime seats for the TT match…:D

Back at the apartment, the high notes mellowed as Ranjit and Manu got into their usual routine: phone, serials, movies mode which made any kind of conversation unwelcome. So I watched some TV, then occupied myself with turkey (pavo) empanadas.

This entailed cooking the ground turkey which would be the filling in the empanadas. I kneaded and rolled my way through the dough and folded and sealed the filling in the empanadas. Then I wrapped them in cling wrap and stored them in the freezer; When needed, heat some oil and fry.

We were to go back to the GH, but Manu went to bed so I decided to stay the night at the apartment. Good decision; I get the advantage of the net!

Tomorrow morning, I make one last visit to Roxanna’s place. She has, so sweetly, offered to color my hair before I leave. Honestly, no one has ever offered to do it even when I wasn’t able to go to the salon due to my back problems. I feel so nice and blessed with her friendship. That’s it for now.

This brings me to the end of my Chile Diary.

I fly out on the 14th of April. I know I’ll miss this beautiful city. Despite the constant fears of tremors and quakes I experienced, I’ll miss the “como estas?  and “Estoy bien!”

 

Glossary: 

Mehndi…….. Henna is called mehndi in India. It is applied in intricate designs on the hands, feet and even as temporary tattoos these days. Applying mehndi is a custom on many festivals and an important tradition of Indian marriages where the bride’s arms, hands, feet, and calves (at times) are covered with finely executed patterns.

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Chile Diary – 15

Wooden sculpture in the lobby of Delicias Del Mar

The beautiful array of wooden sculptures in the lobby of Delicias Del Mar

Easter Week and Farewell Parties

6th April, Tuesday 2010

It’s been a while since I wrote anything… anything at all.

Almost the entire Easter week went away in suspense. I was to leave Chile on the 3rd, then the 9th as I mentioned in one of my previous posts. Till Thursday evening, we were hoping though still not sure about my ticket. Then, they told us it couldn’t happen. Now, I’m looking at this weekend, probably, Saturday as my day of departure. So I wasn’t in the mood to recount much.

On Wednesday Manu and I did some shopping. Nothing much because I could hardly walk or stand. It wasn’t a pleasant spree for me and I love shopping! So you can imagine how I felt. We visited just one shop and that speaks for itself. I just couldn’t carry my weight, literally.

Thursday, Ranjit had an off day, half of which he spent seeing to some of his pending work. In the afternoon, we went to Lider to buy some things like essence and peppers that I wanted to take back with me.

From here, we went to the mall across the street. It’s called Marina Arauco. I checked out a few things I liked and noted that down. Then we went to Ruby Tuesday for lunch.  Fortunately, they have wi-fi so I could check my mail also.

I had a sumptuous meal starting with Thai Phoon Camarones (breaded shrimps, Thai style) followed by Loaded Potato and a Fresh Salad. I washed this down with a fresh Strawberry Lemonade.

While we were here, there was a tremor (5+), but I didn’t feel a thing. I was blissfully oblivious to everything except the laptop and my blog and writing. Actually, I was feeling quite happy and calm, so I suppose it numbed my senses!

From here, we retraced our way back to where I had found a couple of things I wanted to buy; picked them up and returned home. I had enjoyed this day thoroughly.

Ranjit and Manu had planned a farewell dinner and they had invited Roxanna and her family too. I rested at the guesthouse to be better inclined, physically and mentally, to handle the evening.

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The lovely restaurant and delicious food we enjoyed at Oda Pacifico. And more than that the company of good friends.

Ranjit had left the choice of the restaurant to Roxanna. She led us to Valparaiso. A few yards from Pablo Neruda’s house stands a sea-food restaurant called Oda Pacifico. This was our destination.

I have to admit, I was disappointed by what I saw. and so were Manu and Ranjit. It was a nondescript building, poor facade, and resembled one of the humble dwellings around it.

“Yeh toh dhaba hai,” I whispered to Manu.

“I know,” she whispered back.

We would call it a dhaba in India. A dhaba is a wayside eating place. It’s simple and very basic. Usually, these places are set up along highways and are frequented by travelers and truck drivers.

But, I hasten to add, many dhabas have earned a name and permanent customers because of their excellent food. We ourselves would make a stop at one such place on the highway when we traveled from Delhi to Chandigarh. However, knowing Roxanna, I couldn’t bring myself to accept that this was her best but gave her the benefit by telling myself that the food was probably out-of-the-world kind.

