Bangalore introduced me to a few things, including software engineers. When I shifted shores from Delhi to join a global management consulting and technology services company in Bangalore, my parents saw a beacon of hope. I was 27, single and ready to do some mingling.
I settled well in the new city, enjoying the abundance of Vada-Sambar and Puliyogare rice. Not to mention the take away Mutton Rolls from Lazeez whenever I went shopping on Commercial Street.
But the only mingling I did was with my elderly neighbors to get the scoop about the best places to eat “South Indian” food. Or at work with my team which was somewhat a motley crew. We soon formed a group of foodies, who would go out on late night Shawarma jaunts. And embrace each other’s cuisines with wide open mouths during lunch at work.
She had already marked a few prospective grooms who had advertized in that Sunday’s matrimonial page. The keywords were “Bengali” and “Bangalore”.
For the next few days the phone, the Sunday Times of India, a pen and her glasses became her best pals. In the evenings, when I was back from work, she would make me type out inane emails to “boys” who had given out email addresses in their four-line sales pitch.
A meeting was organized with couple of prospective grooms who seemed pretty eager to fit into my Mum’s plan of having them over for coffee in my apartment over the coming weekends.
I am not exaggerating when I say I was aloof and completely disinterested about this very exciting thing happening in my life. One such particular Prospect was to come to meet us on Saturday at 6 PM. My enthusiastic Mum got mishti from outside and began doing prep work for some prawn pakoras. I was to make coffee.
The Prospect arrived pretty much on time, which was a promising sign to begin this outrageously dramatic evening. I noticed he was fumbling on the decision to do a traditional nomoshkar by folding his hands or shake hands with my Mum when she opened the door for him. In the end he couldn’t make up his mind in the five seconds he had, so he let his left hand scratch his right.
I was very amused.
All three of us were seated and the only person talking was of course my Mother. The Prospect worked in a big IT company, and had recently returned from the US of A where he did his PhD. Good catch, eh?
In the middle of his one-way conversation with my Mum, I saw him sneaking glances at my books and CDs.
My Mother went to the kitchen to deep fry her prawn pakoras. This was her plan to let The Prospect and me talk. Very clever, Mommy. All that was heard was the chaak-chuk coming from the kitchen and a stony silence between The Prospect and me.
A hearty spread of evening “snacks” was served, including my Mum’s prawn pakoras. Now let me give you an important piece of information about my Bangalore apartment. I had all my furniture in cane and rattan. Looked pretty dainty and my domestic help could move them around to scrub the floors neatly.
I don’t blame Bengali bachelors living away from their over indulgent Mothers jumping on the sight of food. But what The Prospect did next was blasphemous. He picked up a HOT prawn pakora with his HAND and put it in his mouth, muffling my Mum’s cry of “Careful, its hot!”.
In between gulping the hot pakora down and opening his mouth wiiiiide to nurse the scald, the Prospect ignored the bunch of paper napkins kept on the coffee table and wiped his oily fingers on the sides of the rattan chair he was seated on.
Now such things never miss a house cleaning freak like me. I marched to the kitchen, brought out a kitchen towel, sprayed it with some cleaning slash disinfecting agent, muttered a terse “excuse me” and rubbed the oil spot on the armrest of the rattan chair.
My Mum had an I-am-not-surprised look on her face. The Prospect was trying to ignore what I was doing by looking away.
The remaining evening was spent in an awkward silence with only the sound of The Prospect chomping on the pakoras and the mishti.
My Mum signaled me to get the coffee to end the evening quickly. Now I make a special coffee. Equal quantities of Nescafé and sugar beaten with drops of water till the coffee granules and sugar melt and turn into a creamy, fluffy, light brown mixture.
Then I pour hot milk and water (half and half) onto the beaten coffee and sugar. The result is a rich, creamy, frothy cup of bliss.
You will agree that having a good life is all about finding the right balance. My next move made sure that The Prospect found that balance in a cup of coffee. I warmed the milk just mildly and mixed it with cold water and poured it over the already prepared coffee-sugar mixture. He was nursing an already burnt mouth, I knew he couldn’t handle a hot cup of fine coffee. I also made sure the skin of the milk was floating in his cup.
The rest of the two cups for my Mum and me had the right temperature of milk and water!
I shot him a 400-watt smile.