Dog and Parrot

Chotu or Montu or Monster had just recently died. He, of the angelic face, and the devilish temperament. Even though Delhi was relatively safe in those days, and we rarely locked the front door in the day, with the kind of reputation he had garnered, there were unlikely to be any burglars foolhardy enough to risk breaking into the house.

The worst hit was Papa. Chotu had been his baby. The little pup that he had brought into the house, and spoilt and petted till the dog became the Alpha, and the rest of us trailed behind – the Betas, the Gammas and in my case, the Omega. His reign of terror notwithstanding, all in the family missed him desperately.

So, after several months of pining, we finally invested in another Himalayan Terrier. Where Chotu had been black, Chiku was white. Where Chotu had had a fearsome temper and a bite worse than his bark, Chiku only ventured out if one of us preceded him, and that too, with his tail tucked between his legs. One was a lion, and the other…well…just a ‘fraidy dog. They were like chalk and cheese, and it could not have been more of a relief. Chiku became my baby, and I played all sorts of silly tricks on him, things I wouldn’t have dared with Chotu. While he slept, I would tickle his paws by gently pulling on his paw hair, or I would tie all colours of hair bands in his hair till he resembled a canine hippie rastafarian. He bore it all with a gentle fortitude, and my moniker of ‘dumb dog’ was more of an endearment than an admonishment.

Enter Misty.

Chiku must have been about two, and just past the jean ripping, Kolhapuri chappal tearing stage, when Papa found the parrot. It was about to become a cat’s dinner, except that fortuitously, my father scooped it out of the gutter it had fallen into. Wings clipped by previous owners, it was obviously trying to make its escape via foot before it had encountered the feline. Papa brought it home and found a dusty old cage he deposited it into.

Clint Eastwood was my favourite actor at the time, and I had just finished watching ‘Play Misty for me’. The parrot was duly christened Misty.

The first two days it clung to the top of the cage, refusing to be lured down by grain or water. Terrified for its life, and obviously traumatised by its treatment by the former owners, Misty’s chequered past blighted its slightly sunnier present. On the third day, finally realising that we meant him no harm, he cautiously lowered himself down, and ate and drank his fill. Then he let out a most delightful little whistle, signalling his happiness.

At first Chiku wasn’t sure what to make of this feathered interloper. After all, birds resided in trees, not in his home. So who was this funny looking thing, getting all the attention? Yet where Chotu would have undoubtedly demolished any unwelcome guests in his fiefdom, Chiku was more tolerant, and more than a little curious.

Misty on his part was having none of it, in the beginning. All large, furry things reminded him of his close call with the Grim Reaper. A big, sniffing, snuffling nose near his cage sent him scuttling to the top again.

Slowly, tenuously, an unlikely friendship sprung up between the two.

We started to leave the cage door open, and Misty started to explore his surroundings. Chiku would follow him at a safe distance, sensing perhaps that it was wise not to rush things. Things finally thawed when Chiku allowed him to partake his food and his water. From then on, neither of them was far apart from one another for too long.

My childish pranks were soon taken over by Misty. When Chiku napped, Misty would tease him by pulling on his paw hair, or go right next to his ear and let out a shrill whistle that would make him jump. Chiku would let out a low growl that would do little to frighten the pesky parrot.

Both dog and parrot had their own mind altering experiences too.

Our ayah at the time had the unfortunate habit of chewing tobacco. One evening she forgot to stash it away safely, and Chiku decided to chomp down on it for dessert. By the time we returned from our evening out, our dog was decidedly worse for the wear. Barely able to walk straight, he kept bumping into the furniture. Misty’s perplexed whistles explained little. Just as we were about to rush him to the vet, he brought it all up in a huge, greyish brown lumpy vomit and all was well again.

Misty, on the other hand, had the habit of clambering up people’s clothes, and parking himself on the right shoulder. This not only gave him a vantage point, but also afforded him the opportunity of nibbling on whatever the person was eating, or sipping on whatever the person happened to be drinking. A particular favourite was Mummy’s early morning cuppa. Why a parrot would enjoy sweetened chai is anybody’s guess, but that was how it was.

On this particular occasion though, Misty got more than he had bargained for. Mummy had been suffering from kidney stones, and had been advised to drink beer to allow the stones to pass. She tried her best to keep the mug away from the greedy parrot, but each time she took a sip, he deposited a peck on her ear to remind her that he was waiting. Exasperated, she finally let him have his sip….s.

