They are back, and along with them, Anandhotep, the rickety old mummy who masquerades as the editor of The QSM Magazine, is also back.
Mom and Dad arrived yesterday. Traveling light isn’t Mom’s forte, and while rest of the world has graduated to duffel-bags and soft-sided carry-ons, Mom has stayed loyal to the VIP attache case that dates way back to her marriage, some forty years ago. She loves to brag about the fact that hers might have belonged to the first lot that rolled off the line in 1971.
“Puttar, they don’t make them like they used to back then. It’s strong,” she would defend her lemon yellow VIP suitcase to anyone who dared question her loyalty to it, “not like the flimsy thaila (bag, not Thaila Ayala) they make nowadays.”
Other than being strong, Mom’s VIP suitcase has its own advantages, one of them being its highly visible yellow color that enables us to spot her in the mad crowd on Delhi railway station. Whatever might’ve been the reason, but none of us ever tried to wean her away from it. And yet, in a whole decade of her existence as khandan ki bahu (the daughter-in-law of the family) wifey hasn’t been able to understand Mom’s mad love for her VIP attache-case. When we were done stuffing their luggage into the minimalist boot of my hatchback ensuring that Mom’s favorite lemon (!) didn’t get scratched, and left the station, she had to ask.
“Mummy ji, why don’t you get a new attache-case? These days you get such good ones, and in beautiful colors too,” she enquired, totally unaware of the fact that she had just stepped on a land mine.
Mom was silent for a moment, but that momentary silence was pregnant with the certainty of an explosion – it was the moment after your foot had landed but before it had left the ground over the mine. Dad was riding shotgun with me, and Mom and wifey were in the rear seat. I looked at Dad, he returned the look; we did it without moving our necks. It’s a trick we have learned over the years. What you apparently don’t hear, can’t make Mom drag you into an argument she is having with another party.
So that moment passed. Oddly, the explosion didn’t happen outright.
“Puttar ji, I’m not someone who gets rid of something that has been loyal to me for forty years, just because it’s old now.” The “ji” dripped sarcasm not respect. No Indian daughter-in-law is subjected to a “ji” unless she were going to be verbally pummeled into the ground.
Dad and I exchanged glances. We knew what Mom was insinuating. Wifey could’ve stopped it from happening. All she had to do was, shut up. I hoped that she would.
Wifey rolled up her eyes, and said in her honey-sweet, reserved-for-her-inlaws voice, “Oh Mummy ji, it’s just a suitcase.”
Oh boy! I sometimes wonder whether a she’s a little dumb or if she enjoys lighting a fire under Mom. Actually, I might never learn.
“Just a suitcase? Just…a…suitcase?!” Mom’s anger made her splutter. “Let me tell you,” she jabbed her thumb at the suitcase that was stuffed in the boot of the car, “that suitcase has been with me longer than your Papa ji has been with me. It was there with me when your husband was born. And now when I am old, it still does for me what even your Papa ji can’t do.”
At this point, both Dad and I swiveled in our seats and craned our necks to look at Mom. It was easy to see that she had bruised Dad’s ego with her remark, because he asked her to clarify. She did, with her usual aplomb.
“O’ji, if I can’t get a place to sit on the platform and the train is late, I sit on it, don’t I? Now tell me, if there is any other suitcase in the world that can double up as my seat, year after year, without making so much as a squeak.”
Truer words were never spoken. While the suitcase had maintained its BMI over all these years, Mom’s Punjabi love for food had ensured that hers had doubled. I could swear on her extra fat that I’ve seen my car cringe when Mom gets into it.
All through this discussion, Mom’s lemon lay in the boot of the car, blissfully unaware of being defended so heroically by its loving owner.
We thought that the moment had passed. But we were wrong.
“And you, bahu (daughter-in-law,)” after having finished with Dad, she turned to wifey, stared her down for a full half-minute, and then said in words designed to linger on, “learn to appreciate loyalty. My boy here could’ve married a fair and beautiful, convent-educated girl whose father, an IAS officer came to Papa ji and asked his hand for his daughter. They were willing to spend a lot of money too…”
“Mom,” I interjected.
“Or even Mrs. Khanna’s lovely daughter. She got married to someone else and gave him two sons, whereas you…”
“Rehn de (Leave it,)” Dad tried to stop her.
“But he married you, and unlike my nephews, munh marne di aadat nai hai, mere puttar di (he isn’t someone who can’t stop sowing his wild oats everywhere…”)
“Mom,” I shouted, braking hard and making the car swerve to the left, nearly hitting the skirt of the pavement, before I could bring it to a halt. The car stopped, but Mom didn’t. She isn’t someone who would stop before she had it all out of her system.
“So learn to be grateful and appreciate what you have!”
All of us sat in silence, waiting for the air to clear. Then I heard it. A familiar voice. It was Anandhotep.
“Now that the family is together again, there will be many other such heartwarming scenes. I look forward to witnessing them, but can we go home now? I’m cramped up here, and my bandages have come off leaving my EZs exposed. Now beat it, and drive!”
I followed his advice. Since our arrival home, Mom and wifey have been like USA and USSR of the yore, dad has been making apologetic sounds on behalf of Mom, and I’ve been trying to determine how a VIP attache case could’ve led to it all.
For once, I am glad that Anandhotep has returned.
Important Note for my International Readers: Before you start wondering if I made a factual error, I must remind you that India drives on the left side of the roads.
Also EZ: Erogenous Zones (usually spoken in reference to garments. Think of a pair of jeans with red-hearts emblazoned upon its hip-pockets or a brocade belt that vees in the middle of a belly-dancer’s skirt directing your gaze downward.)
the third issue of The QSM Magazine will roll off the line in two weeks. If you aren’t a subscriber yet, you are missing out on tons of quirky, snarky, malarkey for no reason at all…
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