Thursday, October 23, 2008

Keep the Light On/Off For Me

Ah the joys of being a single-car family! Due to unexpected auditions and callbacks (yippee Bren!), coupled with my bellydance class, Bren and I left the house at 10am and probably won't be back home until 9p. So this is a very short post, written from the hushed environs of the Buena Vista Library.

Yesterday, I mentioned the war between India and China. I confess that I didn't know that much about it, and still don't, having only taken a cursory look at the Wiki entry. It's an interesting piece of history given the present day tug-of-war over autonomy in Tibet. Who knew that part of India was considered South Tibet by the Chinese?!

In any case, Mum and Dad were kids during that war, and while the battles raged far, far north of them, the repercussions were felt all the way to the south where they were. Mum says the Indian government instituted a ration system, where your family card got you an allotted amount of food, soap and kerosene. I mentioned that my Mum's mum got into deals with the neighbours in order to get the best for her children, and even ventured into black market purchases. It's cool to think that every woman is capable of lioness courage for her children.

Here again is my mum's account:
"It was a bad time in India when China attacked India and then Pakistan did the same.
Food produced did not meet the needs o the people so the Govt. started the Ration Card which still exists today as a mode of identification and proof of residence or belonging to a particle state in India.

So we got all our food items that is rice, wheat, cooking oil, kerosene - we cooked on kerosene stoves, soap (for washing clothes) etc.

We had to buy what ever was available and each family had a quota, above which we could not purchase from the ration shop, but had to buy on the black market. They normally two qualities of rice and wheat, one was superior kind and more expensive that the lower quality which was of course cheaper. Now the inferior quality was really bad, but we could only buy so much of inferior quality and so much of the superior quality, we could not buy all our rations in superior quality!! So my Mum had a deal with our neighbour who was a poor fisher woman who could not afford to feed her family with the superior quality of ration from her entitlement. She gave us her quota of the superior rice and wheat and we gave her our inferior quota of rice and wheat. It worked quite well for us, but the rice was never enough for a family of 8 (5 children + mum + 2 maids)and Mum had to resort to the Black Market many times. The soap was a glutenous stuff that had to be dissolved in hot water, before we could soak our clothes in the solutions. Also the sugar that was available was unrefined sugar not the white sugar that we were used to do. But it was probably better for us than the while stuff. Often the wheat would be in short supply and Mum would have to make chapatis with millet flour. This was quite different than preparing the wheat chapatis. We would have to mix the flour with hot water and then knead it. Chapatis would have to be rolled like the puffy ones, without the oil layer in between, and would have to be roasted and eaten immediately or they would turn rubbery!!

Well that is all, but another thing I remember was that behind our house was the creek and fields and mostly uninhabited,; we were told that spies would land in the night and we always had helicopter surveillance. I also remember the sirens that would go off both during the day and night and that we would have to keep our windows shaded to avoid giving the enemy planes their bearings and also to keep us from being bombed!! If there was any light showing through the windows the police would come and knock on our windows with their night stick!! Very scary stuff."

It's a nice reminder now, especially with the hallowed financial system collapsing around us, that things could be much much worse.



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