So we're all trooping out of the in-law's place in Ashok Vihar last weekend for a spot of shopping. We walk out of the door, past the stairwell and down the narrow drive way with low boundary walls on both sides.
Suddenly the mom-in-law freezes in her tracks. She cranes her neck over the chest-high boundary wall on the left. Like an alert documentary lioness, she has spotted something far way in the prairie grass of... er... Ashok Vihar BA Block. (Since the in-laws are staunch vegetarians let us assume that the prey is a wildebeest-shaped block of fresh paneer. Or kulfi.)
She turned around and asked us to be very quiet indeed. And then, following her lead, we all proceeded towards the car in a crouched posture. As soon as reached the car, we leapt into our seats nimble-fully and careened out of the colony at full speed, through the gates, swooped into the main road outside and then took a tyre-screeching u-turn before stopping at the Reliance Fresh on the other side.
Mom-in-law emoted the Punjabi equivalent of "Phew" and then explained how we'd just managed to avoid one of her more nosy neighbours, the retired VRS-accepted bank manager, uncle Zaphinder Singh Beeblotra (name changed).
Beeblotra, like Arnab Goswami, is renowned in Ashok Vihar for having an instant solution(s) for everybody's problem and for tirelessly following up for months and years to ensure that his suggestions have been implemented. Failure to do so leads to quarrelsome discussions, incessant hounding, sting operations and, ultimately, prolonged feuds.
Which is why Bhatia from 4C refused to invite Pillai from 5B for Arunima's wedding. Because Pillai put up a split AC unit, on Zaphinder's tireless persuasion:
"Pillai saab...kya ajeeb batein kar rahe ho yaar! Window AC?? Chi. Huak thu! Aaj kal to zamana hi split AC ka hai ji. Chalo koi na. Aap busy lag rahe ho. Aap morning meditation continue karo. Main 11A hoke aata hoon. Sehgal sahab de Babloo di mummy de gift wali Scorpio da stereo kharaab ho gaya hai. O paagal Sehgal Kenwood lagva raha hai. Kenwood! Bewakoof na honwe taan!"
Pillai's split unit then began dripping water down the outer wall and into Bhatia's kitchen. Where it fell directly into steel pot placed under the Aquaguard. Which is how Arunima's fiance's entire family got dysentry when they came for girl-and-environment-inspection in February. (Bhatia rejected Beeblotra's plan of making the ill drink the water of raw boiled papayas. But in exchange he had to let Idea Uncle choose the paan supplier for the wedding.)
So when the missus occasionally goes for walks around the colony she does so carefully. With an eye out for Beeblotra. There is no saying when he will leap out of a corner and plead with her to join swimming classes immediately. Because, just twenty-three years, ago the colony had gone on a bus trip to a beach somewhere and the Missus, who was extremely cute as a child I have been told to say, refused to approach the sea. For fear of being swept away. Beeblotra immediately made it his life's mission to convince the missus to learn swimming. To this day.
In short I would faster attend an "Indian Students Tweetup" in Melbourne before teaching this man how to use Twitter.
As we trotted around the Reliance Fresh buying things, the mom-in-law recounted one of pop-in-law's run ins with Beeblotra. (Apparently the incident was one of those family "in" jokes. You know the type. Where everyone is rolling on the floor howling just three words into the telling. Which puts immense pressure on you, the recently wedded-in, to laugh as much as everyone else. Which is a problem, as everyone else is from Jallandhar. And laugh like Royal Enfields.)
Scene: Pop-in-law generally hanging outside the house minding his own business. Whence Beeblotra pounces upon him from his secret hiding place behind the ironing-fellow's push cart.
Pop-in-law: Woah teri! B: Oh Kapoor saab! Kya haal jee! PIL: Bas badhiya. Waiting for the workers to come! B: Workers you say... PIL: *ugh* B: Carpentry work is it? PIL: No no. Some masonry... B: Oh ho! New room? New wall? False ceiling? Hamara Arvind Denver mein ghar ke andar jacuzzi banva raha hai you know? PIL: Yes of course. No no. Bas we cleared the garden and some rubbish in the back of the house and soch rahe thhe ki what we will do with this extra space... B: Oh Kapoor saab! Socho hee mat! Socho hee mat! Best suggestion deta hoon. Tussi majjan paal lao. PIL: *Reply rhymed with "ittefaaq"* B: Haan ji. Solid idea hai. Majjan paal lao. Space ka use bhi ho jayega aur sehat ke liye to badhiya hi badhiya! Kaash mere ghar mein aisi free space hoti... Main toh kukkad bhi paalta.
Reminded of the incident PIL, MIL and Missus unleashed waves upon waves of uncontrolled laughter standing in the Biscuits and Cereal aisle. On hearing customers make such a loud mirthful commotion a Reliance Fresh employee came running to find out what was happening. And would you believe it if I told you that the badge on his uniform t-shirt showed his name to be Phani Prasad!
What are the odds right? Impossible no? Correct. I made that bit up.
All this while I am standing and wondering what the joke was all about.
"Majjan paal lao".
What DID that mean. My Punjabi is ok as long as it comes to Sukhbir lyrics. Otherwise it's all a little gal ban gayee. So I began to process it in my mind. While I fake laughed away gripping on to a large pack of Bran Flakes for support.
1. Majjan paal lao = Majjan + paal lao 2. Majjan = mazaa? Mazaa = enjoyment / fun / amusement 3. Paal lao? Perhaps the same as the paal lo in "Bhangra paalo"? Reasonable assumption. 4. Paal lao = take it / pump it up / do it 5. Therefore majaa paal lao = have some fun! enjoy it! rock the place!
Beeblotra was basically telling them to use it as a party room? A den of some sort? Some enclosure to play Dumb Charades, Pictionary and other all round enthusiastic procurement of the phatte and subsequent chucking of the same?
What in god's name was funny about that? Why are these loving, doting people laughing like maniacs? Why do I not get the clearly ground-breaking joke?
All these things went through my mind as I wiped fake tears of joy from my eyes, like everyone else, and proceeded shopping for something called "kharbooza".
Later the missus clarified.
What thought leader Beeblotra really meant was to convert the space in the back into, and no urban residence should ever be without one, a buffalo shed. (Majjan = buffalo. Paal lao = domesticate.) His hare-brained theory being that the family which had recourse to its own source of fresh, free range diary products could save money and stay healthy.
A simple and spectacularly stupid plan.
Thankfully PIL installed a roomy bedroom in the space instead which I regularly use whenever I visit. Beeblotra does not know of course. I would be obliged if you don't tell him.
However later, on further rumination, the incident also generated this Malayali thought process:
1. Majja = buffalo 2. While alive = milk, paneer, ghee, butter etc. 3. After dying purely natural death from heartbreak or tripping and falling = first class biryani (Buffalo is beef for real men.)
So really, when you look at it from my perspective...