December 8, 2011 @ 4:29 pm
by Dhimant Parekh
“Do you think such conferences are useful?” she asked while looking at no one in particular and picking the chicken on her plate.
I looked at her as she sat next to me at one of those round tables that are usually filled with people you’ve never met.
Trying to decipher whether she was a part of the organizing committee or not, I managed to fumble a “I guess they are” and before I could continue, she had moved on to another topic – that of cities.
Looking no less than 70 years in age, she had lived in many cities and towns across India. A marriage to an armed forces personnel does that to you. And over a few short conversations that I was having with the others at the table, she dwelt a little longer on Bangalore.
“I used to stay in Langford town in those days,” she beamed with pride. She spoke to no one in particular, but her words seemed to address a crowd.
“Those days Bangalore used to be such a wonderful place to stay,” she continued. The “those days” could’ve been at least 50 years ago, I thought to myself.
“And that area used to have a lot of Anglo Indians staying there,” her excitement was growing by the minute.
“Anglo Indians are such cultured people – they taught me a lot,” she didn’t give much time for you to add a yeah, hmmm or nice between her lines.
“We Indians are crude. We speak in a rude, crude and guttural tone. Have you noticed?” she suddenly looked at me, singling out my face from the crowd she was talking to so far.
I smile at that remark and try to articulate my response in a manner that would deem fit for a disciplined elderly, but this energetic lady didn’t have much time for that.
“Is Bishop Cottons still there?,” she continues to ask the crowd, looking at the plate and addressing no one in particular but making everyone want to respond.
“Oh yes, it is,” I give her the prompt answer.
“But the teachers must be Indians now,” she shrugs in a manner of a child who, after having a bowlful of candy, is no longer interested in the biscuits being passed around.
“I was educated by nuns,” she raised both her palms towards us and smiled.
“The problem is with our education system,” she now looked at the person on the other side of her seat. “That is why we Indians will always remain like this,” she finished the last bit of food on her plate with that statement.
“Is Mangalore Breweries still around,” she looked at me considering that I had answered her previous question.
“Mangalore Breweries? I haven’t heard of that. I guess it isn’t around anymore,” I venture to offer.
“Oh! What a pity. We used to walk down from Langford town to Mangalore Breweries. They used to give a beer bottle for 1 rupee back then. This big a bottle,” and she uses her two hands to indicate a pint-sized bottle.
“Just 1 rupee, can you believe it!” she talks to the crowd again and gets up to fetch her dessert. I offer to get dessert for her considering that she might find it difficult to go through the crowds, but she declines. She looks at my card for my name and reads aloud the name of the organization I am representing. In a smile, she dismisses me off with a half-wave of her hand and disappears into the lines waiting for dessert.