Revisit: What's New, What's Old? (Santosh Bakaya)

Santosh Bakaya

Another Whodunit

“What is this?” I shouted at the top of my voice as I received yet another YouTube video on WhatsApp. My husband was busy Netflixing, and in between, for a little distraction, sending me YouTube food recipes. There was no response as my almost bloodcurdling scream was falling on deaf ears. Not exactly deaf, but very deftly, scream-proofed by very hi-tech earphones, recently delivered at the threshold of our house by Amazon.
Did I tell you that these days whenever the doorbell rings, it is the Amazon man, sometimes with small parcels and sometimes with massive ones? The small ones invariably carry earphones or mobile covers, and the big ones have a huge range- from plastic containers to yoga mats, table mats, bathroom mats, and doormats – thankfully no cats! [On second thoughts, I wouldn’t mind cats.]

My calorie-conscious husband, who walks more than ten km daily [sometimes more] and loves every moment of it, during the lockdown days, developed an uncanny love for buying food items from Amazon. Food items which we already have in abundance, and have no more need for. The items are duly delivered, they duly disappear and suddenly resurface, peeking from under hordes of other packets, with a guilty air, bent on making me feel guilty.
“Why did you not use it? The date has already expired.” He bellowed one day, horror-struck. 
“I never ordered it.”
“But I got them for you because you are forever munching”, he had an aggrieved look about him.
Did I tell you that these Amazon men have the propensity of coming during the day when one is in the middle of one’s forty winks?
 There goes another chime of the doorbell.

“Who is it?” I shouted from the dining room table, which was doubling as a writing desk. 
“Don’t shout. It must be the Amazon man.” He out-shouted me from the other room.
Let me divulge a secret. Without the earphones, he can hear pretty well. 
“What on earth is he delivering today?” My voice was a petrified croak. 
“Oh nothing, just a non-stick pan.”
“A non-stick pan! But we already have so many!”
“It was on a discount.”
“But he is asking for money.”

“Yes, it was Cash on Delivery”. He said, coming out of the room, gave me a withering glance, deftly rummaged in my purse, counted 1500 rupees, and handed it over to the Amazon man, while I gaped.
“But this is so massive!” I retorted, aghast at the huge pan.
“Moreover, did it also say that the cash should be necessarily paid from the spouse’s purse?”
“There is no cash in my Paytm, and these days, people prefer cash”. He rejoined, studiously ignoring my smirk. 
“But do they also necessarily prefer the cash of the spouse!” He dashed into his room, finding no need to comment on my outburst.

The Oxford book store and the Crossword people knew him by face but during the lockdown, the bookstores were all shut, and those people, I am sure, were slowly forgetting the features of their most loved book lover. The books in our huge library stood in the forgotten bookshelves with a sad, brooding air. The moon peeped through the curtained windows, searching for the bibliophile, but, alas, the moonbeams fell on a man who was bingeing on Mad Men, Money Heist, The Squid Game, depending on the whimsicalities of his mood.

The next afternoon, there is another chime of the doorbell, when I am teetering on the brink of my 41st wink. 
“Who is it?”
“Oh, I had ordered American cookies. It must be the Amazon man.” It is my husband’s powerful baritone coming from the other room, rendered more powerful, as he is wearing earphones and talking in a louder tone than usual.
Oh, when isn’t it The Amazon man?
Yes, he was very much there at the door, with a huge packet.

A packet that could very easily accommodate the traditional iron that the dhobis use. I shuddered. Had he ordered an iron?

“These American cookies are made in Jalandhar”, I remarked the next evening, when I had unpacked the mystery of the huge delivery.
He ignored the ugly grimace and smiled.
Librans have disarming smiles, I know, and he leaves no stone unturned in
softening my rough edges with his tender Libran smiles. With the earphones strongly plugged on, there was no way he could have heard my indignant utterances, so he merely smiled on.
What did the Bard say, ‘one may smile and smile …..’Well, forget it! Honestly speaking, I do have a soft corner for smiling villains! So, I would like to forget and forgive- and that is my philosophy of life, too.

Every night, after he has finished with his daily quota of bingeing on the third season of some Netflix serial, he assiduously counts the calorific value of everything that he has eaten during the day.
As I fall short of pulling clumps of hair from my head, I look furtively at the bookshelves, almost on the verge of bursting into tears. The one-time favourites of this passionate bibliophile, James Patterson, and Frederick Forsyth look on from the bookshelves, utterly hurt at this cold indifference. Dickens and Hardy hug each other, wiping each other’s tears. They can afford to indulge in some tactility, not belonging to this dystopian century. The moon peers through the curtains to see David Baldacci and Lee child looking on with inquisitive horror, Jeffery Archer arching his eyebrows in genuine confusion and concern at the bibliophile turned foodie, obsessed with food and fitness apps.

Did I tell you that he has downloaded two or three fitness Apps- Apps that tell him how many steps he has walked during the day, how many calories he has burned, the time he has taken etc. He also has an app that keeps a count of the number of calories he was supposed to consume in a day and the number of calories he had consumed.
To do this, he needs to enter all that he ate during the day so after every meal, he enters the names of the food items eaten, the quantity in which eaten and the app automatically gives the number of calories he has consumed with each meal or snack. At the end of the day, he comes to know whether he has remained well below the limit or exceeded it.
This has become an obsession with him, and I don’t think he has missed a single day when he has not logged in the tiniest amount of food he has consumed.
Only the other day, he was bragging that he had logged in for 365 days in a row.

“What is gobhi called in English?”
“Phool gobhi or bandh gobhi?”
In the frenzy of the calorie-counting crisis, my husband, known for his excellent command over the English language, hero-worshiped by his students for his oratorical skills had temporarily lost his voice and also his words.
“Which gobhi did I have today?” He stuttered, a look of intense befuddlement on his face. 
“You don’t even remember that?” I boomed, rummaging in my cluttered mind for the English synonyms for these vegetables, which I too seemed to have forgotten. 
Cabbage and cauliflower, the words flashed in my mind, and I blurted them out. 
“Which is which? But the question remains, which gobhi did I eat today?”

It is almost surreal that superfoods like Chia seeds, broccoli, millet, quinoa, have eerily crept into his vocabulary. 
“They contain specific compounds, antioxidants and micronutrients, and are good for weight loss. And you know, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries are also very nutritious.”
“But you never had a sweet tooth.”
“But you do have- they are for you!”
“And what about the other food items that you keep ordering from Amazon?”
“Oh, they are for a rainy day.”
These days, I am afraid to look at the weather bulletin. What if it tells me that from now onwards, the winter rains will be the new normal?
Oh no! I already hear the pitter-patter of the rain outside.
No, it is the bell ringing.
The Amazon man has again come calling.
I salute his diligence and conscientious sense of duty as I head towards the door, gnashing my teeth, wringing my hands, and also cursing under my breath, lamenting my pathetic armoury of expletives.
As I collect the packet, I hear him asking google: 
“What are sesame seeds called in Hindi?”


  1. Really very humourous. Laughed a lot. Every humourous incident comes alive because of the writing skills of the writer.

    1. Haha ..made me laugh a lot, written so well though the humour is at the expense of Lalit Sir 😀

    2. You can take it with a pinch of salt , if you want ! Sunita Singh .

  2. Beautifully narrated. The way it has been elucidated is magical with the author’s subtle humor and signature style making it more interesting.

  3. Excellent write-up Santoshji making me laugh. Mundane
    things come alive in your style. This time you have captured Lalith sir's ways of calory consciousness so very well.


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