Saturday, April 09, 2005

Hey! You! Get off of my cloud!

"Hi Davinder aunty!" I said greeting our neighbour at the supermarket.

"Oh, hello, beta," she said, smiling back. "I always forget your name. Karrvakarela, isn't it?"

"Ji, aunty," I replied. "How are you?"

"Fine and yourself?"

"Not too bad," I said, lying. I was bored as hell. It had been a long and empty day, livened up only by the periodic bouts of sleeping I forced myself into. Too hot to go out anywhere during the day, the evening had come as welcome relief and as soon as the bruises drained out of the sky, I'd left for a walk. Now, the town I live in isn't a particularly large one and invariably a walk always end up at the mall. The fact that the said mall is only ten minutes from my house and ice-creamed and airconditioned tends to help matters somewhat. But that's besides the point. I live in a small town.

Which is why whenever I go to the supermarket I always end up running into someone we know. Today it was Davinder aunty, our Sikh neighbour and the mother of two extraordinarily precocious children. (A third, older than the other two, plays ice-hockey in lieu of displaying any remarkable talents.) But Amardeep and Hardeep are bright and energetic and, having almost immediately befriended both my mother and our housemaid, are always over at our house. Amardeep likes to draw on the paper from our printer, flattering us with carefully proportioned family portraits that say nothing for her eye for detail and everything for what a generous heart she has. She also likes to suck her thumb. Her brother Hardeep's endearing, though somewhat disturbing, qualities include his passion for dressing up like a woman, complete with dupatta and high heels and a voice that sounds like a pressure cooker about to explode. Together, these two provide an entertaining interlude to our adult lives and we are always glad when they come.

Sometimes their mother joins them and she and Ammi sit out on the front porch talking to each other. Davinder aunty is a sweet and gutsy Punjabi woman, always ready for a laugh. Belying the stereotype, though, she has known her fair share of personal sadness and sometimes, if you catch her off guard you can sense the marks grief has left on her. But most of the time she is sassy and delightful and, like her daughter, has a very generous heart. No birthday goes forgotten and every Christmas we are, each of us, given our gifts, wrapped and ribboned with a hand-written benediction. She is that sort of person.

So, it was a pleasure running into her at the supermarket. She had the two kids with her, the thumbsucker and the cross-dresser, and was obviously looking for something so I thought it best not to keep her and excused myself. Besides, I had my own little mission to run. For the past few days, ever since I fatefully stumbled on to a tray of Nachos on a trip to Dubai, I have been obsessing over the taste in my mind (Cheese dip! What a concept!) and have made several failed attempts to actually go out and buy a jar of the precious food. Imagine then my disappointment when today, after scouring the aisles for what seemed like an irresponsibly long time, I find my heart's ambition met by a box of dessicated tortilla chips and no sauce. This in a supermarket that has fifty checkout counters! Globalisation sucks.

Crushed by this unprecedented failure, I turned to my contingency plan in the hopes of salvaging my dreams of midnight gluttony. Hershey's chocolate syrup, slathered generously over a bowl of soft vanilla ice cream. Gone were the days of rummaging in cupboards and coming up with all sorts of dismal combinations. (Strawberry jam and vanilla ice cream is an experiment best confined to memory.) Chocolate syrup was where it was at and thus fortified by visions of limitless debauchery I set out on the task of locating the source of this vital sauce.

Which would ordinarily have been pretty easy except that Hershey's Chocolate Syrup happened to be the hypermarket's best kept secret. No one knew where it was kept. I asked one attendant who dutifully led me into the Bleach and Toilet Cleaner section to ask his colleague.

"What do you mean, chocolate syrup?" he asked, perplexed.

"You know, you can put in milk or pour it over ice cream. Like syrup?" I replied, trying to explain.

"You mean, liquid chocolate?"

"Yes!" I said, seizing upon the epiphany. "Liquid chocolate!"

"No, we don't have that."

How could it be? A hypermarket that has fifty checkout counters and that keeps its doors open to the adoring public from ten in the morning to midnight each night, how can it not stock on chocolate syrup. It couldn't be. I refused to accept it.

And thus another few minutes were wasted, fastidiously wandering up and down aisles in the fervent hope of locating this precious fluid. It couldn't be that hard. It's only chocolate syrup. They must have it somewhere.

