Monday, September 14, 2015

When I was fooled big-time

One evening I got a a call from Vivek Chandel (Chandel/Chandu) who was my classmate and dorm-mate at IIMA and is currently in Delhi. (You would have come across him in an earlier post.) We had the usual chit-chat, nothing that seemed different from our earlier conversations. The next morning I got a call from Amir Mirza (Sidey), another classmate and dorm-mate at IIMA who was then in Mumbai. He informed me that he was leaving for New York (where he is working) the next day and that we will meet on his next visit.

Jaya  informed me that some visitors who had been expected the previous day were coming that morning. Jaya got me ready and shifted me to the wheelchair. She told me that the expected guests were in a hurry to go back so she took me to the front hall as the visitors were expected soon.

And who do I find there? Sidey and Chandel! They had been sitting quietly lest their voices carry to my room. Sidey said, 'Kesu! Fancy you being here! What a surprise!' P.G. Wodehouse described the expression on the face of a chap who "while picking daisies on the down line, has just received the 4.15 in the small of the back." I had a similar expression on my face when I saw the two of them. You scarcely expect two guys who you thought were in Delhi and Mumbai to be in front of you.

It was the first time since our hostel days that we were together. We had spent a lot of fun times together in our hostel days. Chandel and Sidey had come home separately earlier but this was the first time they had come together. I had thought that they had had enough of my sick jokes but they have more resilience than I had imagined. It was good to know that familiarity doesn't always breed contempt.

We soon got down to discussing old times. And when Sidey is around when discussing old times, the topic soon veers around to the time when a restaurant in Ahmadabad had to close down due to his gargantuan appetite.

The three idiots meet after 22 years: Sidey to the right of me and Chandel to the left of me (and Jaya in front of me with the camera) 

We had gone to a restaurant that offered unlimited Gujarati thaali. Unfortunately for the restaurant, it had gulab jamun on its menu for dessert. With his gastric juices working overtime, Sidey polished off 23 of the sinful sweetmeats. When good food is in front of him, he feels compelled to show his appreciation. He is mindful of a cook's fragile temperament as evidenced by Anatole, the cook of P.G. Wodehouse fame, the one who serves a magnificent  mignonette de poulet rotie petit duc  and a sublime  nonats de la MediterranĂ©e au fenouil (if you don''t know what they are, don't worry; I don't either) and threatens to put in his papers if he finds someone pushing them away and nibbling on spinach instead.

The good Samaritan, whose sole motivation was to protect the self-esteem of a hard-working and often unappreciated cook (any suspicion of gluttony that you might entertain would be making a mockery of the truth) had stuffed himself so much that he told us on the way back, 'Guys, don't touch me or I will puke!' When we came next to the restaurant, we found that it had shut shop and the blame naturally fell on Sidey. His calorie intake was one of those low probability, high impact events that Nassim Nicholas Taleb was warning about in The Black Swan.

Chandel is not to be considered a slouch when it came to punishing (er ...nourishing) the human body with excess calories. Once after finishing our dinner at a restaurant, we were about to leave when he said that he was still feeling hungry. He had eaten 4 parathas but he said that he could have 10. Everyone agreed that if he did indeed have 10 parathas, they will pay his bill. And indeed it turned out that way. (It reminds me of a scene in a Tamil movie.) Luckily for the restaurant, it had a pricing model that was more robust to such rare events.

These and other  hostel incidents formed the bulk of our chit-chat for the next few hours. All too soon, it was time for them to go. When I was checking with Jaya whether their cab to the airport had been booked, Sidey remarked impishly, 'I knew it, Kesu wants to get rid of us as soon as possible!' This visit was a surprise worth having.

PS: Some time back, I was reading Joesph Anton by Salman Rushdie  in which I came across the following lines: "anybody could walk in the front door.  You really had to be somebody to get in through the kitchen door, the staff entrance, the rear window, the rubbish chute." The first thing that I remembered when I read those lines was when I first visited Sidey's house in Mumbai.

When I reached there, I found the front door closed and I couldn't see anybody around who I could ask for directions. I saw a staircase which I thought led to the entrance so I climbed it ...and went straight into the kitchen with Sidey's mother looking in astonishment at the strange apparition that had suddenly appeared in front of her. But she managed to retain her sang froid in what must have been a stressful situation and just said, 'Hello, are you looking for somebody?' She must have known that her son has some weird friends and guessed that this must be one of them.

Fortunately,Sidey entered the kitchen at this moment and said, 'Trust you to enter my house through the kitchen.' I responded with a weak smile. Lacking in sound and fury, it signified nothing but embarrassment. A Bertie Wooster often has a Gussie Fink-Nottle in his circle of acquaintances. I was feeling like the poor cove who drops a dolly at mid wicket on the opening day of a Boxing Day Ashes Test Match in front of a 100,000 strong crowd and then has to endure the damn slow motion replay on the giant scoreboard at the ground with his eyes firmly fixed to the ground.

I have a lot of empathy for such an unfortunate member of the species. In my school days, I was sometimes known as 'gadda' -Hindi for 'hole' or 'pit'. When batsmen hit a catch towards me, they took fresh guard knowing that it would be a miracle if I actually managed to pouch it. I believe the technical term for the possession of such virtuoso fielding skills is 'butter-fingered'. The good Lord, when pondering over his Grand Design for this best of all possible worlds, overlooked an important detail which thinkers across the ages have agreed is a significant ommision - He forgot to provide for the ground to open up and swallow the tortured soul who found himself in such an agonising situation.

1 comment:

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this post! A word of appreciation for Jaya, who managed to hide the secret from you until the very last minute.

    More posts like this one please. A refreshing change from the sickular ones I usually shake my head in response to.