Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Just Yarns, believe it or not

                                                              Yarns!

Believe it or not



This, I hope is the start of many similar stories I have gathered from friends and will include some of my own experiences. -- 

 

Marcelin Gonsalves arrived in Bombay (later to be known as Mumbai) from Nairobi as part of an official Kenya delegation heading to Japan. This is his story: We had a couple of days at a pretty upmarket hotel before heading off our safari eastwards. Being a seasoned traveller, I took my time getting out of bed from my morning siesta and even more time getting out of my shower. Suitably relaxed, I headed for the cocktail bar.

It was one of that easy kind of mornings, as the Goans say, “sussegade” (relaxed, laid back). Outside the hotel, I knew, was anything but sussegade. Bombay’s human, motor, handcarts, scooters, animals, and every other type was legion. I was always amazed at how easily human beings cut in and out of traffic. People had also got used to the eternal honking … a language only they understood and humans and traffic it seemed were at peace.

There was also a kind of peace at the cocktail bar. The barman, dressed in an impeccable white long robe kind of outfit, made even more stylish by a short starting red kind of a skinny miniature coat made famous originally by the waiters of Cairo and other parts of North Africa and late familiar with waiters and stewards in colonial Africa … colonial anywhere. He was chatting with a group of Europeans and I was rude enough to interrupt him: Ahem, ahem!

“Yes Sir? What can I get for you? And sir, I am sorry you had to interrupt our conversation. No hurry, I would have come to you as soon as I had finished.”

Well, I was a little dumbfound and I had learned from experience that folks in different countries to things differently, and I sort of mouthed an inaudible apology, given with a smile, a false I will confess.

For a moment or two we continued to exchange, I thought, cordial smiles and momentarily he said the magic words again: “What can I get you?”

“A large Johnny Walker Black Label, a double, in a tall glass with a side bottle of soda water and no ice,” I explained and with a broad, broad smile, he said, as if in victory: “In a moment sir.”

The “in a moment” turned out to be more than three cigarettes smoked old. My second attempt to get is attention was replied with the deepest apology: “Sorry, sorry sir, I will be with you in a moment.”

Three more cigarettes later, I was hammering the polished bar top (you could see your face in it) with my knuckles and the cigarette lighter also got a pretty good workout. The Europeans were throwing me dirty looks. How do I know, I know dirty looks when I see them.

A very contrite and saddening barman stood in on the other side of the bar, his hands seemingly joined in prayer. His voice was also prayerful. Having gathered himself at his most sorryest presentable self, he said: “I am sorry sir, very, very, very sorry sir. We are not in the habit of keeping our guests waiting but sir, I cannot give you soda with your JW. The boy I sent to get it has come back because our suppliers don’t have any. I can send me to another shop to get it …”

Before he finished the sentence, I cut in like a razor blade doing its thing on a thickened mustache and said: “Coke, will do.”

Suddenly he was Jumping Jack Flash. The vapors from both the Coke and JW were wafting their way up my nose. Just as that was happening, the Europeans wave the barman goodbye.

So, there he was, right in front of me. Glazed eyes somewhat teared up or were that his natural state, I wondered. Having given my inner spirits a filip with the first drink, I ventured for a second and it seemed to arrive faster than a rocket heading skywards. Actually, he had a second scotch already poured and resting on the top shelf of the bar which was not visible to me. I thought he must have pulled of a card trick of sorts.

“So, I said, where are you from?”

“Nepal, sir.”

“Long way from home.”

“Yes sir.”

“How is life for you in Bombay?

“Can’t complain, sir, what happens, happens, that is the life sir.”

“Yes, I guess it is the same everywhere.”

“No, no sir. What I mean is that if something is going to happen, it will happen. Take today for example. I woke up this morning and as I got out of bed, I gave the dear one a push and shake and I got a grunt of some sorts.

“Anyway, I went to the water and brushed my teeth and washed my face. It felt good. I went to light the fire and found only one matchstick in the box. Tried to wake my loved one but she seemed in a deep slumber from which heaven could not rouse her. Anyway, I took a chance on the one match and promptly broke it, the head fall to its death in a tiny puddle of water which I must have accidentally created. Never mind sir, cold water from the beautiful clay pot is just as satisfying.

