People who forget history are cursed to repeat it, says an old proverb which I suspect was mouthed by an ancestor of my parents because this is something I have been hearing from the time I was a small brat …without any effect at all. In fact if “Experience” was a school teacher, this is how the conversation between Miss Experience and me would go.
Miss Experience: Now that you have burnt your fingers have you learnt that it is not such a good idea to put you hand in the fire?
Miss Experience: It’s no point teaching you anything is it?
Miss Experience: From my experience I can safely surmise that I can go home?!
Miss Experience: Class dismissed!
It is this congenital inability to learn lessons from past experiences, that landed me in a very grave situation last Christmas. A situation so grave that it could have put a cemetery to shame!
But did it teach me a lesson? Naaah.
It all started one fine winter morning. Well it wasn’t that fine actually…..it was quite foggy that morning…the type of fog that makes airlines pilots look at each other gravely and say “mommmmy".
So that fine foggy morning, my eldest brother G declared that he had to dash off to Mumbai for some urgent work. This meant that the centuries ( acco to my Dad) old tradition of G making the Christmas Crib in our house would now be undertaken by yours truly and M, my second brother. This was a bonanza beyond our wildest dreams!!! We greeted the news with disbelief/surprise/glee/trepidation/fear/uneasiness/feeling of impending doom/optimism and bravado… (in that order).
The Christmas Crib, to the uninitiated is a small tableau depicting the birth of Christ. It is put up in every Christian home a few weeks before Christmas, and in my home it used to be an activity that we kids undertook jointly, till due to certain hitherto undisclosed reasons the two "second class" (read younger) siblings were very cruelly and heartlessly banned from the said activity. The reason I think was pure greed folks….the greed to win the Annual Christmas Crib competition in which some uncreative and very old Parish Council members’ awarded prizes to the most pansy looking cribs. (G by the way almost always won the competition).
And what was that unfortunate incident that led to us being banned from crib making? Nothing serious I assure, just that we showed a creativity that was far ahead of our times. ( It is a miracle that we were not burnt at the stake or sentenced to death by stoning after that incident) M and I decided that the Christmas crib could do with some creative decorations and applied all our meager Primary School resources towards these efforts. The result was extra ordinary! We were very proud of our creation and waited with bated breath for the Parish Council to arrive to judge our crib. The Parish Council did arrive and gasped in collective horror when they saw the angels in my Rajasthani Dolls clothing and the three Kings in army tanks holding Kalashnikov rifles while six GI Joe's stood proudly around Baby Jesus' as his personal body guards. I shall not elaborate what happened after that but according to family legends my Dad had to sponsor one church building and pay for several masses to prevent his two younger kids from being excommunicated by the Church. We were also banned from further Christmas crib work by our parents and a restraining order of 10 feet distance from crib, was slapped on the two of us.
Now with G off to Mumbai, we finally had a chance to redeem our names. After much squabbling and arguments we decided that we would play safe and make a conventional but ‘lifelike’ Christmas Crib. During our years of vanvaas we had keenly watched G in action from the designated ten feet of distance stated in the 'restraining order' and observed as he carefully marked areas around the miniature wooden Bethlehem with a pen and filled these areas with mud which he dampened and planted with sprouted mustard seed that grew to resemble natural shrubbery. After which he arranged the figurines like the shepherds, angels etc. to complete the picture. It looked so easy! We were sure it would be a cake walk.
Everything was going fine as we set about the important but oh-so-easy task. Suddenly M had a brainwave and like all his brainwaves in the past that has left me with burnt fingers, singed eyebrows, scalded toes, fried legs and once a nearly burnt down house, this too was treated like a brilliant idea by yours truly. I learnt the hard way that I never learn :(
M thought that instead of using the anemic looking mustard sprouts we will use the healthy and robust Fenugreek (methi) sprouts instead! He had seen some in the kitchen garden and he said they looked green and rather harmless. So we borrowed a big packet of methi seeds from the kitchen, sprouted them and planted them in the damp soil around the town of the miniature Bethlehem. Next we arranged the figurines like the shepherds, lambs, three kings etc in their designated places and surveyed our creation with great satisfaction! The Holy Family, we decided we would put in later. Soon the small seedlings started emerging and the scene took on a realistic hue.
Early the next morning my Dad woke me up with a worried look. He pointed to the crib. The little teeny weeny innocent looking baby methi seedlings were now 3 inches in height and the Shepherd figurines were looking rather alarmed. By the next morning, the shepherds and their sheep had disappeared in the overgrowth. In the next few days the thick growth had swallowed the entire town of Bethlehem and the methi plants were now looking greedily at our house!!
The situation was grim in Bethlehem.
Shepherd 1: Hey Shepherd 2 can you see me?
Shepherd 2: I can’t see a thing in this damned overgrowth!!!
Shepherd 1: err Shepherd 2 can you hear me?
Shepherd 2: yeah, loud and clear
Shepherd 1: Good!!! Just wanted to let you know that your "Daisy" made a rather nice "mutton tikka labaadaar"
Shepherd 2: %$^##@*&#*
Shepherd 1: Catch me if you can tee hee.
Angel one: Say Angel Two, I always wanted to tell you this but never got the guts, but you look so pansy in that outfit! *giggle*
Angel two: *guffaw* Godamnit…you are right!! We do look like a couple of pansies!!
Angel one: *sigh* If I get out of this jungle alive I am going shopping to Forum.
Angel two: And it won't be night gowns we will be buying!
King One: Hey King Two you look like a moron holding that Frankincense.
King Two: Poda patti!
King Three: King One you don’t look too manly either holding that Myrrrh *snigger*
King One: Take this you country bugger *biff*
King Three: And you take that you cow *sock*
King Two: wheeee this is fun!!
M grimly tried to bring the situation under control by hacking the overgrowth but to no avail. The plants kept growing and growing. Alarmed at the escalating situation, my mom pitched in to help. The meal menu in the house reads thus:
Morning: Methi Dosa. Methi Chutney. Methi Coffee, Methi Tea, Methi leaves chumma just like that if you feel munchy
Lunch: Methi Pulao. Methi Salad . Methi Avial, Methi Thoranl, Methi Kaalan etc.
Tea: Methi Tea, Methi pakodas, Methi Rolls etc
Dinner: Methi Rotis and Methi Chicken. Methi Chana, Methi Raita etc.
All meals accompanied by Methi pickles, Methi pappads and Methi preserves.
Finally after some frantic eating of Methi and more Methi till we were all green in the face, the battle was bought under control. The damned plants stopped growing and peace was restored. When we left for Kerala for Christmas, our Bethlehem looked worse than a nuclear war theater that had suffered a meteor attack. Of course we didn’t win the Christmas Crib competition. It went as usual to some pansy crib made by equally pansy neighbors.
p.s the 'Restraining Order' is back in place *sigh*
Note to self: Next time ….if there is a next time please DO NOT USE High Speed Accelerate Growth Mixture for you know what.