Monday, May 01, 2006

Ancestry and one dysfunctional family

As far as confused parentage goes, I think I have one-up on most people.
My Dad's from Goa and he's half Indian-half Portuguese, while Ma's half Dutch-half Portuguese... part of the European contingent of colonisers who settled in Ernakulam and Vypeen in Kerala.
Actually my mum's mum's family were part of the Portuguese people in Macau where there was some inter-breeding with the local Chinese population...the Bayross family...which would probably explain why the Sister and I look, to some people, like Manipuris.

My foks met when Purple (dad's sister) married Ben (mum's brother). My Dad's the youngest with three older sisters (in descending order AFA, Mother Superior and Purple); my mum's also the youngest with two older brothers and sisters (The Quizmaster, Pampam, Flower and Ben). Mother Superior is actually that, of a convent in Jaipur, while Purple lives with Nana in Delhi. Both Quizmaster and Flower live in the Bong Capital while Pampam chills in Goa with Mikey. Ben used to live in the States on work but has since moved back with Purple.
The Quizmaster fooled around a bit back in the day and ended up with two families. The first one - Aunt Mask and cousins (in descending order) Fat Cat, White Girl, Big Boy and Princess while the second one was Aunt NoFace (I've never met her) with RandomCousinSister (RCS)1 and RCS2.
Fat Cat was 18 when the shit hit the fan and she ran away from Cal to Delhi. No one knew where she was for the longest time. Dad and Mum had just gotten married and were living in South Ex when this happened and Dad saw her a couple of times around town.
Many many years passed and with no contact, no news and no sign, the memory of Fat Cat turned to legend.
Till one day, Purple on a church visit to the local steakhouse espied a vaguely familiar face in the throng of sullen dykes.
And Fat Cat it was.
She'd been picked up on a snorter raid when she'd been hanging with these African imports some where in the mid 1980s and had been there since as an under-trial.
Bully for the Indian justice system.
The family got together and got her ass out and she's been living it up ever since.
That's the short version..she's writing a book about the shit she was upto when she ran away...something you people should look out for..

The other cousins, on Dad's side, are more my age. AFA's and Pedro's kids - Lulu and Arturio, and Purple and Ben's kids - The Saint and The Grandmother.
In fact there's only a month's difference between The Saint, Arturio and self.
Lulu married Fez and Arturio hooked up with Becks, the rest of us are nowhere close to a dance down the aisle.

The Saint is another character in this family. Part of having a hyper-religious mother is having heavily decorated religious artefacts around the house.
The island in Goa that my Dad comes from, has a statue of St Francis Xavier that they pass from household to household with each home getting to keep it for a year no matter where in the world they live. The statue itself is bedecked with strands of gold jewellery, precious stones...the works.

This one time the statue was in C4 (where Purple and Ben stay) was the same year The Saint and I were under the ball-crushing stress that is the Class 10 preboards.
I fucked up like both me and my parents were expecting, but The Saint had painted glorious pictures of laurels and victory to Purple and the latter, though initially doubtful, had become carried away with his infectious confidence.
R-Day came without any surprises for me, but two minutes of walking in the door and we get a call from Purple (we used to live quite close by then) that The Saint has been possessed by the Devil.
Jumping in the jalopy, the four of us raced to C4 where the circus had finally come to town.
The Saint had ripped the gold chains, the flowers, everything off the statue of St Francis. He had the neighbourhood's wailing women kneeling before him trying to pray over him while he danced a manic jig on the bed with a fork in one hand and a cotton bud in the other.
"Say 'Our Father, who art in heaven," they beseeched him, only to have him reply, "Who's father? I ain't got no fuckin' father you fuckin' bitches...I'm the devil you hear ARARRRRAHHARRRRAAAAA!!!!!!!"
Purple was beside herself not knowing what to do...she just kept praying for the demon to pass.

Dad asked to be alone in the room with The Saint which is when the latter confessed to having screwed his pre-boards to kingdom come and could do without a tongue lashing from Purple.

The family also suffers from an incurable, genetic disease called hykumfluki. I don't remember who came up with this term, but I do know a lot of people who suffer from it. Hykumfluki is when a person suffers from a sudden rush of shit to the brain making them do stupid things, ask stupid questions and generally magnify stress levels ten-fold. It's the ability to turn minute, manageable issues into gargantuan, impossible problems, to blow innocuous situations into mind-boggling affairs and to cause as much chaos as humanly possible.

My folks used to have normal jobs a long time ago. Mum used to be with Unicef and Dad was with Philips. Till while on a trip to Bombay, Dad met up with this woman who sold dried bombay ducks and prawns in bulk. He started getting them sent up, repacked and resold in Delhi for a decent profit.
From the dried fish came Goan masalas and then pickles till we had 4C's pickles spread out in all the chic groceries in town with export orders in the offing. We moved out of the boondocks, bought a plot, built a house of our own in a peaceful, friendly neighbourhood.
Everything was fine and dandy so Mum quit; Dad had already quit to concentrate on this.
All it took was one wrong turn, one chance meeting with Obelix that sent the fairytale into the sewer.
Obelix was the importer-exporter guy who the folks were introduced to by a common accountant.
What followed was a forgettable number of years with debt collectors, double and triple mortagages, sheepish borrowing from family, scrounging on 30 bucks a day to college, and a whole lot more I don't want to write here.
My Dad developed this fetish for dogs around this time and from the two we already had - Bambi and Whiskey -- we now also had Doogie, Simba, ChooChoo, Pickles, General, Junior, Sameera, Odie, Mama, Ebony, Sheepu, Dipstick, and the blind bugger - Spinner.
I can't remember the names of the rest.
So many dogs in a three bedroom house meant just one thing: total furniture destruction and islands of shit on the floor. Not something my Mum was willing to bear.
So along with our fortunes, peace and quiet at home also...literally...went to the dogs.

Since then, my folks sold the house and moved to the farm where the existing pariahs have discovered the space of the Haryanvi heartland. Starting afresh, the folks opened Bernardo's, the only authentic Goan restaurant north of the Vindhyas in Delhi, shifting to Chit Park before settling down in Gurgun.
Today, the debt has been cleared, the house is comfortable and warm to come home to and the restaurant has received wide acclaim. Both Outlook and India Today rated it among the best new restaurants in Delhi in 2004, and we've gotten rave reviews by The Statesman, Midday, Today, Rediff, Marryam Reshii's Talking Turkey column, The Times Food Guide, The HT City Food Guide and a few more I've forgotten. Some random cooking show on Star asked my Mum to give a demonstration..the first time she's been featured on TV. And my Dad's growing his salt and pepper out to fit with the Goan restaurant owner-pirate image.
Whenever you're in Delhi, specifically Gurgaon, head here:

I'm very proud of where I've come from and who I am...not something I felt for a very long time.


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