Sivam was Mona athai’s new help. She was having a tough time getting him to do anything right. But sending him to the market to buy oil proved to be the last straw!
It all started because Bullet said he wanted okra crispies for supper.
“Fried stuff’s not healthy,” remarked Mona athai, “Really Bullet, and Poppet too – you eat more potato-crisps than is good for you.”
“But okra’s not potato,” said Bullet.
“Besides, your garden is teeming with okra,” I added.
Bullet and I were visiting Mona athai during our Holi-cum-Easter break.
“Don’t be stodgy, Mona. Okra crispies taste yummy,” said Nita athai coming into the room. “But there’s no oil. Better send your Man-Friday to get some from the market.”
“You don’t know what Sivam is like!” said Mona athai in a gloomy voice.
Sivam had been with Mona athai for barely a month, being wished on to her when her man-of-all-work went on annual leave. He had apparently been driving Mona athai bonkers ever since, muddling up the simplest of jobs.
“Better impress it on him that he must stick to the Elephant brand oil and buy only a sealed tin,” warned Nita athai. “It’s terribly risky to buy it loose.”
“Oh I always insist on sealed tins,” said Mona athai.
“Better not give him too much money,” warned Nita athai, “You don’t want a repetition of the gourd episode, do you?”
All of us burst out laughing. Mona athai had asked Sivam to get some gourd from the market the previous Sunday. She’d given him a 500-rupee-note to buy it with.
Sivam had returned at sundown wheeling a wooden cart piled high with gourds of all shapes and sizes.
“They didn’t have any more,” he had explained, “Besides, I had to leave security-money for the cart.”
“But why buy so MUCH?” cried Mona athai enraged.
“You gave me the money for buying gourd and I did,” he said.
She was taking no chances this time!
“Don’t be late and mind you buy a sealed tin,” said Mona athai giving him the money.
Sivam walked out and seemed to vanish into thin air.
We had to have a dinner of plain sambar-rice as one couldn’t make okra crispies without oil.
It was bed time when Sivam put in an appearance, smiling and triumphant.
Mona athai was livid. “Where have you been? And what made you so late?”
“You just had to buy a tin of oil” exploded Nita athai.
“What did you expect when you asked me to buy a sealed tin?” grumbled Sivam. “There was none of the brand you wanted. So I had to scour a dozen junkshops to find an empty tin of the Elephant brand. It was filthy so I had to wash it first. And then get it filled up with oil.
After that I just couldn’t get anyone to seal the tin. Finally the cobbler took me to his brother who had been a tinker once. He sealed it for me and charged me ten rupees for doing it. Wasn’t that clever of me? I really don’t see why you should be angry when I took so much trouble!”