Thanks to the GFC which has cut the consumption of KFC at home, I am now called the house-man. Although I fancy the more regal “Ghar Ka Mard” over the plain old Queen’s English version, living down under which boasts of some of the most bewildering assortments of shapes, sizes & colours all cocooned in one language, I fear to be taken for an exotic species. Australia’s quarantine laws are rather strict so I would prefer remaining anonymous than incur the wrath of the higher authorities which has already made me dear by a couple of hundred dollars, but that’s another story for a rainy day. So, house-man it is!
Like all tragic stories that start with happy beginnings, my life used to be different in the sun baked infernal desert heat of the Gulf. My ma or my wife as I affectionately call her; named me Waltzing-man for most of my happy married life in Kuwait. The soulful tunes of Konkan Kogul Wilfy, the lilting warbles of Meena, the lively melodies of Baila King Claudy or even the nasal twangs of Henry with his Ye Ye Katrina used to make my feet automatically circle the floor on long forgotten rhythmic patterns taught by my old jive master at Balmatta Shanthi Nilaya. I’m sure Banjo Patterson wrote Australia’s most popular folk song, Waltzing Matilda, on people of my ilk and not on some infamous swagman shot over a billabong. It is no secret that my waltzing used to rise to the occasion after a peg of shamelessly imbibed country, which has since been replaced with much sadness by Tasman, XXXX, Tooheys & Bundaberg rum. No wonder Australia is called down under because I always wonder about the brands I buy which are as alien as Coco Cola is to the tribes of the Amazon.
But coming back to the topic of my versions that had more drama than the iSnack 2.0 of Vegemite, I also used to go by the short form of “Maen”. This was limited to the taporis of Kuwait who used to greet “Maen” or “Hey Maen” with a big stress on the “aen” part. The taporis were mostly the identity crisis Mangy Boys, precursor of the Bombay Boys, who could never figure out where Mangalore is located, north or south of Panvel. A bit like my close Mangy friend in Kuwait who used to qualify original Mangaloreans as living between the Nethravathi & Baithoorli, probably due to the fact that being a “Hampatte-man” he used to catch bus number 21 to Baithoorli for a swig of toddy before heading back to Inasam’s dukra maas. The “Maen” version used to be countrified as ‘Patrawn” or “Irmawn” by my Goan brethren who had a habit of muttering under their breath about Mangaloreans as “The ones that ran away”. I had to counter once during an evening of dukor & country that if Tippu had the foresight of building the Konkan Railway, we could have travelled berth class from Madgaon to Kankanady without running. It is a pity for my northern brethren that it took another Mangalorean to lay the tracks, parallel ones at that, which makes me proud because you need to be sober for that.
A slightly plagiarised version that gained popularity after the renaissance of our dear Tulu language in Kuwait was “Porbule”. However, this version had several connotations to it, all hidden within the depths of the pronunciation because there are two classes of “porbul”; sponsor class and third class. The “sponsor class porbul” restricted to the elite of Kuwait was greeted with a slight bow of the head while the “third class porbul” was always with a sarcastic tone. I for one, not lucky to belong to the elite class of sponsoring the innumerable functions, musical fetes & plays was always relegated to the latter until the end of my stay in Kuwait. I have heard in the grape vine that the sponsor class has come down a shade these days, thanks to the GFC.
Talking of my house-man version, I can say it has its benefits because I have added chicken feathers to my cooking cap, the latest one being scrambled eggs. I can whip up a breakfast of bread & omelette without spilling the eggs between the sink & the pan. Talk of an improvement of getting into the pan from the fire that used to fry me in Kuwait. My son now wants my breakfast before his school because he finds it funny to see me running between the trash can, microwave oven, hot plate & the dining table. Kids these days get bored easily as they are busy tweeting each other between the TV commercials so I am proud to raise my son with a wholesome breakfast & an entertainment to boot.
A version that probably was very apt for all of us self important Gulfies was Mobile-man. Now, this is different to the Mobile-In-Law which I have the fortune to be associated with, but that’s another story which has already been published in the hallowed domain of this portal. No, it was not the lunacy of collecting the latest models that pop up every fortnight but the fact that my ear used to be permanently glued to the mobile phone from one crisis to another. Being in the ad industry, I used to literally drop everything I was holding, whether at parties or inside the bedroom, because some wisecrack could not figure out the artwork of the ad to appear in the next day’s paper. It even prompted my wife to start saying that it would have been better for me to marry the phone than her but then I used to counter with, ‘But ma, if I get any closer to you like the mobile phone, we might have the Machado Eleven playing in the KCWA cup very soon”
It is a sad fact that as much as I tried I could never get the kids to call me some of the cool things other kids call their Dads like Super-man or Bat-man. The closest I could get was Superglue-man from my little daughter in all her four years of wisdom because I am very adept at using it after my infant son had started taking a fancy to display pieces & cracking up with glee to see them shattered on the floor. As for Spider-man who is my son’s favourite character, “But Dad he is cool because he can shoot webs from his hands while you cannot even throw a straight ball at me”, I have to take solace in the fact that I wear my underwear inside my trousers unlike him.
The version that I aspire is Boss-man which looks a little difficult because when I was explaining to my son on the Lion being the King of the Jungle quite similar to me as the boss of the house, my wife retorted from the kitchen, “Like me, sweetheart, boss of the boss”.
Blessed be the house-men for they shall inherit the house, one day.
Author: Merwyn Machado- Australia