I draw a deep breath and tell myself to imagine I'm back at The Art of Living sessions. This helps, and I manage to unclench my teeth and say, “This manure is very good. I got it from the Kitchen Garden Society meeting.”
The mali, not having attended an Art of Living course, doesn’t even try to attempt any pleasantries. The khad is terrible and he could have got much better and Kitchen Garden Societies are all hogwash and bibiji , not knowing any better, has being taken for a royal ride. Since I had only attended the “Art of Living for Beginners,” I am, but naturally, not able to maintain the calm and relaxed state of mind which comes when one imagines one is floating in space.
I tell him how helpful the Kitchen Garden Society meetings are for people like me, whose gardeners, unfortunately, are not culled from the same ilk as Lord Emsworth, gardener at Blanding House. The mali, not being drawn to such irreverent reading as yours truly indulges in, pauses for a minute, but only to draw breath. He has by now discovered the plants that accompanied the manure, and his nostrils flare some more. Taking a leaf out of Arvind Kejriwal’s battle strategy, that beating a retreat is sometimes more prudent than a prolonged confrontation, I tell him to make some hanging baskets and, well, beat a retreat.
There is a flurry of activity from within the house as I enter. Cushions are hurriedly straightened, chappals go back to where they belong, on the owners feet, the television volume is lowered, and the son bends studiously over a book which till now had been languishing on his lap.
The run-in in the garden hasn’t totally spoiled my good mood and I beam benignly at the family and pronounce myself absolutely in love with the KGS and with all its members, especially the President. The men in blue are not doing too well against the men in black, and my comment is headed towards oblivion.
The maid chooses that moment to announce dinner. I tell her to remove my plate from the table. There is a chorus of “why are you not eating?” I run them through the tea that was served at the meet: samosa , dhokla , sandwich, pastry, halwa , coffee...
The son, always the one to say the wrong thing, asks, “You have finally joined a kitty party, mum?” I quiver in righteous indignation and tell him KGS is no kitty party. Very meaningful work goes on at the meetings and one learns a lot. I start telling them about the tray garden we were taught to make that day.
Now the bell rings. It is the boy from the grocery store. The husband gets up to make the payment. He is back in a minute, looking all puzzled. “I had kept a thousand on the bedside table. Has anyone seen the money?” I tell him I had taken the money with me. “So, give it to the boy.” “I can’t.” “Why not”? “Because I spent it all at the Kitchen Garden meeting.”
This is no kitty party. Very meaningful work goes on here.