The manager welcomed us and led us through the pub at the front, past the kitchen and pantry, and what we found at the end of this tour took our breath away. There before us spread out in all its splendor was a restaurant with a splendid view of the city and the Port below. Awesome! 

Everything then on was fabulous. We thanked my friend Roxanna profusely for her excellent choice. The food by Chilean standards was indeed great. But the dessert outdid every ‘dulce’ experience we’d had till then. It was 1.00 a.m by the time we got home. Thursday was a resounding success and one of the rare days I have enjoyed so much in Viña del Mar.

I had invited Rekha and her family for lunch. Rekha and her husband were visiting their son who is the big boss in the company Ranjit works for. Since both Ranjit and Manu declined my offer of help, in any form, I was left to my own devices, which weren’t many. But being me and finding an ample number of bananas, enough sugar, and vanilla at my disposal in the 3 Poniente guesthouse, I got cracking.

My earlier plan was to make Caramel-Bananas and serve it with scoops of vanilla ice cream. But Ranjit rejected it because vanilla ice cream, he said, wasn’t available here.

I didn’t believe him. Vanilla beans are cultivated in Central America and South America so how could Chile not have an ice cream of the same flavor! Well, perhaps truth turns out stranger at times, I thought. Nevertheless, I made the dessert at the guesthouse despite Ranjit’s admonishings… long story short, he bought the vanilla ice cream!

Once I was on the roll with what makes me happiest; cooking and feeding, there was no stopping me. I bamboozled my way between the two cooks (Manu & Ranjit) and made sour-sweet green chili relish (khatti-meethi hari mirch) as a side to compliment the delicious main dishes these two were conjuring up. This relish is made with the big, fat green chili and not with the small ones.

Lunch was finger-licking delicious. The superb butter chicken Ranjit made was the star dish. Their other offerings were: mixed vegetable, dal fry, pudina chutney, raita. There were chapatis, zeera rice, and not to forget the khatti-meethi mirch. The dessert wrapped it up with a flourish.

Everyone’s palates were titillated enough by the delicious aromas and this worked up ravenous appetites. We had great conversations too along with our meal. Another very pleasant day went by. Saturday was an easy day. We ate Friday’s dinner for lunch and still had a lot left over.

But Lady Luck was on our side. At the Food Court, later in the evening, we found a willing party for Friday’s left-overs: A few Indian youngsters who work at the same place as Ranjit. Boy! Were we relieved!

Easter morning. I was up early, fresh and keen to go out in the day, perhaps to visit one of the churches and say a prayer. It didn’t happen. We stayed in and I nibbled on some marzipans, jujubes, and Easter Eggs made of chocolate… dark and white.

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My first walk on the beach that lay five minutes away from the guesthouse.

In the evening, I pestered Ranjit to take me to the beach so I could, at least, say I’d been on the beach. Can you beat it; the beach has been lying there, five minutes from my door since the day I came to the guesthouse on 3 Poniente y 10 Norte, and I hadn’t been there to even gaze at it!

Anyway, we went. We clicked some pics. Peeked into the feria stalls. Bought these giant rolls of cotton candy most of which I got on my face, hair, and clothes than in my mouth. I needed water to wash that sticky mess off but found none. I washed it off with soda! Yes, ‘agua con gas’ as plain water ‘agua sin gas’ isn’t available on the beach. It was a funny experience for me and I laughed instead of getting irritated or frustrated.

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This was before we ate cotton candy!

We even bought ‘palmyras,’ a ‘mathi’ like thing which even tasted like a sweet mathi. Palmyras are made of refined flour. They’re rolled out into seven-inch roundels and fried. Then they are sweetened with palm syrup.

By now, it was time for dinner and we drove around looking for parking space near the restaurant we wanted to go to. Finally, we found a spot and it just happened to be in front of a showroom that was still open for business. Shopping is therapeutic and can always lift one’s spirit… provided the shopping’s done for you! And so it was.

The showroom was selling Patagonia Argentina Woollens. Talk about a good day… this was it. I’m sure I was tired when I walked in but quite the uplifted one when I walked out.

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Our dinner at Delicias Del Mar added the cherry. We were absolutely ready for home as Monday loomed large after a long weekend.

 

Glossary: 

Dulce………………………………………….sweet/dessert

Dal……………..Lentil made with spices and a typical seasoning.

Khatti-meethi……………………………sour-sweet

Hari mirch………………………………..green chili

Raita………………………………………….whipped yogurt mixed with anything one chooses to add. Could be cucumber, boiled potatoes or just onions and tomatoes, even fruit. With a sprinkle of salt and some Indian seasoning.

