An Odd Encounter: Daily Prompt – An Odd Trio

Have you ever passed by a school house late at night? After it has been forsaken by it’s young pupils, after the grounds have stopped echoing with screams and laughter, and the blackboards have been wiped clean? The school, then, looks sad and forlorn – a dark, silent looming entity.
This was what I thought as I passed by the Springdale School on my way home at 10 last night. Built before Indian Independence by an Englishman, Lawrence Crawley, whose statue now stood outside the gate, the building was an interesting representation of Gothic splendor and excess. Lawrence Crawley looked over all who passed with a benign smile, his hand half-raised as if in blessing. With his flowing beard and knowing smile, he looked a wise, old man.
As I passed, I suddenly sneezed. Wiping my nose with my handkerchief, I was wondering if I was falling sick, when a voice interrupted: Bless you!
I swiveled around sharply to see the ghost of Lawrence Crawley beaming at me from over his stone shoulder.
The only thing that kept me from screaming and running away in terror was the fact that he was, at the most somewhere around 4 ft. 11 inches. It is practically impossible to be scared of a pearly white entity, that barely reaches your shoulders. So instead I asked him, “Who are you?”

Sir. Lawrence Crawley at your service. Now if you will pardon me asking, are you a girl with short hair, or a boy with long hair?

I am a girl!” I spluttered indignantly. He looked me up and down, with a puzzled look.

Well I am sure you can understand my confusion. Why would you cut your hair so short? Long tresses are the pride of any beautiful woman.

“I can think of a number of exceptions” I retorted hotly, but he was on a roll now, and barely heard me.

These new-fangled notions of fashion are so ridiculous! Pardon me for swearing in a lady’s presence…..but ladies nowadays swear just as much as, if not more than men!! What is the world coming to! You can’t live a gentleman’s life on it, anymore.

“You shouldn’t be anyway” I pointed out. He grinned maliciously:

Haven’t you heard that sneezing under a statue, calls upon its ghost?

NO!!!

Well I am sure it does, according to some superstitious belief of some group or cult, somewhere in the world. Doesn’t really matter. We’re moving away from the topic. Now, tell me, which young lady sneezes so loudly? Ladies sneezes are delicate things, like a baby’s laugh, not an elephant’s trumpet.

I blushed, and muttered a little defensively “There was no one around”.

That is not the point. It is a matter of etiquettes! Not that I would expect any lady wearing male trousers to understand manners and etiquettes!

He snorted derisively.
They are jealous 21 jeans” I cry out, eager to defend my favorite pair of denims.

Jeans? You mean denim trousers – only the laboring class wears that! And what’s that on your feet? Flippety-flops? Floppity flips?
Flip Flops!
What kind of name is that?! What kind of footwear is that?!

It’s comfortable!” I argue.

Ladies don’t dress for comfort! They dress to look pretty! Did you know that in China they force baby girls to wear metal shoes so that their feet remain small and delicate?

I started saying, “I am pretty sure they don’t…” but he was like a rolling barrel. Impossible to stop!

And what is a young lady like you doing out on the streets alone at this time of night? Without a male escort too!!
In my time there was none of this mumbo-jumbo about equality between men and women. How can women work with men? They don’t have the mental capacity to understand matters of finance and business. It’s a fact! I am not being biased. Women are good at other things that men can’t do – like bake cakes.
…..why are you making that abominable noise?!!

“I am coughing”, I said. “Don’t you know, if you cough in front of a ghost, he has to go away”.

What nonsense! Who says that?

“It’s a very widespread belief in Hogwarts” I said. He looked mystified:

Where is Hogwarts?

“It’s near Scotland” I told him. He looked annoyed.

Damn these new countries! They sprout up like weeds.

I coughed again, significantly. He sighed huffily:

Fine!

