Monday, July 09, 2012


She has been attracting more eyeballs than even Bollywood bombshells. She has always fascinated everyone with her wit, her sharp sense of humour and her unique style of analysing current affairs.

Peering down billboards at prominent landmarks all over the country for over the last four decades is the Amul girl in a polka dotted frock with a matching bow in her hair. A brainchild of Sylvester DaCunha, she is perhaps second in popularity only to the Air India’s mascot Maharaja created by Bobby Kooka. Like him, no subject is taboo to her, no individual beyond her jibes.

The moppet made her first appearance in 1966 – long, long before I saw the first billboard. I think it was in the Readers’ Digest that I saw the first ad featuring her – at prayer, genuflecting, with one eye closed and another on the pack of butter with the words, ‘Give us this day our daily bread with Amul Butter.’ There has been no looking back.

There was this lovable sign-off line – ‘Utterly Butterly delicious’. Purists frowned. ‘Butterly’ is not grammatically correct, they cried. But, by then, the tagline had become so hugely popular that a solescism on the part of the impish and lovable mascot was not considered a serious transgression. It was perhaps a sign of things to come – she could get away with blue murder as long as she could tickle your ribs.
No mean achievement this, if you recall that this is a country where a sixty year-old cartoon reproduced in a textbook can spark off a political crisis and a professor distributing cartoons lampooning the Chief Minister is sent to the cooler, making us wonder what we are coming to.

There is no sphere that the tongue-in-cheek humour has not touched – be it cinema, politics, sports, science, society, art or infrastructure.

Like, at the dawn of the millennium, when the wired world feared a collapse, Amul girl interpreted the Y2K phenomenon as 'Yes to Khana'. The first escalator in Mumbai in 1979 was celebrated with a slogan 'Automatically Amul'. In the early '90s, when Coca-cola was getting popular after its re-entry, she twisted their slogan ‘The Real Thing’ to 'Eat the Real Thing'. 

When Mumbai, electrified by BEST, a Tata Company, witnessed a power shortage, the Amul girl said, with characteristically evocative humour, 'Ta ta power? Amul, unlimited supply.' When Mumbai Police were engaging with Haseena Parkar (underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's sister),she lifted the title of a yester-year's movie and simply asked, 'Haseena maan jaayegi'? 

She learnt it the hard way that a joke is a joke only as long as it is not at one’s expense on the eve of a strike in the Indian Airlines. When the Amul hoarding declared, ‘Indian Airlines Won’t Fly With­out Amul’, the national carrier was not amused. It threatened to cancel all orders unless the hoarding was taken off.

Congress was heckled when she wore a Gandhi cap. The plea the High Command took was that the Gandhi cap was a symbol of independence and one could not take that lightly.

Not everyone was that stern. Known for flaunting his obsession with Madhuri Dixit, the bare-footed artist liked the ad ‘Heroine addiction’ featuring him so much that he requested for a blow-up to be put up in ‘Gufa’, his art gallery in Ahmedabad, designed him and famed architect B V Doshi.

It is not as if she is always seen in the polka-dotted frock. In an ad in the late 60’s, she was seen wearing a white apron in the 'Taste Tube baby' ad, referring to the developments in medical science. When the Bollywood blockbuster Khalnayak's 'choli ke peechhe kya hai' song created ripples in 1993, she dropped her frock and appeared in ghagra to sing, 'Roti Keniche Kya Hai? Amul, Asalnayak'!

There were times when Amul hit below the belt. Like, it ran the ‘Cadbura’ campaign when worms were reportedly found in Cadbury’s choco­lates.

The best way to sign off this post, guess, is by stringing together a mosaic of a few great Amul hoardings of the past.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Toys for Boys

My grand-nephew, barely a year and a half, pushed a basket, huge for his size, to the drawing room and placed it in front of me. Before I could realise what happened, he toppled it and out came a variety of toys. Plastic, wooden, metallic, rubberised, electronic, cuddly, what have you. All colourful and most made in China.

When the word 'toys' is mentioned, green is the only colour I can think of. All the toys I had in my childhood were green. And they were all home made. Made of, what else, coconut palm fronds, banana leaves and green stuff.

Like the watch you can see here. It is so easy to make.  Even a four-year old can make it. All you need is a 12 cm piece of frond and a 2 cm piece.  Girls can make a bangle using a slightly longer piece so that it lies loosely around your wrist.

