Ah! Who doesn’t fall victim to the occasional ‘faux pas’? A periodic yet wholly accidental slip of the tongue? Well, it would seem like these mishaps take place more in my family than I would want. Following is one of a few such incidents, set in Calcutta and completely unrelated but equally hilarious. Calcutta is renowned for its close-knit communities which are great and add to the intimacy of the jolly friendships people maintain but oft times boons can morph into banes at the drop of the hat.
My sister found herself as a student of a well-respected preschool in Calcutta, the means by which she got in or rather by which my parents got her in are for another time. My mother, whom I always have referred to as mum, always made it a point to see how my sister was getting along in the then new environment for her. My mum was, and still is, a concerned parent, and therefore made certain that my sister had a good set of friends which is why she was always present in the teacher-parent interactions and sports days etc. One close friend of my sister, whom my mother met at such an affair, was a little dark-skinned, healthier than most child along with being extremely friendly and sweet and mum took an instant liking to him. A few days followed and my family visited the house of my parents’ best friends, the usual interaction with us, children, took place: “How is preschool ‘beta’?”, “How is cricket ‘beta’?”, which lead to us promptly being ushered to the other room to play. The adults then discussed their lives, their work and soon the topic fell on the kids and then progressed onto friends and soon their metaphoric train of conversation reach its destination, my sister’s friend who our hosts knew well too. As we Indians cannot resist making comments on someone’s appearance, my sister’s friend was labeled ‘Gulab Jamun’, a dark, round Indian sweet, by my hosts. “Haw, that is really mean!” said mum, “Oh no! Don’t worry, even his parents call him that, it’s his nickname!” joked her friends. As most members of my family, sarcasm escapes my mother at some moments and this moment was one such moment. She believed the remark and stored it in her memory, eager to use this piece of information to become pally with the mother of my sister’s friend. A few days went by and another preschool event came up which mum happily attended and there she bumped into my sister’s friend and his mother. Smiles followed all around, giggles and small talk followed. Then slowly, my mother bent down to my sister’s friend and said: “How is ‘Gulab Jamun’ liking the school?” Then came the waterworks; first a tiny tear rolled down his cheek, then like a tap was opened, a steady stream flowed. Then came the wailing, loud shrill cries that would be capable of shattering glass. “How could you say such a thing?” his mother angrily enquired whilst comforting her child. “I thought that was his nickname!” my mother pleaded. “Don’t say anything, we are leaving right now!” she replied and then proceeded to make her exit. My mother looked aghast and ashamed at the same time, but oh well, at least the incident put her off ‘Gulab Jamuns’.