And with one final glare, he vanished.
I walked briskly and did not look back till I reached the end of the lane. Maybe it was a trick of the indecisive street lamp, but I could swear I saw the statue of Sir Lawrence Crawley wink 😉

Daily Prompt : Time for another Odd Trio prompt: write a post about any topic you want, in whatever form or genre, but make sure it features a slice of cake, a pair of flip-flops, and someone old and wise.

Generation Gap: Daily Prompt

Today’s Daily Prompt: If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?

Disclaimer: I greatly respect my family’s heritage and stock of traditions. This post is written with tongue-of-cheek, self-deprecating humour, and to be read from the same point of view.

Now that I have safeguarded myself from any angry relatives who might accidentally stumble across my blog, let me start the post – I will be truthful. On reading this the first thing that came to my mind was my grandfather hitching a ride with ‘Doc’ and ‘Marty’ (from the ‘Back to the Future’ Trilogy) and ringing our house doorbell, and jovially asking my mom – what’s for dinner? And asking me to go get him some of his favourite samosas from the store. My grandfather was a pretty cool guy. I don’t think he would be shocked by anything if he came over to dinner. But anyone a generation before would probably have a mini-heart attack, and die again! Assuming that they condescend to enter an apartment building, smaller than the servants’ quarters in their ancestral home, here are some things that I think they will find shocking:

  1. Coming from an aristocratic lineage where women were considered the ‘pride and honour’ of the family, I guess my ancestor would be more than a little shocked to find my wardrobe stocked up with jeans and t-shirts, and heaven forbid, my precious dresses. For all I know they might just hold a bonfire for all my clothes.Also the fact that I am unable to wear or manage a sari without my mother’s expert help might be a source of consternation to some of my late family members.
  2. The Biggest Shock would obviously be the fact that all my father’s brothers and my grandfather’s brothers no longer reside together even in the same country, much less the same house. Some are known to me and my sister only by names; the black telephone cord substitute blood line in case of others; some are just glossy photographs in a yellowed photo album, others are buried deep within the hard drive containing pictures of the last family wedding, ten years ago.Over time, one of the changes for the worse (at least in my opinion) is the widening gap between relatives, even primary ones. I talk to my first cousins over the phone maybe three-four times a year. I meet them in formal settings maybe once after two years. The camaraderie and mutual love shared by cousins once upon a time is as good as a fictional myth now. Once upon a time, in India (doesn’t it sound like the beginning of a fairy tale) the concept of ‘single child’ never existed, because even if you didn’t have your own siblings, you always had your cousins, and they were as good as.
  3. The fact that I can’t recite any Sanskrit hymns or sholkas, and am mostly ignorant about the rituals associated with worship will immediately earn me the trophy of the ‘Worst Daughter Ever’. Also seeing me mingle quite freely with guys, and girls from all castes and religions, would definitely be a shock to all my ancestors born before the mid nineteenth-century.
  4. The fact that both me and my sister can neither write nor read our mother tongue, Bengali, would be as great a source of shame for my ancestors as my parents, if not greater. To our defence we were brought up away from the region, and never felt the need to learn a language we did not use in our daily interactions.
  5. Once upon a time dinner used to be served in huge golden dishes with at least seven courses. Now it comprises of take-out pizza on microwave-safe dishes. I don’t think my ancestors would be staying for dinner after all!
  6. The apartment we currently reside in would probably give claustrophobia to any ancestor kind enough to drop by for dinner. Our apartment, situated right in the middle of the urban concrete jungle, lacks the open air, free space and outdoor gardens, our ancestral home in the village undoubtedly had. We can’t even see the sky from our windows, unless you try, really, really hard. The only greenery comes from the potted plants and flower boxes on the balconies.
  7. If my ancestors were to come over for dinner on a Sunday there is a good chance they would partake of a meal prepared by my father. Which would indeed be a radically shocking, socially upsetting and paradigm changing sight for even my great-grandparents. On most Sundays, to give my mother a well-deserved break, my father takes over the kitchen. He is a great chef, and a standing joke in our family is that after retirement he should open up a restaurant. An idea that would undoubtedly be seriously frowned upon by my ancestors, no matter how good his chicken biryani is.

