Incidents Thought and Reason

Sizzling South Indian Mela(m)

It is always tricky to plan weekends here, thanks to the lovely British weather (by the way, I do like cold n grey weather!). The last weekend was thankfully sunny, though a little chill. That didn’t deter us from making a quick trip to see what the South Indian Melam (an initiative by ‘INDIA NOW’) was all about. Actually, blame the TV adverts for luring us to it! All those pictures of steaming hot dosais/vadai, and ofcourse the cultural events 🙂 (lest I sound too shallow ;-)) were so inviting!

We reached the Mela venue by around 2 pm, and had originally planned to leave in a couple of hours, but ended staying till the very last show, which was a completely dhamakedaar performance by Shiamak Davar‘s team in London. (Will come to that later, as one sentence in passing simply doesn’t do justice to the amazing performance that it was!)

We were greeted with a mellifluous rendition of ‘Vaishnava Janato‘. Sadly, there was no encore 🙂 The compère Ms.Ambika, conducted a lovely little music exercise with all the children. There must have been atleast 20-30 participants, who sang along to Sa-Re-Ga-Ma with gusto.

It was a delight to hear, and an eye-opener too, about an art that we must not let die, but instead try to pass on to the future generations.

There were more performances – vocal, Bharatnatyam, etc. (I can’t review those as I’m not much of an art connoisseur) and an impressive ‘Kalari Payattu‘ performance too, that the boys were particularly interested in!

There weren’t as many ‘stalls’ as one expected. However, there was a great little massage offered at very reasonable prices. Another hot-dog/fries/coffee booth, that served awesome french-fries at delightful prices 😉

The stall for the ‘Save the Tiger‘ campaign, in my opinion, could have benefited with more prominence. The Diabetes UK team was strategically placed a few stalls away from the one with the droolworthy hot South Indian food 🙂

State Bank of India who were one of the Sponsors, held an exciting Raffle contest, with the prize being an iPad!!! Sadly, the winner of the raffle wasn’t around. Sigh!!! I wish…er.. never mind!)

Hot Dosai in the making… and different varieties of chutney to go with it… yummm…

Needless to say, the ‘food’ staff, hosted by Turmeric Spice (I hope I got the name right!), saw an endless queue 🙂 And it was well worth the wait. We ordered hot dosais and simple yet delicious lemon rice!

As they say, the best things in life come to those who wait! The last event was a Bollywood dance performance. I wasn’t expecting much, and the delay was putting me off.

However, when the troupe finally arrived, they took us by storm!!! The Shiamak Davar team in London pulled off a spectacular performance, making even the audience dance to the tunes of Chikni Chameli and Chammak Challo!

The compère /host, Rohan, did an OUTSTANDING job of drawing the audience into the performance.

Even the man behind the show, Mr.Manish Tiwari (Managing Director, Here&Now365) couldn’t escape grooving to the tunes of Chammak Challo 🙂

The audience learnt some easy steps, particularly some Shahrukh Khan motions, and the delightfully funny ‘nodding Indian head‘ 🙂 Team Shiamak had the entire audience spell-bound, and hungry for an encore (which again, they delivered beautifully).

We truly believed their quote – ‘Have Feet – Will Dance’. Add to that, they gave a gift voucher (‘free dance session’) for all the participants.

So, that was a truly scintillating finale to an exciting event.

Well done Team South Indian Melam 🙂 I think this was a good start, and do hope we see many more such events, that bring us closer to ‘home’ and help showcase our arts and culture.

Food and recipe

Friday Feast – Palak in a Jiffy

I hate cooking. Period.

Therefore, if at all I try a recipe, it just HAS to be something really quick and easy. So is this recipe for Friday Feast… Palak (paneer or aloo, whatever!)

Step 1 – Very very very roughly -Chop palak (spinach), onion and tomato (separately)

Step 2 – Cook these individually (i.e. palak in one pan, and onion/tomato – together with a little ginger-garlic paste in another) on a medium-high flame for about 5-7 mins.

Leave it to cool.

Do whatever you like for 15-20 mins. Check your Facebook status, Leave some spam comments on other peoples’ blogs, Tweet if you like… just enjoy.

When you are back:

Step 3 – Grind onion/tomato mixture first. Heat a teaspoon of oil in pan, throw in some jeera, a bay leaf and the ground mixture. Grind the palak, add that too.

