For the last two months, I have been trying to write a piece to announce the launch of the rehearsal for the uprising. However, in spite of written two or three such pieces, they all lie in the Work in Progress folder. Perhaps one reason for that is the complexity (insane is always complex) of the thinking behind it. Then - this guest post from Rickie Khosla showed up, a followup from a long forgotten conversation. I could think of no better way to introduce our fine tea catalog (see link in first line of post) than with this.
Contemporary Indian writing in English is, to be kind, a minefield. Duds abound. The blogosphere is no exception. When I chanced upon Rickie's (measurement and information) writing, the first thing that struck me was his precision with narration time, narrative and dialog. The next thing was his totally weird sense of humor. Much of his writing revolves around popular culture, and his gothic irreverence comes through with an insider glee that is hard to describe. The richness of his wisdom and the depth of his knowledge are finely balanced with an Aragonesesque darkness (quick, light, irreversible, piercing) that is all his own. Knowing my fondness for rambling, he has provided an introduction to this Georgian delight himself. Without any further ado, SJD gives you - Rickie Khosla.
Deride without Prejudice
Hundreds of years ago, a plain Jane English writer called Jane Austen wrote an epochal novel called ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Quite miraculous that she would achieve that, for, the woman had heard nothing of Blogging in her day. Despite that, how she procured the clarity of thought, the grasp of storytelling technique, the dry wit and humor, attributes that all Indian Bloggers are naturally blessed with the first time they hold aloft a pen, we shall never know.
Anyway, my research has shown that Miss Austen may not have found it that facile to produce her seminal work, as proven by the multiple versions of Chapter 47 that she wrote longhand, one of which I have reproduced here. Moreover, I found it quite interesting that this particular trashed piece alludes to a certain beverage that +Subhorup Dasgupta has great affinity to – making this a remarkably serendipitous find! Read on to find out more.
I wish Miss Austen had retained this passage in the book instead of the inferior one that she ultimately went with. Had her writing been of the Blogosphere born, that lapse of judgment would have never occurred.
Mrs. Bennet woke that morning with a start. Forthwith upon doing so, she was dismayed to notice that her right eye was fluttering recurrently. “Oh dear, this is not going to be a good day!” she exclaimed to herself. Yes, as her past assays of similar harbingers portended, the omens had aligned for this to not be a good day at all. The fluttering left eye one could cheerily contend with. But the right one? That was to cause nothing short of dread! Each of Mrs. Bennet’s flights of fancy, for her mind was wont to vigorous ones at a moment’s notice, flung her to similar and thoroughly tragic consequences.
“It is not going to be a good day,” she belabored constantly as she got ready, left her parlor, and produced herself at the salon where her husband was reposed with the latest works of Rousseau or some such “foreign writer”, the kind that his wife abhorred.
“What is the matter, dear?” Mr. Bennet asked kindly looking up from his book. Liz, their second born, put away the particularly arduous Sudoku she has been pecking at,and looked at her mother enquiringly.
“It’s my right eye again!” the elderly woman said with animated twittering that her husband and daughter were much accustomed to. “Something terrible is coming our way. We are done for!” she threw in for added effect.
The collective sighs of Mrs. Bennet’s family in attendance were dismissive. They resumed their labors with no further concern for her despair. Seeing their renewed apathy, Mrs. Bennet elevated her bewailing.
“Don’t you recall the day when it happened a few months ago? The day that dear Mr Collins came to you with his marriage proposal but you wouldn’t give him the time of day?” she cried to her daughter. “All morning, that morning, my poor right eye wouldn’t stop warning me of impending doom!”
Liz merely shrugged her shoulders. To her, William Collins was a pompous fool and forgotten history. For a fleeting moment, her father looked up to catch her eye, before setting himself back to his copy. Though not before saying, “On the contrary, my dear, I’d say that you misunderstood the signs. Your right eye was merely cautioning you to lock the doors so none of us was embarrassed by dear William’s imbecility!”
“In fact, we could have prayed for your wretched eye to gain a tongue instead, and correspond with us with greater lucidity than what it manages by merely going aflutter on occasion. But two tongues on your person, and we may be enticing certain ruin,” he added, completing his thought.
Liz merely sniggered at her father’s jest and her mother’s faux perplexity.
As was to be expected, there was no pulling Mrs. Bennet away from her lamentation of impending catastrophe, and the wailing continued till the other inhabitants in the room could brave it no more. Even Charlie the dog, thus far lying without murmur at his master’s feet, had tried pawing his ears closed though not quite succeeding owing to their exaggerated pointedness.
When patience eventually boiled over, Liz rose to reclaim tranquility.
“Mother, would it make you feel better if you had something to eat? Some cake, perhaps? Or, how about we try out that strange food that our cousin Benjamin has sent to us from India? Should we try to see what that might be?” said Liz attempting to entertain her mother.