From the watch, you graduate to reading glasses. It needs a 24 cm piece and two ‘spines’ of the frond for legs. During our summer vacations in the village, all of us used to go around sporting a watch and a pair of spectacles.

Equally easy is the windmill. You run holding it and in the breeze, the windmill would spin at top speed. 

Snakes are easy to make too. There are two varieties.The more complicated one would coil and uncoil. A usual contest  among boys on rainy afternoons used to be to see whole snake would uncoil first. The secret of success was the optimum tightness of the 'weave'. If the weave was too loose, it would come apart fast in the first few seconds after which there would be no progress; if too tight, it would not uncoil at all. 

The ball is a different ballgame (Forgive the pun) altogether. It calls for greater expertise. You take four strands, knot then together at the lean end and weave them together, quite like the way girls plait their flowing tresses, giving it a cubical shape as you go along.

 If you embed a small pebble in the system as the process begins, the ball would be heavy and its momentum greater. Such balls are in great demand for playing native games like AaTTa or Talappant, which like the 'tools' of the game, have become extinct.

A more refined version is made using eight strands, like the one shown alongside. Experts make sausage-shaped balls with eight strands and big ones using with 16 strands but I must confess I have left it to the  masters of the ball-craft. It is too complicated for me and I have not even attempted to master the technique.

Then there is the parrot which many do not attempt. It is quite a complicated piece with several components (though all are from the fronds of palms) and it would take an  expert  to make an elegant piece. You could make cages in which these parrots could be lodged. We would hang them on the cradles of the babies (Yes, in any joint family, there would at least be two in the house at any point of time.)

It was as if there was an unwritten rule that toys, like children, should only be seen and not heard. The only exceptions were, in order of increasing decibel level, the sewing machine, the 'whirrer' and the bugle. 

For making the sewing machine, you need the young seed cast away by the coconut palm. Hold the horizontal pin and give the assembly a light twist, Maintain the movement at a steady pace and you can hear the mechanical rhythm of a Singer machine. Experts put a leaf in the moving part. A few spins later, it would drop off, with marks on it, as though it has been stitched!

The whirrer has to be tied to a string; holding the loose end, spin the contraption around one’s head to hear a loud whirr.

One has to blow through the bugle. No two bugles make the same noise, though!

With other locally available materials like the leaves of mango trees and jackfruit trees, stems of tapioca plants, the core of banana trees, the sap of castor plants, leaves of ferns and the like, you could make a hundred other items, but that is subject for another post!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Forbidden Pleasures

Our morning walk was different today. All these days, there would be hardly anyone crossing or overtaking us as we made our way along the narrow ridge that serves as the border between neighbouring parcels of paddy fields to reach the mud road and thence the only tarred road of the village. This morning, we saw several young kids in newly tailored uniforms, toting Scooby-Day bags, colourful umbrellas and plastic water bottles. Then it dawned on me: today is the first day of the academic year.  

Once on the main road, a school bus whooshed past us. Kids wearing the same broad blue checks –tunics or skirts for the girls, depending on the age and shirts for boys – were sitting in the cream-coloured bus like cans of liquid detergents or phials of nailpolish stacked on the shelves of a supermarket. Coming to think of it, the simile is quite appropriate: they are all going to be the finished products of the great education industry!

In my days, there were no uniforms; in fact, many boys wore no shirts. No footwear either. Coming to think of it, I think children’s footwear was unheard of. I think only it was reserved for the senior members of the most affluent families. There were no schoolbags either, for there were no notebooks; the only book one had in the primary classes was ‘Chitraavali’, the Malayalam textbook: Book I for Class 1, Book II for Class 2, etc. Though not immediately relevant to the context, those were days of shortages, rations and licences. By extension, those were also the days of scarcity; we were children of the permit raj. It was usual for three students to share the same copy. Not many had brand new copies, for most used hand-me-downs from seniors. At the end of the academic year, children would ‘reserve’ the books used by the seniors. They would often be given free to those who place the request. In stray cases, they would be sold at a discount to the original, the discount varying with the condition of the volume. 

Barring Chitravali, the only ‘stationery’ a school-goer had was the slate.  Fortified with the wooden frame, it was also a weapon in the hands of combating classmates.  For those who did not have the palm-leaf umbrella, the slate would double as protection from rain till the nearest plot cultivating plantains or colocasia.  Those leaves provided excellent shield from the showers.