A drunk parrot is a funny sight. He swayed back into his cage, his whistle was slow and long, and dare I say it, slurred? With a glazed look upon his face, Misty proceeded to sleep the day away. I didn’t envy him his hangover either.

So it was that we were a happy family of assorted characters, human, animal and fowl, chugging along in a strange, discordant harmony.

All good things must come to an end.

Chiku died at the age of three. Parvovirus struck him down and took him within 24 hours.

Distraught, Misty would go from room to room, looking for his playmate. His whistle sounded melancholy now, and he was thinner and sadder in appearance. His wings had grown back, and we didn’t have the heart to clip them again. His attempts to fly away became more persistent and frequent. We worried that a bird that had been captive almost all its adult life would not be able to survive outside.

One day, upon spying a carelessly left open door, Misty took his chance and flew out into freedom.

Day after day, Mummy would stand on the balcony and call out, “Misty….Misty….”, in the vain hope that he would return. Of course he never did.

We had no more pets after Chiku and Misty. Life would change dramatically in the subsequent years. I would leave for a job abroad, and my mother’s health would fail till in a few years she would be no more.

Yet those crazy, sunny, love filled years would become an indelible part of the past I would look upon fondly. Chiku and Misty, and their unlikely friendship, a story I would tell my daughters every time we went back to Delhi.

Advertisements

Damage

At fifty two I fell in love again. It started out as a challenge. A pitting of wits, and ended with us being devastatingly, terribly, foolishly in love. Of course, neither of us had planned for it to happen, and that is what made it so surprising. Isn’t fifty two when you get ready to hang up your boots and smoke that pipe? And here I was, lusting after a woman who was married. Perhaps her very unavailability made her so attractive. Or the fact that I, for once, had come across someone who filled that void in me.

Anyhow, this story is not about a lost love. It is about a lost child. And lost opportunities.

***

“Kalyan, this is Soda”, our hostess introduced me to the languid eyed woman at a ridiculous Delhi ‘do’ I had been compelled to attend.

“Soda? What kind of a name is that?”, I sneered at her, immediately taking in the cupid’s bow lips, the backless choli, held together by a single knot, the waist length hair that swung in a plait.

“It’s short for Saudamini”, she responded huskily, refusing to rise to the bait. “I read your column. It’s very interesting. I asked Mita for an introduction. I am a writer too. Oh, nothing major….just a few poems…”

I cringed inwardly, as this was definitely a prelude to getting me to read her stuff.

“No, no”, she laughed, “I have no intention of displaying my rather amateurish writing to you. But I did want to question you about a point you made in your column the other day…”

And so it started. A friendship, I would tell myself, denying my physical response to her. I refused to touch her. Never once did I let my hand graze hers. Never did I lean close enough to smell her perfume. Not at the beginning anyhow. Then there was the husband. A nice fellow. The devoted sort. I had a grudging admiration for him. To have found, and held a woman like that, required gumption.

She had a child. A son with learning disabilities. She was slightly embarrassed by him. As though it was her fault. As though her womb had refused to cooperate, and produced a faulty product, and therefore she must be to blame, for it was her womb. I was embarrassed for her. I saw it as regressive, and pointless. Yet, our friendship grew.

Over coffees, and sneaked cigarettes, we discussed politics and books. Over dinners that turned cold, we had heated arguments over religion. She believed in god, karma, prayer. I didn’t. Ramesh, the husband, took note of the sparks, but he was used to indulging her. He was also used to her sudden obsessions, and their quick souring.

“How can an educated, obviously intelligent woman like you believe that some entity whose existence hasn’t been proven, control our destiny?”

“Because I have faith. Incidents in my life have steered me to believe.”

“What sorts of incidents? Examples?”

She refused to be drawn, turning away in a huff towards the kitchen. I watched her go, exasperated and aroused in equal measure. After each of our arguments, I wished to make love to her. To grind into her and watch her face contort in ecstasy. Instead I made do with another cigarette.

Ramesh joined me outside. He didn’t smoke, but brought out his beer. We sat in companionable silence, enjoying the balmy evening. The sunset had unleashed a myriad hues in the sky, and the bougainvillaea bush seemed to be on fire, the crimson bouncing off the magenta flowers seeking to envelop each one of the surrounding plants in its reflected glory.

