Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Spilt Chutney

The alarm went off. It was 5 AM. That means I’d got exactly 4 hours of sleep. Now I had to rush to catch a train at 6.

The cause for my insufficient sleep was Eff. Eff was in a real predicament and had been on my heels for some time. He’d called me the previous night and I finally decided to give in. I told him dinner and no drinks as I had to catch an early morning train and he agreed. So we finally wound up in a bar where we drank till 12 and ate only sides.

The statement of Eff’s predicament is this- ‘he’s in love with two women’.  Don’t nod your heads like ‘know-it- alls’. Feel for Eff. Show some of that empathy that lies in your heart but is currently reserved for the award returnees and other celebs making their cause with gourmet.

I had no solution to his problem. I asked this girl about it a little earlier (so that I’d be prepared). Below is a transcript of our conversation-

Me: You think it’s possible to be in love with two people at the same time?
She: Yep!
Me: And isn’t that wrong?
She: In some ways it is. But it happens. It’s the heart.
Me: What should the person do?
She: Ultimately the person has to make a choice.
Me: And someone will be hurt, right?
She: Yes. That’s true.
Me: You’re over-simplifying things. What if it happened to you?
She: It has happened to me.
Me: Whaaaaaa??????? (my over-reaction was because this friend is ‘hot’ and I couldn’t imagine it happening to her!)
She: Yes. I was on the receiving end when it happened to me. I accepted it and moved on. Ultimately you have to move on. I’m a much better and stronger person now.

This was too much for me. To find a woman who was speaking of handling a tough situation in a mature and sensible fashion instead of being needy and desperate broke me. What is happening to women? I needed to drink (which was a second reason why I okayed Eff’s proposal).

So we went to this bar and sat ourselves down when the waiter looked us up and pointed to chairs where we could sit. This guy was already working his way to a tip.

Eff said he wanted pork. He looked in to the menu and ordered “chilli-pork”. The waiter noted it down. I’m a master when it comes to ordering out. I don’t bother going through the menu. It’s a waste of time and you never get the perfect dish. It can ruin the whole experience. So I did the usual thing I do. I called the waiter, looked him in the eye, leant-back in my chair and asked him- “What’s the house special?”

“Chilli pork”- he replied.

Well, we ordered two ‘chilli-porks’. (Eff was lucky that’s all!)

Eff took his first swig of beer, laid the mug on the table and said- “Machan I’m eff-ed da.” He went rambling on till we were both about one and half bottles of beer down.

I hate it when people get drunk and talk about their problems. My talent is that I never let it happen for too long. I broke Eff when he was in the middle of saying- “Machan both are beautiful, and both love me, it’s not fair. Life is…”

I said- “You know Immanuel Kant covered the topic quite extensively in his Metaphysics of Morals “. He was all ears. I’m not sure if he knew who Kant was but I’d managed to make him sound important. I went on to explain the path-breaking insights in foundational ethics, the challenges of defining morals without supporting agents, the natural flow in to the categorical imperative. And, as I was breaking in to the imperative stuff I heard Eff ‘snore’. This is when I realized I’d achieved my objective.

Well, back to the morning when I got out of home and hailed an auto. I had mentally prepared myself to bargain, negotiate, plead, beg, borrow, steal and even go to war over anything ‘extra’ that the auto guy demanded.  I think the confidence showed because when I hailed the auto and told him where I wanted to go he just turned the meter down and asked me to get in. I felt like a winner.

I took out my wallet to pay the auto guy. That’s when I realized that after paying him off I was left with the princely sum of 60 bucks. I could remember my Dad’s words- “you should keep a minimum of 1000 bucks in your wallet at all times and always have change of different notes in hand”. Ya, ya, but Dad that’s so passe. Today it’s a different world with credit cards and PayTM and all. Besides, I have a weakness for being generous to myself whenever I had money in my wallet.

As I awaited the train I recollected my latest professional victory. I had recently closed a new client. Where all talk about investment options had failed I’d managed to swing this guy on tax-planning.

