These "Tale Spinner" episodes are brought to you courtesy of one of our Canadian friends, Jean Sansum. You can thank her by eMail at
Vol. XVIII No. 21
The cleaner in the garden|
(click to enlarge)
The lowest caste in India is the sweeper class. These people did not live in the campus area. They came in from poorer areas outside the campus. Our neighbour had a live-in girl who looked after their three- year-old son and cooked and cleaned. Apparently, they traveled to a village to find her, and when they employed her, they took on responsibility to feed and clothe her. She did not get any education, however. Another neighbour refused to eat anything in Saruj´s house as she felt it was unclean to have one person to cook and wash the floor. Saruj had more modern ideas but she told me it would offend the dhobi if I asked her to wash the floor, so I would have to employ a sweeper. Also it would be frowned upon if I was seen to wash my own floors. Her argument was that it was expected of us to employ the poorer people and essential to the Indian economy. She helped me find a dhobi to do our washing, and another family who came to wash the floors every day.
The dhobi with a pile of washing|
on her head (click to enlarge)
Initially, I tried to do my own washing and house cleaning, but the conditions were primitive, with no hot water and no brooms with long handles, no vacuum cleaners. Washing clothes and cleaning the floors was all done by kneeling or squatting! Because of my injury in Delhi, I found I had no strength to wring out clothes and nowhere to dry them. And when I washed the floors, I was pouring with sweat in the first five minutes.
The dhobi came twice a week and took all the clothes, wrapping them in the sheets, and brought them back cleaned and ironed.
I felt for the sweeper caste as it seemed they had no way to move up in the world. My sweeper family were very interested in the books on Hindi that I had bought to try and learn a little of the language. We ended up having a few lessons, looking at the letters and words in the picture books. The husband did most of the work, but always brought his wife and children with him. One day he brought his daughter with him, a child of about six years of age. He also indicated with sign language that he wanted us to take her back to Canada with us!
Mike snoozing on the back patio|
(click to enlarge)
We had a garden area at the back of the house, but it had never been worked. You will see from the photos of Caroline doing handstands after the monsoon, that the garden was just a sea of mud. No grass grew in the time we were there. I did try to grow some vegetables and even employed a gardener to try to do something with the garden, but the soil had never been worked and we didn´t manage to grow anything worth remembering.
In the picture of Mike, to the right, note the samovar, purchased in Russia. It was a tourist thing shaped like a rooster. The element of 220 volts got burnt out in India and I have not been able to find a similar element with our 110 volts.
With all this help in the house, I had plenty of time to explore the campus area and the city. The advantage of living on campus meant we were close to all the university amenities. With the kids at school and my husband at the university, I spent my days reading a lot, socializing with Saruj´s mother next door, and I made use of the university library, which was air conditioned, although I did not like the smell of damp stale air. I also liked to walk in the botanical garden, where it was cool. The Students´ Centre had a good restaurant and I enjoyed their masala dhosas.
Outside the house, a cycle rickshaw was always available, and I often took one into the city. The Baha´is of Chandigarh were delighted to see us, and we soon had many invitations to visit people in different parts of the city and to attend meetings.
Outside our sector there was a busy shopping area and one vendor had loads of books all spread out on the ground. I used to enjoy looking at his books, many of which were Indian re-prints of Western best sellers. I loved the shops selling fabrics. Benches were available for customers and the merchant had rolls and rolls of many beautiful fabrics, which they loved to roll out to show the full impact of the cloth. In my first month, Saruj noticed that my clothes were of man- made fabrics, and the reason why I was finding the heat so unbearable. So she took me to her tailor and he made up dresses in cotton for me, using my own as a pattern. I also bought the local Shalwar chemise, which is the Punjabi dress, a long tunic with baggy pants and a long scarf or chuni, which is thrown around the neck. It was very comfortable and cool and the locals were happy to see me wearing the local clothes.
Later, I went with Saruj to buy silk for a sari. The bodice part and long slip had to be made by the tailor. I wore this at an Indian wedding when one of our neighbour´s daughter was married. Michael went to a tailor and had a Nehru suit made. We laughed because he was the only man in an Indian suit; all the other men had Western suits!
This wedding was a spectacular affair. We had a knock on our door one evening and the couple came to ask us for the use of one our rooms for their guests. They told us their daughter was getting married and it was usual for neighbours to help out. Of course we agreed, and Robert gave up his room on the ground floor. The day the guests arrived, they came to the house and covered the floor with carpets. I am not sure how many bedded down in that room, but a lot! After they put the carpets down, they came out and put a huge padlock on the door, which I thought was a bit rude, but I suppose they all had so much gold and jewellery, it was probably a safe precaution.
Bride and Groom|
(click to enlarge)
A large marquee was set up on the spare ground at the side of our house. The wedding lasted about four days! We had great fun watching the bride get the henna patterns painted on her hands and arms. When the groom arrived, he was preceded by a drummer and he was riding on a white horse with a small boy sitting behind him. The ceremony took about six hours, with the pundit doing all sorts of weird things with garland exchanging, candles, and other rituals too complicated to detail. Everybody was talking all the time, and when I asked what was happening, I got different answers. And of course there was lots of food and dancing.
