Last weekend, my son announced, Appa I’m inviting a friend of mine home for dinner on Sunday. Could I please be a little less sarcastic and little more courteous, definitely not in that order? Also, Amma, can you make some adai avial and Vaangi Baath, he is a big fan of both of those. Left with no choice, I grumbled a yes. I looked up at the year calendar with a small photo of Lord Ganesha and big bold typeface inscribed name of Lakshmana Groceries, their way of rewarding frequent shoppers and prayed that this new avataram not be one of those new generation mobile savvy, startup dreamy, torn tank top and low waist jeans flaunting hombre who would attempt to make me put down the remains of my provident fund into his application which would deliver me coriander leaves at the click of a button in twenty two and half minutes, ninety seven point eight percent of the time. So help me God.
“How do you know him? Is he working? Is he an engineer? Where did he go to college? Sarkaar college il a private college il a? Which caste does he belong to?” unleashing the barrage of questions, I found myself panting at the end of the monologue, I had forgotten to breathe in the middle.
Jr. Me stared at me, with his jaws wide open. With a shake of his head, he thrust his earphones back in his ears and started waving his hands in the air. Whatever he was listening to, it wasn’t Subbulakshmi’s Suprabhatam, the pace did not quite match with the violent gyrations of his body. Shiva Shiva!
On explicit orders of Ms. Me, my soulmate of this lifetime, I picked up a cloth bag and set out in the direction of Lakshmana Groceries. Unfortunately, the raw materials for adai avial, Vaangi Baath and a bunch of culinary delights Ms. Me and Jr. Me were planning didn’t grow on the trees lining my street. Lakshmana Groceries was going to turn a profit this year too, courtesy my family.
The day of reckoning came sooner than I’d have wanted it to and I found myself extending my hand out to shake hands with Jr. Me’s friend. Jr and he sat down and talked about topics in the world ranging from latest X Box releases to upcoming Formula One Grand Prix and Spanish La Liga all the while munching the savories Ms. Me was constantly doling out from the kitchen. I was left to wonder whether these poster kids of posterity were indeed talking about happenings on Planet Earth or some equivalent in a parallel universe.
I was relieved when Ms. Me announced dinner services and in the short span of a few seconds, found myself sitting at the head of the dining table, with the self-illusion that I was back in control. I decided to strategically preempt the discussion in areas I considered myself to be pedantic and asked, “So do you follow state and national news?”
“Of course, I do!”
Eager to find a weak spot, I asked, “Are you aware of the recent skirmishes on the India Pakistan border?”
That, in hindsight, was the sentence I should not have uttered. I should have let the evening play out by itself, Jr would have handled it adeptly but I was keen to show who was the master in the house. Mistake. Big mistake.
It was as if someone turbo charged Jr’s friend. He launched into a tirade against the atrocities committed by Pakistan. He then proposed to blame Pakistan for all the ongoing problems in the world. Looking back I have no recollection of how he changed gears but his diatribe expanded and covered everything from Islamic State and Israel Palestine conflict to Chinese influences on North Korea and American imperialist aspirations in South East Asia. It was as if he had the solution to all the problems in the world, unfortunate part was that no one had thought to put him in charge! Thankfully, before the topics could expand any further, adai avial ran out. I used that as my opportunity to run to the wash basin. Golly, I needed a break! It was like I was listening to a speech in Klingon.
Finally, after a few more minutes, it was goodbye time. It couldn’t have come any sooner. As we all gathered at the door to see him off, he suddenly remembered something.
“Oh I forgot. My ammi had asked me to get a 10-kilo packet of idli rice from a grocery store on my way back. I only have Rs. 200 with me. Uncle, aunty, would you know how much a kilo might cost, so that I could decide if I need to stop at an ATM before purchasing?”