Living with Temporary Insanity

November 15, 2010

I didn’t know it thirteen-odd years ago when I contemplated getting married to Amit and decided It wouldn’t be all that bad a thing to do, but apparently marriage involves coming to grips with all sorts of things, not the least of which is various bouts of temporary insanity in one’s better half.

There have already been several such episodes to contend with that I can recall offhand. There was the conviction that the two of us could manage our careers and still do ALL the household work between us without needing any domestic help of any sort. We started busting that myth five years ago and have gone from strength to strength in that area. There was the insistence that all the cooking for two people could be done in less than half a litre of oil per month, and that a kilo of salt should last us for the rest of our natural lives. (Yeah, I was laughing out loud at the time, too.) There was the philosophy that we should eat two non-vegetarian meals every day, followed by the philosophy that we should convert to vegetarianism (and teetotaler-ism to boot!). There was the uncontrollable urge to buy a huge, gleaming, spanking new, sexy car, only to keep it parked in the garage day after day because Bangalore roads are too broken and messed up for a beauty like that (and it’s not even an Audi, only a Honda Civic). There was the extramarital affair with the plumber, which I’ve complained about at great length earlier and which my darling husband has often threatened to repeat. There was the adamant refusal to shave or go for a haircut for months on end, which resulted in thick, free-flowing locks that made my better half look like some kind of sham holy-man. (How big a sham that would be – he’s a confirmed atheist!)

And others, which are now lost in the sands of time.

Needless to say, though I’ve necessarily had to endure most of these episodes with my customary fortitude, I have done my utmost to distance myself from both the implementation as well as the underlying philosophy. Imagine – me, avoid alcohol and turn vegetarian!? I’ve only managed to endure one month of such unnecessary and traumatic abstinence once in my entire adult life and then I was quite starved by the end of that month. And as for cars – I bought the biggest one I could in my budget, I’ve driven it mercilessly and ruthlessly for a little over a year, and I’ve acquired enough battle scars to show for it. Keep it parked at home covered in six inches of dust and take a bus to work? Are you crazy???

My no longer “better” half’s latest manifestation of mental imbalance is to do with garbage. He has been avidly collecting all our food scraps for the past two-and-a-half months and storing them in a large, three-tiered compost pot in a veranda just next to our living room. We keep the door firmly closed, so mostly the wonderful aromas don’t make it into the house, but that doesn’t hold for the maggots. If I find less than half a dozen of them crawling around next to our shoe rack (we don’t actually have a shoe rack, but I mean the place where the shoe rack would be if we had one) then I can count myself lucky. At their worst, we’ve had infestations that must have numbered over a hundred individuals in a period of 24 hours. And if you’re thinking that maggots give birth to maggots, so killing off (or at least sterilizing) some of them will stem the tide, let me disillusion you. Black soldier flies lay eggs that turn into maggots. And black soldier flies love decomposing garbage. (it’s amazing the variety of useless information you can get from 30 seconds spent on the Internet.)

To add to the décor of the veranda, we also have a nice little brown bat that likes to hang itself out to dry under the tiles of that veranda’s ceiling. Its droppings make a nice little mosaic pattern on the veranda’s floor, much to our landlord’s alarm. I did another 30 seconds of research on the Net and found that bats can be expected to live for anything from 10-30 years (depending on the species; I couldn’t determine the species of our bat in those 30 seconds). Charming – so there’s no hope of it dying in the next couple of weeks. And it doesn’t seem to eat black soldier flies. Or maggots. Useless.