Step 4 – Add all the powders you have in your kitchen – salt, chilli, haldi, dhani, jeera, garam masala – just whatever you like, really 😉 Don’t bother too much about quantities and proportions. You like it salty, add more salt. Like it spicy, add extra chilli or pepper powder. Its YOUR recipe, so cook it the way you want to!!

Let it simmer for 3-4 mins.

Step 5– Optional – Add either soft paneer, fried paneer (yummyyyyy ;-)) or boiled potato. I chose boiled potato simply because it wasn’t as fattening as paneer!

And the best part, eat this with roti or some really yummy aloo paratha.

That utterly drooolicious paratha, btw, is the easiest thing ever! Gets done in less than a minute!!! All you have to do, is dial and order it home 😉 (Thanks, Kanagu, for that awesome tip ;-))

Humour Incidents

Hectic Chennai & Bloggers Meet – Chennai Diaries Part III

Why is life in India so busy??? No time to stand and stare….

No time to blog, even! Or perhaps it is just me, unable to adjust myself to the really hectic lifestyle in India.

This is how a typical day starts … Wake up to early morning calls from the Milk(wo)man and sounds of stairways being swept and cleaned. And ofcourse, the newspaper neatly tucked into the grill by a really busy newspaper-boy 🙂

This followed by a quick breakfast of toast (or dosai, if lucky 😉 ) complemented by the noise of a wholesome fight over water, between a skinny, grumpy watchman and an obese, grumpier apartment resident!

Following this fiesty morning start, the day just whizzes by uneventfully, punctuated by umpteen rings on the poor little doorbell (indicating visits by servant maid, watchman, servant (again), salesgirl, post, watchman (again), courier folks, medical shop assistant, courier folks (again), flower-woman, laundry (iron) boy, laundry boy again – this time to deliver neighbour’s clothes as neighbour isn’t at home, exactly 15 mins later, neighbour himself, to collect the pile of laundry!, casual visit by some other neighbour…the list goes on. If lucky, we are also blessed by a visit from above-mentioned-grumpier-resident’s grumpiEST wife who rattles on for half an hour, about her plight and that of her entire family tree!

In between all this, naturally, the phone rings ATLEAST once an hour. Crank calls, Telemarketing guys, Relatives whom we like, relatives whom we hate too ;-), Ex-colleagues, Calls for little birds who have already flown this nest, a couple of wrong numbers…. (hey, what fun is it without those wrong numbers!)

And to think that in between all this interesting socialization, we also need to take care of our mundane chores and Live a little…. phew…!

Like I said, Life in India, is absolutely hectic.

Which explains why, despite having such fun in Chennai, and taking notes in the mind, about interesting events/tidbits, I’ve found no time at all, to log into my dear virtual world!

There was this one scene that has been captured in my mind. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera on hand at the time. It was THE MOST CREATIVE lighting solution EVER! Enroute to the airport (to pick up my lil sis who flew in all the way from Hyderabad), we saw this road rather dug up towards one side. Someone had put up a shabby little wooden fence, more as a ‘sign’ and less, as a protective measure! The best part was, the lighting solution on the fence. The same someone had simply fixed a little bulb onto one wooden pole, and had upturned a red plastic pot (the ones we use to collect water in!) over it. And voila! We had a beautiful red lamp glowing away in the hazy darkness of a typical Chennai evening 🙂 This is one time I REALLY cursed myself for not having taken a camera or phone along! Sigh!

And did I mention our little Blog Meet? A few of us (the same group that had met earlier on in January this year) met up at this supposedly quaint restaurant called Dhaba Express. Uma was the first to arrive. Dressed in a chic blue kurti, one would never imagine she was a Mommy, and that too, of teenage kids! She brought her vintage chocolate cake, as always. And it was such a treat!!! The darling that she is, she even gave me a huge chunk to take back home for the Brat! Thank you, Uma, and May You Bake many more 🙂

Aaroo joined almost immediately. We never read each other’s blogs, but trust me when I say, no trip to Chennai is complete without meeting her 🙂 The three of us managed to squeeze into the low-levelled tables and got chatting.

Kanagu walked in a few minutes later. First, we did a Hi-Five to celebrate our Success in the BPL contest (and to show off to Ums and Aaroo 😉 ) Once Anish joined, we are all chatting away like long-lost friends. Anish again, has been off the blogging radar for long, but it was fun to meet him in person.