“I worry about Akash, K.”

“Why? He seems to be doing fine. Have there been any problems lately?”

“Well, the school called. He’s been getting into fights with the other boys. He attacked one with a pair of scissors the other day.”

“What?! That’s so unlike Akash. He seems such a gentle boy…”

“He was provoked. The other child had been calling him names, picking on him. I guess he just lost the plot.”

“That can happen with anyone. I mean, surely the school recognises that? Of course, he needs disciplining but Akash, of all kids, needs to be handled with care. Have you spoken to anyone in authority?”

“Yes, we have. We’re trying to organise a counsellor. But there’s more….he’s been soiling himself, and the bed wetting has started again. For a fourteen year old, that’s not good news.”

I agreed. I also wondered at this sudden unburdening. I was used to Ramesh being in the background. Soda was always the focal point of these meetings. Yet, she studiously avoided all mention of Akash’s issues. As though glossing over the obvious would somehow make it go away.

Akash himself was an interesting study. He was taller than his mother. Overweight and extremely acne prone. A slightly foul smell followed him around, and he had no friends to speak of. Our very brief interactions consisted of me greeting him with an overly hearty “Hello my boy, how goes it?”, and him responding with a grunt. Now and again, when our eyes accidentally met, I would get a glimpse of a very small, frightened child, unable to cope with the horrors of the world around him.

“How is the counselling going?”, I asked Soda a few weeks later over our rum and cokes.

“What counselling?”, she spluttered, wide eyed.

“Akash’s of course. Ramesh had mentioned….”

She turned apoplectic.

“There is NOTHING wrong with Akash!! Boys will be boys. I wish people would stop judging us!”

I knew then to leave well enough alone.

As the Delhi Summer turned into a golden Autumn, I found my visits to their house increasing in frequency. I had only an empty apartment with an old, deaf ayah for company. The food she cooked was unpalatable, and her cleaning was cursory at best. Where my books had been my constant companions, I searched for a human connection now. Soda, with all her faults, was an alluring woman. She could sense I was drawn to her, and felt flattered. Yet, I was only the nth man responding to her beauty and her warmth.

“K, why have you never married?”

“Are you going to set me up Soda? Please don’t! I find these things agonising…”

“Don’t answer my question with a question!”

“Well”, I leaned back on the sofa, and looked at Akash who sat in front of the Television, utterly engrossed, his hand moving into the packet of crisps, and back to his mouth with an automaton like regularity. “I just never met the right person”.

She looked at me from under her lashes, a coy look that she had perfected. “What kind of person?”

I knew she wanted me to say someone like her.

“Someone who agrees with me about religion being a pile of nonsense”.

Ramesh guffawed from the kitchen. He returned with his drink, and we raised our glasses to each other in a surreptitious complicity.

“Sunil is coming next week”, Soda intercepted our silent communication. “He’ll stay a few days with us.”

I had heard about her brother and his hell raising ways. A politician’s lackey, he was accustomed to throwing his weight about, and very few people crossed him.

“Sunil mamu is coming??”, Akash asked excitedly. It was the first time I had seen him excited about anything other than his computer games. “Do you think he’ll let me play with his guns again?”

Soda smiled at him indulgently. “I think he might let you touch them. But really Akash, you are too young to play with them.”

“Guns? Am I hearing this right?”, I looked at Ramesh, appalled.

“Oh, he has a license and everything. Besides, it’s a bit of a hobby with him. He’s part of Lokesh Sharma’s entourage, and you know how it is, with these politicians and their followers.”

I felt a sudden unease to be in the midst of people who treated weapons that could maim and slaughter, so casually. I was a man of letters. Words were my weaponry and my armour.

“….oh, but you must come K! I’ll do a nice dinner. Sunil is great company. ”

I doubted that we would have much in common. I nearly concocted a prior appointment. Yet one look at Soda’s expectant face, made all my arguments melt away. What was it about this woman that I could not resist?

It was the Sunday that changed everything. The party was already in full swing when I arrived. Ramesh was playing bartender, and Soda the consummate hostess. But all eyes were on the tall, beefy man who sat holding court in their living room. Sunil gave off an air of importance. A ‘don’t mess with me or you’ll disappear’ aura. I guess, in the power hungry circles of Delhi, that was an undeniable part of his attraction.