Anyhow, after collecting garbage and sweeping up maggots for a little over two months, my darling husband spent the weekend making love to his compost pot. He thinks it’s a blooming miracle; I think it’s just one of many natural processes and it’s fairly gross, and why must it be given pride of place right outside my living room? On Saturday, this poor, besotted man sat down on the guano-covered veranda floor to spend a few hours with his latest passion. He sieved the garbage, separating whole chicken bones out of the coffee-powder-ish compost, and then sat for an hour or two just letting the powdery compost run through his fingers, a goofy smile on his face and a strange, dreamy look in his eyes. When the kids came to see what he was up to, he made them fondle the compost as well! (Supriya, are you reading this???) What’s worse, when we went for our friend V’s birthday party on Saturday, he took him a sample of compost rolled up in a newspaper as a birthday gift! (Other people brought flowers…)

This compost mess didn’t stop with the compost, however. Amit also managed to spot a “natural” clothes-washing soap at the compost-pot shop. It was a bag of what looked like dried and very crumbly apricots, but which was actually a seed of a tree and is commonly known as soap nut. A friend identified it for us as what is known as “Ritha” in Hindi (or something like it). Instead of using this to just wash clothes, as instructed, Amit removed all other forms of cleaning solutions and bars from the house and replaced it with the solution made from boiling this nut – for washing clothes, dishes, hands, face, body, and hair. And anything else you’d want to wash.

Although not much convinced about this solution to dirt and germs, I agreed to try. The most disconcerting thing about this “soap” is that it doesn’t lather. On dishes it doesn’t remove the oil and grease. On hands it has no discernible effect. Likewise on clothes. I refused to use it while bathing and dug out an old bar of bath soap for me and the kids; but I did try to shampoo with it and found that it left my hair looking dank and feeling stiff, as though it hadn’t been washed for a couple of weeks. I persisted for more than ten days, but when I found my hair falling out in handfuls, I quickly discontinued and returned to the cocktail of chemicals that my hair is used to.

Despite all my protests, however, Amit insisted on using this soap-substitute to shampoo the kids’ hair yesterday. Yesterday, after a long time, I’d oiled their hair nicely with coconut oil. Obviously, coconut oil + soap nut = more coconut oil. The girls have gone off to school with oily hair plastered to their skulls and pulled into two tight pigtails apiece – looking like traditional Indian “good girls”. Ugh. I’ll have to shampoo them with Johnson’s baby shampoo tonight to fix this. Sigh.

My litany of complaints does not end here, though. I’ve not started on the fruit flies yet. Fruit flies, in case you haven’t met them personally, are these tiny flying things that look like infant mosquitoes. They don’t buzz and I don’t think they bite, but they irritate the hell out of me. I equate them with dirty and unhygienic places, probably because they love squishy and rotting fruit. Ugh. Over the years, I’ve learned to keep fruit flies at bay by putting all raw fruit and veg into the fridge – and that includes onions, potatoes, bananas, and other improbable stuff. I also try not to keep dirty dishes in the kitchen unwashed for more than half an hour.

I’ve been largely successful at not harbouring too many fruit flies, but when Amit’s father visited us in September, we had vast quantities of vegetables lying around on the kitchen counter all day long attracting all the fruit flies in the neighbourhood. I’ve not managed to completely eradicate them since. In the past few days, though, the fruit fly population has really exploded and I was becoming really rattled by them. Another 30 seconds on the Net disclosed the reason – they like fruit juice. Our new soap-substitute – saponin, soap nut, Ritha, or whatever you like to call it – is essentially fruit juice. Using it in the kitchen and all the bathrooms is like setting out a buffet for all the fruit flies in the neighbourhood and their extended family. The fruit juice appears to be here to stay (not that I’m a fan, but who’s asking me) so yesterday morning, I took out the cockroach-killer spray and – after removing the dishes – sprayed the kitchen sink, which seems to be the most popular hangout for the blasted fruit flies. An hour later, Amit woke up, smelt the insecticide and went ballistic. Apparently, the sight of all those poor little fruit flies lying dead in the sink was really tragic. Seriously? I mean, come on – they’re fruit flies! Do they even have a central nervous system. (Besides, isn’t this some kind of hypocrisy coming from a confirmed carnivore?)