Benjamin Needham was Liz’s cousin posted by the East India Company in the hills up east of the colony. He had parceled a container of an “exotic brew” that had been recently revealed to the company. From Cousin Ben’s note accompanying the said container, it was learned that this concoction was quite the rage among the locals, and now also among their English corporate masters.
The mention of food precipitated some distraction from the hysterics that the older woman was partaking in.
“Uh…well, yes, we could try that concoction, couldn’t we?” Mrs. Bennet said calming down somewhat. “What is it that he had called it?”
“He wrote that the locals call it Chai,” said Liz, pronouncing it quite incorrectly as ‘Shay’, “I don’t think the Company has patented a name for it yet. I opened the carton and had a look. It looks like some kind of a course powder of ground leaves. Benjamin wrote that it is to be left in hot water for a few minutes before consuming,” she said as she opened the carton. “He says in his note - ‘Put in hot water and have it. I promise you, you will say ‘Ah Taj’ when you consume it’ - What a strange note. What the devil does it even mean?” she questioned with knotted eyebrows to her father.
“You know, dear daughter, I received a letter from my friend Giovanni from Rome last week. He made a special mention of this Indian concoction, too. In fact, he wrote that he had tried it with milk, that crazy Italian!”
“What an imbecile! Who has powder with milk?” exclaimed his wife with the usual contempt she had for the folks on the continent.
“If Italians have it with milk, wouldn’t they have to call it Chai Latte?” chuckled Liz. All three had a hearty laugh at the entertainment accomplished at the expense of those demented foreigners.
“Sometimes I wish terribly that there was a way one could watch a demonstration of how to use something new”, said Liz. Then, adding animatedly, “Say, a long tube running between England and India. One could peep into it from England and see how the Indians were making their Chai on the other side. A tube that everyone could use. One could even call it YouTube!”
Her older company looked at her with a blank expression, immediately deflating her entrepreneurial idea.
The cook was summoned and, in minutes, a large soup serving bowl filled with piping hot water was on the sofa table. Liz poured a substantial helping of the Chai in it. The three waited for a minute and observed the concoction change color. Once they all agreed that the brew looked ready, Liz extracted some of the soggy mix into a smaller bowl and looked at it dubiously.
“Go on child, tell us how it tastes!” urged her father. With that, the brave Liz took a tentative spoonful from the messy heap and put it in her mouth. Her parents observed closely as their daughter chewed the dark stew for several seconds and then gulped it down.
“Oh dear…,” she mustered. “I think I am going to be very ill!”
The message was clear. This had been an epicurean debacle.
“I warned you about my right eye!” Mrs. Bennet lamented loudly. Her daughter’s pallor had acquired a distinctly greenish hue.
“Perhaps if we added milk to it…?” mumbled Mr. Bennet just as the house door bell clanged loudly. The three were distracted from their failed undertaking and looked at the door of the salon. Presently, Jeeves entered the room and announced that it had been the postman at the door bearing a Telegram.
A Telegram frequently meant calamitous news, and all three instantly braced themselves for the end of the world. There was imminent danger of the older woman resuming her bemoaning volubly but, thankfully, Mrs. Bennet was too much in shock to do so. Her husband fiddled with the piece of paper.
“It’s from the Gardiners.” Edward Gardiner was Mrs. Bennet’s brother. Lydia, the Bennet’s fourth daughter, was currently under their guardianship.
Mr. Bennet read the clipped document with matching curtness, “Lydia loped. Stop. It’s wicked.”He turned to the ladies who looked quite as bewildered as him.
Little did the Bennets realize that the real intent of this urgent message had been to convey – ‘Lydia Eloped. Stop. It’s Wickham.’ This was presumably owed to the drastic outsourcing by His Royal Highness Postal Service to India Post. The inevitable translation losses had been rampant.
“What a silly message. Is this a trick?” Mrs. Bennet said. “Lydia is galloping like a horse? Must my dear brother make wicked fun of my lovely daughter?” By now, she was cured of the clamoring caused by her right eye. Anxiety had made way for Anger.
“What a thoroughly silly day this has been! First that obnoxious concoction by your cousin, and now this evil message by my brother. Must people be so beastly?” she complained to nobody in particular. Her company, she noticed, had resumed their earlier activities, leaving her to her own devices. Dejected, Mrs. Bennet got up, collected the utensils from the sofa table, and proceeded to exit the salon.
“I am going downstairs to see what the cook is doing for supper,” she announced as she parted. “Maybe she can have what is left of this Chai. Oh dear, it looks like a deathly brown liquid now. Maybe she could have it like soup? With some honey, maybe?”
“Yes, Mother,” responded Liz, disinterested in her mother’s culinary ideas.
“Chai sounds silly. Since that Telegram is going to forever remind me of this broth, I shall just rename it to that – Telegram. No, wait, perhaps a short form of that. I am just going to call this Chai thing‘T’ instead. I am going to go down and ask the cook if she would like to have some T. I think I might bribe that silly oaf with a biscuit or two.”
“Yes, dear. Whatever pleases you, dear,” said Mr Bennet, as his wife closed the salon door behind her.