Kanna, Putt Chitt Bundle!
by Paresh Shah

What the heck is this "Kanna Putt Chitt Bundle" thing?
Some people have been wondering about this "Kanna" thing. An explanation seems to be in order. It deals with dhobi chits, dhobi bundles, the Boys Hostel (at that time, it was THE hostel for the senior boys), and most importantly, Kalpakkam akka. So here goes ...

The period: the early 80's thru' the mid 80's. If it went on after that, I don't know.
The characters: Kalpakkam akka, and your pick of Boys Hostel residents (typically 10th - 12th class).
The location: the Senior Boys Hostel, top floor.
The setting: evening time, after games/bath. Astachal bell is ringing (we had Astachal in the evenings then, before Prep).

The single act:
Boy is late. He rushes from the backyard after his bath, hurriedly puts on last week's KP (kurta-pyjama; or was that kurtama-pyja?) and rushes out. In the lobby he sees Kalpakkam akka and suddenly remembers something. He seems to hesitate, as though he's debating something in his mind.

All Boys Hostel residents know what he's thinking, "Should I risk it? She's standing right there! Will I get away with it?". Then he looks down at his clothes -- his last "wearable" pair. He had stretched (killed) these for almost a week -- a new record, even for him. Actually it was 4 days. You couldn't count last Wednesday, when he'd feigned illness after games, so he didn't really have to wear his KPs then.

(The real reason he "fell sick" was that he was too late for Astachal for the fourth time that month and couldn't afford to get caught by Mishraji Sir again. Moreover, he didn't like Wednesday dinners anyway. He might as well stay home and have some bread brought in. But we digress. Back to the action at hand ... ).

Our hero is looking at his clothes and trying to decide. The state of his KP weighs heavily on his mind. "I'm going for it", his expression seems to say. His mind is racing. It will take atleast 5 precious minutes to complete the task he's contemplating. Five minutes that he doesn't have. "Can I really afford to be late for Astachal again? Should I risk it? ... I have to, there's no other choice. The next dhobi wash is 4 days away. Which means I'll get the clothes back (if I'm lucky to get them back at all) after 7 days! I don't have anything that'll last a week. Besides, even Ravi Singh is not likely to lend me a shirt any more".

And then he remembers Tuesday! He would definitely need a good shirt on Tuesday -- "Photography Club" (PC) day. He had to look his best on that day.

(The reason behind this is a story for another day. Suffice it to say that for some personal reason, the PC is important to him. Why else would he enroll there in the first place? Who cared about the aesthetics of "black & white"? He'd rather opt for "Library Science" and sleep all afternoon -- Ramulu the librarian was his friend and wouldn't sneak on him for cutting class.

But when he had realized the potential rewards of enrolling in the PC that term, he had, as he explained later, "searched my soul and found within me a desire to look through lenses and record the beauty of nature that I never knew I had!". What a process of self-discovery!! As he uttered these words, everyone around, himself included, had tried very hard not to laugh out loud. That is, everyone except that new teacher, who was thinking "Man, these Rishi Valley kids are deep!". Not to worry, he would wisen up soon enough.

You, the reader, may wish to contemplate the reasons for his interest in the PC, but as mentioned earlier, it is outside the scope of this narrative. Hint: did it have something to do with that pretty girl who, as he quite accidently discovered, had also signed up for PC that term?

No matter what his reason, it's only pertinence here is that it brings up the need for a fresh shirt!)

Yes, our hero definitely needs a good shirt for Tuesday. A Ravi Singh loaner, nay even a Shashank (Mr. Neat-and-Clean) loaner would not do. He'd need his own identity on Tuesday. With this entering the equation, his decision is automatically made.

He goes back into his room and pulls out the dhobi basket. He almost hears it groan under the weight of all those clothes. He quickly puts them in a bedsheet and ties what he thinks is an unopenable knot. Maybe if she couldn't open it in time, he'd get away with it. Slowly he opens the door and peeks out. She's still standing by the other bundles. Damn!!

"Hello akka. How are you?", he asks.

"I'm fine tambi, how are you?" she replies. Though he doesn't know Tamil, he's familiar with the phrase "tambi" -- younger brother. She still hasn't noticed the bundle that he's trying to hide behind him.

"Akka what's that bird in the tree up there?", he asks trying to draw her attention away from him and his bundle for a moment.

"Teri ille pa, I don't know".

Quickly he drops his bundle alongside the rest, praying she doesn't notice.

"That's okay, akka. Thank you. I'll find out from my Photography Club partner on Tuesday" (when I'll be wearing my favourite, freshly ironed shirt, I may add. The one that makes me look taller).

He runs down the stairs, even as she turns around. "Careful!" she yells. This only spurs him on. He's trying to get out earshot.

"I've almost made it", he thinks. "This'll be a first. Wait till the guys hear about this one". He's down the stairs now, almost out of the hostel. A few more seconds and he'll be free ... At that moment he hears it and stops short in his tracks!

"Kannaaa....!!!!", she yells. The word continues to ring in his ears for what seems like eternity. In a tone that is at once pleading and commanding, she says, "Kanna, putt chitt bundle!".

There's total silence in his mind (maybe this is what Krishnaji is talking about all the time ... complete silence, no thoughts running through the mind, ... ).

He knows he's failed. As he walks back up the stairs she's saying, "Kanna, you forgot to put your dhobi chit in your dhobi bundle. Please do it for me."

"Yes akka, of course".

He picks up his bundle and the piece of paper she's handing him and trudges back to his bedroom to complete the utterly tedious task of filling out the dhobi chit.

Maybe I'll just "fall sick" till Tuesday, he's thinking.


Prologue: As in the case of many other RV slang phrases, "Kanna, putt chitt bundle!" has taken on many different shades of meaning. It adapts to the context in which it is used. For example, when someone is exaggerating a little, the most popular response is "Kanna, putt chitt bundle".

Of course, the real story is that boys would constantly forget to put their dhobi chits in with the clothes and then complain to Kalpakkam akka when their clothes were finally discovered in Red House!

In a never ending attempt to make her life easier, Kalpakkam akka tried to implement strict quality control measures, constantly reminding boys to "Kanna, putt chitt bundle!". I don't know what kind of success her efforts had, but we're very grateful that she tried. There'd be no "Kanna" otherwise.