They say that shopping and eating are best stress busters. So I decided to shop for food.
I stopped outside the gates of the grand hotel in front of me. Had I gone mad? Maybe. Is something wrong with me? Very much.
I walked straight past the gates. Infact, I was the only one walking past it, as the rest were in their installment-paid cars with their dysfunctional families. A Maharaja suit clad Guard ushered me in, suspiciously. No, I am not going to tip him for sure. My tip fees is a generous Rs 2, and that too if the waiter fills the extra sambhar or Kuruma without any hint of sarcasm or contempt.
The Indian eatery was in the second floor. As I pushed open the door, an amazing fragrance enveloped me – one of fresh Indian spices overpowering the sandalwood incense sticks at the welcome counter. I quickly scanned the room to find out if any of my friends or relatives were seated. Our clan comes to such places courtesy - a generous treat. But then, they haven’t read about Murphy's law, have they?
A low decibel Pandit Shiv Prasad Sharma’s flute rendition was played to a rich unmindful crowd. The lights were dim enough to grab the Manager by collar and ask him if he had misappropriated the funds for his mistress. But then that’s the way things work. Less noise and light in a restaurant means more money to be shelled and vice-versa. The Devar's parotta stall in my vicinity plays songs so loud that you wish they could provide a piece of ear plugs with the parotta and salna.
I sat in a corner table for two and put my bag on the other seat to prevent any intrusion. The big room had just 25-30 people – each wrapped in his own niche. The waiter handed me a menu card long enough to qualify as my nephew’s cricket bat. After brushing through two pages worth of the hotel’s history and its worldwide branches, I finally got to the menu. Soups were listed at a minimum price of Rs 100. My middle class conscience involuntarily forced me to flip pages and check the main course items. Yeah, I was preparing to going down royally, but still...
The items were vaguely named. Infact none of them made any sense to me. One especially caught my attention - Shahi Murgi per Amulya makhan. Why can’t it be as straight as butter chicken? Going around your head to touch your nose just doesn’t seem to work with food, particularly when ordering. Another one in dessert read The last time I saw my waist. Some smart ass decided to include a footnote which read - 1 scoop vanilla, 1 scoop chocolate and 1 scoop raspberry decorated with Almond and nuts. Yeah right. Eat this on a regular basis and you could have a waistline to warrant a pair of maternity stretch-on pants. I guess these hotels have employed 3/4 people to cook and other 1/4 to think of such whacky and stupid names to confuse the customer.
Butter chicken? Why did I have to remind myself about her when all I wanted and came here for was to forget her?
Why can’t I let go off Adhira?
Adhira. The lovely but torn chapter of my unscrupulous life.
"What do you want to order?"
"Anything that you want."
"No. Tell me something. I don’t want to force something of my choice on you."
"Don’t try to be too chivalrous."
"I am not chivalrous. I am just trying to be....sensible. And so I insist."
"Ok. Then it is Butter chicken."
Judging from her perfect figure, you might guess that all she has for lunch is a bowl of salad with a cup of green tea. But Adhira loved Butter chicken. Infact, it was possibly the only thing she loved more than herself. You could wake her up in the middle of a night and offer her a piece of butter chicken and she might just lick it till the bone and doze back without a "Thank You".
During every other visit to the hotel, it was butter chicken and Vanilla Caramel Icecream with almonds. For the past 6 months that I have known her and with all that butter chicken and icecream, she still manages to remain slim. With 2 chapathis sans ghee, boiled oats for dinner and 45 mins of gym, I struggle into my size 36 pants. Some people are indeed lucky, aren’t they?
"So how come momma's boy is skipping his delicious home made lunch?"
"I told her that I was going for a corporate treat. She still doesn’t realise that I work with stingy bastards who would not spare Rs 5 and get me a single cup of tea."
(giggles) "But you seem spendthrift. Doesn’t this thing (showing the dead chicken's legs) cost much more than your budget?"
"When did I tell you that this chicken was bred in my backyard? I guess you should probably marry a broiler farm owner."
"You never know. You know that I love chicken."
"If you had a choice between a broiler farm owner or Ice cream parlor owner, what would you do?"
"Is there any rule that I should marry only one of them?"
"Legally as per the Hindu marriage act..."
"Oh...stop that bakwaas yaar. Otherwise it might be your leg in my hand instead of the chicken's."
Adhira was the only child of a rich Mallu couple. Since her parents were more modern and educated, they bred Adhira as a young, free-spirited girl. She waltzed past to her room at any point in the night and no one would question her. It was a far cry from my house where my mother still asks me a detailed monthly account (which of course is forged) and frequently checks my room for any traces of cigarette or anything illegal. Prior to being with me, Adhira had encountered 2 break ups as the guys found her too tough to handle.
Possibly in a relationship, she loved being the guy and viceversa.
"Your order Sir."
"One Lajawaab Matar Pulao and Panner Makhni."
It had been days since I had dined alone. The sudden loneliness engulfed and saddened me. I took out my mobile phone and just looked at my contact list and scrolled it back and forth wondering whom to call. Finally, I stopped it as it was freaking me out. I wanted to talk to someone but decided against it. The last thing I needed was a detailed lecture on securing a relationship.
What I did today morning was surely not right, but maybe it was....too late.
"You cannot say no to you friend?"
"I can’t. We have been pals since college. He would kill me for missing his marraige."
"And what happened to the promise you made me?"
"We will go next week. Shahrukh is not running anywhere. See, even in the poster, he is standing still and stiff with Kajol." (showing a MNIK poster)
"No jokes. You could have atleast asked me or told me. I booked tickets already."
"Don’t worry. You can go with your mom if you like."
Would you believe me if I told you that this non-descript conversation listed above led to an India Pakistan fight and our break-up? I know you would not. Ok, then just do one thing. Try to rewind back and check about any possible fight with your partner/lover sometime back? Was it a really unsolvable issue that led to a fight?
All issues which lead to a fight/breakup, are NOT the actual issues. The issues are always hidden. Does America really fight in Afghanistan to free Afghan people from clutches of Taliban? If two neighbourhood kids fight among themselves for a toy, it is indeed for a toy.
But if the same kid's parents fight amongst themselves over the same issue, it is possibly for something else.
Maybe it’s the jealousy of one guy over another's newly bought Mahindra Scorpio against his rusted Bajaj Chetak. Or possibly an old issue where the woman of the house refused a cup of sugar. Or possibly some age old fight over the fence wall. In most cases, it is possibly one’s reflection of his/her incompetence against the others. Bottom-line, it’s NOT the toy.
The fight that we had today morning is on the same lines. While you can attribute her irritation to my meekness, mine was possibly at the pent up anger over her dominance and ridicule at my middle class peculiarities. It’s strange how adults find themselves incompatible in few moments of friction compared against the hours or days or months spent in finding out the similarities when in love.
I know that I am wrong somewhere. All it takes is a Re 1 call to her mobile and a simple "Sorry".
Well, if only telling Sorry had been so easy.....
"Sir. Anything for dessert?" said the waiter relieving me thankfully from my introspection.
Not in a mood to think too much, I asked "What’s special today?"