I nursed my single malt, as I tried to stay inconspicuous. I simply could not get into it with this man. Our ideologies were so far removed from one another, it was as though we belonged to two different planets. So, I let him wax eloquent on the subject of politics and power play, as he saw it. Mentally I bracketed him a fool and an ignoramus.

“What do you think K?”, asked Ramesh pointedly of another badass throwaway comment of his brother in law’s.

“I don’t”, I replied obliquely.

“Are you too high and mighty to get involved in the discussion Mr Bhushan?”, a mightily sozzled Sunil raised himself up, and staggered towards me. “The mountain is coming to Mohammad….tell me, doesn’t that column of yours talk about the sectarian violence the last political party instigated?”

“Yes”, I answered calmly.

“Then don’t you agree with what our party wants? Parity for all? Justice for all?”

“I agree with the principles, yes.”

“Good man! I knew we would see eye to eye. Get him another drink!” He enveloped me in a bear hug, reeking of alcohol, staleness and some expensive aftershave. “I need to go pee.”

I silently congratulated myself for ducking that one. I went outside for a smoke. Soda followed shortly after.

“You don’t like him.”

I smiled, and inhaled the smoke deeply.

“I don’t like most people. Don’t take it personally.”

“Hmmm”, she paused for a moment, looking at me intently, “I’ve written something I’d like you to see. If you don’t mind.”

“Soda, I don’t do poetry. I’ve told you before. I couldn’t critique it, if my life depended on it.”

“But it doesn’t! All I’m asking for is a bit of feedback.”

“Couldn’t you just post it on Facebook or something? Isn’t there an audience for that sort of thing?”

“K, why must you always be so unyielding?”

I opened my mouth to answer, but a shriek from the living room cut me short.

The AK-47 lay on the coffee table, as incongruous as a swan in a battlefield.

People milled around it, as though a celebrity had just been spotted. Some leaned forward to touch it reverently. Others admired it from a distance. The smug owner did little to disguise his delight.

“That’s my Kalashnikov…my pride and joy”, Sunil stood back, swaying slightly.

“Can I touch it Mamu?”, Akash asked trepidatiously.

“Of cours….”

“NO!”, I grabbed Akash by his arm, and dragged him towards his room.

“K! What are you doing?”, cried Soda.

Sunil looked at me and started laughing. “Scared of guns, big guy?”

I ignored him, and looked over at Ramesh. He swirled the ice in his glass, refusing to meet my eyes.

Akash struggled against my grip. I refused to relent. His gaze was vicious as I sat him on his bed and tried to explain fruitlessly.

“Akash…guns…they are bad things…they injure…they kill….You are so young…this is not for you to see….”

“Akash, go to bed!”, Soda’s voice was like a whiplash. “K, I think it’s time for you to leave.”

The party was dispersing as I made my way out. I was nearly at my car, when she caught up with me.

“I know you think I’m an irresponsible mother, a callous one even. But you don’t understand. Anything that brings a bit of joy into my son’s life, I cannot, I will not deny him that.”

Her lips quivered as she looked up at me, and in that mad moment, I leaned forward and kissed her hard. She resisted at first, and then, with a desperate hunger kissed me back. Her tongue probing, seeking, finding. She pulled away just as suddenly. Her eyes were as wide as saucers. She turned and ran back home, leaving me hungry and dissatisfied.

Hungry and dissatisfied. That was my lot.

I didn’t hear from them for the next few weeks. I guessed then that the tenuous friendship had come to its natural end. A part of me was relieved. Another part missed her fiercely. I buried myself in work. Looming deadlines and long forgotten books once again became my raison d’être. I reasoned this was the best way. The only way.

Her appearance at my door was a shock. She wore a pale pink shirt, and a floaty skirt of some description.

“Is Asha here?”

Asha, my maid, was having her afternoon siesta. I nodded dumbly.

She took my hand and led me into the bedroom.

There was never any doubt in my mind that I did what I did out of love. My worship of her body was just an extension of that love. As we lay together; entwined, spent; I refused to ask why. Her being there was enough.

Asha’s siestas and our rendezvous’ became synonymous. While my maid slept, I awoke to pleasure, and to pain. There was a time, when just holding her would have been a dream come true. How soon I forgot that. I wanted so much more now. I wanted her – all of her. These snatched moments whetted my appetite for a life together.

“Leave him.”

“I can’t”, she sighed. “I have no reason to. He’s a good husband, and a good father. I love him too K. Can’t we just be content with this?”