As you know, VIPs always arrive late. So did our Prince Villiam! After many phone calls and SMS-es between him and Ums, he finally made it to the event! Looking neatly scrubbed and perfumed, he barged into the scene, gulped down some Aam Panna, and rushed out after a few pics were clicked! So much for a guest appearance!!

Amidst all the chattering, the power went out for about half hour. We diligently used this time, to hog the totally yummy and absolutely delicious chocolate cake without being seen by the restaurant authorities ;-).

Pics will be posted soon(est). Why I cannot post them today, is a sad story in itself. But that post, is for another day!

For now, let me just say, I am glad to be back on WordPress and Facebook 🙂 Hope to catch up on all those posts in my Reader really soon.

Cheers folks!


55-er Short story

Romance at the table (55-er)

Her gaze, to the floor. His, on her.

‘Pop’! Champagne.

‘What are we celebrating?’

‘Our seven-year-itch, honey’.

She shifts uneasily.

They plough through the four-course meal.

‘Burrrp’. She glares.

‘Sorry!’ he smiles, picking his nose.

The bill arrives. ‘ Crap!!!! 7000 bucks?’

She watches, aghast. And suddenly, laughs.

‘Happy Anniversary’. Hands him the yellowed divorce papers.

Food and recipe Incidents

P!ng – I have news!

P!ng! I have news!!

No! Its not what you think. Its not on the personal front 😉 This is an interesting piece of info for all my Bangalore blogger buddies.

Most of my friends are enthusiastic foodies like me. And more often than not, we spend hours arguing about the ‘venue’ for a get-together or party or even a simple girlie’s (or boys, for that matter) hangout. The key points are either ambience or cuisine.

It is indeed challenging to zero in on a venue, especially when there is so much choice! You look around, and you are virtually mobbed by a variety of restaurants offering mouth-watering delicacies.

This is where  P ! N G   enters the picture.pingLogo1

A new entrant in Bangalore, P!ng Restaurant and Dessert Bay is a speciality restaurant, unique in more than one aspect.

These guys specialise in Dim Sum cuisine and offer around 35 unique varieties of Dim Sum. [Dim Sum cuisine, while very well known in the US, South East Asia and China, is not very well known in India. P!ng aspires to popularise Dim Sum cuisine for what it is – large variety, impeccable taste , great flavours and healthy ingredients]. (Now, that part is copy-pasted from their website 😉 )


 (By the way, they even have an exciting Children’s Menu).

The Dessert Bay (open from 10 am till 12 midnight!), is targetted more at the young student crowd, offers intriguing mocktails, ice cream and delicious pastries.contactus_leftHead


 Here is the link to the address and map. They are open 7 days a week – 12:00 pm to 3:30 pm and 7:00 pm to 11:30 pm.

If you are wondering why I wrote this, no, I have absolutely no ulterior motives 😉 (except, probably, the fact that this is owned by Rajanikanth*)!

delicious_dimsumI love going to restaurants that really have a difference! Locale, ambience, or Menu…anything that lends a certain charm to the place.

From the website and reviews, it seems like P!ng has it all! Try it out for yourself.

P.S. Did you know, they offer a free starter and dessert! He he! Now, if that isn’t motivation enough, then what is?!

You are also invited to follow P!ng on Facebook

(Pics: Courtesy:

* P.S. By ‘Rajanikanth’, I did not mean the Actor, but a friend of mine 🙂

Humour Incidents Short story

The bargain at Hongkong lane

I loved Hongkong Lane. The tiny seedy little lane in the city of Pune. Lined with rows and rows of match-box sized shops, selling trinkets of all sorts. Jewellery (artificial, of course), beaded necklaces/bracelets, tinkling wind-chimes, beautiful little bells, audio cassettes (yeah, those were the days of a walkman and audio cassette) and pirated version of the latest books and novels.

Every time I went back home on vacation, I would first pay homage at Hongkong Lane and buy bags of useless trinkets for all the family. And expect them to gloat over it like I did, and which they duly did 🙂

On one such shopping expedition, my best friend (let’s call her L) and I had resolved to stick to our budget and snatch a bargain at EVERY shop. We were the ‘Mylapore Maami’s’ as our other Chennai-ite friends called us, and were generally quite timid, so bargaining was really not our forte. But this time, we decided to break the paradigm.