Anyway, given the fruit fly situation and my life partner’s sensitivity to the sanctity of all life, no matter how repellent, I dare not even think along the lines of trying to get rid of that brown bat that isn’t doing anything about eating the black soldier flies that lay the eggs that turn into maggots that crawl all over our shoe rack and give me nightmares on a daily basis (waking nightmares, if you know what I mean).

Yes, I agreed to stand by him through thick and thin and all that, but isn’t this just a little too thick???

15 Authors I Love to Read

November 12, 2010

Chris tagged me on Facebook, apparently knowing very well that this would end up on my blog. The idea was to list my top 15 authors, without spending too much time mulling over the list – which I’ve done; and to tag others to do the same – which I’ve obviously not done. But don’t let that stop you – go ahead and create your own list, if you want to.

Meanwhile, here’s my list of my top 15 authors.

  1. Enid Blyton
  2. A A Milne
  3. Walter Farley
  4. Agatha Christie
  5. Gerald Durrell
  6. P G Wodehouse
  7. Charles Dickens
  8. James Hadley Chase
  9. Erle Stanley Gardner
  10. Georgette Heyer
  11. Dick Francis
  12. JRR Tolkein
  13. JK Rowling

This makes me realize some weird things about myself

  • I love murder mysteries! This is a surprise – I never realized I love murder mysteries this much. I seem to have grown up on a diet of murder mysteries! I’ve only listed five authors here, but I’ve left out Raymond Chandler, GK Chesterton (not exactly murder mysteries, but detective stories anyway), Ruth Rendell, the Nancy Drew author (the original author, not the proxy you get nowadays) and probably a few others. Oh, and if you think that Georgette Heyer in there is a nod at romances, think again – I’ve collected all 13 of her murder mysteries that hopefully still occupy pride of place in my mother’s house.
  • I like Brit writers. (Not really a surprise.)
  • I’ve read a lot of non-fiction in recent years, but I can’t recall any of the authors. (Weird.) There’s only one non-fiction author on that list.
  • Some of the authors from my childhood days still rate as my favourite authors.
  • I could only think of 13 authors. (Were you thinking I can’t count? I can, but it doesn’t matter because all these little icon thingies actually do the counting for you nowadays. No wonder human brain capacity is decreasing.) Initially I put Bill Bryson on the list as a nod at travel writing, but then I realized he’s not in the same class as the other authors in my list (probably because he doesn’t do murder mysteries), so I took him off. (Poor Bill – what a slap in the face!)
  • In my mind, Enid Blyton is actually two or three authors – the author of Noddy, who taught me to read; the author of the house in the tree series, was it called the Faraway Tree or something like that?; the author of the Famous Five and the Secret Seven series; and the author of St Clairs, which was a series like no other. Oh, that’s actually four different authors. So does that make my list of 15 complete?
  • There are lots of individual books I’ve loved, which would probably make it to my list of top 15 books, but very few authors that I’ve gone back to time and time again. (And not all the authors listed above would have a book features on the list of top 15 books. Weird.)

In fact, that last point there got me thinking: Why not a list of top 15 books as well?

  1. Waiting for Godot (TS Eliot)
  2. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkein)
  3. Born Free (Joy Adamson)
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  5. Seven Years in Tibet (Heinrich Harrer)
  6. Where the Indus is Young (Dervla Murphy)
  7. My Family and Other Animals (Gerald Durrell)
  8. Harry Potter series (JK Rowling)
  9. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a trilogy in four parts) (Douglas Adams)
  10. Congo Journey (Redmond O’Hanlon)
  11. As far as my feet will carry me (Josef Martin Bauer, Clemens Forrell)
  12. The Black Stallion (Walter Farley)
  13. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
  14. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
  15. The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins)

There you have it. I bet you haven’t ever heard of half these authors (to be honest, I had to search on Google to find out some of the authors), and yet… there’s not a single Enid Blyton book on this list! (And seven non-fiction books – not counting the Hitchhiker’s Guide…)


November 11, 2010

Our friends V&V made the big mistake of buying a coal-fired barbecue (or Barbie-cute, as Tara calls it) about a year ago. It was a mistake because V&V are almost entirely vegetarian, and vegetarian + barbecue just doesn’t add up. I know, I know, you get babycorn barbecue and cauliflower barbecue and especially paneer tikka and so on in so many restaurants, but really, honestly, the plain truth is, it doesn’t add up to much. If you want to barbecue, you need meat. And the redder the better.