“I collected my cloth back, my umbrella, my little hat and as I walked towards the bus stop, just outside my little home, I picked up my usual paper. The bus was, as usual, many minutes late but I had catered for that emergency. Suddenly, I thought this was going to be a great day. Well, it is not every day you get to sit on the seat at the back of the bus. We, the five of us, sat pretty jollily each of us, each minding his own business. It was not long before the bus was getting filled beyond capacity. That did not bother me because buses filled beyond capacity with people hanging out of them is just a very normal thing.

“What was not normal was the rather large woman wearing stiletto (by the way, Marc said they were sharp knife heels) who stood in front of me along with a lot of other people who were already pressing themselves against us, as if we were chappati dough and they were kneading us. My problem was even bigger. The large lady decided that she would place one of her feet, or rather one of her knife heels on my foot, her right on my left. I tried my hardest (he said something like “damnedness”) to get her attention. My “excuse me madams” in every language I could conjure up fell upon the deftest ears created by any god. Well, I survived for a minute or two and the pain became unbearable. I imagined being permanently joined to her at the foot. I nudged her several times, but she would not budge. Well, now I tell, in just a few moments, sir, I said a million prayers to all the gods I could think of and to my wife and my unborn children. Well then, the devil in me gave me the courage … My God, knows this to be true …gave me the courage to give her a pinprick of a pinch on the underside of her large bottom. No sooner I had “pinned”, she was flying to the other end of the bus, bringing down all the passengers in her wake screaming: “Rape, rape, he put his hands on my thing. He raped me.” It is not the way of Indian men to take any notice of the ravings of a madwoman but she was further driven to fury, genuine or otherwise when many of my fellow bus passengers burst into laughter. She turned around showered everyone, men, women and children, with expletives in any language that came to mind. “You, Mother Fuckers, rot in hell,” or words to that effect.

I, of course, knew nothing about what she was talking about. The bus driver came into the bus and tried to make some sense of the drama that played in technicolor before our eyes. Again, it is not common for a bus driver, or a male of any sort, to pay attention to the ravings of a madwoman.

In the first instance of its kind, the five of us who had once celebrated seating on that much desired back seat were escorted from the bus by the driver. When we asked him why he said one of must-have done something sexual to her. “Sitting down? We asked, how is that possible? “I don’t know whose hands did what. Anyway, if I am delayed I will lose my job so better catch another bus or taxi.” And with that, he got back into his bus and roared away. The large lady sat in “our” back seat and stuck her tongue at us in bravado of sorts. We five in turn could only shake our heads.

“That is pretty rough. You have had a tough start …” I said in sympathy… couple more Scotches later.

“Oh No! That is not all. I got to the hotel and on my way to our changing rooms, there was a very angry food and beverages manager scowling at me. “Get changed quickly and I will have to deduct your wages for being late. I hope that will teach you about being late. I tried to say something, but shouted so everyone could hear: “I don’t care what your reasons are if you can’t be here on time, there are millions of others who are just waiting for the chance.”

Well, thought that pretty harsh. “But sir, I got changed and for a moment admired myself in the mirror if only to bring a happy smile to my face which so has seen much sunshine in my life that day. Just as I put my foot out of the door, a waiter caring orange, pineapple, grapefruit juices gave me a juicy shower … and the manager was watching all this happening. I will not be getting any pay for two months. So there, sir, if things are going to happen, they are going to happen.”

I gave him a hefty tip … but I will never be sure if he was pulling my leg!

Life on the high seas

I have always wanted to travel but I grew up in Nairobi, 300 miles from the sea, never learned to swim, never rowed or sailed a boat nor had a fantasy to up anchor and roam the Seven Seas. You would think that even a blind landlubber would be able to pole a punt on the placid waters of the Cherwell in Oxford. Within a few minutes, I managed to create chaos as I zigzagged my merry way on a Sunday afternoon. The English have a reputation for keeping their cool but I confess that there were some very red-faced and apoplectic islanders on the Cherwell that day! 