L parked her Scooty by the side of the main road, along with a long line of other bikes. I am always amazed by the uncanny ability of people to identify their vehicles from a crowd. I could never do it! Not that I ever had a vehicle to call my own. Except of course my adorable red tricycle when I was three.

So, we geared up, our backpacks empty and ready to be filled with all the loot. Our first stop: Girlie jewellery. We chose some really cute alphabet beads and got them strung into bracelets for my sis and L’s friends. Just as I opened my mouth to ask ‘Bhaiya, give us a discount’, L nudged me and pointed to a board painted in red: ‘NO BARGAIN. CASH ONLY’. So we sighed and paid (hey, that rhymed!!) Rs.75.

Our next stop: The bookstore. Here’s where we could really strike gold. I picked up some John Grisham for my sister again (see, I really was a nice elder sis), and L chose ‘The Alchemist’ (my favourite of the bygone days) and some Richard Bach (I never could understand what that guy really has to say) for herself. You see, L was a really deep person, unlike frivolous me. And now was the time for the big deal. I opened with a pathetic ‘Why don’t you give us a bargain?’ The bookseller merely started at me for a flit second and kept billing the books. I shrugged and looked at L. Whether it was out of a surge of ‘bargain-o-mania’, or just a wave of sympathy, L took up the challenge of getting us a discount. ‘Bhaiya, we are just students…can’t you give us SOME discount?’ The ‘students’ bit seemed to strike a cord with the grumpy old man. He was really of ‘Dada’ age and not ‘Bhaiya’ but calling him that would have certainly thwarted all chances of a bargain. He gave her a somewhat empathetic look and very briefly, nodded. L and I looked at each other, unable to believe it. ‘I give 2 percent’, he broke the silence. ‘Huh?’ we stared back at him. ‘OK OK 5 percent’. ‘Kya Bhaiya? Only 5 percent? That is just not enough. We are only students. We are buying this out of our pocket money. You have to help us!’ , L said very convincingly (and it was the truth, of course). It was getting late. Lunch time, and the old man was getting impatient. We had already spent an hour there. ‘Give us 50 percent’, L boldly ventured. I was getting prepared to run, just in case the shop seller decided to throw us out. To my horror, the old man said ‘OK’ and billed us Rs.200 instead of Rs.400. He was either eager to shut down the shop for lunch, or was simply humouring our pathetic negotiation skills, or call it ‘begging prowess’.

We paid up and stuffed our bags with the books. Then was the turn of the handbags and silly posters that people would accept with a smile and then chuck it away in a bin. By the time we finished, we were really exhausted. ‘Well done, buddy!’ I patted L on the back. ‘Let’s celebrate, Pallo’, she said excitedly. We trudged back to the main road, and found a nice little restaurant with space to eat out under medium sized green-white umbrellas. We ordered my favourite missal-pav and her favourite cappuccino. We watched the other college students having a great time at their respective tables. There was a young family – parents and two children – a boy and a girl. We looked at each other. Our eyes mirrored the feeling of homesickness that one feels on a lonely Sunday. I patted the backpacks and we smiled, at the thought of getting to see the family in less than a week! Our food arrived and we devoured it in a few minutes of complete silence. Bargain shopping does make one hungry. Rs.30 out of our savings had gone now, but it was worth every bite. Having saved more than Rs.200! We even left a generous tip of Rs.5 for the sullen waiter.

The evening sun was setting, and we needed to get back to our PG accommodation before Mrs. Marathe would start worrying about us. She really was a nice old lady, our landlady, and we were genuinely fond of her. We walked back towards the signal near which we had parked the bike. Strangely, it was empty. Completely. Not a soul in sight. ‘We must have come the wrong way!’, we guessed. We turned back and walked towards the other end of the road. There was nothing there either. Now we were beginning to panic. Where had we left the bike? I was useless at directions and at remembering anything of significance. But L was way better. ‘I am SURE I parked there!’ she pointed to the original spot where we had gone. So we walked back, to find nothing. Not a bike. Not a soul. We looked around, worried. Has somebody stolen it? Gosh! It had cost L’s dad (he had retired from work just that year) at least Rs.25000. Then an old pan-wala motioned to us. ‘What does he want now?!’, I muttered. L, the kind-hearted soul, walked towards him. ‘Saare le gaye!’ (took them all), he said. ‘Kya?’, she asked. ‘Police.. police.. No-parking!’, he repeated through a mouth-ful of red-paan. OK that was an exaggeration. A Paan-seller doesn’t necessarily have to munch paan all the time!