“My number one problem”, he had said, “is that I pay too much tax”.

 I asked for his latest returns and perused through it. I circled the problem area and showed it to him.

“Most of the tax you pay is on your salary”- I said.

He looked at me with sceptical eyes and said- “Ya, so?”

“Well, it’s simple; you should quit your job.”

I spoke to his soul directly when I said that. He got up and hugged me. No one had ever given him this kind of insight. He signed up on the spot and said he was going to act on the advice immediately. I’m a little worried as to how he is going to pay for my services though. The unemployed don’t make much money.

So the client, Eff and the auto guy- I was on a real high. I decided to put my brains to far higher thoughts, to the most important issues plaguing our beautiful nation.

As I walked to my seat I noticed that the tray was down and a mobile was placed on it for charging. I had the window seat and the plug point was closest to me. For some reason I snapped when I saw that mobile on the tray. I mean, it’s atypical of all the problems we face in this country. We lack resources and therefore we all have to always ‘compromise’. That’s not the problem. I’m okay with compromising. But, people should respect a person’s right to compromise. I mean what does this person who’s kept his phone for charging lose if he asked me before connecting? I’d probably agree to it. But, he won’t, no one will. He’d take it for granted to put my tray down, place his mobile on my tray and keep it for charging. Screwing my rights over a chair and tray that I’d rightfully paid for.

I picked up the mobile and looked at it. There was a little sticker of a heart on it. Now, now, I told myself. This might not be all that it seems. Opportunity after all comes in the most unlikely of places. Maybe, I told myself, after all these years of traveling in public transport; this was going to be my lucky day. Only a woman would have a heart sticker behind her phone. Not just a woman, more specifically- a young woman. It’s such a kitsch thing that I wouldn’t place her age above 25.

Now, I felt in my heart that it didn’t matter that the tray was down and she had placed her phone for charging. You’ve got to be tolerant to beauty. It’s in all the Fair & Lovely ads.

And then this middle-aged guy came and took the seat at the corner of the aisle. He stretched out towards my tray table and looked in to the phone to note the charge. He then left it there and stretched back in to his seat. I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. And I was waiting for him to look at me. He looked at me and smiled- ‘the smile’.

You know ‘the smile’? I call it the ‘thank you for adjusting maadi’ smile. You are in a lift and this guy comes in with a big back pack that he shoves in your face and as he leaves he turns around to you and ‘smiles’. The shop keeper who doesn’t have change gives you Chinese mint flavoured pesticide instead and ‘smiles’. Yes, it’s the same smile.  You are powerless when the other person gives you this smile because by some in-built psychological mechanism you always return it with a smile yourself signalling a form of acceptance and then you find you’re locked.

I was smarting from the affront on my personal space but found that there was nothing I could do about it. I decided to buy a bottle of water- 20 bucks. I was now down to 40. I sat on my seat and decided that I would focus on resolving the problems of our nation.

Now this beef conundrum is eating away from the main issues. At stake (not steak!) is everything that our country stands for including casteism, corruption, sexism, crony capitalism and institutions that reward mediocrity (that are not returned back!). If it is not solved and fast I fear we may soon have a situation where our politicians will have no logical way of earning our votes except for the old way of subsidized subsidies. You know the ones where everyone pays for everything and no one gets anything.

I think I’ve hit up on a solution. What if we get pigs disguised as cows? And we’ll tell only the Hindus. Then we can all eat ‘beef’ together like one happy nation.

Oh, I can imagine being awarded the Bharat Ratna for this one. Yes, the government villa at Lutyens which will be allotted to me and which will turn in to a memorial up on my death will have the initials- ‘B.A.R.K’ on the front gate.

As I sat in my seat enjoying my intellectual success another guy comes in to our row and throws his cloth bag on the hooks next to the window and sits down between me and the other guy. Now, when I looked in front of me not only did I see the mobile phone but also this looney professor’s bag.