Mathi………………………………………..a crisp fried savory made of white flour. Sweet ones are made on particular festivals  

Chapati…………………………………….tortilla kind of Indian flatbread made of whole wheat flour.   

Pudina chutney………………………Fresh mint ground into a chutney along with onions, ginger, garlic, green chili, tomatoes or lemon juice or aamchoor (dry mango powder) for a mild tanginess, and salt.

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Chile Diary – 14

12657214_10153872634519929_9079214030669544339_o Quintay

Quintay is a little village in Central Chile. Easily reached for a day trip from Santiago or Valparaiso.

As I draw closer to the last chapters of my Chile Diary, I feel a kind of sadness. I enjoyed going down memory lane, remembering and reliving the events as they unfolded with each letter I typed.

I recall with clarity how anxious I was with the developments and crisis that caught us unawares when I had to return to India. So come with me as I carry on the story.

 

26th March 2010

Boarding Pass to the Rescue.

 Yesterday was a cold, foggy day. Back in the guesthouse, I curled up on my bed. I was hungry and cold and waiting eagerly for dinner. But home-cooked dinner wasn’t on the menu.

We went out for Chinese.

Awful!

So we decided to move from our barely eaten Chinese meal and go for an Italian one. We went to Fellini.

Yummilicious! I had a dish called Camarones al pil-pil which I washed down with sips of Pisco-sour. Pisco, I’m told, is a Chilean drink which the Peruvians claim as theirs. A highly disputable claim according to the Chileans.

It tasted like a wine but isn’t a wine. I like it. The drink, however, is strong; a bit too strong for a teetotaller like me. It’s made from grapes which I suppose accounts for the wine-like flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal which I couldn’t finish, Pisco included! So the shrimp was packed as a takeaway. The Pisco was wasted.

I must tell you how the Camarones al Pil-Pil is made… or how I think it’s made. A lot of olive oil is heated up. A lot of garlic is chopped. The garlic along with a big red chili (whole) is tossed into the hot oil which is on simmer. Immediately after this, the shelled and washed shrimps follow. The oil is taken off the fire/stove.

The shrimp is allowed to sit in the oil for a while so they get cooked. The shrimp used in this preparation are a size smaller than medium. It is served in a bowl with oil et al. That’s what I deducted from what was served and eaten. Ranjit endorsed it. I plan to make different kinds of ‘al pil-pil’… chicken, fish, cauliflower etc.

Hitches & Glitches

A new development in my ticket bookings highlighted what I already firmly believe; God is watching out for me. The travel agent called very early in the morning to say that there was a hitch as the records in Brazil showed that I hadn’t boarded the LAN flight to Santiago. The implication being that I stayed in Brazil illegally and when and how did I go to Chile!

This is where God showed His hand.

It was providence that my intuition (read God’s prompting) prompted me to keep my boarding passes. I can recall how I pondered over throwing away the boarding passes. Something strange, considering such things are discarded as soon as one has reached one’s destination. But this time, I gave in to my inner voice and kept the boarding passes, though, I admit, I felt stupid retaining them.

However, after I heard from the travel agent about this new development, I don’t feel silly at all! We sent a scanned copy of the pass to the travel agent. I pray things are smoothened out and I have no trouble getting a return ticket.

As of now, I have no idea when I’ll be leaving. They’re trying for the 9th of April. Let’s see.

No, 9th April isn’t my day either. After a lot of running around, LAN finally accepted the fault was at their office in Brazil, as their office at destination Chile had indeed registered me on the particular plane, and they agreed to issue my ticket. You’d think that was the end of the matter. You’d be wrong.

I had hardly heaved a sigh of relief when the next news arrived deflating me. The SA airlines declined to issue a ticket from Sao Paulo onwards quoting the same reason – I hadn’t left Sao Paulo! I believe, the GRS is a system of booking tickets common to all airlines worldwide, and the failure of the machine to register my boarding became an issue again.

For some reason, my trip to Chile has become a test of faith for me. It’s the first time I’m traveling abroad alone, and so much is happening.

I quote Psalm 91 and Psalm 121 with trust and faith that my Lord never sleeps and He’ll keep me safe and secure through the entire journey back to New Delhi. I’m physically worn out. Tired, I hum an old melodious but lonesome song…

Koi humdum na raha, Koi sahara na raha,

Hum kisike na rahe, koi humara na raha.

