Josna Rege

Posts Tagged ‘Monty Python’

397. Why Should Not Old Women Be Mad?

In Education, Stories, Teaching, Words & phrases, Work on April 28, 2017 at 10:21 pm

St. Trinians girls (Ronald Searle)

I’m so old that when I was in secondary school in England, the teachers still addressed the boys by their last names, as if, anachronistically, we were in some sort of Monty Python sketch. (I’m so old that I was in secondary school before the advent of Monty Python.)

I’m so old that I become enraged by fundraising emails that address me by my first name.

I’m so old that students sending me their late essays via cell phone infuriate me, not by their lateness, or by the fact that I am forced to print them out, but by their failure to include a cover note.

I’m so old that when a student sends me an email message without a cover note, I reply with a cold (and to them, bewildering), “Were you addressing me?” or “Excuse me, but did you intend to send that message to me?”

I am so impossibly old that when, in their essays, students call eminent scholars like Edward Said “Edward,” or Martin Luther King, Jr. “Martin,” I say, with withering sarcasm, “Oh, I didn’t know you were on a first-name basis with him.” (It goes right over their heads.)

It’s contradictory, I know, that in email messages to my students I sign off with my first name, but have the urge to (cyber)slap them if they dare to address me as such. Although to tell you the truth, I am grateful when they address me at all. Nowadays one is lucky if a message from a student starts with a “Hey!”

By the way, while I’m giving vent to righteous indignation, Woe Betide any student who makes any of the following cardinal slip-ups, whether orally or in writing:

Pakistan is in the Middle East;
India is in Southeast Asia; or
the Mahatma’s name is spelled G-h-a-n-d-i.

I’m not done yet: on the subject of names, if you are giving an oral presentation on an eminent writer or scholar from Elsewhere, you are responsible for finding out how to pronounce his or her name beforehand. S-a-i-d is pronounced with two syllables; it emphatically does not rhyme with ‘head’. Why is it that you can do Dostoevsky without hesitation, but—like the British—balk at Bandopadhyay? Stay after class and repeat “Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak” as many times as it takes to get it right.

By the way, I’m so old that in my day they still sent the boys to the Headmaster to be caned. Just sayin’.

Mr. Quelch and Billy Bunter

All right; I’m done now.

With apologies to William Butler Yeats: Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad?

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229. The Saga of the Sage-Green Couch

In 1990s, 2010s, Family, places, United States on October 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm


Although I have very decided—and sometimes decidedly expensive—tastes in furniture, one wouldn’t know it because almost everything in our house is a hand-me-down or otherwise acquired second hand. Occasionally I find myself desiring an item in the abstract, but only very rarely will I actually buy it, because I can’t bring myself to do the research involved, go through the rigmarole of purchasing and pick-up, and ultimately, spend the money, which I’d much rather use for travel. There have been one or two exceptions, notably our bed, which we bought before Nikhil’s birth, and a futon couch, bought for a family member visiting from India. But in general, the house is furnished with an eclectic mix of pieces that somehow make their way in like uninvited guests and almost invariably stick around. Some of them stay on long after they have worn out their welcome, while others show up just when we have lost all hope. The sage-green couch is a case in point.

Ever since the mid-1990s I have had an ideal couch in mind, one that I had seen and sat on in a Vermont farmhouse where I rented a room for a while. I loved it at first sight. It was beautifully designed, constructed and upholstered, deep, long and elegant, but above all, comfortable, with a natural, country look. It was a couch to curl up on through the long winter evenings, with a mug of hot mulled cider and a favorite book. Its generous cushions were covered with a thick, velvety-soft cotton corduroy in my favorite silvery-grey sage green. I had never bought a new couch, just a series of yard sale finds, with exhausted springs and frayed seams on the cushions that had to be concealed with Indian bedcovers.  Then and there, I resolved to get one exactly like that sage-green vision, and then to redecorate our entire living room to match.

Alas, a dozen years later, that redecorating project remained unfulfilled. I had got as far as visiting the shop where my Vermont friend had found her couch, but it turned out to be a discontinued line. I also learned that while all their couches were similarly well-made, they were priced to match, at rates that I associated with the ticket price of a decent second-hand car rather than a stationary object to be parked in my living room; you couldn’t go anywhere with it, as you could with an airline ticket or even a good book, except to sleep. For years and years I kept an eye out for one like it in the twice-annual furniture sales, even going so far as to conduct online searches for couches that could be delivered from distant warehouses., but nothing fired my imagination like that original dream-couch, and I couldn’t bring myself to pay more than a thousand dollars for something that would always be second-best.

There were other obstacles, too. Indecisiveness was a big one and it runs in the family. My mother had been in the market for a new couch for even longer than I had, always on the look-out, never quite able to take the plunge, and finally buying one in a hurry, before a big family visit, that no one ever sits on because it is so stiff and hard. Another obstacle was an idea of myself as nonmaterialistic—a false idea, I must add. I was perfectly capable of coveting all sorts of expensive items, but could never bring myself to buy them. However, I thought nothing of spending money on travel and books, both adding up to as much as any of the big-ticket items I shied away from as bourgeois indulgences. I was rather like Karl Marx in the hilarious Monty Python skit, Communist Quiz, in which the founder of modern socialism and co-author of The Communist Manifesto reveals his bourgeois, materialistic desire for a beautiful lounge suite.

I had been engaged in my Quixotic search for so long that I had just about given up, and my family, to whom it had become a longstanding joke, had resigned themselves to the status quo. Then one day, about two years ago, we were helping a couple of friends of ours empty their house and load a moving truck. Because they had moved to a much smaller place and needed to sell their house in a hurry, they were having to leave behind from much of their excess furniture for the real-estate agent to dispose of before the sale. Halfway through the move, Andrew took me aside and pointed to the living-room set, one of the many items being abandoned and almost buried under boxes, blankets, and miscellaneous bric-a-brac.  “Look,” he said; “your sage-green couch.”

And so it was: casual, comfortable, and generously cut, it was exactly the right color; and although it wasn’t upholstered in corduroy, the material was a soft, serviceable 100% cotton (not that newfangled microfiber) complete with extra cushions and cushion covers that zipped off for easy cleaning.  It wasn’t just a couch, either, but an entire suite, with an oversized armchair and a loveseat.  The rest is history. We called our friend Jim, who came right over with his pickup truck, and with the help of a couple more friends we brought it home, where it sits to this day. Thank you, thank you, Harry and Paulette!

Thus concludes the saga of the sage-green couch. Alas, the redecorating still remains to be done, pending a series of further decisions—what color to paint the walls, moldings, and window-frames, what color, size, and material for the rug and the curtains. The house retains its same old eclectic look, but I am very happy with my new-old couch. The only trouble now is that I don’t dare sit on it very often because I invariably sink into its dreamy softness and fall fast asleep.

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