Before use, the slate needed to be ‘conditioned’ by applying coconut oil and charcoal in order that the inscriptions on it would stand out. The process was an elaborate exercise, a ritual scheduled for the last evening of the summer vacation. After some use, the process had to be repeated. Temporary relief could be obtained by rubbing petals of shoe-flower (hibiscus). An alternative was the thick tongue-shaped bottle-green leaves of a plant that grows on the walls on either side of the lanes on the way to the school. You out it on the slate and poke it with the slate-pencil: the sap that oozes from the punctures are excellent for giving back the black colour to the slate.

Then there was this shiny light green succulent plant used for wiping them clean. On the way to school, you pluck a few twigs and carry them with you. The liquid stored in the stems and leaves provide enough fluid to clean the slate. It had another use too: after use, you could blow air into the stem, close the end and hit it lightly on your forehead: it would go ‘Pop!’

The school timings were 10 to 4. Though the school was only a kilometre or two away, you left at 9. Two kmph might seem an incredibly slow pace even for a six-year-old, but on the way, you had to wait for your classmates, pick up the ripe mangoes that would be waiting for you, chase the dragonflies, pluck flowers from the bushes that double as fences, fling sticks at the guava trees to bring the fruits down, open the tiffin box and put a few morsels of rice in the stream to feed the fish. You were lucky if you reached the school before the final bell rang out. The ‘bell’, incidentally, was a two-foot long piece of metal from the railway scrap, and the ‘tongue’ was another iron piece.

Everybody associated with the school was a ‘teacher’ or a ‘master’ (shortened to ‘maash’). Thus the office assistant in the high school was ‘clerk maash’, the canteen contractor was ‘canteen maash’ and the peon (called ‘attender’ in those days) was the ‘attender maash’.

Those days are gone. Those pleasures are forbidden to today’s kids. They perspire in their spotless starched and pressed uniforms. They are herded into and out of the schoolbus; they have no time to stand and stare. 

Friday, June 01, 2012

Birthday Musings

Not counting the messages from mutual funds, insurance companies, banks, hotels and automobile manufacturers, yesterday my inbox had more than a dozen birthday greetings. And yesterday was not the anniversary of the day I was born! I was actually born around Christmastime, but my age was shifted to coincide with the commencement of the academic year. This measure conformed to the theory then popular among young parents that the earlier a brat was sent to school, the less of a nuisance he would be at home! One did not quite care about the fact that in the process of getting rid of the junior, one was being economical with truth!

Except for the specifics and the motive, it was quite like the case of Gen V K Singh who, after his famous battle about age, demitted office yesterday. That the General and I are not the only ones whose birthdays were admittedly (as in my case) or allegedly (as in the case of the General) fudged can be inferred from the retirement statistics in the different offices in the country. How else does one explain the fact that the number of those who retire in April-May is about ten times the average in the remaining months?

I happened to flip through the pages of ‘My Unforgettable Memories’, the biography of Mamata Banerjee where she says the date of her birth too was fudged. Didi’s
official birthday is 5 January 1955 but in the autobiography she says she had discovered from an old horoscope that her mother had handed to her that she was actually born on October 5.

That, if I may, is only a tip of the iceberg. She goes on to claim that that she was indeed five years younger than her official age. To quote her, “She (Mamata Banerjee’s mother) explained that I was not even fifteen when I wrote my school final examination and would have been disqualified for being underage. So, my father gave a fictitious age and birthday to get around the problem. The result: a new birthday and five years added to my real age.”

If that were indeed true, she was born on 5 Oct 1959 (if not 1960). Would that not put the honourable Chief Minister of West Bengal in a spot? We know that the qualifying age for being elected to the Lower House (Lok Sabha) is 25. When Didi defeated veteran Communist politician Somnath Chatterjee from the Jadavpur constituency in West Bengal in the 1984 general election, she had made news for another reason: she had become one of the youngest parliamentarians of the country.  If she was born on 5 October 1959 (or 1960), did she satisfy the age criterion?

Such cases of disparity in age are several. A former Director- General of Police for Kerala who retired in the 1990s retired five years after his younger brother, himself a senior police officer in another cadre, did! It is known in close circles that a former Chairman of State Bank of India served for four years after his younger brother attained 60.