(I have no soulmate, nor do I have any support.

I belong to no one and no one belongs to me.)

Kya bataoon main kahan, yuhi chala jaata hun,

Jo mujhe raah dikhaye wohi taara na raha.

(How do I tell where I wander aimlessly,

the guiding star that showed me the way is no more.)

 

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Chile Diary – 13

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The lights along the Valparaiso shore as seen from Viña del Mar

Today, I’ll take you back to the 21st of March 2010 as I move on with the Chile Diary in part- 13.

Flight

Last night as I lay on my bed trying to rest out an abominable headache, I felt a tremor. I was so exhausted and fed-up with the situation that, instead of jumping out of bed and making a dash for the front door, I just got up, sat down and said to myself, “kis, kis se bhagein? Kab tak bhagein? Kis ke pas bhagein?

I was very tired.

The mobile phone rang. I knew it would be Ranjit. He asked me if I had changed into my pajamas. I hadn’t. We were going out for dinner! We went to a place called ‘Wok and Roll’. I wondered if this name was born out of some imagination or lack of it. It did aspire to make the most of punning. The restaurant served Thai and Japanese food.

I was content with appetizers so my meal comprised of two different chicken satays. One, supposed to be Thai was served with a peanut sauce that was not what we were used to having. It was a kind of yellow curry with a few peanuts tossed in. The Japanese one was good. The other dish was shrimp tempura that looked great but turned out to be oily and thick with batter. But, all in all, it was a great dinner. Through the course of the dinner, I was wondering why Manu was having dinner with us when she was dressed and ready for a ‘girls night out’. So I asked.

They told me that she would be joining her friends a little later. It was already midnight by then, but not wanting to be too inquisitive, I quietly speculated on how late “a little later” was. As we waited for the cab to come, I gathered proffered information.

The girls would first go to a discotheque, shake a leg then try their luck at the casino. The discos here began filling up after midnight and the casino opened after 1.00 am! I realized I was out of sync, totally, with the life of youngsters. At our time discotheques closed at midnight and as for casinos; we read about them, we saw them in movies, but we didn’t visit any because there were no casinos to go to!! The hour struck and they dropped me home.

During the week that followed, I made Pollo Pulao (chicken pulao) and Salsa de tomate cocida con cilantro y cebolla (tamatar kuchumbar) for my Chilean friends; Roxanna and her family. They enjoyed it.

They found the arroz (rice) I had used deliciously different. I had used a good quality basmati rice. The rice eaten in Chile is of a thicker grain, starchy and different in flavor. It came as a big surprise to them that I had bought the rice at Lider, a supermarket here.

I decided to give them a taste of a dessert, I thought they’d like – Caramel Banana. I must mention here that this dessert is my own concoction conjured up way back in the 1980s. This is one dessert that has always found favor with everyone barring those who don’t like bananas. So it goes without saying, it was a finger-licking hit. The recipe was asked for and willingly given. Three cheers for the chef!

And as I pat my back, I plan on making some sweet ‘gujiyas’ and ground beef ‘samosas’ for them over this weekend. Both of these are similar to their empanadas. Of course, they don’t have sweet empanadas like our gujiyas, though. 

 

The house hunting continues.

We’ve been looking around for apartments on the first level and in the process have seen some very nice ones on the fourth level. It seems the local folk have vacated the higher floors and moved to the lower floors, so it is difficult to find one for ourselves. Let’s hope we get one if not on the first then on the second, at least.

This constant state of fear and my physical problems are fraying my nerves. I read about the earthquakes but given my experiences of earthquakes in India… the most frightening of which was 4. something; this exposure to such intense, terrifying and frequent tremors and quakes is fraying my nerves threadbare. I’ve been wanting to leave and go back to India.

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Rocio, the friendly, homeless dog abandoned by his owners years ago. He had many two-legged friends who cared for him. There are many like him on the streets of Viña. But all aren’t as friendly as he is.

I had already decided to ask for my date of return to be advanced. So the request was put to the company boss for approval. A day was available: Saturday, 3rd April. I received this news with mixed feelings yesterday.

My stay here, under the present circumstances, is proving to be hard not only on the kids and me but also for Gabriel’s family. They have been playing host to me so graciously for many days. So it provides relief for all that I go back to India.

But for me, the ordeal doesn’t end here.