So V&V offered us the barbecue a couple of weekends ago (actually, they asked us if we knew anyone who wanted it, but that’s tantamount to offering it to us anyway) and we jumped at it. Amit had on-and-off expressed a desire to buy one, now that we have a large terrace upstairs, so it seemed fairly opportune. We took it home that night, rigged it up the  next morning, and marinated the chicken that afternoon. At 6.30, we loaded up some of the coal that V&V had thoughtfully given us, surrounded it with newspaper and dried leaves, dripped some coconut oil (hair oil, actually) on top and threw in a match. Then we waited for it to light.

Now we knew, of course, that the recommended method for lighting coal involves kerosene. But we didn’t happen to have any kerosene at home, and didn’t intend this minor detail to deter us. Besides, kerosene doesn’t smell so good. Any oil should do, we reasoned, as we added some more coconut oil. When the coconut oil had no discernible effect, we switched to cooking oil, dousing the coal liberally with almost half a litre.  The newspaper caught and burned merrily for several minutes, before it died out, spewing ash all over the veranda. The coal remained impassive. I blew on it with gusto and fanned it with a folded newspaper like a mini desert storm, but all to no avail.

By 7.30, after we had burned a distinctly unhealthy (not to mention environmentally-unfriendly) quantity of newspaper and cooking oil without having lit so much as a single piece of coal, I was ready to give up. Amit persevered, however, and eventually a few pieces of coal were made to reluctantly smolder a dull red. It didn’t look like it would toast a slice of bread let alone cook substantial pieces of chicken, but Amit decided to give it a try. We placed two metal racks with holes in them over the smoldering coal and within minutes… every sign of life went out of the fire.

In the end, I stuffed half the marinated chicken into the electric grill and put the other half in the fridge. The kids had got tired of waiting for chicken and gone to bed. We were too tired to eat much anyway. And I had a lung full of newspaper ash. Plus we had a massive damage control operation on our hands now.

Last Saturday, it being the day after Diwali, I made mutton curry and rolled out 20 rotis for lunch. This would normally have been Diwali lunch, had we been able to get everything together in time, which, of course, we hadn’t. Thus fortified, we called S&S home for a barbecue evening. “Bring a bottle,” we told them. Not drinks – we had vodka at home already. What we really needed, to get the evening rolling, was kerosene, of course.

I marinated a kilo of chicken and waited for the guests and the kerosene to arrive. Again, we started at 6.30, putting the same coal (which I had meticulously picked out of the ashes and stored in a plastic bag) back in the grill and sprinkling a capful of kerosene over it. We left S in charge of the barbecue and in less than half an hour, the coal was burning a cheerful red, the flames had died down and the kerosene fumes were gone. We placed the chicken pieces on top and twenty minutes later, we were wolfing them down faster than they could cook. It was delicious.

In fact, it was so delicious that one kilo of chicken went short and we had to raid the freezer and resort to putting first chicken sausages and later fish cutlets over the coal. And there was hardly any ash to clean up the next morning.

Morals of the story:

  • Life’s good when you have friends like V&V to give away stuff they don’t need.
  • And friends like S&S who bring the kerosene and the technical know-how to light coal.
  • And vodka – which might or might not have helped to get the coal going, but most certainly acted as an appetite-enhancer.
  • And a four-day weekend in which to put it all together (and then to sleep it all off)!

Pity this happy combination of circumstances doesn’t happen more often.