This is not restricted to top echelons. When I was in Patiala, my driver used to talk of his life as a child in Sargodha (Pakistan) during the pre-partition days. I was therefore surprised when I saw in Gurnam Singh’s service records that the year of his birth was 1948. His reply when I asked him about this was simple: ‘Bhaarat aane ke baad hi umar ki ginti shuroo hui! (The age was reckoned only after we landed in India)’.

We had an ancient-looking headmaster about whom people used to say in hushed tones that the years when he was suffering from paediatric ailments had been knocked off from the age and therefore he was still in service when he was actually 65 plus!

So, what is the day on which I was born? The jury is still out.

Memories of Usquebaugh

I am on my annual holiday in my village in Kannur. It has become almost a ritual now: just before the onset of monsoon, we come down for a month-long stay in our ancestral home. We just do not stir out of home except for the morning (and evening) constitutionals. Everything else is put on the back burner. To use a phrase that the new generation has taught us, we just ‘chill out’.

I love to watch the rain in all its glory and moods, the like of which I have seen only here. There is nothing more exciting than the fragrance that wafts in the air as the parched earth eagerly soaks in first rains. I can spend hours listening to the incessant pitter-patter of raindrops falling on the tiled roof and thence to the courtyard.

This time, however, we seem to have been a bit too early. There is no sign of the monsoon, though there are hints of clouds that drift aimlessly in the sky. At times, the straying clouds mask the sun from the earth and give us false hopes of an imminent shower, only to move away and disappoint us.

One of the ‘freedoms’ that this retreat gives us is the freedom from the chlorinated water that we get from the tap in the city. Here it is always the pristine water freshly drawn from the well. The deeper the well, the purer, clearer and sweeter the water, my grandfather used to say.

As I am a little indisposed, Bhawani has prescribed boiled water instead of fresh water till I get better. The first time I had it, it tasted different. The flavour (of the water!) triggered off memories of something pleasant, but I could not quite put my finger on what it was.

The second time I drank the water, it came back to me: the water, boiled on a hearth using firewood, had the ‘smokey’ taste – a much lighter version of the ‘pungent, earthy aroma of the blue peat smoke’ of the pale yellow Laphroaig Whiskey that Hari had brought for me from one of his trips abroad.

The first time I had Laphroaig, I took it with a splash of soft water. Rolling it around on my tongue, I had enjoyed the sweet nuttiness of the barley matured in small casks. The distinctive flavour of Laphroaig comes from the use of ‘quarter casks’ where the oak surface contact of the fluid is 30% greater than with standard barrels.

Here, sitting in Chalode, I was savouring the delicate, heathery perfume of Islay's streams, thousands of miles away in another continent!

When I was young, an uncle of mine (less than five years older than I was, but an uncle nevertheless!) told me that milk boiled on a fire of dried palm fronds had a distinct flavour. I used to think that his observation was stuff and nonsense. Now I know he was talking sense: the water boiled on firewood does have a markedly different flavour. It took the golden liquid distilled by Laphroaig for that realisation to dawn upon me!

Monday, April 02, 2012


Speaking of his childhood, humorist Sam Levinson wrote something that goes like this: ‘Those days mothers had not heard of new-fangled ideas like child psychology that could be used on erring children; they used whatever they could lay their hands on – like the ladle or the rolling pin.’ This was something that I had read in the 1960’s when I was in college, but it sprang to my mind the other day when I read of corporal punishment having been banned in schools in Kerala. It also reminded me of the first time I was administered such a punitive measure.

That was in 1951. I used to go to the only school in our village – which was a mile away. That was a primary school which taught up to Class 5. For ‘higher studies’, one needed to go to the elementary school which was another two miles away. After three years there, you had to go to the High School which was even farther by a good three miles.

More than the school, the fun was in the trip to the school and back. You had to foot it all the way, whether you crossed the paddy-fields or took the mud road up and down the hillock and then through the motorable village road. The former was a shortcut and less arduous because the terrain was plain. It was great fun negotiating the fragile ribbon-like ridges that separated neighbouring paddy-fields.