Yes, that’s what he was, a looney professor. His upper torso was like R.K. Laxman’s ‘Common Man’ character had been brought to life. He had everything including the same hair style, moustache and glasses. Only he didn’t wear a check shirt and dhoti. This ‘common-man’ wore a purple shirt and purple trousers to boot. The trousers were worn just above the belly button (worn in such a strategic way I’m sure to make his admirers aware that he wears socks).

After placing the bag right in front of my vision he proceeded to kick away his shoes and settle down in his chair. He then took out his kerchief and placed it in between his glasses and eyes. I’d seen eye-masks before but this was extra-ordinary.

What’s more this guy hadn’t even smiled at me. I can forgive the smile guys but I won’t forgive the no-smile guys. I mean it’s understandable and everything but you still got to show that you understand. It’s unacceptable.  He seemed like the kind of guy who would respect the decision of the award returnees. I hated him immediately.

If only these two bumbos knew what brilliance I’d just conjured up in my head. Ah, they’d be bowing down to me. They wouldn’t then dare to invade my personal space. Ah- to be great!

I had a couple of hours before I reached my destination and therefore I tried to grab some shut-eye. It didn’t happen. I guess I was too high from the intellectual stimulation. Either that or the booze hadn’t worn off.

I could sense my stomach grumble. I’d been on the liquid-diet last night, so I decided to get something solid to eat. The food vendors kept walking up and down our aisle. I stopped a guy who was selling masala dosai and vadai. He just turned to his crate and next moment I knew there was an insane amount of dosai and vadai in my hand.

“Wait, wait, wait!”- I pleaded. I knew I didn’t have enough money for this. The vendor had tricked me. Bugger! Before I could tell him what I wanted he placed everything in a plate and forced in to my hand and then he ‘smiled’.

Now I wasn’t going to fall for that a second time. So I got tough and asked him how much this was going to cost me. “50 bucks”- he replied. I told him I wanted stuff for forty. He gave me a- ‘how cheap are you look’ and tried to convince me again. I turned the plate back to him and he was trying to give it back in my hand and in the ensuing struggle the chutney spilt on to our looney professor’s pants.

Thanks to his self-made eye-mask he was snoozing away to glory and hadn’t noticed anything. The vendor gave me a look and I gave him a look back and shrugged my shoulders. He took off one vadai from the plate, took the money and walked away. The phone guy had seen all this happen and looked at me. It was my turn to smile now. I smiled, he smiled and he went back in to his seat. I took out his phone and gave it back to him and smiled again. He collected it with a smile.
I ate my breakfast. All along I kept one eye on the movements of Mr. Looney. He was just the kind of guy who would create a racket about such a thing. It wasn’t my fault. But, try explaining that to any of these pseudo –intellectuals and all you will get is more blabber.

Oh I dreaded it. I had no idea what to do. I finished my food and just sat there contemplating. That’s when the idea struck me. I placed the used plate under Mr. Looney’s chair. I then closed my tray, took out my kerchief, sat back and used Mr. Looney’s eye-mask technique. Now to anyone who would look I was just an innocent by-stander who’d gone to sleep.

All though I had the eye-mask on I was observing Mr. Looney through the corner of my eye. I was hoping he would get up only when we arrived at his destination. Then there wouldn’t be enough time for him to create a scene. As I was observing him I suddenly noticed movement. Was he getting up?
The looney pushed his body forward slightly and then folded his legs to make himself more comfortable. What he didn’t realize that he had now smeared the entire front region of his pants with chutney. I tried not to laugh and it was very very hard not to.

Mr. Looney’s station came soon enough. As the train came to a halt he got up from his reverie with a jolt. He placed the kerchief back in to his pocket, jumped up and removed his bag and flashed off on to the platform.

I’m sure he would have realized the spilt chutney some time. I’m sure he would have reserved the choicest of words for the guy responsible.  For some reason I felt good about it. Take that you pseudo- intellectuals. Egg on your face! Or better- Chutney on your pants!     

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