But they didn't. Or if they did, someone had cast a spell on it to render it invisible to the mortal eye. It could only be found by someone of a managerial persuasion. Someone who knew the inner workings of this dark and demonic enterprise, this hypermarket with its terrible secrets. The playground of sorcerors and other practitioners of the dark arts. Lair to all the woebegotten outcasts of the world who punished tortilla chips and chocolate syrup in a cold act of ignorant revenge for all that society had inflicted upon them. Only a manager, and no less, could negotiate these terrible realities and deliver safely into the hands of the truthful and peace-loving their beloved chocolate syrup.

"What do you mean, chocolate syrup?" he said to me, blinking vacuously as if I'd asked him where they kept the Giant Rat of Sumatra.

"You know, you can put in milk or pour it over ice cream. Like syrup?" I replied, repeating myself.

"You mean, like these?" he said, pointing towards to the tins of canned peaches.

That was it! I'd had enough of this useless exercise. Managers be damned! I was going to a higher authority. Someone who really knew the place of things. Someone who wouldn't disappoint.

"Davinder aunty, do you know where they keep the chocolate syrup?" I asked pleadingly.

"Oh, you poor dear," she replied with such tenderness that for a moment I was almost tempted to push my face into her ample belly and start sobbing. "I know, they keep it in a really weird place. Here try this aisle," she said, pointing to the dried goods section.

And lo and behold, there it was! The precious chocolate syrup, nestled inconspicuously between the powdered milk and the sacks of flour. Hiding it under my shirt, lest someone should try and rob me of my coveted prize, I ran to the checkout counter. Behind me, I could hear Hardeep and Uncle Soorae running after me. "Has he found it? Yes, he's found it!" their voices cried exultantly through the throes of ignorant attendants and stupefied managers.

Frantically, I paid for my purchase and ran all the way home, locking it up safely as soon as I tumbled into the house. It now sits gloriously in our kitchen cabinet for all to see and admire. I cannot, after all that we've been together, ever conceive squandering my magnificent victory over some insignificant ice-cream. It's far too precious for that.

Anybody got any ideas for a tub of ice cream?


Blogger sanchez said...

Oh Bhai! When I get to the UAE, I'm going to show you how to make gourmet fudge sauce (which knocks Hershey's chocolate sauce back into kg where it belongs) and I'll teach you how to make nacho cheese dip as well. Bechara...

As far as icecream ideas go, I'll tell you-

vanila icecream can be greatly improved with any one of the following things:

-a dollop of peanutbutter stirred in
-a squirt of pancake syrup mixed in
- a handful of toasted coconut flakes
-strawberry sauce (jam is only good in yogurt)
-Rooh Afza (Yes!) not mixed in, just drizzled
-destroyed cookies. any flavor.


1:24 PM  
Blogger DeOwl said...

I had much the same experience trying to buy "BBC Salad Crackers" last week. I know they exist. They know they exist. But the stupid shopkeepers thought I'd made them up. I've never been met with so many patronizing eye rolls and fake smiles. "Yes yes baji, sure we have them," they'd say and then they'd offer me Fifty-Fifty. It's enough to make a grown cracker-eating woman doubt her sanity.

2:01 AM  
Blogger baj said...

ahahaha, hilarious! first, doesn't playing ice hockey in a desert country count for anything?

second, i had the same trauma when scouring several grocery stores in multiple states in search of hershey's DARK chocolate syrup. for some bizarre reason, the only place in which i can find it with ease and without having to battle any ferocious dragonmanagers or joust any peasantclerks is in teeny tiny jeffersonville, indiana.

third, you didn't buy all the bottles you could lay your hands on? *shakes head* frequent novice mistake. once your prize has been found, you must grab everything for yourself and deny everyone else the ability to purchase it. greedily delicious!

4:20 AM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...


Sanchez: so when did you say you were coming over, sister?

Owl: what are BBC salad crackers?

Baji: you mean there's more than one kind of chocolate syrup?! (interrofurious) As if life wasn't difficult enough!

8:58 AM  
Blogger Crazed Teacher said...

haha i had a good laugh and vanilla icecream with a dollop of choc, straw berry and pista icecream how bout that for flavour and variety hehehe.......
.........and what kind of place are u living in a life witout choc syrup*shudders* and yeah what are bbc crackers owl no wonder you got those looks and i am a desi and i dont even know

9:10 PM  
Blogger sanchez said...

Well, we should be there within four weeks InshaAllah, all we need is a place to live! You know anyone in Ajman who has a flat to rent out? :D

2:59 AM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

Assalamualaikum, sisters,

Ushi: an ice cream connoiseur, I see . . .

Sanchez: I don't know about Ajman but there is a guestroom available in Al Ain, complete with attached bath (hot and warm running water) and a very large floor for any husbandfriends who may wish to visit.

5:11 AM  

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