No! I wanted to shout. But I lay there, quietly, letting her nestle into me. Her hair tickling my chest.Her foot running up and down my leg absently.

“Has Ramesh asked where you go every afternoon?”

“He thinks I’m at a book club with some friends. Besides, work is busy. He is too preoccupied to care. But he does ask about you. He misses you K. You’re one of the few men whose company he likes.”

I laughed at the irony.

“What a cosy threesome we are!”

“Come over. In fact, come tonight! Why don’t you? It could be like the old times…”

I looked at her wonderingly.

“Soda, are you naive or are you deliberately ignoring the fact that it will never be like the old times? I wasn’t fucking you in the old times!”

“Oh stop it K! You don’t have to be so crude.”

I let myself get persuaded to go. More because I couldn’t bear to be apart from her. If that meant swallowing my pride, and watching her play haus frau, I was willing to do that too.

I was astounded at the change in Akash. He seemed bigger in size, but somehow diminished. He skulked around the house, throwing me venomous looks.

“There have been more problems, K “, Ramesh confided. “Group of class bullies have been picking on him incessantly. Trouble is, one of them is Lokesh Sharma’s son. The school is treading very carefully.”

“Why not just move him? There must be other schools?”

“Mid term? With his Board exams coming up? Where K? We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

“Can’t Sunil do something? I mean, he’s in the inner circle, isn’t he? Surely he could have a word with the father?”

Ramesh looked at me quizzically. “These people don’t talk K. You should know that. This is some jumped up hoodlum with too much power, and too little sense. Sunil has already washed his hands off the matter.”

Dinner was a tense affair. The old familiarity had disappeared for a variety of reasons. Yet every time I looked over at Soda, desire coursed through my veins. I could scarcely disguise it, and excused myself as quickly as I could.

Akash came to the door to see me off.

“Uncle, I want to say something to you.”

“Yes son?”

“Please don’t call me son. I am not your son. And leave my mother alone.”

I stood there aghast. He lumbered off, leaving a toxic whiff in his wake.

“Akash knows”, I let her in quietly.

“What?? How? When..?”

“I don’t know. But he’s warned me off.”

“Don’t be silly K. How could he know? He’s at school, and I cover my tracks……Unless……”

“Unless what?”

“He was rifling through my diary the other day. Some poems I’d written….There’s one about you…” She sat on the bed, her face pale. “He must have put two and two together. Oh K! What are we going to do?”

I took her hand in mine.

“Perhaps it’s time to come clean? Maybe it’s happened for a reason?”

“How can you say that?”, she said, alarmed, “You want me to wreck the entire fabric of my life? Over an affair?”

“Is that all this is Soda? An affair?”

She was mute. The tears fell of their own accord.

“No”, she whispered. “But I can’t…It’s too much to ask…”

I held her in my arms as she wept. I kissed her hair, impotent in my frustration.

She left soon after.

When I saw her next, she looked through me. She never looked at me again.

***

He creeps into the room. It is early morning, and the household is asleep. His uncle lies on the bed, arms akimbo, snoring loudly, the alcohol still working its soporific alchemy. The gun has been carelessly shoved under the bed. He slides it out silently, stroking the smooth metal as he does. He feels a rush; a quickening.

He wraps it quietly in layers of towels, and hides it in his rucksack, cleverly camouflaged by books and assorted sundries. He takes his father’s photograph from the frame, and inserts it in his History book. He takes her diary, and puts it alongside. The whore, the bitch. She’ll never write again.

He showers and shovels his breakfast in. All the while, hiding his strange and delicious secret.

No one sits with him on the school bus. He barely notices. It is how it’s always been. But not for long.

Assembly is dull and monotonous. They shuffle in. Listen to the teachers, sing the anthem, shuffle out. There is a spring in his step. He waits for his moment. It will be perfect.

Classes rush by. Maths merges into Biology into English. Finally there is a break. He carries his rucksack out, along with his tiffin. He sits in his usual spot under the tree, and waits.

“Hey Fatso! What’s sexy Mummy made for you today, huh?”

“Look, look…egg paratha….Mmmmm….tasty….wanna bite? Hey? What did you say? You’re on a diet! Bloody right you are, Lardy bottom.”

“Rohit, look, snotty face is pulling out a towel to cry into…Haha!”

