Formal functions can be so funny
In the College of Home Economics, we had to live in a house and manage it on our own. It was called ‘the residence.’ All Homec students have many stories about their residence experiences. What do you expect when a bunch of novices try to behave as ‘pros’? So, here we were at a dinner in our residence. Not everyone was used to cooking, and nor was everyone skilled at using the knife and fork.
I admit a flying saucer is not a formal meal, but that is what had been cooked that day. The meals had to be planned within the budget and preferably interesting dishes.
So, here we all were seated formally at the table – all of us behaving at our best. I was the hostess that day. Across from myself sat our guide and teacher, Ms Vasim Bano. I was usually quite adept at holding the conversation but not at eating quickly. I could see my friend sitting across, next to the teacher. I watched, as she sat keeping her left elbow tight against her side, which was next to the teacher. Her other elbow was high at shoulder length trying hard to cut the flying saucer with her knife.
We all were in our late teens and novice cooks too, hence the knife refused to cut through, and the flying saucer went flying up and landed on the table cloth about a foot from her. Everyone’s eyes had followed the flight and landing of the flying saucer. All quiet. Silence. Now, all eyes on the landed vehicle. Wondering what she would be doing now. Her plate was empty. She couldn’t pretend it didn’t happen. The question was: “How would she pick up the flying saucer and put it back on the plate ?” So, she stared at it. Then tried to do it with her knife and fork which refused to hold it all the way back. So, finally a quick swipe with the hand, did the deed.
I don’t know how I didn’t laugh out loud. I guess as a good host I tried to divert everyone’s attention with conversation away from this ‘event’ towards the beautiful weather or some such thing.
Now, let’s come to July 2017, this was Serena Hotels’ Darbar hall. It is beautiful. Really grand. More than its grandeur, I am struck with a lot of nostalgia when I go there. I miss my German friend Birgit Weisser and this is where she often invited me. We had met during our trip to Chitral and became close friends. She had seemed to be quite a senior person at the German Embassy in Islamabad, as everyone held her in great regard. She was very particular about details, and what a memory she has! She always remembers exactly what I said in which place. In those days, my articles would be regularly printed in Dawn, and she loved discussing them with me. She loved reading books, refused to use the mobile phone or have a television in her lovely home. She also refused to marry anyone and chose to remain single. I found her a very sweet person – both of us had loved the scary jeep rides on the jeep tracks of Kalash, laughing our heads off, and loving the beauty of the place. The drivers must have thought we were nuts. Certainly, we weren’t the squeamish kind.
Back to Serena…
So, last Sunday, I took Nadiya with me. She is probably my only child left on whom my emotional black mail works. She was to return to Lahore the same day. But I was dying to spend more time with her, and I also didn’t want to miss this meeting.
After all, Atle Hetler the man behind the Pakistan and Norwegian Association is a writer for Dawn, and I love his meetings. Specially the literary group – a blend of Pakistanis and foreigners – all having an interest in literature and the arts. There is Khalida Laeeq Babree, Aisha, Matt Vaughn with his upcoming book on Pakistan called “The Sacred Land,” Ayesha Mustafa, the one with those sharp twinkling eyes, just to name a few. Nadiya, herself is a wonderful blogger and poetess. So, I thought she would like it. Atle also welcomed here in his usual way.
You go to a four star hotel, and are served a meal which isn’t up to the expected Pakistani standard. I mean, in so many years that I’ve gone to the hotel, it has consistently maintained the standard of food which is not exactly what one would expect. On top of it all … serving a hard boiled egg for breakfast!
No aumlets, or pancakes or halwa, poories, nihari, bhujia. Anyhow, the rest wasn’t too bad. But nothing compared to the breakfast served at Pearl Continental Hotel, Rawalpindi, which has both Eastern and Western cuisine to choose from.
As I served myself and came back to sit at the table, I heard my girl ask me how to break the shell of the egg? (Since I’m supposed to be so well versed in ethics, and manners. Having been an instructor at the Finishing School.)
So, “Of course, I’ll show you!” I said. Putting the egg near me, I picked up my knife and tried to gently tap a line across the egg’s top. Suddenly, it slipped and fell down. We both bent down to look under the table. We saw it roll right across the width of the table.…
Ooops!!! I looked around to see how many people had seen it falling off the table… of course, it seems all the five or six persons sitting near by. All were looking around for it too. There, it had rolled under the table across the wide table, near the feet of one of the three lovely girls sitting across from me. I just couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing.
They had spent their time in Venice for seven years, and had come for a holiday to Pakistan. They were used to attending formal occasions. I mean attending those formal Air Force functions was a natural for me too. But recently, I’ve become very bad. Any funny situation has me giggling away. Tobah! Those girls politely picked it up and handed it back to us.
This time I didn’t offer to help!
I love the fact that life can be so funny at times.
Stay blessed my dear Readers. I’m sure, you have remembered many such funny things by now. 😉