The happiness of “flight” will diminish when I reach India and another reality hits. I no longer have a home of my own. I will be relying on the hospitality of friends. The only hope that pushes me is, getting my Canadian visa soon. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now, I’m planning a trip to the markets on Saturday and Sunday to look for gifts for people back home and some stuff I’d like to carry for myself.

 

Glossary:

Kis, kis se bhagein?……….. How many things will I run from?

Kab tak bhagein? ………….. Till when will I keep running?

Kahan bhagein?  …………… Where do I run to?

Kis ke paas bhagein? …….. To whom do I run to? 

 

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Chile Diary- 12

“I go to sleep alone and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I’m tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that’s been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?”-Audrey Niffenegger

Volcan Mocho-Choshuenco and Lake Panguipulli, on the way to Huilo-Huilo National reserve.

Volcan Mocho-Choshuenco and Lake Panguipulli, on the way to Huilo-Huilo National reserve. The visible volcano is Mocho, the second one Choshuenco isn’t in the frame.

I’m back from my ‘workation’. I was away in my home country visiting friends and family. I did a bit of blogging on the side, whenever I found some spare time. But this story was on hold! I’m back now and trying to catch up with my blogs.

This chapter carries on from the previous one and surprises me. Click the link to read an introduction to the mom’s guests in Chile Diary-11.

The Mom’s Guests

I set up my computer on the dining table and began to write. If I was looking for common sense to guide the mom and her guests, I was disappointed. Common sense was conspicuous by its absence.

They continued to sit around the table and chat in the high-pitched, sing-song tone most Chilean women use. My head was beginning to ache. Just as I thought I should pack shop, the whole jingbang got up and left; mom included.

Hallelujah! I broke into a happy song. It was a premature celebration!

About half an hour later, they trooped in and the women began setting the table for tea. It was past 7.00 p.m. OMGosh! I moaned, not again.

The gossiping, laughing, and chomping went on and on. I glared at them from time to time but it was useless. Their total concentration was in the cake, bread, ham; the paltas (avocado), crackers, butter, and the tea and cold drinks they were walloping as they kept up the steady high-pitched conversation.

By then, my head was throbbing. I held my temples and looked directly at each one. I saw their mouths open and close but I couldn’t hear them talk! It was that bad. It was time for me to get up and leave. I wasn’t in good shape and if I stayed longer, I knew I’d say something and it wouldn’t be anything very nice.

I’m over that rant. It’s over. The day’s ended and with it the mood.

Or is it? The next day didn’t help. Looks like I’m in a mood these past two days! I discovered today that Indian beauticians are way ahead of their Chilean counterparts. Besides, they charge so little for the amount of work they do. I needed to give some attention to my feet so Manu took me to a salon nearby. I got a less than satisfactory pedicure. I’d have paid this amount for more and better quality of work back home.

If it weren’t for my back and knees that prevent me from cleaning my feet thoroughly and cutting my toenails, I’d skip a pedicure in Chile. Thank God, Roxanna colored my hair at her place! I’m glad Manu warned me not to even try the manicure. After the pedicure, I wouldn’t have anyway!

So, thus went my day into the dumps.

No more to write so I’ll wind up. Then what? As usual, I’ll stare at the walls and then lie on my bed and try not to think sad thoughts. For some reason, these words of an old Hindi song pop up in my mind. I’ve written it in the Roman script and I’ve tried to give you the best translation of the song. The lyrics are beautiful though melancholy!

 

“Aye mere dil-e-nadaan,

tu gham se na ghabrana.

Ek din toh samajh legi, duniya tera afsana.

(Oh, my naive heart,

don’t let sorrow worry you,

one day this world will understand your story.)

Armaan bhare dil mein,

zakhmon ko jagah dede,

Bhadke huye sholon ko,

kuch aur hawaa dede.

Banti hai toh ban jaye, yeh zindagi afsana.

(In a heart full of dreams and expectations,

allow a bit of space for hurt and pain.

The embers have burst into flame,

fan them a bit more.

If your life has become a story; let it be so.)

Faryad se kya hasil,

rone se natija kya?

Bekaar hain yeh baatein,

in baaton se hoga kya?

Apna bhi ghari bhar mein,

ban jaata hai begaana.

(Nothing comes from complaining,

and tears bring no results.

These are useless things

and nothing is achieved by it.

In a split second,

even our own become strangers.)

Aye mere dil-e-nadaan, tu gham se na ghabrana.

Ek din toh samajh legi, duniya tera afsana.

(Oh, my naive heart, don’t let sorrow worry you.

One day this world will understand your story.)

 

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” -Hermann Hesse

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