Ratimai Royale!

10:30 – Sunday morn! Darabsha wakes up. The night before, he and his chums had been to the airport to see their Missus off on a jamboree to London. Normally the Kootla Committee Members (KCM) would make a beeline to some historical place for their annual “jaunt to broaden their minds(?).” As this year marked the coronation of King Charles III, they decided on England.

Darabsha is lolling about in sadra and legha – in short, Darabsha faraagat che! He happily gets down to a splendid man-alone-at-home breakfast of sunny-side up eggs, bacon, toast (buttered dangerously), and cheese – all washed down with a cuppa coffee. An equally rich lunch at the Gymkhana with beer, in company of fellow ‘bachelor-boys’. Happy-hour was equally unfettered by the absence of their distant Merry-Wives-in-Windsor-land. Six weeks went by. It was endless party time for our blissfully, wifeless blokes. And finally came the eruption of Visuvian Parsees partying for the last time, before the arrival of their wandering wives back to their nest…a bash to remember! Then back to status quo…

angry businessman shouting with steam coming out of his ears

Ratimai arrived laden with bags and baggages. Darabsha found one that he had been waiting for since Rati had left – the one carrying two bottles of single malt. It was a touching reunion. “I missed you a lot Rati. The house wasn’t the same without your loving touch.” Couple days later, Darabsha was yet again domesticated and housebroken, after all the roistering and living it up. Rati was busy recounting her shopping spree in London, visiting usual tourist spots and finally, Coronation Day, with everyone striving for a spot to get a glimpse of crowned King Charles III and the Queen Consort. Rati had managed some places, and the KCM were able to catch a glimpse Their Majesties in their golden coach. It was just a fleeting glance and the splendid coach passed by far too quickly, yet it would be the memory of a lifetime that will grow exaggerated as time went by.

Days went by listening to Ratimai’s endless narrations about Piccadilly and Petticoat Lane, Kensington and Carnaby Street, ad infinitum. Like Tennyson’s ‘Brook’, “Man may hear and man may not, But Rati goes on forever!” Darabsha, like many long-married men, has learnt to shut himself from his wife’s verbal deluge, just interjecting at intervals with, ‘Yes dear, hmmm, or OMG!’ Darabsha does the same when his Madam Editor tells him what she thinks him as a writer or his writings. Darabsha is simply not there. He goes, “Yes ma’am, right ma’am”, or, “Of course ma’am!”

A few days later Ratimai’s tide of words ebbed, and she immersed herself in reading a book – more like deeply engrossed in the perusal of this little volume, which held her enthralled! Darabsha was curious. After several attempts, he caught a glimpse of the little volume that was holding Rattie agog. It was ‘Etiquette’ by Emily Post. Darabsha froze! A chill ran down his spine, and justifiably so. Such books are meant for self-improvement but when Rati reads them, Darabsha becomes the object of improvement! Sure enough, that very evening as Darabsha was standing by the window in his sadra and leghaa, Rati said, “I say, Darab luv, one does not stand at the window scantily dressed in sadra and leghaa. It goes against all the codes of civilized dressing, wot!” The brainwashing had begun.

 “OMG! She has been bitten by the ‘What-ho, we’re Brits!’ bug, with ‘Crickey! Blimey!’ loosely thrown around, making her sound like a Wodehousian gardner or pigman! But it is Happy Hour! Darabsha decides to have glug of brandy – but his glass was snatched away even as he had his first sip! “Darbs, if you must drink, use propah glassware. Brandy in brandy goblets! Whisky in Old Fashionades if ‘On the Rocks’, otherwise Collin glasses…”

Irritated, Darabsha shot back, “And for Rum, Strathspeys and Glencairns. Rats, my dear girl, I know my glasses and my drinks. This is my grand-papa’s favourite glass and I want to drink from it only. Sitting his lap, I had my first sip of scotch from that glass.” It’s sentimental!

“My dear man, tamé nai sudherso. My mama told me to say so too.”

“Let’s have dinner,” suggested Darabsha. “Chal Shamji bhonu kaar. Pelu taru tikhu tam-tamtu bafat aavva dey!” Darabsha shouted eagerly.

“Darbs! No shouting please, It’s gross. We use the gong to announce dinner, not holler for it!”

“Whatever! Bus bhonu avva dey!

Rati kept kneading the ‘etiquette no aato’, as apro late Adi Marazban would say. She laid the table a là European style with her Johnson Bros Chinaware that had not seen the daylight since long. She then started speaking on “propah” table manners. “Now pay attention, Darabsha. The knives, this is for fish and the other for steak. The butter knife is placed…”

“Hold it, darling,” Darabsha interrupted, “This is a waste of time. Ours is earthy cooking, quite rustic. Tell me how can one eat masoor with a fork? And what about the chap-na-cutlets, kharu papeta-nu-gosh, sali kheemo, and kharia? Also the dudhpakh puri during the Bahman mahino! Furthermore, I refuse to have my meals with pao or sliced bread. Rotli is our traditional accompaniment and I refuse to give it up. Gosh! It is the season of bhing now, the bony, but the most delicious fish. No Limey or Yankee can do justice to it with his fish knife or fish fork, without chocking on its bones!”

