Monday, January 6, 2014

From where do you get your temper, Annie?

('Annie', if you've stumbled on to my blog recently, is what my sons call me. The reason for this is a long story, but the boys, despite all kinds of protestations on my part, continue to call me Annie)

The breakfast table discussion this morning turned to anger and display thereof and everyone very democratically elected me as the one with the fiercest temper. I dissented, of course, but who listens to me?

"I'm the calmest guy in a crisis, I will have you know", I told the missus and the lads

"Ha, you manage to get pissed off by mall parking attendants even" said the missus, invoking a stray case where I heaped vituperation on an uncaring shopping mall security guy who, just for fun, made me change the location of my car thrice. "And he was perfectly right too"

"But my displays of anger are always bursts of sharp language" I told them "I have never hit anyone on the head with a coconut"

"There is that, of course" conceded the missus and we proceeded to consume the excellent khara baath that my mother had rustled up

"What coconut?" asked younger son, and I couldn't help smiling as I recalled the anecdote

My great grandmother had a legendary temper. She was a strong woman and a very severe disciplinarian. My father, who grew up under her care, recalls how she would dump unfinished breakfast on the head of the person leaving it unfinished, the punishment being that he or she couldn't wash it off all day. One of the earliest lessons learned in that household was that nobody messed with her.

She had five sons and all of them were devoted to her. So devoted that they would suffer all her displays of temper with equanimity. There was just one time when they broke that rule.

My grandfather told me this story. It seems they had a maternal uncle who was a very lazy devil and would lounge around all day listening to Hindustani classical music, of which he was inordinately fond. My great grandmother, whose day was just work and more work from the moment she woke up - cook, clean, wash clothes, tend to cattle and god knows what else -, hated to see him lolling around, but she bore it silently.

One morning, she was awakened by the sound of someone shrieking. It was extremely early, some 4 am or so, and she ran to the verandah, from where the cries seemed to be emerging. It turned out to be her brother, the maternal uncle, inspired by the mood of the hour, singing an early morning raga. Great grandmother lost it. She picked up the nearest thing she could find, which turned out to be a coconut, and hit her brother on the head with it. The coconut shell cracked, recalled my grandfather, and maternal uncle fell in a heap. By now the entire household had assembled and when they realized what had happened, all five of her sons yelled at their mother at the top of their voices.

Luckily, maternal uncle, who had to be hospitalized and was in a pretty serious way, survived and went on to raise a family. 'He never sang again, though" recalled my grandfather with a chuckle. "I wonder why"