Saturday, May 16, 2015

Of Rice and Men

It was a Monday morning meeting and I was waiting in the conference room for the Senior Product Manager (PM) to make an arrival. He was usually punctual. In fact he was always punctual. You can see folks adjusting their watches when he walks into the office. At least the ones still wearing a wrist watch. The rest just know it was time to start pretending to work.
I surfed Ebay, trolled some news sites, and did the mandatory likes on photographs on Facebook. There were quite a few of them. I hastily unliked a photograph of some Himalayan baba sitting in the buff next to one of my gullible North Indian friends. This friend describes herself as "very spiritual". The next photo had her sitting on the baba's lap and baba sporting a rather inscrutable expression. I am sure she found the experience “spiritually uplifting” heh heh.

In the early 2000's she was the devotee of a Sadhvi. Sadhvi fixed all her devotees marriages, both national and international. Spiritual friend had her fix a wedding for me too. But I didn't care too much for the anemic Spaniard with the scrubby goatee. Besides it was my hasne khelne ke din in those days. I wondered aloud if I could do some browsing of the Sadhvi's grooms catalog. Friend was shocked and flabbergasted. She had never heard such a sacrilegious suggestion. Arranged marriage, she explained to me wagging her finger furiously, was God's way of uniting me with my soul mate. I yawned and she broke off the friendship for a while. I was relieved, till spiritual friend decided to forgive and forget. Which was annoying often.

After that I was mostly darting behind buildings and trees when I saw her approaching with photographs and albums. She tried hitching me to a pedantic Englishman, a painfully thin and "aromatic" Italian, a brusque 50 year old German and phlegmatic other nationality I don't remember. I got away with some sacrilegious suggestion or other and a whole lotta temporary suspension of friendship for some time, till Sadhvi got her married to an Estonian who was mostly stoned. She flew to Estonia and then moved to England in a container and then onto Mexico crossing the border into the US with her husband in a truck with mostly Spanish people co passengers. It was rather cramped she said in one of her numerous mails to me. But Sadhvi's framed photograph kept her steadfast. Now that her husband is in rehab, she has gone back to work as an "alternate medicine" dispenser in one of Sadhvi's clinic in the US. She is mostly stoned and doesn't trouble me anymore.

It was 10 am when PM walked in. He looked sleepy and disheveled. He barely sat through the new product meeting nodding off now and then. This was very unusual. PM was a dedicated man who was first to arrive in the office and last to leave. He could explain the features and modules of the new application he was building any number of times and repeat it again when I woke up from my slumber. He seemed to be in a lot of distress.

“What happened Srikant?” I asked with unabashed curiosity.
“Didn't have breakfast” he said sleepily. “I am so hungry.”

My eyebrows flew up. This sounded real juicy. “Why don’t you go eat something and come back?” I said sympathetically.  “It’s all right” he shrugged. “What is it that you wanted to talk to me about?” he asked none too enthusiastically.

The next day, he looked even more distressed. So I took him out for lunch. I wanted to be the first to get the dirt. The developers working with him were seen gnashing their teeth in despair. I had, as usual got to the kill before them. Lunch was an extraordinary affair. PM ate like a zombie. After watching him for 10 minutes I finally asked him what was bothering him.

“It is vacation time” he said gloomily. “The family is in my native place.”
That made sense. The poor fellow was missing his wife and kid! My eyes teared up. The man was obviously a softie. I thought his wife was really lucky.
“I am a creature of habit Silverine”, said Srikant, interrupting my happy thoughts. “I am used to Kanchipuram Idlis on Monday morning, Dosa on Tuesday, Pongal on Wednesday, Akki roti on Thursday and Upma on Friday. I cannot eat omelet everyday!!!” I frowned. This didn’t make any sense!

“My lunch is also follows the same pattern! I cannot eat this Cafeteria food! A working man has to eat. It is the least I can ask!!”

I looked at him. It all made sense now. The poor man was struggling for food with the ungrateful wife away on vacation. I picked up the delicious looking payasam and poured him some over his head. Then the paneer makhani followed by the butter chicken masala. Then I kicked his arse all the way to the office where the ladies gave him a tongue lashing. By the time they were done, PM was a changed man. He was heard calling his wife and asking her to stay an extra week at her parents place.

Next day he was bright and early, full of enthusiasm and energy. We patted ourselves on our respective backs and went to work with a sigh of accomplishment.

At lunch, PM opened his tiffin and a delicious aroma filled the dining area. We looked at each other and nodded approvingly. He had obviously made his own lunch. Then his phone rang and we heard him this conversation, “The food is fine amma. But you didn't make curd rice? You know I cannot do without curd rice at the end of the meal!!!”

He didn't know what hit him. But he is recovering fine at the hospital. His mom is making him some special soup for an early recovery. We don’t think there is any hope for him.