As you are my friends, you may well forgive me for this first foray on water. But wait! There's more. Later that summer, four friends who had entered to compete in the Fours at the annual hallowed Bath Regatta found themselves without a cox and, in spite of my protestations, got me into the boat. Within seconds of the race starting strange and wondrous things happened on the R. Avon. For some inexplicable reason, my boat veered to the right causing all four boats on our right to swerve to avoid collisions. When I took corrective action, the boat swung to the left causing the three boats to our left to veer left. With all the other boats running foul of each other, we pursued a somewhat erratic course to the Finish line to find that we had been disqualified because we had broken some archaic rule about keeping in your lane. We decided to seek consolation in a nearby pub where a person came up to us and thanked us for the most entertaining time he had ever had at a Regatta. He insisted on buying us each a pint of Bath's finest! ale

That, sad to say, was the end of my promising debut as a competitive sailor. I must admit, however, that I have great admiration for skilled sailors who sail through weather foul and fair and reach exotic destinations. When I came across this account below of a nutcase named Brian Chapman who had never sailed before but decided he was going to leave his safe and secure pensionable job on terra firma and set sail into the blue beyond, I thought I would check out how long it was before he ended up in Davy Jones' locker! Shiver me timbers, the guy is still afloat has sailed 83,000 miles (the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe three times at the Equator!), got himself a shipmate (a Swedish blonde, no less!), fathered a child and finances his voyages with his YoTube revenues! 

I have some amazing friends who have done marvelous things at sea. I admire you folk and in another life would love to learn the ropes and join you. In the meantime, I hope that all of you enjoy this story of an intrepid couple who didn't let their lack of seacraft stop them from following their dream! Enjoy!

I have always wanted to travel but I grew up in Nairobi, 300 miles from the sea, never learned to swim, never rowed or sailed a boat nor had a fantasy to up anchor and roam the Seven Seas. You would think that even a blind landlubber would be able to pole a punt on the placid waters of the Cherwell in Oxford. Within a few minutes, I managed to create chaos as I zigzagged my merry way on a Sunday afternoon. The English have a reputation for keeping their cool but I confess that there were some very red-faced and apoplectic islanders on the Cherwell that day! 

As you are my friends, you may well forgive me for this first foray on water. But wait! There's more. Later that summer, four friends who had entered to compete in the Fours at the annual hallowed Bath Regatta found themselves without a cox and, in spite of my protestations, got me into the boat. Within seconds of the race starting strange and wondrous things happened on the R. Avon. For some inexplicable reason, my boat veered to the right causing all four boats on our right to swerve to avoid collisions. When I took corrective action, the boat swung to the left causing the three boats to our left to veer left. With all the other boats running foul of each other, we pursued a somewhat erratic course to the Finish line to find that we had been disqualified because we had broken some archaic rule about keeping in your lane. We decided to seek consolation in a nearby pub where a person came up to us and thanked us for the most entertaining time he had ever had at a Regatta. He insisted on buying us each a pint of Bath's finest! ale

That, sad to say, was the end of my promising debut as a competitive sailor. I must admit, however, that I have great admiration for skilled sailors who sail through weather foul and fair and reach exotic destinations. When I came across this account below of a nutcase named Brian Chapman who had never sailed before but decided he was going to leave his safe and secure pensionable job on terra firma and set sail into the blue beyond, I thought I would check out how long it was before he ended up in Davy Jones' locker! Shiver me timbers, the guy is still afloat has sailed 83,000 miles (the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe three times at the Equator!), got himself a shipmate (a Swedish blonde, no less!), fathered a child and finances his voyages with his YouTube revenues! 

I have some amazing friends who have done marvelous things at sea. I admire you folk and in another life would love to learn the ropes and join you. In the meantime, I hope that all of you enjoy this story of an intrepid couple who didn't let their lack of seacraft stop them from following their dream! Enjoy!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk83N2u1ZmY&authuser=0

Marriage by application

FRANCISCUS (Franky) Antao was a civil servant in the British Colonial Civil Service. He was actually one of the hundreds of clerks in the Secretariat. Many, many years ago he had been seconded to the Permanent Secretary for Recruitment, Local and Overseas, Johnson William. Franky was William’s clerk with a key responsibility. JW, as he liked to be called, was a typical British foreign colonial from the old country. Most of all he did not like to spend too much time in the office.

He was skilled enough to gather around him a team of mainly Goans and other Indians who made sure that the department was run as a pretty tight ship. He on the other hand was happiest at the Muthaiga Golf Club, on the course, naturally or lunching in one of the finest dining rooms in the country. The MGC also had a much-loved bar. With that came a reputation that no decent Catholic would have found sinful. However, meeting the sex-hunger needs of the wives of farmers and civil servants who were forced to endure life in the bush meant that the colonial government provided regular short-term local leave which the women loved spending in Nairobi and GMC was a haven for finding willing partners.  These short leave sexual encounters often took a regular turn and again there were regular incidents of angry husbands wanting their pounding flesh.

