Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Art Of Staying Cool and the Role of the Useful Punkah Wallah

Our part time reporter Jim Thighes-Moriarty adivses you how to keep cool.

We at MazReal don't hold ourselves responsible for Jim's views. By all accounts he has never heard of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

Frida Kahlo looking relaxingly cool with her bangles rings and flowers?  Not today in Mazatl├ín however. It is like putting your face in the door of a Turkish Baths and breathing in steam and heat tinted with sweaty Turkish man sweat and the occasional wafting smell of dried prawn, burning tyres, sewerage or power station smoke (when the breeze is a southerly that is )but luckily now in my garden wafts the hint of Jasmine from my better half's Jasmine bush reminding me somewhat of drinking tea in China during those heady days when the British still ruled Shanghai. Oh how we laughed.

That pesky punkah wallah I ordered from India for me and my memsahib is a damn long time coming. They're impossible to find in this country, something to do with the wages going up to 5 centavos a day I think it was so I had to reluctantly look through my well-thumbed copy of the Skymall catalogue and go through there. Indian Wallahs charge about half the Mexican Wallah rate  and that's for a month so they are good value. I have shipped half a dozen in a box by EdFex from that wonderful country of cheap labour where the poor starving native knows his place in that wonderful country of the caste system and rich Bollywood actors and honest politicians who are allowed to shoot poor people who get in their way.

Granny Farquhar-Fiennes-Clinton and her trusty slaves
I am just carrying on the family tradition as can be seen above from the family instagram snap of my grandmother reading the horse racing pages from her verandah in Poonaville while she gets a pedicure from the foot wallah and a waft of breeze from the family Punka Wallah called Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Jnr went on to govern India and be a real thorn in the side of the British Ragamuffins.

More colonial nastiness after the jump

The other half of my colonial family owned a trillion hectare farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills and when on safari they would take a basic tent for 2 to keep out the heat and mosquitoes. Oh how we roughed it in those heady days.

Here you can see they managed quite adequately to get away from the blinding tropical sun and when they did venture out into the light there was always the bathing river just down a dirt track where my great grandfather Farquhar Farty-Fiennes-Clinton-O'Redford the eighth would lovingly take on the job of Hairwashing Wallah and pour water over one of his beautiful wives Fanny. (Here you can see she is laughingly trying to push him away) Generally Fanny would insist the beautiful naked Ahmed do this job but great grandfather Farty shot the naughty little imp for failing to bring the morning cup of tea in on time but mostly for shagging his wife.

 Buckray Goodtime -Thoon my other grandfather who carved out vast acreages in colonial Africa and notoriously sired 3 thousand mulatto children had his own train and train line in Africa on which he would ride holding an umbrella to ward of the sun and to poke his wonderfully happy boys when they failed to stand to attention.

Here is an excerpt from his diary:

We would make our way to the nearest railway town and then take four and twenty Indian railway workers and a trolley.  The trolley was a wooden seat placed on two pairs of railway wheels, which ran on tracks.  Dad and I and two of the four thousand workers would sit on the trolley, while the other two would run along the rails in their bare bleeding feet pushing the trolley.  When the first pair died of exhaustion, the other two would jump off and the dead pair would be left for the lions. We would cover miles and miles in this fashion leaving a trail of lion food in our wake. Once we laughingly covered the Cape to Cairo route on this trolley. Oh how we laughed. These are the happy chaps (below) that we used to shove the trolley on our Cape to Timbuktu jaunt and back. Oh how we laughed.

 Back to Punkahs and Wallahas. You see the Wallah was the fellow on the other end holding the rope sitting in a corner all day sleeping and pulling. As you can see these local chappies had the ability to pull and sleep just like today's Call Center Wallahs who answer your emergency call in Mumbai India from Highway 55 in Nevada when your car has broken down. They can sleep at their desks and speak with an American accent at the same time while telling you that your assistance is just on its way from New York. So please wait.

Here is another  explanation of the Punkah from the insane ramblings of my Grandfather Captain James T Kirk scribed on paper by his Writing Wallah back in 1893 and a snap of his Punkah Man Sahib:

In every room of every house in Calicutta a punka swings from the ceiling and a wallah squats in a corner sleeping. The wallah is a skinny man of local hue and colour and the punka is a long, light frame of wood, covered with long-cloth or fancy paper, having a flounce of muslin along its lower edge. It is suspended from hooks by three or four ornamental cords. Then another cord passes from the body of the punka over a brass wheel on the wall, and so through the wall, and over another such wheel on the opposite side, to the hand of a punka-wallah— one of a pair—who, with constant whipping by our Whipping Wallah, squats on the floor, pendulating his long charge continually, or so long as the apartment is occupied by us lazy, good-for-nothing empire builders. Under these punkas yon dine and smoke weed and opium, read, roll enormous J's, loll, and sleep and watch telenovelas, by day or night doing bugger all ; and what with them, and the great Palmyra fans— as much as your bearer can featly wave with both his hands and feets and teeth—and the latticed verandas, and the sprinkled mats, and an abundance of Boston ice—with all the sherry-cobblers and mint juleps that come of it—and the lalling palankeens, and the well-watered side-walks and drives, and the embowered "compounds" of the Chowringhadoo Road, and the breezy Midan, and the nabobish nobbish Esplanados, and the fruity-boothed Parade-ground with its nightly serenade of the finest whores in the East, the City of Eternal Pleasures Palaces has no favors to ask of the City of Crappy Hotels.

 Here is another 2 of my 8 grandfathers on the North West Frontier enjoying the afternoon siesta after enjoying the morning siesta and waiting for the evening siesta while their Flyswatting Wallah stands ready to swat those pesky flies.

 Here is a hand drawn photograph of my Uncle Bertie giving the bone lazy Wallah a damn good thrashing first with his horse whip and then a hobnailed boot to the backside after the lazy fella fell asleep. What ho Bertie that'll teach the fuzzie wuzzie.

 Pink gins all round on Christmas Day . That's Uncle Cecil Beaton Jodhpur lying back in a Laudanum haze having a delightful Christmas with his four slaves. One Punkah Wallah, one Cocktail Wallah, one Babyminder Wallah and one of his 20 wives the Reading Wallah. The Punkah Wallah of all the Wallahs often descends from father to son, for many generations, and the true punkah wallah by instinct and training becomes so expert that, tying the string to his toe, he will go to sleep and still keep jerking away (ha ha ha ) at the cord to fan the hot brows of the Europeans within, who may be dining, or reading, or writing, or sleeping, as the case may be.

And here we see a sad case of a lonely lady who could not afford a Wallah doing her own Punking with an ingenious apparatus that was used when all the Wallahs went on general strike and had to be shot.

But we still have punkah wallahs here and there, especially religious mausoleums. I'll name a few..............

Editor: Jesus Christ get this insane rambling idiot off the pages of MazReal.

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