The hand that rocks the cradle!!
It was a very long time back, in the very early nineties, when I was stationed in Assam. The thoughts of that lovely North Eastern state always evokes memories of lush green stretches of verdant forest. Rain forests, heavy monsoons, clean unpolluted air and simple ,affectionate people going about their business of life is what I remember fondly of that beautiful place. Another memory , which is inevitably linked in my mind , is a lesson in the expression about looks being deceptive and a delightful lesson in Queen’s English!
My elder son was born while I was stationed there. After a few months , there rose the necessity of acquiring a pram for the young man. Guwahati, where I was headed for the necessary purchase, was nearly a hundred and fifty kilometers from my location. Armed with a list of specifications from my wife regarding the pram , I reached the fabled Pan and Fancy Bazaars of the city. It was hot , humid and dusty by the time I reached , but I was a man with a mission. I was initially surprised and then increasingly dejected and dismayed as I drew a blank in shop after shop. I told shopkeeper after another I needed a pram. They looked at me without comprehension. I gave a graphic verbal description of what I needed ;I drew what I definitely thought, looked like a pram and showed it around and then finally an effective demonstration of an imaginary baby in an imaginary pram being pushed by a proud father. But , inspite of my best audio-visual presentations, no luck , no pram. My descriptions produced everything other than a pram and I was offered a bed pan, a washing machine and an Idli maker , but no pram.
I had almost given up and was now scouting some of the smaller dusty by-lanes of the market. I approached a Lungi –clad disinterested elderly gent in a small shop
and launched into my well honed pitch for the elusive pram. He spat out a mouthful of betel juice, put on his spectacles, scratched his groin and peered at me through his thick glasses. He then spoke to me in an amazing baritone, in the clearest English diction , I have ever heard, “Young man, why are you making all these funny gestures and making a fool of yourself? You want a perambulator and that is what you will get!” I could not believe my ears –that was perhaps the last time I have ever heard the word in all these years. The pram / perambulator turned out to be a Victorian relic with a lace canopy and lace trimmings on the wheels and the Union Jack emblazoned on the head rest. It was a monstrosity and no where near the stringent specifications given by my wife but it was a pram, or should I say perambulator .
Well, the young man had his distinguished carriage and I had a lesson in Queen’s English in the most unexpected of places and incongruous of surroundings. Life never ceases to amaze!