A slate and the only text book in one hand and lunch packed in plantain leaf in the other, Bhaskaran, Rasheed, Sarojini and I would walk along the ridge, one behind the other, to the school and back, making friends with frogs and grasshoppers, dragonflies and what, for want of a better word, I will refer to as ladybugs. We would watch with wonder as mango trees bloomed, catch the whiff as jackfruit trees sprouted buds that would in course of time transform into fruits, pluck and eat the crunchy tender cucumber that farmers would offer. We believed that the single-log bridges across the streams were for the grown-up; we would step into the water and walk across. There was no fear of footwear getting wet: we wore none!

It was greater fun during the rainy days, (which might have covered a half of the academic year in the Malabar of the pre-climate-change days – the 1950’s). You had a palm-leaf umbrella that sat on your head. As you walk in Indian file formation, if you went too close to your pal, you two would collide and both might lose balance and land in the shallow water collected in the farmland.

The school was a thatched shed. Only the seniors had benches to sit on. The privileged class, students in Class 5, had desks too. We, the juniors, in classes 1 and 2, sat on the floor and shared the same teacher. The working arrangement was that as those in class 1 learnt what had been taught, those in Class 2 would be taught a new lesson. As they revised the lesson, Class 1 would be taught a new lesson.

In the monsoons, the thatched roof would permit some water to drip into the classrooms. That afforded us some variety and fun, as we could shift from our assigned spaces on the floor. When the sun shone, its rays would filter through the thatched roof and form little circles on the floor or the books or the knickers or the frocks that the students wore.

The children that we were used to refer to these circles as ‘eggs’. It was our pastime to open our palms and stretch our hands to where the ‘egg’ was. We would then bring the ‘egg’ to the centre of the palm, close the fist, thus ‘catching the egg’ and putting it into our pockets. (Those who wore no shirts were allowed to put the eggs in their mouths.) We would, of course, do this only when the teacher was not around.

One day, when Leela teacher was away in Class 2, Ananthan and I were busy ‘catching eggs’. Both of us were busy putting the eggs, one by one into our shirt-pockets. At an unexpected moment, Leela teacher came into the class. We were too busy to notice either her or the calm that had descended the atmosphere when the classmates saw her and quickly buried their faces in the books.

As she watched us, the entire class giggled. That was when we came down to the real world. Leela teacher called both of us to the table and asked us to put our open palms on the table. She pulled out the slender cane. Ready to receive one lash, if not more, I shut my eyes hard, waiting for the cane to hit my palm and stinging pain to course through my body. So did Ananthan.

I heard the swish of the menacing cane as it cut through the air. I winced. I heard it hit the destination, but it was not my palm. I heard a titter run through the classroom and wondered why. The cane had landed on, I guess, Ananthan’s palm, because it never hit me. I waited for my turn.

Nothing happened. Leela teacher said, ‘Go back to your seats, both of you.’ I wondered why I had been spared and only Ananthan was subjected to the punishment. Heads down, not looking at each other, the two of us went back to our seats.

On our way back home, Ananthan asked me, ‘Did it hurt, Rajan?’

I responded, ‘Weren’t you, Ananthan, the one that got the spanking?’

This was the first corporal punishment I ever received in school. The way Leela teacher spanked both of us with just one swish without hurting either of us is perhaps the sweetest memory I have of my Class 1 days.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I am writing this sitting in my hotel room. The Arabian Sea that I can see through the thick glass pane which doubles as a wall is boiling in the hot afternoon sun. I have come to Mumbai to attend this workshop on ‘Beyond Core Banking’ and have just checked into J W Marriott. Why am I in such a tearing hurry to post this piece in my blog? All I can say is that though I am no O’Henry, you’ll know when you read the last sentence.

The cabbies in Bengaluru from where I came to Mumbai had threatened that they would be on strike and were planning a rasta roko. I was not sure if I would be able to get to the airport in time and to be on the safe side, I set off a bit earlier than usual. Once the cab hit the airport road, I found that everything was normal. The traffic snarls were no more than usual. Used to Kerala where all life would come to a grinding halt if some splinter political party mentioned the word ‘strike’, I was just getting used to the Garden City.

The airport was teeming with passengers like me who had arrived early, not wanting to take any chances with the cabbies’ strike. The queue before the check-in counter at the airport was short. There were just three people ahead of me: a silver-haired lady and an apparently newly-married couple, perhaps on their honeymoon, judging by the cooing and cuddling. Heading for the hills, perhaps, I thought. Sheer curiosity, I must admit, I peeped at their ticket. It was in vain, for it was folded in such a way that I could not read the destination.

