I have told you about my friend Uma Didi, my veritable storehouse of news and gossip. Her Idly Corner stands next to my gym and that’s how we became friends. In my early days of settling in she was the answer to many of my cooking needs; her shop sells all the masalas including ‘hing’ (asafoetida). She is the quintessential Tamilian – vegetarian, very religious, dons a bindi and a colourful sari. She makes the best sambar in Melbourne.

Of course, the ‘environmental officer’ story from her is my favourite to date. The story goes: an Indian immigrant working as a toilet cleaner goes to India and makes visiting cards with the designation “Environmental Officer’, Royal Melbourne Hospital. Then he starts looking for a wife and so impressed are the family of the chosen bride that he gets a big building as dowry. Back from home country, sporting bright yellow gold rings, and visibly happy, he tells Uma Didi that he has rented the first floor and moved his parents to the ground floor. A year later when wife is about to join him, he comes panicking to Uma Didi saying he needs a change of job asap.

Yesterday morning Uma Didi was seething in anger. Seems she had received a telephone call just after the first few minutes of her puja. Those first few minutes are crucial for her, it is the start of business, she likes to say good things and open the shop on a positive note. Anyway, but her customer Mrs X had something urgent. This is the finer details of her phone conversation with Mrs X. 

Mrs X: Uma, my husband is still shivering
Uma: But why?
Mrs X: Yesterday when you said Namaste to him at the mandir, he was worried people saw him
Uma: But why would he feel that way, I am not a call girl?
Mrs X: No, no, he is a very shy man, and you are an astrologer, you deal with so many people...women are not supposed to be astrologers. In future, please do not say Namaste to him in public

End of conversation for Uma Didi. She hung up. I was literally on the floor laughing my guts out. Mr X is 70 plus. No wonder, recalls Uma Didi, he did not acknowledge her greeting but instead looked around and walked past. I told Uma Didi the next time he comes we must grab him by the shoulder, give him a shrug and make salacious suggestions! On second thoughts, he might have a heart attack.

Uma Didi had one more interesting incident to narrate. Once Mr X came to her shop to collect prasad (food to be offered in the temple) which she sells for people who can't make the specifics. He did not enter her shop; standing outside the door, he asked if she was alone. When she said yes, he requested that the prasad be placed outside so he could collect. He left without paying as the eftpos machine was inside, but it was credited to her account from his home! 

Living in a country where there are gay marriages, open marriages and what not, I wonder how what kind of role Mr and Mrs X are setting for their children and how Australia has not changed their mindset. It is easy to judge and say it only happens in India but it also happens in Australia.


Simply Curious said...

Funny! :-)

Unknown said...

Hilarious- now I want to meet mr and mrs X :).

Shanti Thokchom said...


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