July 14, 2004

the £100 falafel (my version)

i had to take back, chop, cook, chew, and then burp my own words this saturday night 😐

all because of a play that i had wanted to watch ever since i heard it was here in london for a 90-day-period.

like most wives would, i let my husband know of my wish to watch the play well in advance. i even justified why i especially wanted to watch this one — among other bizet classics, the carmen gypsy tune is (still) one of my father’s favourite and its something both he and i hum or whistle very often. (more tracks here)

many years ago when cable tv was not ‘in’ and doordarshan is what all of us watched, the carmen opera (i think it was a bbc recording) was shown on tv and my father had insisted the family sits down to enjoy it. given his taste in western (classics) movies and music, i used to think the opera was a language only he could understand. which is why i listened to his story-narration in awe as the artists danced in their bright and very frilly red and black spanish costumes. there was even a bullfight-scene for escamillo the toreodor, and i remember how his personality had appealed to me the most. when he fought the bulls waving his red cape in front of them, i would wince and shut my eyes, only to peep in horror through the gap in my fingers. when the bull was attacked by spears and ran around madly in pain, i would also voice my anger… “how can they do such a thing!!?? the poor animal! what if someone did that to them??!!” and my father would laugh and make me understand, explaining about different countries and cultures and how some games are part of a tradition that is sacred to them.

when i saw the colourful carmen poster on one of the underground stations in london…i wanted to re-live that experience again. the songs, the dresses, the frills and the colour, the bull-fighter and yes, even the bull-fight. and as the days went by i began nagging praveen again and again, reminding him to book tickets or we would never get to watch the classic.

now in the two and a half-plus years that praveen and i are married, i have learnt — apart from cooking and cleaning and making a house a home — the fact that nothing can be achieved when left to praveen alone. be it buying groceries for the kitchen (i have yet to learn driving which is why i have to depend on his chauffeur services), helping me with the vaccuum-cleaner (eventually i have to do it myself), going to the library or…well, keeping his tie and shoes in place when he throws them all around the house. like the mobile phone alarm function that switches to ‘snooze’ after its first beep, i have learnt to run after him constantly, always sure and yet prepared for his favourite answer: “not today kunju, tomorrow?”

…until i finally lose my patience and burst out like the air out of a soda bottle. i also cool down quickly enough to realise how hard i must have been on him, but then my outburst has had its effect on him and the work is quickly done 😉

in a place where entertainment is our only escape, where the number of friends you have can be counted on the fingers of your left hand, no relatives’ houses to go to and a chronic backpain to endure, such blame-games are easy to get into. and then i go on about the number of hours he spends in front of star news or football, cossacks on the computer, the loo, or asleep. since my in-laws are here these days, it is difficult to openly display my temper tantrums at times, but now even they know when to expect one coming. it was after such a display (over chat, phone AND email, that the two tickets for carmen were booked. the last show. and, not surprisingly, at £35 each.

“you deserve this…” i said as we got into the car on saturday evening and set out for london’s west end. “YOU should have booked it early, don’t try and take me on a guilt-trip saying the tickets are expensive. i know they would be. dont forget that we are going to watch a classic.” famous last words indeed.

ten minutes into the show and i wanted to re-check our tickets if we had got into the wrong theatre. the costumes were dull, the actors weren’t dancing and there were way too many of them; forget the frills on carmen’s frock, there was absolutely no colour on the sets at all!

the play was divided into four acts, thankfully. during the first two ten-minute intervals, we got ourselves a book about the play, and an icecream. lemon sorbet. another £4 to understand what it was all about and £2 to remain cool. i sank deeper into my chair to avoid the question marks on praveen’s face. i was lost for words already and prepared to chew the ones i had spoken just a few hours back. the third act was when i could barely concentrate, because i was mentally calculating how much we spent and what a waste of money it had been. then i began to consider how many bills we could have paid off with those £70. almost as if the guilt-fairy had waved her magic wand, a currency converter popped out of nowhere in front of me and i went “aaaaarrrghhhhhhhhh” in my head. almost 6000 Indian rupees!!

i turned slowly to look at praveen from where i was seated – the edge of my chair and very low – his eyes red from trying hard not to sleep. “it was not supposed to be like this,” i said with a big face. “the carmen i had seen with my father was different. we have simply picked the wrong performance.”

the lights came up again and it was the final 10-minute interval. we got up to get another icecream. vanilla, the sugar that would digest the bitterest of truths. another £2. suddenly in the hall filled with propah englishmen and women, perfumes, low necklines and pearl necklaces, posh leather jackets and pipe-cigars, praveen began to sing. “i’m trying not to sleep” he said, while i held my ears from burning off with embarrassment, trying to shut myself from his horrible imitation of the opera singers. when we got to our seats i caught myself saying, “aah at last, just 30 more minutes to go.” and then we both burst out laughing. he said it was okay, and that he was at least going to put up a *review for the play.

i offered to repay the 70 pound-entry ticket with my savings (something i never let him know of, and he just shook his head.

“you can buy us the falafel from maoz instead. humus and fried aubergine for me. i’m sure it will be worth a full £100.”


ps: it was really uncanny when praveen and i showed each other our entries for carmen. most facts wouldn’t be too different, but we even came up with the same title! we decided to go ahead and post it anyway, and here is his version. the best part of the story is that both of us had thought our reviews for saturday’s carmen would have just one word:

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