Home Alone

November 8, 2010

After sitting at home – jobless – for two long years, weekends altogether lost their charm. Weekdays were when I got some time to breathe, to manage the housework and also carve out some time for myself, when the kids were in school or asleep. Weekends were an endless round of housework, family-management, and inane conversations.

When I went back to work, I gained a new appreciation for weekends. They were an opportunity to spend unhurried, non-deadline-driven time with the husband and kids. At least, notionally they were. In practice, of course, weekends were still rushed and deadline-driven, as we frenetically tried to catch up on a whole week of missed housework and equally frenetically tried to catch some rest and relaxation in between chores. The rest and relaxation activities themselves ultimately turned into chores with their own set of deadlines. For instance, “To get seven hours of sleep, I have got to get to bed in the next half hour.” “To watch TV after the kids sleep at 9, I have to get through all the kitchen work by… sigh… a few hours ago.”

And so on…

The sad reality is that two day weekends are just not enough. Seven day weekends are just too much. Three day weekends are good, but from the new perspective of a working-fulltime-away-from-home mom, four day weekends are unimaginably better.

This weekend was great. First, Thursday was a holiday for Amit and the kids, but not for me. It was definitely a bit of a drag leaving for office with three pairs of eyes (and three voices) asking me not to go. But it was great getting home that evening to a well rested, relaxed, happy family enthusiastic to go out for dinner. It was even better knowing that all the housework had been taken in hand by one’s better half and food was cooked, dishes washed, laundry put out to dry, kids bathed and generally taken care of… wow. I could get used to this!

Friday was Diwali. It was probably my most disorganized Diwali ever. At 1.00 pm, we were still attempting to leave home with a long and critical list of things to buy: fire crackers, diyas, sweets. We got the fire crackers easily enough (60% discount, as usual), but the collections of diyas near home were a sorry looking bunch, and the only sweets still available looked uninspiring. I picked up a few for the cook, then went to the grocery store for milk. After all, rice kheer is one of the few Indian sweets I do passably well.

After a late lunch of chicken stew and roti (at which Tara ate 5 rotis and Mrini 6!; leaving only 4 for Amit and none for me!), we spent the afternoon hunting for diyas. This was a sort of treasure-hunt-cum-spring-cleaning exercise. The thing is, when we moved into this place in January, we dumped a lot of unopened/generally-expected-to-be-useless cartons of stuff into the puja room, which we’d designated as a store room right from the start. Consequently, our puja room was piled high with heavy boxes of unspecified content. We knew we’d have to tackle it some day, but we hadn’t planned on doing it on Diwali day. But it was 3.30 and we still didn’t have a single diya at hand, so our options were to either tackle the puja room in the hope of unearthing last year’s diyas; or to drive out looking for diyas.

An hour later, the dining room floor and every available horizontal surface was strewn with long-forgotten bits of useless items. There were hundreds of trinkets, knick-knacks, showpieces and other such trivia that we didn’t have any place to keep. And there were thousands (or so it seemed!) of much-loved CDs and tapes. Sigh. With heavy hearts, we sorted out what we couldn’t bear to be parted with and put all the rest of the stuff into one big carton for “disposal”. By about 5.30, we’d managed to stuff everything back into the puja room quite neatly, only two boxes high in most places. Yes, it included the stuff for “disposal” as well – what could we do with it? Expecting the garbage collectors to take it away was like expecting Mrini and Tara to stop talking for five minutes at a stretch. It just wouldn’t be done.

But all our exertions had yielded rich dividends. Not only had we found the diyas, clean, unbroken, usable, with most of the wicks intact, but we’d also found a small collection of soap bubbles to keep the kids entertained for a while. And… we’d found a small hoard of firecrackers left over from last year! (I told you there was an element of treasure-hunt about it.)