Ow shit! How did we ever park the bike in a No-Parking zone? L would have never done that. But yes, it was the 29th of April. Family budget strings would normally be very stretched during these last few days of the month. Understandably, the impoverished pot-bellied policemen had towed all the vehicles away. We asked around for directions to the police station. It was way too far to walk. Especially in the early evening. It would take us at least half an hour to walk. So we hailed a passing auto rickshaw. ‘Police-station’, I said. The dirty fellow stared at us, and spat ‘Fifty rupees’. ‘What? No no! Twenty-five only’, I said. ‘Chalo, Fourty’. ‘NO! Thirty’, said L almost fiercely. He nodded assent, and we clambered in, making sure our shopping bags were safe with us.

Ten minutes later we were at the police-station. A lanky boy, probably another college student, was walking out, sweating, and holding his motorbike. ‘I hope its here!’ I prayed. We entered the station. It was rather clean. Not that we had been to other stations before. But still, it was a surprise to see an airy white-washed room, instead of the dungeons inhabited by beaten-up prisoners we see in the movies.

‘Our bike has been taken’ I whispered. ‘WHAT?’ the pot-bellied man in uniform thundered. L cleared her throat and said more steadily ‘I parked my bike near Hong Kong lane, but its gone now. They told me it was towed away’. ‘Hmmm… what name?’ ‘Pall..’ I started. ‘SCOOTY.. DARK BLUE’, L said way too loud. I shut up immediately. ‘Search there’, Mr.Pot-belly pointed to a sort of backyard. We walked around nervously, hoping not so much to find the bike, as to return home with our virginity still intact. I know, I know, that’s too filmy. We’d been watching too many crappy Hindi movies lately. ‘There she is!!’ L and I spotted her bike almost simultaneously. Our heart leapt with joy. As L tried to move the Scooty, a thin policeman, probably a lowly-paid constable tapped his wooden stick on the bike, and said ‘Inspector Saab calling’. We walked back in. a flurry of questions and answers, like a succession of ping-pong balls took place.

‘Do you have a driving license?’

‘Yes Sir’.

‘Show me’

It’s at home. Shivaji Nagar.

‘Tamil Nadu number plate??’

‘Yes Sir, I brought my bike from Chennai for my studies’

‘Where is NOC?’

‘What?’, L was a little stumped.

‘N – O – C. Where is it?’

We stared at each other. We didn’t know what it meant. Honesty is the best policy, we decided, telepathically.

‘No License, No NOC. Go home! Cannot take back cycle’.

L was enraged that Mr.Pot-belly had called her Scooty a cycle rather than a bike. But this wasn’t the time or place for that.

‘Please Sir. We didn’t do anything wrong! Let us take the BIKE, and we’ll bring back the DL immediately. Promise!’, I pleaded.

Mr.Pot looked back at the files on his table and motioned us to bugger off. We walked out, our shoulders slumped.

Outside the station, we stood wondering how on earth we could get her Scooty back. Her parents would ground her, and me too. How would we ever repay Rs.25000!! it would be another year before we would even get employed somewhere!

‘Hallo! Hallo!’. Somebody was calling out to us, clapping aloud. We looked around. It was the thin constable. We stopped and waited for him to catch up.

‘Look sister, I can help you. You want Scooty?’

‘YES!’, we nodded in unison.

‘Hmmm.. I talk to Inspector Saab. But we oil engine first’.

‘Its oiled’, L answered.

‘Oh not that, Behenji (sister). Oil.. oil.. palm..’ he said, scratching his head. Seeing that we still didn’t get the drift, he said ‘Rs.400 only’, and sighed.

Our eyes popped out of our head. Did we hear right? ‘Is he crazy? He wants a bribe? Forget it!’ I whispered angrily to L. She didn’t reply. Then I realised her eyes were watering. Here was the chance to retrieve her most precious possession. And I was thinking of the money. I started walking back to the station with the constable. L followed, half relived and half grateful. She squeezed my hand. We walked into the station boldly this time, knowing fully well what the guys were after and that the ball was in our court now.

Mr.Pot was not to be seen. Gone for a wee, perhaps. ‘500’, the constable said. ‘You said 400’, I replied.