A Tale of Beans and Brews – the Coffee Culture

The legend around coffee goes that an Ethopian goat-herd discovered coffee after he noticed strange effects on the behaviour of his goats after consuming the plant. The earliest credible sources of coffee drinkers (according to Wikipedia at least) appears in the middle of the 15th century in the Sufi shrines of Yemen. Throughout history, the bitter brown bean has formed a part of culture, often extending beyond the dinner table. In East Africa and Yemen, coffee was used as a part of native religious ceremonies. As these rituals conflicted with the beliefs of the Christian Church, the Ethopian Church had once banned the consumption of coffee. The drink was also banned in the Ottoman Empire during the 17th century, and has also been associated with rebellious activities in Europe.

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Coffee today has become an intricate part of the modern Western culture, rapidly being assimilated by many countries in the global village. Often the act of drinking coffee goes beyond the mere consumption of the same. Chains of coffee-houses and cafes, notably Starbucks or Café Coffee Day among numerous others, have become an all-too-common sight in Indian metropolitan cities. Drinking coffee is part of the morning ritual for many students and young professionals alike. I have many friends who cannot fathom starting a day without the caffeine buzz that coffee provides. As the day progresses, coffee becomes a motif for social interaction. Friends call each other up, ‘Hey, let’s meet for coffee’. Life issues, romantic estrangements, social problems and contemporary affairs alike are discussed over steaming cups of cappuccinos, espressos or lattes in the winter; and with ice-cubes or a scoop of ice-cream in the summer, or have a frappe.

downloadIn the romantic context, ‘going out for coffee’ may sometimes involve no coffee at all. Cafes are actually one of the most popular spots for a first date. Ask your friends, if you don’t believe me. I bet 9 out of 10 of them will have had their first date in a coffee house.

‘Coffee breaks’ too are a time for socialization and interaction between members, during a meeting, a seminar or on a normal workday. Coffee houses, like the one in Kolkata, has been reputed for being the rendezvous spot for the intellectual elite.

Caffeine has a stimulating effect on the brain – this much is scientifically proven. Thus coffee now is synonymous to studying or working late. An interesting fact: the Computer Language JAVA, which is used for most internet applications, was named after Java Coffee. Incidentally, the programmers were in a meeting trying hard to find a name for their new language, and they were having cups of coffee. And suddenly someone joked that they should name the language JAVA, and the name kind of stuck. You might also have noticed that the logo of JAVA is a steaming cup of coffee, reminiscent of that night.

coffee2Many global transactions are hidden behind a cup of coffee. A veritable network of complicated social and economic relationships are stretched across the globe on the basis of coffee. Coffee is primarily consumed in the developed and rich countries of the first-world, but grown in relatively poorer countries. It is the primary source of foreign exchange for many countries. The production and transportation of coffee requires continuous transactions between people thousands of miles away from each other, and the coffee drinker. Moreover since coffee is not naturally grown in most European countries or North America, it hearkens back to the colonial rule and is a souvenir of its legacy today. It was only when European colonizers settled in Africa and South America that coffee became a part of the ‘Western’ diet. Its history is the history of colonial rule and colonial struggle.

Coffee is also a lifestyle choice. The choice you as a consumer make about what kind of coffee, which brand of coffee, and which coffee house, says a lot about your life style. You may choose to drink only organic coffee, natural decaffeinated coffee or coffee that has been ‘fairly traded’ through schemes that pay full market price to the small coffee producers. You may choose to patronize an independent coffee house over corporate coffee chains; or you may just make it at home yourself. Next time that you drink a cup of coffee, pause between sips to appreciate all that is the ‘coffee culture;.

Now, you have to excuse me……I am going out for a cup of coffee 🙂

CCD

The Coffee I had. It is a Crunchy Vanilla Frappe, with butterscotch. I like it cold. How do you like it?