To be continued.
Doris Dignard writes: I always look at the sites recommended by your readers as most of the time they are quite informative. This time thanks go to Gerrit deLeeuw for his video on "plastic to oil". I hope this takes off big time.
Thanks also to whoever sent in the clip on space-saving furniture. I was at the Home Show here in March, and they had quite a large demonstration of this furniture. I can´t say for sure that it was the same company, but it had a lot of the same things. The beds in particular were a far cry from what they used to be like. Just as is demonstrated in the clip, the beds and the cupboards are so well balanced… they are finger-tip easy to use.
Pat Moore forwards these examples of
1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead.
Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow.
Do not walk beside me either.
Just pretty much leave me the heck alone.
2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.
3. It´s always darkest before dawn. So if you´re going to steal your neighbor´s newspaper, that´s the time to do it.
4. Don´t be irreplaceable. If you can´t be replaced, you can´t be promoted.
5. Always remember that you´re unique. Just like everyone else.
6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
7. If you think nobody cares if you´re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you´re a mile away and you have their shoes.
9. If at first you don´t succeed, skydiving is not for you.
10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
11. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
12. If you tell the truth, you don´t have to remember anything.
13. Some days you´re the bug; some days you´re the windshield.
14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
16. A closed mouth gathers no foot.
17. Duct tape is like "The Force". It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
18. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.
19. Generally speaking, you aren´t learning much when your lips are moving.
20. Experience is something you don´t get until just after you need it.
21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.
Bruce Galway reminds us of this hilarious story, which will probably be appreciated most by people who own dogs:
We have a fox terrier by the name of Jasper. He came to us in the summer of 2006 from the fox terrier rescue program. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this type of adoption, imagine taking in a 10- year-old child, about whom you know nothing, and committing to doing your best to be a good parent.
Like a child, the dog came with his own idiosyncrasies. He will only sleep on the bed, on top of the covers, nuzzled as close to my face as he can get, without actually performing a French kiss on me.
Lest you think this is a bad case of no discipline, I should tell you that Perry and I tried every means to break him of this habit, including locking him in a separate bedroom for several nights. The new door cost over $200. But I digress.
Last November, we began remodeling our house. Although the cost of the project was downright obnoxious, it was 20 years overdue, AND it got me out of cooking Thanksgiving for family, extended family, and a lot of friends whom I like much more than family, most of the time.
I was assigned the task of preparing 124 of my famous yeast dinner rolls for the two Thanksgiving feasts we did attend.
I am still cursing the electrician for getting the new oven hooked up so quickly. It was the only appliance in the whole darn house that worked, thus the assignment.
I made the decision to cook the rolls on Wednesday evening, to reheat Thursday morning. Since the kitchen was freshly painted, you can imagine the odour. Not wanting the rolls to smell like Sherwin Williams #586, I put the rolls on baking sheets and set them in the living room to rise for a few hours. Perry and I decided to go out to eat, returning in about an hour. The rolls were ready to go into the oven.
It was 8:30 p.m. when I went to the living room to retrieve the pans. Much to my shock, one whole pan of 12 rolls was empty. I called out to Jasper and my worst nightmare became a reality. He literally wobbled over to me. He looked like a combination of the Pillsbury dough boy and the Michelin Tire man, wrapped up in fur. He groaned when he walked. I swear, even his cheeks were bloated.
I ran to the phone and called our vet. After a few seconds of uproarious laughter, he told me the dog would probably be okay. However, I needed to give him Pepto Bismol every two hours for the rest of the night. God only knows why I thought a dog would like Pepto Bismol any more than my kids did when they were sick. Suffice it to say that by the time we went to bed, the dog was black, white and pink. He was so bloated we had to lift him onto the bed for the night.
We arose at 7:30, and as we always do first thing, we put the dog out to relieve himself. Well, the dog was as drunk as a sailor on his first leave. He was running into walls, falling flat on his butt, and most of the time, when he was walking, his front half was going one direction and the other half was either dragging the grass or headed 90 degrees in another direction.
He couldn´t lift his leg to pee, so he would just walk and pee at the same time. When he ran down the small incline in our back yard, he couldn´t stop himself and nearly ended up running into the fence.
His pupils were dilated and he was as dizzy as a loon. I endured another few seconds of laughter from the vet (second call within 12 hours) before he explained that the yeast had fermented in his belly and that he was indeed drunk.
He assured me that not unlike most binges we humans go through, it would wear off after about four or five hours, and to keep giving him Pepto Bismol.
Afraid to leave him by himself in the house, Perry and I loaded him up and took him with us to my sister´s house for the first Thanksgiving meal of the day.
My sister lives on a ranch, 10 to 15 minute drive away. Rolls firmly secured in the trunk (124 less 12) and drunk dog leaning from the back seat onto the console of the car between Perry and me, we took off.
I know you probably don´t believe that dogs burp, but believe me when I say that after eating a tray of risen unbaked yeast rolls, DOGS WILL BURP. These burps were pure Old Charter. They would have matched or beaten any smell in a drunk tank at the police station. But that´s not the worst of it.
