Saturday, July 21, 2001

A Farewell and a Birthday

P. K. Hormis Tharakan is a gentleman among the diplomats and, for those who knew him, also an 'officer' at large. Some cheeky tongues say in jest - it was the pressure of these well earned epithets that compelled him to leave exactly on their scheduled date of departure - not staying on for even a day longer after the 'farewells' ended - breaking all previously set traditions of "the valley", diplomatic or otherwise. Soft spoken, mild-mannered and polite to the hilt, always impeccably dressed ( possibly a carry over of his Italian stint ) Hormis is an epitome of refinement. The salt & pepper moustache and understated smile gave him an old world charm - an instant hit with the women ("they find me - Oh, so safe !" he would say with an impish grin), which 'S…' considered unfair competition. Molly - as sweet as one would expect anyone of that lovely name to be - is the most fantastic cook and her dinners were the talk of the Embassy circuit. She made the most divine Appam and Stew, which 'N & S' would not miss for any other party in town. So much so, before leaving she gifted to 'N..' her 30 year old heir-loom "Chatti" (sauce pan for cooking appams) alongwith the "foolproof" non-stick family receipe (it's quite another matter that N..'s 'hopper' experiments so far have turned out more like Scrambled Rice-pudding than anything resembling those fluffy-base delights).

Appu and Mathu their 2 boys are the most unbelievably well mannered youngsters one can find today (which makes S.. feel guilty remembering what a terrible chap he was at their age, and he has only gone downhill since then). Mathu the younger one was shy and very much a Mama's boy - whom Molly (is that what "Molly-coddling" means ?) would try to force-feed back to health for all the imagined starvation of hostel life (indeed, he was having a problem adjusting to Singapore food). Appu in contrast had taken more after the father growing up like a typical Stephenian, which he is. By the end of their tenure, however, Mathu became quite apologetic about all the calamities that struck the kingdom, every time he returned to Kats for his vacations ( the first December, it was the hijack drama, next Christmas it was the 'Hrithik' fiasco and finally the "Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega" episode). Appu on the other hand became an expert at manning the telephone control room at home - somethingt he claims he had picked-up, when he was much younger, during their Sri Lanka stay, where such incidents were routine occurrences of every other night.

We had the privilege of having the Hormises over at home for a quiet meal - the evening before their departure, with D-Babu, Pb-Di and Amit-da for company. Rainbow Trouts from the Trishuli cooked in Chillies and Basil provided the perfect material for dissecting the reminiscences of past 3 years - separating the flesh from the bones, leaving only the bare skeletons on the plate. Washing it all down with a fine Barbera, even the 'ever-so-proper' Tharakkan-saar couldn't hide his sense of relief at handing over charge of - what he admits was, in many ways - the most eventful assignment of his long and chequered career. Now, we have to remain ever so "Pyasi" for such accounts.

Kids, they say, grow up much faster these days and certainly a lot smarter. And, above anything else they have a far better dress sense - sometimes even before they learn to crawl. That's certainly the case of the 1 year old, whose Birthday bash we went for last evening. Yeah, we are talking of Kunda's baby - the Nepali Times, which came of age from its very first issue and is already 52 weeks old. It's arguably the best product of Nepal (after, perhaps, only Fair & Lovely ). While everyone praises its contents (Kunda believes that most people start reading it from the back - and sometimes get no further, absolutely no prizes for guessing why), we love its layout and design. On that count alone it can take on any newspaper in the world - not just another tabloid. But, what really distinguishes it is its editorial quality. NT has one of the finest copy-desk - tho' from the first to the last word it bears the signature Kunda stamp (no wonder he needs a hat to store so much under his silver lined pate). It's unmistakably a labour of love - therefore, sometimes one worries whether he may be inadvertently setting a far-too-high standard for his off-spring, which he might find difficult to keep up, as it grows up to be a big 'daily'. Until then, we have no doubt, it would remain both "fair" and "lovely".

Friday night dinner was with the Seths at the Royal Singhi Roof-top Chinese restaurant. The ambience of the place is going to seeds (tattered carpets, stained table cloths and unwashed napkins) but the food is great. Nibbling at timur-spiced fried mutton ribs, we discussed the toilet training of their dog - Caesar and the mild incontinence problem the pup seems to have whenever he gets too excited. By the time, later at night, when we had adjourned to the Rads for desserts and coffee (they now have a lovely gourmet selection of beans from all over the world), the topic had veered onto beach etiquette in nudist colonies. Not that anyone of us have ever been to one or even planning to go in the future, it's simply a part of A & S..'s early Boy Scout training, where they were brought up on the motto: (always) "Be Prepared".