Humour: An Invitation

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humourous story about Sunday lunch

We had just moved to Gurgaon and were in the process of settling down in our new home.  This was many years back and Gurgaon had not metamorphosed into the city one sees today with its array of luxurious skyscrapers and the ultra modern network of roadways, metro and the galaxy of malls. A few condominiums had just come up and the city had not spilled over to encroach into the domain of the Aravallis, which were clearly visible on a sunny day from nooks and corners of Gurgaon. The roads were without traffic jams and many roads did not even have traffic signals. Sighting peacocks in the middle of the roads and driving past stray nilgais, was not an uncommon feature. 

Anyway, the landscape of Gurgaon has little to do with what I am about to narrate. My husband came home from the office one day and said that one of his juniors had invited us to their place for lunch the following Sunday. This felt good. We knew few people around and social outings were limited. This would be a break. I began to look forward to Sunday lunch. 

It was a blazing hot May afternoon and we reached their apartment block around 1 pm. The building did not have a lift and we had to take the stairs to reach the 3rd floor. We saw the name on the door, pressed the bell and waited. After a patient one minute wait, I pressed the bell again. This time we could hear the sound of hurrying feet. The door opened and a pretty young woman in churidar kurta, with a somewhat disheveled appearance looked at us and exclaimed – Oh! 

Was she expecting other people? I had no clue. Akash politely asked – Soumen Basu? This time she flung open the door fully and ushered us in exclaiming – Yes, yes, please come in. Soumen has gone out, he will be in just now. Do sit. I am Riya, Soumen’s wife. 

We smiled politely and Riya motioned us towards some chairs circling a centre table. The table had a pile of newspapers and magazines carelessly stacked upon it. We sat down and Riya sat with us. I glanced around. The room had very little furniture. Besides the seating arrangement, there was a small dining table with two chairs, and on the wall ticked a wall clock. Thankfully there was an air cooler and Riya switched it on. The cool air whisked away some of the furnace like heat and we began to breathe more normally. 

 

There were a few minutes’ uncomfortable silence. It is difficult to make small talk when you hardly know someone and when you are hungry. Akash had picked up the day’s paper and was shielding his face. Men are lucky that way. They can tide away any uncomfortable situation by plunging into newspapers with whole hearted focus. Women are not that lucky. They have to be saviours in  uncomfortable situations. 

Riya broke the silence and volunteered some information. 

– Soumen has gone to get chicken. The market is a little far from here. He will be in soon. Then he will cook the chicken. 

Riya smiled. I too tried to smile to keep company. But my insides turned. Gone to get chicken? What did she mean by that? It was already past one o clock. When would it cook? Anyway, Riya was lucky. The job of cooking was not entrusted to her. Akash should take a cue from this. Before my thoughts could go further, a strong smell of something burning assailed our nostrils. Akash thrust aside his newspaper and Riya jumped up. 

– Oh my God!  I think that’s the dal…. 

She rushed towards the kitchen. I set aside formalities and rushed in with her. A burnt odour had filled the entire kitchen. Riya switched off the gas burner. There was nothing left of the dal or to be precise, moong dal, anymore. A dark, brownish black mess had stuck to the kadhai bottom. Riya looked at me pitifully and said

– We can’t have this. 

I shook my head. I couldn’t agree more. One item was certainly off the lunch menu and one hadn’t even arrived in its raw state. Had Riya cooked rice? 

It is difficult to make small talk when you hardly know someone and when you are hungry. Akash had picked up the day’s paper and was shielding his face. Men are lucky that way. They can tide away any uncomfortable situation by plunging into newspapers with whole hearted focus. Women are not that lucky. They have to be saviours in uncomfortable situations.

We came back to the sitting room. Akash had again picked up his paper. If there was to be any quiz on the day’s Times of India, I could place a bet that Akash would be the topper. The clock was ticking away and there was no sign of Soumen. Those were not the days of the cell phone and people could not be tracked down. The hunger pangs were becoming quite unbearable now. Did Riya sense this? For she suddenly said 

– Would you like to have apples? I have some. 

There was no question of saying “no”. The growling stomach thrust away social niceties. It would welcome anything that was edible. 

Riya hurried in and got two apples and a knife on a plate. She shoved aside some newspapers  to make space on the centre table and proceeded to cut the apples. The plate was wobbling. It hadn’t been placed properly. I was just about to say this, when Riya squealed and jumped up. She had cut her finger with the knife. The blood ran out and she flung the knife away. Akash sprang up just in time. The blade had missed his ankle by a scratch. 

Blood was oozing out of Riya’s finger and a few drops fell on the apples. It was time to take charge. 

– Do you have Dettol? 

Riya shook her head vaguely. 

–  Okay, never mind. Let’s go to the kitchen. Sugar will do as well,  

I assured her. This was a tried and tested home remedy. The finger stopped bleeding after pressing it down with a lump of sugar. First-aid over, we came back. Akash did not have the paper in front of him anymore. He perhaps did not feel safe shielding his face with papers while women flung knives around. One needed to be watchful. 

– Can we have the apples? 

Riya turned her face towards me. I looked at the plate. Droplets of blood had soaked into a few apple slices. Akash looked at me with a stricken face. Luckily, the doorbell rang and I didn’t have to answer. 

Soumen entered the room. His face was red and flushed with the heat. But his hands were empty. There was no plastic bag dangling from his hands to shout out – yes, food had finally arrived ! 

Soumen started apologising profusely. Yes, he had indeed gone to get chicken, but the store nearby had run out of stock, so he had to go further ahead. He did manage to find another place, but that too had its shutters down.  In the meantime his bike had a flat tyre. That took a while to fix. 

Akash stood up. He spoke in an amiable tone. 

–  Let’s go out for lunch. Riya has cut her finger, so she can’t do much. It will be good to eat out. 

Soumen tried to say something about calling up and ordering some food from a nearby place. But Akash patted him on the back and said 

–  Aare yaar, chalo! 

And we were out of the house. 

Lunch was finally at a Punjabi restaurant – one of those hearty places which serve wholesome  butter chicken, paneer tikkas and daal makhani with dollops of cream. The meal was wrapped up with kesar kulfis. 

There isn’t much to guess about who footed the bill. Akash settled it. Riya turned her limpid eyes towards him and said happily 

– Dada, we should have more afternoons like today! 

Akash’s facial expression for that one fleeting instant, would have been any  photographer’s  delight!  

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7 Responses

  1. This is hilarious ! Read it at one go and we laughed our lungs out. The wit humour and portrayal of Akash is done so wisely. You are an amazing storyteller !

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