When they see the gun, their mouths fall open. At last, at long last, they see him. Him and the gun. The Gun and him.

He fires in rapid succession. Bullets spray them chop-chop chop-chop, and their blood and gore and screams rent the air. The recoil is powerful, and he loses his balance, but doesn’t let go of the gun. It keeps firing into the air, automatically discharging its barrel magazine like he is discharging his rage. At some point he stops and looks at the carnage around him with a savage satisfaction.

There are people running towards him. Teachers, security staff,other students. He sees them coming and smiles. Then he turns the gun upon himself.

***

It was the first of its kind in India. Our very own Columbine. And somewhere within me a cascade of guilt began its journey. I would recall that haunted little boy, and feel my stomach turn upon itself. Why didn’t I do more? Why didn’t I listen? Why didn’t I care?

My love withered and died the same day as those children. It was replaced by a self loathing so strong that nothing would ever take away its bilious taste.

So many lives lay decimated. So many souls scarred. Those that died on that horrific day were the first casualties. Those that survived were the collateral damage.

This was the price of hate. This was the price of love. This was the price of ignorance and arrogance. We would pay for it the rest of our lives.

THE END.

©PoornimaManco 2015

The appeal of the Bake Off

What is it about a small baking show that started life on BBC2 that has captured the imagination of a nation? Season 6 ended yesterday in an emotional finale that saw the most deserving candidate win because of her originality, flair and flawless bakes rather than her colour, appearance or ethnicity. But more on that later.

In the beginning there was Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood and ten home bakers. The format was a simple pitting of these bakers against each other in increasingly complicated challenges that displayed their technical skills, their baking know how and their grace under fire. As they were whittled from ten to four to three, the viewers were taken through a baking journey that encompassed the history and the origin of a lot of the breads, cakes and pastries prepared on screen. There was an innocence and a sweetness to it all. No cut throat rivals that tried sabotaging each other in an attempt to further themselves. This was no Apprentice. It was good, wholesome family viewing and Britain promptly fell in love with it.

As GBBO gathered pace and viewers, some of that early innocence fell away. Sue and Mel went from gently bickering hosts to lacing nearly every sentence with sexual innuendo, Paul went from being mildly snarky to positively vitriolic at times, and even gentle Mary (the surprise fashionista) had her grumpy moments. Despite all this and a few lack lustre seasons, GBBO went from strength to strength.

Some of the participants went on to have stellar careers in the food industry, making it an entirely viable entry point for people who harboured dreams but didn’t quite know how to get a foot in the door. Others went back to their day jobs with an extra feather in their caps, and some pretty impressive skills honed to competition level. Sugar, flour and eggs made minor celebrities of most.

Which brings us to this year’s season- my favourite thus far. It started in its usual fashion, introducing us to a cross section of bakers from different regions and different walks of life, with one overriding passion- Baking. One by one they fell. Either their signature bakes didn’t translate, or they were stumped by the technical challenge or their show stopper didn’t elicit enough ‘wows’. Soufflés that didn’t rise, biscuits that crumbled, a ganache that didn’t shine were veritable tragedies that produced tears from the manliest of men. A gentle rebuke from Mary could deflate the over confident, while the famous Hollywood handshake could bolster the shakiest.

Of the three finalists, Ian emerged an early front runner. His experimental flavour combinations and use of herbs, had him win star baker three times. Tamal seemed the coolest of them all. This trainee anaesthetist let little ruffle his feathers. His aplomb saw him show case a variety of fine bakes. Nadiya, on the other hand, was all over the place. Here was the classic ‘little woman’, a wife and a mother who loved baking, and did daily, for her three children. Passionate, emotional, vociferous. It was easy to dismiss her early on as a fluke who had little self belief, and who would probably not make the quarter finals, let alone the finals. Well.

A hijab wearing, Bangladeshi woman who could bake?

Even as she sobbed, incoherently joyous in her victory, Nadiya embodied the best of the British. Her quirkiness, her self deprecating humour, her willingness to learn, her readiness to help,her sense of fair play, her slowly strengthening resolve, her steadily increasing confidence were all indicative of this melting pot of a nation that recognises and rewards hard work and perseverance. That embraces and absorbs and makes its own the various cultures, languages and foods that immigrants bring along, when they leave their own lands in search of economic security or personal safety.

A hijab wearing, Bangladeshi woman won GBBO season 6. What a fitting finale to something so uniquely British.