Nonetheless, the British stiff upper lip ensured that any newspaper-worthy sensational stories were spiked in-house. Thus, the ugly side of the MGC was usually swept aside and dressed by a kind of virtual whitewash.

To this day, the MGC remains the pillar of the upper echelons of society. I don’t think you will find any sexual shenanigans today. The sex-hungry farmer’s wives are now just a memory of the colonial past.

JW had a full complement of civil servants, from undersecretaries down to the humble junior clerk. Our Franky told everyone that he was the official “recruitment clerk” to JW and the department as a whole. He always forgot to mention that his “recruiting duties” were only one of his many chores as a clerk. He also forgot to mention that “recruiting duties” were restricted to sending “recruitment analysis forms” (a job application really) to applicants. Although his task was minuscule in this process, he did take the trouble to find out the mysteries embedded in the form and after a while, he was competent enough to understand who were the likely successful candidate/s for the advertised job. In the senior job section, the approvals team usually reserved the vacancies for English men and women from Briton. The other vacancies were filled by people marked as “others” of any colour except black …. except in the rare extreme.

As a result of his newly gained knowledge as “the” recruitment clerk, he became endeared to many Goans whom he helped with filling in the recruitment form to the best of his newfound knowledge which was eventually successful more often than not. Thus, Franky Antao gained for himself the respect and admiration of the Goan community. In the eyes of the many members of the Nairobi Goan Institute he was known for his astuteness and analytical skills but not for his skills at the card table.

At home too, his doting wife Mariela came to rely on his analytical skills and sought his help in solving many household problems and future plans. Mariela trusted her teacher-husband implicitly and enjoyed that her husband was such a clever chap.

Hence one Saturday night, after the children had gone to bed, she sat knitting while her husband enjoyed a cigarette and a Scotch while reading something of assumed high importance.

“Franky,” she said. “Can we talk, please?”

“Yes, sure. What about?”

“One of these days, Gildo’s parents will come to ask for Juanita’s hand in marriage with their son. How should we go about it? After they ask, we should have them around, dinner and drinks before we sit down to discuss everything,” she said somewhat sheepishly.

“Yes, yes, of course. I have been giving it some thought and I have come up with a plan. When he comes to ask a name a date when his parents could come to our house, I will have a chat with him. I have adapted my work recruitment form for him to fill out. That should give us all the answers we need. For example, we will know if likes and dislikes generally. His earning potential, savings, health, and everything else his potential in-laws would like to know before giving their consent and engaging the parents in setting a date,” he said with triumph.

Mariela’s eye’s lit up too. She knew her Franky would have a simple solution.

All spick and span, just like in the British Civil Service.

Well, the day came when Gildo followed Juanita into the Antao home. Waiting with open arms to greet them were Mariela and Franky (who was wafting a cigarette high above everyone and smiling to high heaven). When all had settled with a drink, Gildo asked the question. You know the one when can his parent come to visit the Antaos about finalising Gildo’s and Juanita’s wedding plans.

Frankie put his arm around Gildo and took him into the kitchen. “Gildo,” he said, “you know I am a bit of analytical nut. I have created a form that I ask you to kindly fill out. The answers you provide will give us a very clear idea about what we do not know about you. It’s nothing too serious, please oblige me.”

As Gildo picked up the form, Franky said: “I hope you will find it useful too.”

Beaming with delight, there were hugs all around before the “good nights”.

A couple of weeks later, Juanita asked her dad to come home early from his daily card table at the GI. “Gildo is coming back with the form you ask him to fill.”

When Gildo did arrive that night, he was fuming like a raging bull.

With tear-filled reddened eyes, he said: “My father told me to tell you that you should have a good idea what to do with your marriage proposal form. He asked me to inform you that no son of his would apply for the job of being married to anyone.” With that, he walked out and slammed the door as he left. That was the last they saw of Gildo. Much unhappiness, tears and sadness followed in the Antao household. Franky was a lesser man; his feathers as an analyst had been well and truly plucked. He never set foot in the GI again. His fall from grace was too much to bear.

You know what they say about little knowledge.

Juanita eventually married, a popular motor mechanic call Manuel. I suspect they lived happily ever after. Frankie kept his distance and relied on Mariela to do the needful. She had his full support.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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