I was frantically searching inside my wardrobe. The room was littered with clothes of all hues and shapes. I was half inside the bottom shelf, throwing out the contents over my shoulder when I heard my friend calling me.
“What are you looking for? Is it some favourite suit or sari?” she asked pleasantly.
“Don’t be daft!” I answered, my voice muffled by the interior of the wardrobe. “If I were looking for those, I would be searching my kitchen cabinets, or the book shelves. What I am looking for, is the tin of ginger biscuits I had bought last month.”
“Oh, you are impossibly funny!” laughed my friend.
She didn’t know I was stating a fact. She is a new friend so I forgave her ignorance. My old friends know me better. They would never ask me why I was looking for a tin of ginger biscuits in a wardrobe, but would instead offer me helpful suggestions like “Why don’t you look in the shelf where you have put away old newspapers?”
Over the years, I have been forced to become a master concealer of things, especially of eatables. I have been forced to do it thanks to the you-know-who. But why do I have to conceal anything at all? Oh, you are new around here too, aren’t you? Okay. Tell me, how else I can protect the burfis which took two hours for me to make from the trio and make them last at least beyond an hour?
So I hide the burfis. Where? Here comes the tricky part: I hide them in the tea jar. And the tea? In the sugar tin. So where do I put the sugar? I put it in the salt container naturally! Playing this ‘musical jars’ has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that the trio gets tired of searching and gives up after opening a few jars.
The disadvantage is that my family often gets salted tea and sugared soup. The other disadvantage is that sometimes in my zeal to conceal things from the trio, I myself forget where I put the stuff and end up with stale biscuits or rancid pastries which surface several months later. Like now; I have found the biscuit tin and am looking at it with trepidation, afraid to open it. The cookies must be positively ‘alive’ by now.
In our house the most oft heard refrain is “Where is my __? (Fill in the blank with items like, pen, socks, underpants, etc., etc.) If you happen to come by in the mornings, you would find us all searching for one thing or the other. Needless to say, we would be searching for shoes in the wardrobe and schoolbooks in the kitchen. Everyone is so used to asking where this or that thing is, that one day — I swear it — the younger brat actually called from the bathroom, “Mom, where is my neck?” We sometimes spend 25 hours in a day searching for various things around the house.
Searching usually means that the trio stand in front of the cupboard/shelf/fridge…and expect the said item to fall into their hands magically. They would announce, ”It is not there!” without moving any other muscle but that of their jaws. This usually makes me very nervous, because they might find one or the other of the things I have hidden in the said places. Now you know why I am a nervous wreck, don’t you?
One day, I was sitting in front of my kitchen cabinet looking for — what else? My watch, of course! After pulling out the monkey wrench that had been missing for months and unearthing L&M’s wallet, I still had not found the watch. In walked my friend — the same one — and asked me the same stupid question of ‘Are you looking for, some utensil? Can I help?”
This time, I decided to put her in the picture well and truly. I made her sit down and explained patiently to her that my utensils would be found on the dining table or if not, on my study table. Who else but a moron would think of keeping them in the kitchen cabinet? I explained irritably that my watch, which should have been inside the cabinet by rights, was not to be found. Ignoring her open-mouthed look, I dived back into the shelf.
I never found the watch, but did find my long lost dupatta. The older boy who happened to walk in just then pounced upon his dumb-bells — I had borrowed them some time ago to pound the masala, because my grinding stone was doing duty elsewhere as some other tool.
So used are we to ‘search’ for things that if I were to tell one of them to go and bring my purse from my room, he would NEVER EVER find it, even if it were lying in front of him. But if I were to say, “Go and search for my purse in my room,” he would bring it in a jiffy.
If I am adept at hiding stuff, the boys, including L&M have evolved their own search techniques. When the three of them are together, they search openly, giving me dirty looks and making snide comments about weird mothers who hide things from their offspring! But if one of them does the sleuthing alone, he tries to be more devious. For instance, the older fellow has an ingenious method of eating burfis and even pastries. He takes out a burfi, slices it off on all the sides and puts the depleted piece back in, taking care to hide it well under the whole ones.
I would never have discovered this, had it not been for a sweetly sarcastic relative who pointed out that the ‘cutely tiny’ burfis were delicious.
In desperation, I finally hit upon the best hiding place — bang in front of their eyes — in a glass jar, if you please. There was this time when I made some laddoos and arranged them in the above said jars, which I then put in the front row of the kitchen shelf. I was amazed to find them still untouched after a week.
Then the younger one came to me. “We all own defeat. We have even searched inside the laundry basket. Now tell us where you have hidden the laddoos.”
If you were to think I was foolish enough to show them then and there, you are mistaken. I made him leave the room and made an elaborate racket, banging cabinet doors and clattering utensils. Then I calmly took down the jars and placed them on the kitchen counter. “Here you are!” I announced with a flourish.
Now, please don’t go revealing my secret hiding place, will you?
I must tell you that it adds spice to our otherwise humdrum life to constantly search for and ‘discover’ things around the house. Go ahead; try it, if you don’t believe me.