‘400? OK fine. 400’

‘We are only students, Bhaiya. We don’t have that much money. 400 is too much’, L piped up from behind, her voice steady and bold. I looked around in surprise. This was the bargaining expedition, after all. I was emboldened too. ‘Yes, you cant take advantage of students like us. We live on pocket money only. No salary!’ I added.

Mr.Pot suddenly emerged, miraculously. ‘300’ he said, with a callous attitude. So he had been listening all along.

‘Sir, we don’t have that much…’ I said, and emptied my wallet in front of him. L and I counted the money out. Rs.132 only. ‘Phew!’, Mr.Pot sniggered. L opened her wallet too, and emptied Rs.120’. The constable swiped the notes off the table, and left the coins in there. Too meagre even for him, we guessed. ‘Rs.250, Saab’, he said to Mr.Pot. Mr.Pot stared at us for a whole minute. Then they looked at each other. And finally, to our great relief, he said the word ‘OK’. We hurried to the backyard and grabbed the bike, walking/running away from the station as fast as we could.

We neared the main road, in dead silence, louder even, than the noise of the evening traffic on the road. As we stopped at the signal where we had originally parked the bike, we burst into laughter. We laughed and laughed, tears streaming down our cheeks.

‘What a bargain!’, we returned home with bags of bargain books and gifts, and empty wallets.

Incidents Short story

Food for Thought

We are celebrating brother’s board results. Daddy has ordered ghee dosai, sambar vadai and mango lassi. Mummy sulks. The food is cold and the table, filthy. Daddy bellows at the waiter and he disdainfully takes away the cold food.


We now see the waiter lining up our new trays of steaming, delicious food. Our eyes gleam and my mouth waters. I clap my little hands with glee.


A short, dark boy, around my age walks up. He is wearing a frayed brown shirt and faded pair of brown shorts. Even his hair is brown, to match. He wears no slippers. His face is sunken, cheeks are hollow and lips are chapped. He wipes our table with his dirty rag. Daddy shouts at him to get a cleaner piece of wiping cloth. He wipes his nose and fetches another cloth – one that is bright and clean, like me but is frayed, like himself.


Daddy is happy. Mommy is gloating over brother. I have lost my appetite.

Food and recipe Incidents Short story

The scuffle..and a resolution.

A chill wind was piercing through the littered streets of the eastern part of this elite city called London. It was no wonder however, neither the wind nor the litter. The weather forecast had spelt a “bright and sunny day”, therefore the wind had to launch its attack. And the litter ? Ahem…this was the Asian pocket of the city.

Families were thronging the grocery shops (“Cash & Carry” shops, they were all named, although they did accept credit cards). Men and women wearing colourful Indian outfits (unfortunately hidden under dull coats in varying shades of black and grey) were entering the Temple. The daring ones were lingering about at the shops that sold pirated DVDs. “Sarkar Raj..only GBP 2.50”, the poster screamed. “Buying pirated versions is unethical !”, my Conscience whispered. “Now..that’s incredibly cheap ! Going to the cinema to watch this movie, even in Chennai, would cost me a fortune !”, the Intellect thundered in reply. We hurried to buy our copy and make our way to the popular South Indian restaurant round the corner. It was rather late in the afternoon, and we were ravenously hungry.

Hotel Saravana Bhavan was decorated with flowers and streamers, brightening an otherwise dull, grey skyline. Their anniversary, it seemed.

The bespectacled waiter greeted us with an oft-rehearsed “Good afternoon, Sir/Ma’am ? What will you have ?”

We scrolled down the menu card…the same card they had printed three years ago, when the Hotel was first inaugurated here. They cards had been laminated after the first couple of months, to minimise the risk of having dried granules of sambar/chutney/etc. imprinted on it by the hotel’s patrons.

The waiter shuffled from one foot to another, looked around at the other tables, and then returned his gaze to us, as politely as he could.

“Tomato Soup”, I quickly ordered.

“Two by Three”, added my enthusiastic father. This was his first visit to London, and his last bid to escape the scorching 45 degrees Indian summer. (He was still bewildered at how he had left Chennai that morning, to reach London again the same morning.)

The waiter’s eyebrows raised involuntarily. “I.. I am sorry Sir.. but we don’t do two-by-three soups here. You can order either two or three soups”.