When their turn came, they asked for two window-seats.

‘Of course, sir,’ said the girl at the counter, ‘but most of the window-seats are taken. I can give you 12A, near the emergency exit and 12B.’

‘No, both of us want to look out through the window. Can’t you give us two windows?’ the bride said.

‘Hmmm… Let me see…’ She looked at the screen and then looked up at the passengers. ‘I can give you 14 F and 15F.’

‘That’ll be fine,’ the said in a chorus.

‘Okay, sir, here are your boarding passes.’

The next was my turn. Though the company rules permit me to fly executive class, I always travel business class, saving substantial sums for the company. As I had done a tele-check-in and indicated my preference, I was allotted the seat I had opted for: 10A.

The ETD was 1250 and I had two hours to kill. I read the newspapers strewn around. I checked my mail and surfed the net. Security check done, I did some window-shopping at the outlets of William Penn and Swarowski’s and at the Crossword bookstore, flipped through the pages of the recent autobiography of Mamata Banerjee, nicknamed Lady Dada by a popular magazine. Then I went and settled down on one of the vacant chairs near Gate 2.

As my eyes wandered, I spotted the young twosome, perched on bar-stools in the coffee-shop. A happy couple, I said to myself, enjoying each other’s company. The air-conditioner was overdoing its job and I felt cold. So did the girl, dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans, for, the boy was removed his jacket which she wore.

Check-in time. The queue was long. The flight must be full, I told myself. I was at the tail end. I missed the first two coaches carrying the passengers to the aircraft. By the time I entered the carrier, it was nearly full.

Unsettling those seated in the aisle seat and the one in the middle, I squeezed myself into my seat. The airhostess did the mandatory briefing and soon we were airborne.

I buried my head in Lucknow Boy by Vinod Mehta. I read about his experiences while writing the biography of Meenakumari. “I was told about one admirer she fornicated with casually who thought he had a good thing going. After a night of satisfactory lovemaking, he knocked the next afternoon on the door of her make-up room. ‘Kaun?’ (Who?) asked the lady. The admirer gave his name. She again asked ‘Kaun?’ The admirer again gave his name, this time providing more details, reminscing the actress of their union the previous night. ‘Raat gayi, baat gayi’ (The night has gone, so has the matter), she answered nonchalantly.”

I must have dozed off. Suddenly there was commotion. Someone was shouting at the top of his voice, but I could not quite get where the spluttering was coming from. The man was so angry that initially I could not figure out what language he was speaking. I turned in the direction from where the noise came. An air-hostess was standing in the aisle with her back turned towards me. The shout, I discovered, was from the seat farthest to her left and a wildly gesticulating hand could seen.

The hapless girl sternly, but politely, told the owner of the angry voice and the shaking fist, ‘Sir, you shouldn’t be speaking like that. The language you used is rude.’

He replied, ‘I’m sorry, Ma’am, but I was not using those words against you. It was against the one behind me. You must discipline other passengers when they misbehave.’ The man came down instantly, it seemed.

But not for long. He hollered, ‘This ****** ***** (an alliterative epithet describing a member of the fairer sex as belonging to canine species) has been kicking me from behind ever since the flight took off. I told the ******* ***** (Can you get it right at the first try? I challenge you) to stop it, but she won’t.’

He got up and As everyone looked back in astonishment to see where some of the choicest were coming from, he continued regardless, to breathe fire, savaging her parentage. And I discovered that he was the young groom I had see at the check-in counter and the coffee-shop. No prizes for guessing who his ire was directed at.

After belting out a few more invectives and bellowing, in the process proving that he was a polyglot in profanity, exhausted (or satisfied?), he sat down. After that, it was all quiet.

I returned to the book. An hour later, we landed.

As I picked up my bag from the carousel and walked towards the car that was waiting for me, I saw the young couple ambling along ahead of me, hand in hand: his right hand pushing the trolley with their baggage on it and his left hand holding her right, both enjoying each other’s company.

Was it that they were playing out a pre-written script? Had they forgiven each other - he for her kicks and she for his utterances?

Tailpiece: I wonder on two counts. One, would this mid-air combat qualify to be described as a dogfight? Two, a high-mile club with a difference?