Exhausted, we took a short break to admire our plunder. At 6, we started to think about the evening ahead, but it was almost 7 by the time we were all dressed in our newest clothes and doing the diyas. The diyas were a flop anyway, because there was just enough of a breeze to quickly blow them all out. So we turned our attention to the firecrackers. We had ten flowerpots and chakras and 25 sparklers. The flowerpots turned out to have only a 60% success rate (60% discount too, remember?), which was a bit of a disappointment. But we also had two large flowerpots and a few chakras from last year’s hoard, as well as an armload of sparklers. We tried last year’s flowerpots and they turned out to be just brilliant. Who ever said that fireworks can’t be stored because they go soggy?

Saturday was a fairly typical Saturday until S&S came over in the evening and we had a “barbie-cute” party (as Tara calls it). But that’s another story.

Sunday was great. We all got up at 5 and went for tennis. Got back home around 8, had a quick breakfast and went out for a birthday party. It rained practically all day, so the kids curled up under their blanket after lunch and slept straight through till 7! I wish I could have done the same thing, but I tried my best to keep my eyes open and read my archaeology text books. I do enjoy the subject, but it’s amazing how quickly a text book of any sort can put one to sleep! After the kids had had dinner and gone back to bed at 9, I stayed up for another hour before giving in and crawling under two layers of blankets myself.

And now it’s Monday. Back to school. Back to work. Back to all the usual hurry and stress.

For Amit and the kids, that is. Not for me! My office, for whatever reason, has given us Monday off. So, I get to wave goodbye to the rest of the family and then luxuriate in one whole day of solitary bliss. 7.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. is eleven solid hours – to study, sleep, watch TV, read, catch up on errands, and blog – without interruption.

Home alone: a perfect way to end a busy four-day weekend.

PS: When I woke up the kids this morning, I told them that Amit would be driving them to school. They were still curled up snugly in bed, still pretending to be asleep when this exchange took place.

Tara: Why?

Me: I have a holiday today.

Tara: Aiyyyoooo! How sad!


Who’s The Good Girl Now?!

November 4, 2010

A few days ago, it was worrying me that Mrini seemed to be becoming the “good girl” and Tara seemed to be going out of her way to be the “bad girl”. I don’t know if I made it sound like a big issue, but it wasn’t, really. It was just me picking up on the early warning signs and trying to work things out before they went wrong. It’s a slippery slope, that good-girl-bad-girl dichotomy.


Mrini has continued to diligently work at her reading and writing. She’s still practicing writing and tells me which letters she wants to write. But yesterday she said, enough of that (figuratively speaking; though it wouldn’t surprise me if she really says it someday soon), and started writing without my help. Her “A”s looked a bit like “H”s, but it was impressive all the same. She went on to write B, P, L, M (of course), an inverted T, N, W, O, and 10.


I believe that 4+ is quite an advanced age for kids to be learning to write. Their daycare tells me they teach kids to write at 3. I also believe (though the thought would not have occurred to me otherwise) that conventionally writing is taught by holding the child’s hand as they write. Well, when we got our kids into school, we were told in no uncertain terms that in the Montessori system, reading and writing comes later and that if we wanted to boast about how early our kids learnt to read and write, we’d better look at some other school. Luckily, for us, we didn’t care when they learnt (some time before they went to college would be good enough…)


And so we have the joy of watching the child teach herself. It’s nothing short of awesome to see what delight Mrini gets from her achievements. What’s almost as heart-warming is to see the occasional delight that Tara gets from Mrini’s efforts and achievements too.


And what of Tara? Well, she still hasn’t shown much interest in writing. Given a box of crayons, she’s happy to scribble or colour madly. But something else has changed. Of late, when Tara wants to get into my lap or wants to be hugged (usually while I’m trying to eat), I have consciously been giving in to her. It can be a little irritating to have an excessively clingy, “lappy” child around, but it’s definitely easier than having her always acting out. And, it seems to be working.


Yesterday, when we reached home after a long (and horrible) drive, Tara very sweetly told me, “Today I won’t trouble you. I won’t do annnnything to make you angry. I don’t want you to be angry at me.”


