My first transfer to Chennai was as a younger bride many moons and geopolitical phenomena in the past. On the primary weekend break from the brand new job, we lastly had the time to crawl out of transferring cartons (utilizing the identical pair of socks on daily basis as which carton had the socks was a thriller). I used to be stacking empty cartons within the again veranda after I observed a stocky girl from a neighbouring condo waving her broom and grinning manically, gesturing that she would come throughout.
That was how Vasantha got here to prepare dinner for us. Our pecking order was established virtually instantly; my ignorance of the language plummeting me to the decrease species. On her first morning, she accosted me, ‘ Urulakizhangu?’ These have been the pre-online-translator darkish ages. I smiled blankly. She grew agitated, advancing as I backed up towards the wall… ‘ Urulakizhangu?’ She moved in, curling her fingers right into a ball, chopping and slicing on the air, much more frenzied. ‘Urulakizhangu!’ It was now a battle cry. Clueless, I pulled out chopping board, bowls, all kinds of knives as choices. In scorn, she switched ways. ‘ Vengayam?’
The very subsequent day, I sat with workplace mates and compiled a glossary of edibles translated into Tamil. I caught the V List on the fridge, however Vasantha’s calls for grew extra complicated. It took half an hour of histrionics to provide mortar and pestle; and by star anise, I used to be in tears. Vasantha glowered on, unimpressed.
Vasantha set excessive requirements. I couldn’t get my thaengai-thaen proper? Very nicely then, I’d get coconut scraped into my tea as a substitute of honey. Armed with the V List, I hollered on the neighbourhood grocer, ‘ Mottai!
My new pals pitched in, scribbling useful phrases onto the V List. ‘This is what you say if you’re indignant,’ they’d giggle, typically changing fruit names with inappropriate variations that landed me in hotter soup. My earnest makes an attempt met with a dour reception. After I stuttered by way of a recipe in my greatest Tamil, she’d snort and make it precisely as she deemed match.
Vasantha upped her degree and I scuttled to maintain monitor, until I used to be muttering ‘Pavakkai, Kovakkai, Millakkai’ in my nightmares.
As the V List did its job, Vasantha grew fidgety. My new fluency left her with no problem. A couple of months later, I discovered proof of infidelity. Vasantha was waving her broom in our again veranda. A younger woman had not too long ago moved into the adjoining condo. V had smelt blood. Soon sufficient, I noticed the assault within the new kitchen. That hapless harmless didn’t stand an opportunity as Vasantha pounced at her, chopping and slicing. The Urulakizhangu Opening, as it could be referred to as in chess.
*To save your disguise in case you meet Vasantha, listed below are the translations. Urulakizhangu – potato, Vengayam– onion, Thaengai– coconut, Thaen– honey, Mottai – egg-head/ bald, Pavvaki – bitter gourd, Kovakkai – ivy gourd, Millakkai– chilli.
Where Jane De Suza, the writer of Happily Never After, talks concerning the week’s quirks, quacks and hacks