“What ? But in Chennai, we always have Two-by-three or One-by-Two, in fact we can even have One-by-three soups!”, replied an irate ad hungry Daddy.

“Daddy..please..its not like that here…”, I started, my cheeks reddening. My gracious husband saved the situation (as he always does) by quickly deciding “Three soups, please”. The starters and main course were ordered quite blandly. And by blandly, I only mean, Daddy was already learning the ropes, and so ordered items on the Menu, and nothing else. He was tempted to ask if they served “Pizza”, but as an afterthought, decided otherwise.

While we waited for the food to arrive, we chatted animatedly, discussing the weather, the flight, latest family news, etc. I must admit that Hubby and Daddy are both terrible at sharing information. They do not volunteer the tiniest piece of gossip. It takes a lot of skill to extract it out of them. My college mates however, had been diametrically opposite. Their typical Friday night comprised a movie, beer, spicy peanuts and gossip…mostly about their delicate fellow colleagues. It had taken me quite some time to digest the fact that men enjoy gossip ! Anyway, I expected the same out of dear Hubby too, but as you can see, I was sadly let down.

The aroma of “sambar-vada” (and the tomato soup) wafted gently, making its way to our table. My mouth watered. As soon as the waiter placed our trays before us, and moved on to the next table, we jumped on the food like a pack of wolves !

Suddenly, there were loud voices coming from the next table…”Come on, give it to me…”. “No, I won’t”.

“What’s the scuffle about?”, we wondered, greedily swallowing the perfectly soaked vada.

“No no, give it to me!”, the men were demanding. Our lanky waiter looked from one person to another, his tired feet waiting for some respite from innumerable walks into and out of the kitchen. The two men continued to argue. The women smiled demurely. The babies were beginning to fret.

“This is not fair”.

“Of course it is”.

“No, we called first…its ours”.

And the scuffle went on amidst the din of clattering spoons and plates. We chomped our way through the crisp masala dosas, and started talked in low whispers. Before you misunderstand…this was not an action arising from a deeply ingrained civic sense. It just helped us hear better.

“Come on, Shekar…”, the woman pleaded. “Let’s not create a scene here”.

“OK then, Ravi, here you go…you win this time. But not the next time, eh?”

Mr.Ravi half-smiled and took the check. His eyes ran through the length of the scroll before finally falling on the “Total inc. Tax”. His eyes squinted and his mouth opened. “Eighty pounds !!! What the…”, he muttered under his breath. He slowly fished out his wallet. Mr.Shekar stepped out to make an ’emergency’ phone call, while his wife smiled at their cherubic son.

“Shhhhhhushhhh ! What a pest you are! We are not going to bring you out hereafter”..Mrs. Ravi shouted at her little daughter. She didn’t seem very pleased at her husband’s ‘victory’. A few minutes later, their table was cleared. We heard the “good-byes”. A couple of happy, high-pitched ones, and a couple of low, subdued ones.

My cheeks reddened again and I almost blushed ! “What a scene ! Ravi or Shekar, one of them should have just paid the check in silence”, I volunteered.

“Or simple enough, they could done a One-by-Two”, Hubby added, with a wink.

This time, it was Daddy’s turn to blush.

We thought of all the times we had given or received a gift. The first reaction: “No, you shouldn’t have…”, followed by a toothy-grin and a “Thank you..since you insist!”. Why can’t we do away with the pretence, and graciously thank the giver, “Thank you..I love thoughtful of you !”.

After some discussion over steaming cups of filter coffee, the three of us made a resolution.

– The next time someone says “No, you shouldn’t have..” over a gift, we would take it back right away.

– The next time we go out with someone to a restaurant, we will avoid all conflict. We will allow them to pay, without a fight 😉

We smiled, imagining the reaction this behaviour would elicit. We could well be seeing the last of Hypocrisy !!

As we slurped the last few drops of the fantastic coffee, the waiter arrived with our check.

“Please give it to me”, said Husband.

“Of course not, this is my first day out here, so I am going to treat you”, replied Daddy.

“Daddy, this isn’t fair, you are our guest, and we must take care of you”, said dutiful Husband.

“No Ram, how can a father take money from his children?”, came the gallant reply.

The waiter looked from Hubby to Daddy, and Daddy to Hubby.

He adjusted his glasses, and sighed !!

“The scuffle continues…”