Now he was beginning to fart, and they smelled like baked rolls. We endured this for the entire trip to Karen´s, thankful she didn´t live any further away than she did.
Once Jasper was firmly placed in my sister´s garage with the door locked, we finally sat down to enjoy our first Thanksgiving meal of the day. The dog was the topic of conversation all morning long, and everyone made trips to the garage to witness my drunken dog, each returning with a tale of Jasper´s latest endeavour to walk without running into something. Of course, as the old adage goes, what goes in must come out, and Jasper was no exception.
Granted, if it had been I who had eaten 12 risen, unbaked yeast rolls, you might as well have put a concrete block up my behind, but alas, a dog´s digestive system is quite different from yours or mine. I discovered this was a mixed blessing, when we prepared to leave Karen´s house. Having discovered his "packages" on the garage floor, we loaded him up in the car so we could hose down the floor.
This was another naive decision on our part. The blast of water from the hose hit the poop on the floor and the poop on the floor withstood the blast from the hose. It was like Portland cement beginning to set up and cure.
We finally tried to remove it with a shovel. Obviously, no one else was going to offer their services, so I had to get on my hands and knees with a coarse brush to get the remnants off the floor. And as if this wasn´t degrading enough, the darn dog in his drunken state had walked through the poop and left paw prints all over the garage floor that had to be brushed, too.
Well, by this time the dog was sobering up nicely, so we took him home and dropped him off, before we left for our second Thanksgiving dinner at Perry´s sister´s house.
I am happy to report that as of today (Monday) the dog is back to normal, both in size and temperament. He has had a bath and is no longer tri-color, none the worse for wear, I presume. I am also happy to report that just this evening, I found two risen unbaked yeast rolls hidden inside my closet door.
It appears he must have come to his senses after eating 10 of them, but decided hiding two of them for later would not be a bad idea. Now I´m doing research on the computer as to: "How to clean unbaked dough from the carpet."
So ... how was your day?
Tom Telfer admits that he did not know this:
When you drink vodka over ice, it can give you kidney failure.
When you drink rum over ice, it can give you liver failure.
When you drink whiskey over ice, it can give you heart problems.
When you drink gin over ice, it can give you brain problems.
Apparently, ice is really bad for you. Warn all your friends.
Catherine Nesbitt sends an example to explain
Jan, Sue, and Mary haven´t seen each other since high school. They rediscover each other via a reunion website and arrange to meet for lunch in a wine bar.
Jan arrives first, wearing a beige Versace. She orders a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
Sue arrives shortly afterward, in gray Chanel. After the required ritualized kisses, she joins Jan in a glass of wine.
Then Mary walks in, wearing a faded old tee-shirt, blue jeans, and boots. She too shares the wine.
Jan explains that after leaving high school and graduating from Princeton in Classics, she met and married Timothy, with whom she has a beautiful daughter. Timothy is a partner in one of New York´s leading law firms. They live in a 4000-sqare-foot co-op on Fifth Avenue, where Susanna, the daughter, attends drama school. They have a second home in Phoenix.
Sue relates that she graduated from Harvard Med School and became a surgeon. Her husband, Clive, is a leading Wall Street investment banker. They live in Southampton on Long Island and have a second home in Naples, Florida.
Mary explains that she left school at 17 and ran off with her boyfriend, Jim. They run a tropical bird park in Colorado and grow their own vegetables. Jim can stand five parrots, side by side, on his penis.
Halfway through the third bottle of wine and several hours later, Jan blurts out that her husband is really a cashier at Wal-Mart. They live in a small apartment in Brooklyn and have a travel trailer parked at a nearby storage facility.
Sue, chastened and encouraged by her old friend´s honesty, explains that she and Clive are both nurses´ aides in a retirement home. They live in Jersey City and take vacation camping trips to Alabama.
Mary admits that the fifth parrot has to stand on one leg.
Carol Dilworth draws our attention to an article in the Globe and Mail about a retired couple in Guelph who started a school in Uganda. These are the people with whom Carol goes to Uganda. In 2010 she wrote about her last trip there.
Carol Hansen sends this link to historic photos from the NYC Municipal Archives:
Catherine Nesbitt forwards the URL for a number of striking pictures taken in a nanosecond:
Don Henderson suggests you view this site on full screen for a panoramic view of Toronto:
Gerrit deLeeuw sends this link to a video of the astonishing abundance of bird life on Midway Island, and the distressing amount of garbage that ends up on the island and in the birds:
Bart Knols is a doctor committed to killing mosquitoes and ending malaria. Here he demonstrates the imaginative solutions his team is developing to fight malaria - including limburger cheese and a deadly pill:
Daughter of famed Canadian scientist, David Suzuki, Severn Cullis- Suzuki discusses her personal evolution as an environmentalist as well as reminding us that we have become so disconnected from the natural world that sustains us that our arrogance and ignorance have put us on the brink of planetary disaster. She challenges us to consider our individual impact on the planet and to explore ways to reduce our personal ecological footprint:
This site has a version of the spinning dancer going either way and many other illusions:
To check out the features of the "freedictionary", which changes daily, go to
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.
- Marcus Aurelius