the Kumars at #42

The Kumars at No. 42 never fails to turn my frown up-side-down (or down-side-up). The last time I saw The Kumars at No. 42 was in New Delhi. We don’t have The Kumars at No. 42 here. I question our sophistication and the developmental state of our minds to handle The Kumars at No. 42 type of humour in this part of the world. I also thought that airing The Kumars at No. 42 over cable in Delhi was somewhat of an oddity. But that’s just my thoughts; I don’t know enough New Delhi-ans or Indians – native or diaspora – to form an opinion.


The Paramaneeks, like The Kumars at No. 42, don’t enter my conscious and sub-conscious mind on any ordinary day. And like The Kumars at No. 42, the Paramaneeks have shaped my mind about the Indian sub-continent without me knowing. This, I would explain shortly, but first: why the sudden emergence of The Paramaneeks in my life?


A pot of paint.


About a week ago, my mom had decided that the flavour of the month in terms of colour scheme was ‘white’. White flower pots. White pickett fences (repainted – and ahem, yes, I made them from scratch!). White wheelbarrow. White cupboards. White shovel! White stool… for as long as there’s white paint in the pot, and surfaces to be covered, it was going to be white.


This strange behaviour (perhaps) jolted my otherwise zombie like existence at home and I found myself teasing mom one evening: “So, how is Mrs. Paramaneek?”


The name just rolled off my tongue before I could think. And fond memories came flooding in with mother and daughter laughing and chattering away at the kitchen island.


See, Mr. Paramaneek once bought a hideous blue pot of paint for an accent wall. Since it was more economical (not necessarily sensible) to get a 5L pot than two 1L pots … Mrs. Paramaneek lived with a hideous blue washing machine and pressure cooker!


Thank goodness that despite being a quasiParamaneek myself, I never formed an affinity with that hideous blue. But I sure developed an appreciation of strong colours (fuchsia being the all time favourite), fabrics, incense, intricate jewellery, tea, spices, Bollywood, balti, paneer, mishti doi, pista barfi, kalakand


And most of all, I dearly miss Mrs. Paramaneek. Petite but fiery, her sari seemed to have been magically ‘fixed’ onto her body, even as she grounded chili into powder, dried mango pieces for chutney, chased me around the yard with a snake gourd in her hand, yanked from the several trees Mr. Paramaneek had planted … yup, I was a handful, but mostly I was a lovely devoted helper who held on to every word and wisdom she handed down to me while I dutifully kept an eye on the shimmering yogurt, knowing very well the reward in hand was an ice blended banana lassi – Mrs. Paramaneek’s concoction of crushed ice, banana, yogurt and a dash of nutmeg made especially for me provided it didn’t curdle. And if it did? Oh well, there goes Mrs. Paramaneek in her sari chasing me around with some long-ish vegetable in one hand. :)


Although she was a M.D. by training, Mrs. Paramaneek with her neatly plaid greying hair never once popped a westernised pill in my mouth. Instead she busied herself by whipping something using her pastel and mortar and force the paste or liquid down my throat. Surprisingly, none tasted as vial as traditional Chinese medicine and keeps me wondering at times what the magical concoctions were. A pity I never took too much notice to what this ancient remedies were, other than the spine chilling cold paste made of sandalwood powder and camphor she’ll use for my ‘rotten, smelly earlobes’ as she terms them.
I do wonder now where the Paramaneeks are, and thanks to Amreet (a Chartered Accountant now) I boastfully used the word “via” at age 7 in school!


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