Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Visit

It had been a pleasant surprise this morning to receive Ravi’s call. It was crazy that he had lived in Bangalore for the last 2 years and we hadn’t got in touch. It was a crime to say the very least. The day was Saturday, a holiday, and we decided to right the situation without much ado. We agreed that I should visit him the very same day at his home in Banaswadi for lunch. It did not matter that I had to attend a relative’s wedding that day. Weddings are a dime a dozen in Bangalore. My wife Shalini, the kids and my mother would adequately represent us. With such a large contingent from our home, my absence would definitely go unnoticed at the wedding. At least, this was the logic that I used to convince Shalini to go without me.

Thus, having freed myself from the shackles of social righteousness, I set out early to meet a friend who had been my neighbor for 4 years at the student’s hostel 15 years back when we studied engineering. It is such an irony, that the closer the friend, the longer we are comfortable with not keeping in touch. Maybe it has something to do with the confidence we have in the strength of our friendship, the belief that it will last, no matter what.

The locality where my friend lives was unfamiliar to me. I had never been there despite having lived in Bangalore for almost 30 years. But I did have the directions to his house. I always prided myself on being a good navigator who never asks for directions. But this time, I must admit I got a ‘little’ lost, not because I lacked in any way with respect to my navigation skills, but because of a lack of sense on the part of Bangalore’s municipal authorities in how they allot house numbers and in their reluctance to put up boards with street names. To add to my trouble, my cell phone had gone out of charge and I didn’t have my friend’s phone number written down anywhere. But lady luck smiles sometimes without reason and sometimes does not, even when there is lots of reason to smile, leading me to believe that she is nuts. I stopped at a rather large, nice looking house and enquired a woman standing at the gate if she knew my friend. The woman turned out to be Ravi’s wife and this was his house! Bingo!

I introduced myself and was politely invited to come in instead of standing at the gate. Inside the house, I was welcomed by Ravi’s mother and his daughter who was about 8 years old. I had brought a box of chocolates with me, which I promptly handed over to the little girl, to her great delight. I have always maintained that chocolates are the safest gifts that you could possibly carry when you visit someone’s house. This conviction of mine was proved right yet again!

The house was large and tastefully furnished. I settled down at one end of very comfortable sofa in the open drawing room. Before I could enquire, I was told that Ravi had stepped out and would be back soon. So I waited. I attempted making small talk with Ravi’s wife and mother, who however, were more inclined to ensure that I was comfortable and feeling at home.

Soon I had a variety of delectable snacks placed in front of me. I must say the timing was right. I had had a very light breakfast in anticipation of a big lunch and was starting to feel hungry. I attacked the samosas first. They were delicious and I made it known to my hosts. I made a mental note to pick some up from the same shop on my way back. Next, I attacked the kesari bhath, which of course, was home made and was just like how I liked it - full of pure fragrant ghee and roasted cashew.

I was half-way through my kesari bhath, when I heard the gate open and a man entered the house through the main door which had been left open. He glanced at me once as he walked past the drawing room into, what I understood to be the kitchen since I saw Ravi’s wife and mother-in-law flitting in and out of there all the time. I heard them conversing in hushed tones. There was a brief silence before the man came out and said “Excuse me, whom did you want to meet?”

I was taken a little aback, but replied in an inquiring sort of way, “I wanted to meet Ravi?”

The man’s expression did not change. I remember I almost choked on the kesari bhath and spilt the juice on the carpet when he replied, “I am Ravi. What can I do for you?”


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