Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sunday Scribblings - "Mess"

“Our House

Although you’ll find our house a mess
Come in, sit down, converse.
It doesn’t always look like this –
Some days it’s even worse.”

That was the ditty on the pretty little wall ornament that used to hang in our house in Songea, Tanzania. Let me describe the ornament as best I can - it was made of black-painted porcelain, with a little house surrounded by colourful flowers on the top triangular bit, and each line of the verse on separate "strips" of porcelain connected by little vertical chains in the middle, so that the whole thing was loosely in the shape of a house.

I don’t know when my parents bought it, or if it was a gift from somebody. All I know is that I loved the thing because to me it epitomised the very pinnacle of classy humour. (Yeah I know, I know... but at the time I was young and less sophisticated than I am now – no sniggering, please - and Calvin & Hobbes were a couple of decades away from being conceived). It was, in hindsight, probably a cheap mass-made trinket, but the point was, I loved it.

One evening, my dad brought a colleague for dinner. Being vegetarian, and a kind-hearted man to boot, my dad didn’t make his colleague the main course for our evening meal. Instead, he and my mother fed the man to within an inch of his life while we kids impressed him by being polite and helpful and entertaining. (To anybody who wishes to demur: Look, this is MY memory of the occasion and anyway you weren’t there.)

At the end of the evening, the colleague remarked to my dad that he really liked the “Our House” wall ornament and that he wanted it. Ok, maybe he was not quite as openly covetous as that, but he might as well have said it because my dad, spontaneously generous as always, immediately offered it to him, much to my horror (which stayed verbally unexpressed because of me being polite and well-brought-up. I don’t know what expression was on my face, though). Of course the man said he couldn’t possibly take it, giving me a moment of relief before my dad insisted that of course he SHOULD take it if he liked it. (What if the colleague had said he liked me? Not that I asked my dad that, but I might have mentioned it later, with the merest trace of bitterness, to my mom. Ok, maybe I didn’t mention it to her either, but maybe I wish I had.)

Anyway, the colleague went away well satisfied, having repaid our hospitality with what I considered the basest treachery. I missed the ornament so much that I determined to make my own replica of it. Which I did, thin poster cardboard being my material of choice, but it had a less than satisfactory outcome because it just didn’t look the same or feel the same as the original porcelain version. It didn’t even hang right on the wall - which would not have come as a surprise to anybody but me, being as the hole I’d made at the top to thread the string through wasn’t even centred properly.

I don’t know what happened to this second-rate copy of “My House” – perhaps I lost interest in it and it went the way of all the other things in which I’d lost interest. But every time I have a guest at home, I mentally repeat the little verse. Sometimes I say it aloud, just to see if it’s still amusing.

It is.


mim said...

oh how i loved this post. not merely because i could relate to the mess and the lovely little rhyme...
but worse. i am married to the your dad-ish kinda man who kinda is Kubera+ karna when it comes to guests...

i thought i'd escaped the last of em when i got married. ma used to routinely give away everything that I thought i should treasure until eternity and way beyond.

Shyam said...

Mim: And I loved your comment because of the Kubera + Karna bit :) My dad, while not being Kubera by any stretch, was definitely Karna in generosity!

meerkat said...

karnaputri - here you go

not sure if it is your style though


Shyam said...

Meera - long time no see here :) How you been? Thanks for the link - a lot of rather cute hanging things to be found there, definitely going to come in useful for Xmas stocking gifts!

Radha said...

I still totally remember the "Our house" thing, and the little rhyme (always in my mind every time we invite someome new over). Sriram, Aditi, Sriram's parents, & one other couple.

's funny, Shyam. I was telling Amma & 'Ema about the porcelain red-floweragainst-white-background thingy just yesterday (before I read this post), also in Songea, also generously handed over by Appa to someone-or-the-other.

To me, the memorable thing about that trinket was the bee banging away at it that one time, thinking the flower was real. I think we chased it out at least once, but it came back and "spoinged" (imagine that sound in your head) away at that flower over and over again.

Of course, now that I know bees see in the ultra-violet, I can only think that wall hanging must have had something that showed up as "food!" to that poor bee :)

Pollux aka Paps said...

Beaut bit of nostalgia, da. And methinks you kinda inherited your dad's genes!

Anonymous said...

what a nice post. and of course it's your memory. to quote anne lammot: you own what happened to you.
my dad had this thing too -- of giving away stuff. more to annoy us than to be kind, i think.

swarna said...

what a LOVELY write up of your memory just rings such a nice feel to it and as for the poem thingy, from this minute I have fallen in love with it!! thanks for sharing a wonderful memory from your childhood(for lack of a better term!;-))

Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

Awwww. I feel for you, I really, really do. More than I can express here;) And I must say this 'giving-away-stuff' is common to both of our spontaneously-generous fathers (good description). GRR to them, perhaps ONLY for that. ;(