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Mrs Funnybones(3)
Twinkle Khanna

A month later, mom calls me and says, ‘I have been trying our Delhi friend’s number but she hasn’t returned my calls. Really, you should have been nicer to her. Didn’t even serve her biscuits properly with tea that day. But I agree with you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. What is too good to be true usually is . . . Anyway, listen, I got a letter from a nice Nigerian man who wants to give us some money . . .’

Before she can continue, I yell, ‘Oh my God!’ She starts giggling and says, ‘I am just joking.’ I tell her, ‘It’s not funny, Mom, and sometimes you really do make stupid mistakes.’

She snorts, ‘That’s true, I made you.’

C: Can Indian Men Control Anything Besides Their Wives?

7 a.m.: I feel a sharp tug on my nose and suddenly something damp and smelly falls on my face. As I struggle to open my eyes, I realize that it is in fact my daughter who is struggling to put her finger up my nose in anticipation of perhaps finding a brain wedged in there somewhere, and to free herself from all encumbrances in this fruitful task, she has removed her overnight diaper and thrown it on my forehead.

8.45 a.m.: I grab some coffee and decide to get a head start on my day by jotting down my to-do list.

To-Do Today

1. Remove brownie stains from the sofa.

2. Remove stains from my new pants when I sat on the brownie on the sofa.

3. Box son on the head for saying he stored the brownie behind the cushion on the sofa for safekeeping.

4. Delete twenty-six pictures of cousin Kamalnath (Sweetie) Khanna and his family that have very sweetly been emailed to me.

5. Delete seventy-three early morning ‘inspirational’ SMS forwards that only deranged people have the inclination to send.

6. Call the lawyer to check on my court case regarding my (tied-to-a-tree) dog managing to bite our nasty neighbour—double check if I can file a counter case against our nasty neighbour for violating the dog’s personal nasal space by regularly stinking of methi theplas, thereby provoking the dog into a biting frenzy due to temporary insanity.

11 a.m.: I am sitting at my desk trying to figure out if I can miraculously convert a 2000-square-foot space in Khar into some version of a Venetian villa that my client insists is the only thing that can satisfy his vision of a perfect home. These are the moments when I wish my name was Twinkbaba and I could hypnotize my annoying client into letting me simply do my job.

1 p.m.: Mrs Irani, my electrical contractor, comes into my cabin. She is a sweet Parsi lady and one of the few women contractors in her field.

I had spoken to her a few weeks ago when she called to complain that one of our clients had not paid her for her work. I told her that I was unable to help her as he had gypped me of my fees as well.

Today she is grinning and holding her cheque. She tells me that she got our client followed by a private detective and when she threatened to reveal all his slightly illegal activities, he immediately coughed up our payment.

I am shocked because I thought all this private investigator stuff happens only in the movies, and as I am wondering how she would even know such a person, she tells me, ‘Bhabhi, this detective was involved in my friend’s divorce and I kept good relations with him. After all, in our business you meet so many types—sanghrelo saap bi koi divas kaam aave (even a snake may be useful someday).

Wondering if she would make her private detective chase me someday, I hurriedly ask my accountant to clear an outstanding payment we owe her of Rs 250 for a single light bulb. One never knows what can make these people blow their fuse.

3 p.m.: I ask the site supervisor for the weekly report of completed tasks and this is what I get instead:

1. The painter was supposed to produce an ash-grey paint sample today but can’t because his bua’s uncle has to move from some Campa Cola building, and of course, the whole clan has to pitch in.

2. Our wood carver’s mother’s sister’s daughter’s cousin is getting married, so work on my Gothic chairs will not start for another three weeks.

3. The head plumber is missing two days this week because of Bakri Eid.

4. The entire carpentry team is absconding for Lakshmi puja because they are all brothers as they live in neighbouring villages (which is apparently as close a mental–physical bond as being conjoined twins).

4 p.m.: I throw yet another cup of coffee down my throat and get into my Sherlock Holmes mode to discover why we are paying Rs 43 more per kg of wax than required and is it a genuine oversight or does my purchase manager need a few whacks from our good old Mumbai policemen.

6.30 p.m.: I have come to meet my new clients at their home which even at first glance needs severe redecoration. I am sitting on a rather uncomfortable chair at their hideous dining table and facing the middle-aged couple who are explaining their requirements for the project.

The husband fetches the architectural plans of the house and comes next to my chair. He bends over trying to unroll the plans on the table, and the motion dislodges the intestinal gas which till this moment has been probably lying dormant inside his posterior (which by the way, is four inches away from my face) and lets out a noisy, flatulent missile. I almost choke on the noxious odour but the couple just continue the conversation as if nothing out of the ordinary has just transpired. It takes all my years of yoga training to maintain a straight face and I hurriedly finish the meeting. Their secretary ushers me to the main door and just as I am leaving, I overhear the mistress of the house screech at her husband, ‘Pintu, not fair, bad manners to behave like this, little control, please!’

He yells back, ‘Yaar, you say the same line in the bedroom also. Sex and gas even God can’t control.’

D: Doing the Daughter-in-Law Thing

Mummyji is what everyone calls my mother-inlaw. She is fierce, formidable and fiery, hence a bit like me in some ways and radically different in others.

When I was a newly-wed, she sat me down and explained, ‘Two tigers cannot live in the same field.’ I was a bit puzzled as I had no idea that she was an animal conservationist. When I kept asking the man of the house about her work with wildlife welfare groups, he gave me a withering look and said, ‘She means you and she can’t live in the same field.’ I just shrugged my shoulders and said, ‘No sweat off my back, darling, as I live on the first floor, she can have the field all to herself.’

But gradually, I realized that mummyji was right; we would be sharing the same field, though not as tigers but as the main cheerleaders for the one man out there who technically belongs to both of us; so we might as well shake our pom-poms together. Which is precisely what a good mother-in-law–daughter-in-law relationship truly is.

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