For the next few days Darabsha’s life grew increasingly intolerable with Ratimai’s constant attempts to Anglicize her once happy Bawaji. He tried to purloin the book and destroy the wretched thing – he was miserable! He could neither slouch on his easy-chair, nor slurp his tea, or bang the marrow bone on the plate to force the luscious marrow out. “Use the marrow spoon, dear Darab!” and “Scoop the soup away from you, scoop the porridge towards you, chew – don’t chomp, use the serviette – not your shirt sleeves,” Rati went on.

It was Hormazd Roj andDarabsha and Ratimai went to the AtashBehram by bus.

“Darab dear!” Rati snarled.

“Ladies first, isn’t it? Look up your book of etiquette, my dear!”

Rati snapped, “It’s the gentleman who gets down first and then lends a helping hand to the lady, very gallantly.”

“Darling this is not the Victorian era. People wanting to catch the bus rush in and ‘ting-ting’ –  the bus moves on. Confucius said, “Bus, train, and tide wait for no man!”

“Don’t be fractious! It’s not funny!”

“What !? Velat rahi avi pun taru malapropism nahi gayu! The word is facetious!”

“Tomato, tambota – it’s all the same!”

Darabsha muttered, “God! these women went to England and came back as the wardens of the Borstal.”

Post lunch time, Rati said, “Us girls are meeting this evening at 6:00 p.m. Be nice and properly dressed. We will discuss the laxity in etiquette and good social behavior in men. No wisecracks, please!”

“Mum’s the word, dear!” said Darabsha with a foxy glint in his eye. He surreptitiously called up all his similarly afflicted friends to formalize a strategy to get rid of the suffering arising out of that terrifying book. Darabsha’s friends gathered at 5:30 for a cuppa refreshing masala-ni-chai and biscuits at the friendly neighborhood chaiwalla, with placards and banners hurriedly made. They appointed their pal, Behram Vakil as their spokesperson to plead the case of mental harassment and imposing foreign customs, thus attempting to erode our customs and traditions. Behram, though not a vakil, had the affectation of being one himself.

At 6:00 pm, the brigade marched up to Darabsha’s flat. The ladies’ meeting had just started. Behram Vakil’s wife, Mehrabai, was also present. Behram began, “Ladies, er..” he tried to avoid his wife’s dark looks. “Err… several attempts have been made to infringe upon my learned friends’ liberty to lead a life according to our errr.. customs and traditions and… mmm…” He was interrupted by Mehrabai, “Behli, what are you mumbling? Speak up, man!”

Darabsha came to his rescue. “Well ladies, we are happy that you had a great time in UK but…”

“OK we had a great time. So what? Come to the point. Chop-chop! We have important matters to discuss.”

“Oh! I know what important matter! We are fed up with your imposition of some archaic foreign customs, Re: the etiquette. Now let us go back to the old ways suitable to our Parsi upbringing, or else the boys here and many more will go on a hunger strike and sit on a dharna at the gate of our colony. See these posters, banners and… Cowsie, aapra loud speakers kya che? Come on lads! Liberty, Equality and Fraternity!”

“No need to go to the extremes like spoilt brats!” butted in Tehmi, the teacher. Very stern, very strict.

“Tehmina mai, sumjho. You cannot make us stand up in the corner or write an imposition.” Chalo chokra-o let our campaign commence.” Hurdled closely, the KCM discussed how to get out of the dharna. The blame game started!

“Who bought this book first?” Fingers were pointed. Finally, teacher Tehmi spoke as if admonishing her class, “Stop girls. This is no time to bicker. Let us stop the guys from carrying out their threat or else our reputation will be mud. We will be made a laughing-stock of the baug!”

Rati got up and almost ran. “Come on girls, I have an idea!” Rati leading, Dhunmai almost neck-to-neck, the rest ran, bunched-up, “Darabshaaa, Daaalu darling wait!” She hurriedly went into a long-wound explanation, “Darab, we did not know you all will take umbrage at this little joke we were playing with you guys. A practical joke.! Ha Ha Ha! Come on, be a sport dear. Let us all call for some dinner and have a party. We girls will foot the bill. There is a bottle of scotch I had bought for my brother Jamsu. Let’s open it. It’s all settled! Let’s party!”

“Well,” said Siavax, “Let us forgive and forget.”

‘Hurrumph’ went Homi and winked at the boys. So did Lovji Lambo!

So did all the boys. They had good scotch and there was merriment and a lot of ribbing.

As we head towards Navroz, let there be goodwill amongst us all too. SAL MUBARAK and A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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