Miss Hot Water
My father was a colonial fossil who believed in the philosophy,
“discipline first.” He insisted on following a routine, which he never
thought of changing. He expected all of us to get up at five a.m. and
after the morning ablutions, we should observe the religion in front of
the statue of Lord Buddha, in the corner of our front room. Then before
leaving to school all of us must study, or at least pretend, to study.
Next, all of us should be dressed up in school uniforms and wait for
the school van. Through all these procedures, my father exercised strict
During school vacations so many interesting things took place in our
family circle. My father was proud to say that he had only one sister.
Further he used to say emphatically that she was “convent educated.”
During school vacations, some times my father anxiously waited till
the postman brought a letter from his sister.
She used to write the address of my father in beautifully shaped
cursive hand. My father was boastful of his sister’s discipline and
English education which was “flawless”.
She spoke with perfect English accent while producing speech sounds
according to received pronunciation of the Londoners.
The slightest mispronunciation of an English word would produce
hilarious laughter between my father and his sister.
My mother and all of us had to bear with our sophisticated aunty as a
“necessary evil.” My aunty had been an English teacher in a school in
Kandy. Now she spent her retired life practically doing nothing. She had
been a spinster right throughout her life, and she lived in a house in
Kandy, which she inherited from her father. She employed a fair number
of servants to run the house, which was of a fair proportion.
My father perhaps showed an uneasy anxiety to get the letter from my
aunty, informing of her arrival at our house “for the vacation” and to
“see the children.”
We were rather willing to have her company, as it provided us with
lot of fun, until the next vacation, which we repeated among ourselves,
amidst laughter. My mother also was used to share in this fun which
originates around the personality of our aunty.
Myself and my brother had nick named her as “Miss Hot Water?” This
nick name was very well used among our family members. It was not known
or even felt by Miss Hot Water herself.
During one school vacation, we received the long awaited letter from
Miss Hot Water.
The arrival of the letter itself provided us with enough fun, with
its Lavendor smell. Even the father was a bit jovial, by remarking,
“Children! Miss Hot Water has expressed her desire to visit us, during
the vacation, if it wouldn’t convince us.”
Her arrival was a mixture of inconvenience and fun. Although she was
on the wrong side of sixties, she was plump and had a fresh complexion
like that of a vegetarian Hindu lady.
She always has a pleasant smile, which was attractive to many of us
and her smile was bewitching due to her dentures, which she had bought
during one of her trips to England.
She told us with an element of pride in it, that she kept an
appointment with a London dentist, to get her dentures done. At home she
was dressed in Kimonas, which she possessed in an array of gorgeous
She religiously had her hot water bath, in the mornings,
meticulously, under the supervision of the “Aiyah”, that came along with
She expected her Aiyah to mix margosa leaves and small chips of
saffron in the pot of hot water to “preserve her complexion.” Before her
hot water bath, she applied a special medicated oil all over her body.
She got the application of oil done by her “Aiyah”.
When it was being done, the entire house contained a smell similar to
that, which one would get in a store of native medicine. She took a very
long time over her bathing.
Sometimes my father would sarcastically comment on his sister’s hot
water bath, as “dieying by bathing.”
During many occasions we, as youngsters who were inquisitive about
things that happened behind closed doors, attempted to peep into the
bathroom. Yet, we were too nervous to go ahead as peeping Toms.
During times of meals too our aunty was very serious about the “table
manners of the children.” Even on normal days my father had assigned
places at our long dining table which would accommodate ten persons at a
time. Miss Hot Water always preferred to occupy the seat on the right of
my father who sat at the head of the table.
During my aunty’s stay at our house, she insisted that the children
should get used to eating with forks and spoons.
This was a real torture for us, who would not enjoy our meals. But no
objections could be raised, because of our father’s feelings for his one
and only sibling.
During some evenings, Miss Hot Water used to give us elocution
lessons including recitation of English poetry.
She always emphasised that, the production of ‘f’ and ‘th’ sounds
were defective among many native speakers of English.
She strongly objected to our utterance of “my pather is parming in
the pield.” She annoyingly corrected it, by shouting shrilly, “children!
it should be, “My father is farming in the field.”
When she corrected the pronunciation, in the production of ‘f’ sound,
she had to struggle hard to keep her dentures in place, inside her
mouth. With great effort we suppress our giggles.
One fine evening, I heard Miss Hot Water passing the door of our room
and entering the bedroom of my father.
The brother and the sister whispered and had occasionally suppressed
laughs for fairly a long time, during which I heard only an incoherent
babbling. After a little while, my father was seen relaxing in the
armchair in the verandah. He looked at me with an ironical smile.
I returned the smile and was inquisitive about his irony. As my
mother came to my father with his morning tea, again the same whisper
was exchanged between my parents. Then my mother audibly remarked “A
marriage at sixties?” My father replied,” yes man! The London Dentist
who prescribed the denture for my sister had proposed to marry her,
through a E-mail.
She inquired from me whether, I approve it!” My mother shouted, Oh!
children! Very soon, you’ll get a white complexioned, Mr. Hot Water.”