And she didn’t. She didn’t trouble me once the whole entire evening, not even at bathtime and bedtime – prime opportunities for trouble. She reiterated her resolve not to trouble me two or three times in the evening, and once when I got just a tiny bit forceful about something, she immediately hugged me and reminded me that she won’t let me be angry with her.


What can I say? Kids can just take your breath away, sometimes.

Get His Autograph? You’re Kidding Me!

November 3, 2010

It’s been a year-and-a-half since I blogged about paying property tax and applying for a khata. Since then, that activity has gone on to the backburner, where it’s been simmering quietly. Unlike rice, it has not yet been forgotten. But, since I’m so much busier now than I used to be back then, we’ve put our lawyer on to it.

The most recent follow-up with BBMP officials returned the standard response: “We have lost your file.”

“They probably want their palms oiled,” I said to Amit skeptically. A little bit of palm grease does wonders for finding lost property.

To give them the benefit of doubt, though, it’s true that our particular BBMP guys had shifted office from the familiar chaos of Mayo Hall to the unknown chaos of somewhere in Jayanagar. So maybe they had lost the file in the shifting chaos.

“Find out from your bank if the draft has been presented,” advised our lawyer. “If it has been, I can make a representation that we have paid the amount for Khata transfer, so the transfer should be done.”

I didn’t know what a representation was, but it sound very impressive. So I rushed off, figuratively speaking, to find out whether the draft had, in fact, been presented.

It is not easy to rush off, figuratively or otherwise, when you aren’t very sure where to rush off to. I mean – eighteen months had passed since I had the draft made. You can expect me (with a memory like a sieve) to remember where I got the draft from, can you?

Luckily, I had kept the advice. It gave me not only the name of the bank, but also the exact date, the amount, and the draft number. Great. What was even better was that I’d got the draft from Citibank – my favourite bank. They do everything over the phone and are surprisingly systematic and reliable. Even their phone banking officers are quite intelligent and well-spoken. So I procrastinated only three or four days before calling.

I’d expected that tracing a draft from 18 months ago would be a prolonged affair and that they’d have to get back to me. I planned to have them email me, or even write me a letter, so I could send it to my lawyer to use in his “representation”. But they had the answer for me in a matter of minutes. The draft had not been presented.

“Ok, can you put that in an email-“ Wait. What? It had not been presented? “Are you sure?”

They were sure. I was surprised – to put it mildly. So they really had “lost the file”. Well, that made things simpler – we’d simply apply for the khata transfer again.

“Can I get the amount credited back to my account?” I asked. I guessed there would be an indemnity letter involved. I guessed there would be stamp paper involved. I even had an inkling that a trip to the Citibank branch might be required. But this was Citibank – it would get done.

Only, of course, I didn’t have physical possession of the draft.

In that case, it turned out, not only would I need all of the above, I’d also need the payee to sign the indemnity letter on stamp paper.

“What, you want me to get the Commissioner, BBMP, to sign a letter?” I asked incredulously. The very polite voice on the other end of the line told me sympathetically that that was exactly what they did want.

“But that’s impossible,” I pointed out.

The nice voice put me on hold for a few minutes, then came back on the line to say, sorry, ma’am, but that’s what we need. It has to be signed by both parties.

“But it’s been eighteen months since you issued the draft,” I reasoned. “Surely it’s not valid any more. So it should be a simple matter to cancel it. I mean, it’s not even valid anymore.”

True, conceded Mr Nice Voice. He put me on hold again, but returned shortly to reiterate that both parties need to sign it. He was so firm and apologetic about it that I realized there was absolutely no point arguing. There was a rule and they were jolly well going to follow it. To cancel a draft without having physical possession of it, they needed both parties to sign the damn indemnity letter. On stamp paper. Period.

I kissed goodbye to my money and put the phone down sadly. Get Mr Commissioner’s signature on an indemnity letter? On Stamp paper? Even God himself wouldn’t be able to do that, I’m sure!

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