ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday October 7, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 19

Walking disasters

By Rukshani Weerasooriya

My parents have a habit of hiring men to work around the house. It's always been that way. So much so that I'd never wondered why we had a man working in the kitchen, and not a nice motherly looking woman, like most others did. But of all the men I've seen in this house, none surpass the one who works here now. A wonderful 4ft 10inch princely thing, he is.

At his job interview, which took place in our front lobby, he clearly stated to his prospective employer (my father) that he was not a very secure cook and that he was afraid we wouldn't like his work. My father hired him immediately, of course, and the adventures have been endless ever since.

He mixes Ovaltine in with my tea every afternoon, and I have no idea why he does that. I asked him once, and he just stared back at me like he was a wax figure. He loses his way around the house (and it's not like I live in a palace, or something) and he feeds the dog a bowl full of bacon on occasion. Other spectacular talents include his ability to wash the marinade off the chicken before roasting it, boil the rice until it gets nice and puddingy and of course (my favourite!) set the kitchen on fire before going to bed. Yes, that he did one night. Upon my discovery of the fire (and after it was frantically put out) my parents looked at him endearingly and asked him to try not to do that again if he could help it. However, even after the fire incident I have had to switch the gas off on his behalf on several occasions as he left the kitchen. And if I informed him of his mistake the next morning, he'd do the wax figure thing again. Which I find increasingly hard to interpret…

The other day I decided to relieve him of his work and make dinner for the family (as a subtle means of torture really, because, quite frankly, my cooking is not exactly spectacular). In preparing my exquisite chicken dish (which ended up looking like fried papaya in mud sauce) I felt the wax-figure look being thrown to me over my shoulder many times spiked with a tinge of wonder and admiration. He saw me as master chef Jamie Oliver, when really all I was doing was painstakingly putting together ingredients that did not, and never would, turn into anything remotely edible. It gave me pleasure to think one person it the world thought I knew what I was doing.

As I have described before, everything he touches turns into malted tea, watery chicken or rice pudding. Nevertheless, this man has managed to give me a glimpse into myself and I'd have to say I've been enriched by what I'm seen. Although I have not cooked for a household (as a means of employment, at least), one of my past jobs was at a well-known firm, where I spent many awkward minutes trying to talk my prospective employer into not hiring me. Of course, the man hired me, for some unknown reason (sympathy?), little knowing I had many talents up my sleeve. For instance, I'm pretty sure I set fire to a couple of things (metaphorically speaking) and did the wax face – without a doubt –- on many, many occasions as my senior colleagues doled out work to be done or commented on work I'd handed in. They'd ask me, for instance, to research something for them and I would stare back at them like I was straining to hear an extra-terrestrial message being transmitted from just above their head. Apart from all this, I know for a fact, I used to get lost ALL the time, in a building as small as a shoebox. Well, not that small, but you get my drift. All this to say, I see myself in the disaster-man downstairs, and it brings me JOY – even at the risk of losing the kitchen to a freak fire. Why? Because I have often looked back to the time of my employment and wondered what I gained from it, or what I contributed to the firm and I never had a positive answer –- until this beloved cook walked into my life in his funky long-shorts – reminding me oh so much of my disastrous self. Now I know I DID make a difference, like he does everyday: I entertained those around me while providing them with any number of reasons to feel good about themselves because -– one look at me and it would be pretty clear that things could be much worse for them than they were, and that life was treating them well at the workplace as opposed to how it was treating me. Hurrah for me and for the tiny man downstairs! We balance off the heavyweights at the workplace, and we sure are proud of the fact!

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