It was the most fashionable restaurant in the town. It had recently opened shop around three months ago and had become quite the talk of the town already. It was the kind of restaurant that the small town had never seen before. Before this one, they had only two restaurants in the town – The Navbharat House of Tiffins (We also do catering for weddings and deaths) and Ganesh Fast Foods. In fact they called them restaurants for lack of a better word , they were more like your regular idly and dosa centers. They had a few tables scattered around , you paid money at the counter out at front , told him what you wanted and took a ‘token’ . You presented this token , to the cook at the back , collected your dish and ate it standing at one of the tables. Navbharat, ofcourse , was slightly evolved , it had a “FAMILY ROOM” , where there tables and chairs to sit in front of the tables. You had a waiter attending on you , if you sat at one of those tables. You paid a little more than you would if you had simply taken one of those tokens , and on Sunday evenings , you could see the family room full.
But this one was very different from the rest. It was called “Eatzz and Drinkzzz”. It was a theme restaurant. And its theme was yesteryear Hindi movies. And this actually increased the novelty factor , in that south Indian town , where anything north Indian was looked at as being exotic. You had pictures of yesteryear heroes and heroines ,hanging all across the room , and old hindi songs playing in the background. There were uniformed waiters , decked in white shirts and yellow turbans (albeit a little soiled ones) and there was none of this token non sense. And ofcourse they served both South Indian and North Indian “CUSEENS” , as the restaurant called it.
Very soon , it had become the haunt of the more fashionable folk in the town for eg. the theater owner and his wife , who wore a lot of lipstick and high heels , and was the scandal of the town for a long time , because she had called her husband ‘darling’ in public. Sometimes , even the inspector of the town could be seen there ,with his wife and in laws . Needless to say , he got the best service of them all. It had become the place to go to for all , almost aspirational in a sense. Only the English lecturer in the local college bemoaned of “CUSEENS” , and refused to go there , but was the first to land up there , when the outgoing principal was hosting a party. This place was the most fashionable place in the entire town and if you wanted to impress someone , you simply told them how you had just been to EATZZZ and DRINKZZZ.
And this is where S wanted to take J to. He wanted to impress her before he married her. He worked in the local cooperative bank as a cashier , and his parents , had looked up J , as a matrimonial alliance for him , through the traditional channels. She had finished her BA from the local college , could cook and clean , was good looking and was from a decent family. S’ parents were happy even with the dowry that was being offered. All seemed settled , and when a muhurat was being set for the engagement , S dropped a bomb shell on everyone.
“I want to get to know her ,before I marry her” , he told his parents. Now while this was unusual , it was not quite unheard of. And J’s parents were kind of ok with it , as long as they got to know each other , under their watchful eyes . So they said , no problem , he could come to our house a few times , and talk to her. And then he dropped another bomb shell , “I want to take her out on a date” . This was too much to bear for J’s parents. And they told S , they were a decent family and their girl was a decent girl , who didn’t do “the date stuff” . S was insistent. “Only then will I marry her” , he announced. J’s parents wouldn’t budge. They were even ready to call the wedding off. But J stepped in. She liked S , and wanted to get married to him. So she reasoned with her father. Her father also saw that , S was perhaps one of the more eligible grooms in the town , and after a lot of persuasion , finally gave in. And J’s parents , gave her a lot of lessons on proper conduct during a date , right from how she should drape her sari to and down to what she should talk. They specifically warned her of avoiding any physical contact. It was at this point that her mother had broken down into tears.
Finally the day of the date arrived.. Her mother wished her a tearful farewell and adjusted her sari for the hundredth time. Her father dropped her off at the restaurant. S was waiting for her at the entrance. He was told brusquely by her father that , he would be back in an hour. S nodded obediently. Then , he took her inside and they both sat at a corner table. Her father , wanting to keep an eye on them , just hovered outside the entrance.
Now , S actually had different plans. He had not asked for the date , to get to know her . He already liked her. But he wanted to propose to her , like he had seen in many Hollywood movies. He only half understood those movies , but he watched them regularly on cable television. And he always saw the woman cry and say yes , and everybody around clapping , when the man proposed. And this is exactly what he wanted to. It had been a long standing fantasy of his and besides he also wanted to sweep her off her feet before he married her. And he already had made arrangements for that.
He was friends with the owner of the restaurant and had discussed this thoroughly with him. In the movies , the guy would drop the ring , in a glass of champagne , and when the girl picked up the glass to drink , she noticed the ring , would say yes and cry tears of happiness. But then , he was a good Brahmin , so there would be no champagne. So they decided to settle for a glass of Coke. The waiter would bring two glasses of coke , he would ask her to pick it up and drink it , and the rest would logically follow. He had even arranged for the clapping . The waiters would do it. It all seemed so simple yet brilliant. He was so happy with himself.
And so , according to the plan , a while after they were seated . He asked for coke. She said she didn’t like coke. He was taken aback. He hadn’t anticipated this. He had decided on coke , because it was dark enough , to conceal the ring , he didn’t want her to see it too soon. He started at her stupidly for a while , and asked how about pepsi. She said no to that also. She didn’t not like soft drinks , just water will do , she said. The plan was more and more in danger of falling apart now. He was nervous , he fidgeted for a while , and then an idea struck him. If the water was brought in a glass , she might see the ring , so he asked the waiter to bring the water , in a steel glass, which she couldn’t see through. Though he knew , she was thinking he was weird , he had no other choice.
And so water was brought in a steel glasses , and one of them had a ring in it. The one with the ring was placed before her. And that’s when he made a fatal mistake. In his excitement and a desire to perfectly imitate the movies he had seen, he leaned over towards her , and slightly touched her hand. He wanted to hold her hand , and make a statement of sorts.
Now unfortunately , she was so conditioned not to allow physical contact , that , when she felt his hand touching hers , she suddenly jerked her hand away. And this had the doubly unfortunate effect , of knocking over the flower vase , at the center of the table , which in turn knocked over her glass of water.
He saw this . He sprung into action . The ring had fallen down to the floor , and she hadn’t noticed it yet. So he leapt out of his chair and fell down to the floor to retrieve it before she could see it. Unfortunately the ring , had fallen near her feet. And he started groping on the floor , near her feet , and in his excitement to retrieve it , he forgot everything , and lifted the hem of her saree just a teeny weeny bit , for a better view near her feet.
She was shocked. The guy , she wanted to marry , a pervert!!!! He had tried to touch her hand , and when she hadn’t allowed it , was lifting her sari!!!! She jerked upright and tried to stand all at once. She had tears in her eyes. Unfortunately , in her sudden movement , the table got knocked over ,with all the cutlery on it falling to the ground making a huge clang .
Hearing the sound , her ever alert father , rushed into the restaurant. And J , who had been standing upright , with S at her feet. , saw her father and tears streamed down her eyes. Her fiancé was a pervert , and she had defied her father to come on a date with him . And seeing him now , she wasn’t able to control herself anymore and started crying.
The waiters , who had rushed forward , to set the table upright , saw that J was crying and S was kneeling before her , holding the ring , which he had managed to retrieve.
They had been told many times , by S before , that this was their cue to clap , when they saw J crying.
And they started clapping.
Last heard , the wedding was called off.