We’re a charming people, us Indians.
Nobody, bar none, celebrates life like we do. Festivals is what the year is all about, with the occasional bout of work.
Food is the whole point of the day, and tasks are what fill up the vacuum. And everybody you meet is your friend. I mean that quite literally: nobody is a stranger. People who stay next door, people you meet in the train, the person in the car next to you at a traffic signal – everybody is everybody’s friend.
But today’s column is about how this might end up being a problem.
I met a person the other day, you see. Now, I should make it clear that our acquaintance was made under entirely professional circumstances. We met in the context of work, each of us representing the organizations who paid our monthly wages. This was not the long awaited reunion of friends who had known each other for years – this was two people working on a project, after which they would likely never meet again.
Said project kicked off in the early hours of the ante meridian, and proceeded quite amicably until a little after noon. At which point of time, hunger made its presence felt, and both parties in question started playing that game most beloved by all of us.
“What shall we do about lunch?”
Chinese, I hopefully suggested, and was politely rebuffed. Indian, came the salvo in response, and I was only too happy to acquiesce. Which, as is well known, is only the opening move in this long and intricate negotiation.
South Indian, I asked by way of my next move, to which a firm denial was issued. I prefer food from up north, was the other party’s response. Now, if you are keeping score, you will know that my counterpart had boxed himself into a corner.
Every single Indian learns this at her mother’s knee: in the Khaana Kidhar Khaane Ka game’s etiquettes, if you’ve said no twice, you have to say yes the third time. I can’t quite remember which article it is, but I am sure it is a part of the Indian constitution.
And so I was fairly sure what I would be eating for lunch when I responded with: “Well, ok then. How about chole bhature?” There’s this restaurant close to where I work which serves a mean c.b.,and I was already salivating at the thought.
But there was, I was horrified (and a little offended) to see, the beginning of negation from the other side. “Yaar, sorry,” said the other, and there was a genuine note of apology in his voice. He knew as well as I did that he was in the wrong.
“I can’t do chole bhature”, he went on to say. “Gas ho jaati hai.”
I had, I’ll remind you, known said gentleman for about three hours, at best. I likely would never meet him again. I’m glad – nay, honored – that he would consider me a friend. But do I really need to know what foods make him tootle his horn? Lie, if you must, and say you’re allergic. But spare me, dear newly acquired friend, the details.
Friendly, as I was saying, to a fault.
He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime