Disclaimer : Way back in history, in 1988-89, I sent this story to Femina and they were kind enough to publish it.
Cupid moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. His idea of a romantic setting for me was a busy road. There was this lovely girl in white walking towards me and my heart started pole-vaulting.
I brushed my unruly hair back, pulled my shirt into shape and walked in as dashing a manner as possible thereby managing to fall flat on my face. It is rather difficult to appear dashing and debonair when you are tripping over your shoelaces and entering into tête-à-tête conversations with the pavement. It is true that I wanted to lay my heart at her feet but
seemed to have taken me too literally.
It was ever thus. My ability to enter into the most promising situations and come out with egg on my face is a byword among my acquaintances.
wait for me to come by before deciding to explode into smithereens. Doors have
a mysterious appetite for my fingers and there has rarely been a projection on
a road that has not had the pleasure of tripping me. It seems pretty likely
that there was some kind of a mix-up in the assembly department in Heaven while
they were making me. I seem to have ended up with two left feet and all thumbs
instead of the normal quota of feet and fingers. They seemed to have decided to
make an absolute bungler and did a thorough job of it with me as the resultant
My Guardian Angel has, ever since, been having a tough time getting me out of the various scrapes that I invariably got into. He was a thoroughly conscientious chap, possibly because of remorse. Even with his levels of performance it was a stupendous task to have got me to meet this girl again. A most commendable job!
It so happened that a friend of mine was a close friend of hers and, so, we met at his house by sheer happenstance. My friend introduced us to each other. Now was the time for some silver-tongued oratory. Unfortunately, my tongue was engaged in a private discussion with the roof of my mouth and could not be persuaded to indulge in verbal gymnastics.
It was obvious that my friend was perplexed. Having been used to my indulgence in verbal diarrhea, he was quite prepared to rescue Shalini (my dream girl!) from my monologue. My uncharacteristic silence caught him flat footed and it was obvious that he was confused.
Luckily for him, Shalini did not wait for him to set the conversational ball rolling. After some time, obviously tired of the roof-of-the-mouth’s company, my tongue condescended to fall in with my wishes. After uttering a few select spoonerisms and malapropisms and liberally tasting my foot, it fell silent only when the meeting was adjourned.
There is no accounting for tastes. One would have thought that, after the demonstration of gymnastics in the street and the subsequent exhibition of foot-in-the-mouth disease, any intelligent female would have decided that ducking out of my sight is the only courtesy to be displayed. Shalini did appear intelligent otherwise, but for her insane interest in moving with me. Well! If she was bent upon making a fool of herself who was I to complain? Besides, one cannot discount the idea of the conscientious Guardian Angel at work.
Then came a month of miracles! One month in which I did not trip a single time on the streets; one month in which no friend had reason to bemoan the untimely demise of his favorite china vase; one month in which doors had turned vegetarian and treated my fingers considerately; one month in which Nature held its breath and waited for the inevitable explosion.
And it came! Shalini and I were to dine at a restaurant. I had been postponing this outing, primarily because I had had nightmares of tripping over every table and breaking innumerable glasses that are invariably present in these restaurants with Shalini looking on in horrified wonder. Unfortunately, my scruples about ruining the Insurance company that handled the restaurant’s business was construed by Shalini to be sheer parsimoniousness and, as any knowledgeable person can tell you, more romances are nipped in the bud due to suspicions of parsimony than are ruined by suspected infidelity. So, I had to bow to the inevitable and take her out.
Having safely navigated my way through the horrific maze of tables and a forest of glasses inviting me to break them, I comfortably seated myself with a sigh of relief. I excused my Guardian Angel his oversight in allowing me to stub my toe while seating myself. Even an Angel is not perfect!
The Customer Service Executive (he was too grand to be a mere waiter) had taken our orders and departed. We were sure of no intrusions on our privacy for the next hour or so after which he would deign to reappear at out table. Much as it has caused irritation to many customers, this practice was well in favor with young lovers desirous of privacy.
I had reverted to my usual self after that one initial instance of tongue-tied ness and thus it was that I was expounding at length about the philosophy of life while Shalini warded off boredom by constantly defending herself against the salt and pepper containers that I kept knocking into her face with the extravagant gestures that characterized my conversation. Noticing the signs of irritation in her face despite my preoccupation with the sound of my voice I placed my hands in the safe sanctuary of my knees and wondered miserably about how to make a conversation without making it a monologue. Surely even a temporarily insane Shalini could not withstand the onslaught of words that I invariably unleashed in any company.
The haughty Customer Service Executive reappeared in the midst of my misery and deposited our orders on the table with the air of a king showering largesse on his deserving populace. He even went so far as to open the bottle of sauce and place it at Shalini’s disposal. The benevolent beam on his face looked like an avuncular blessing though it may merely have been the anticipation of a large tip that activated the muscles of his face.
Shalini was reaching for the pepper when my chivalrous instincts woke up. “Allow me”, I said and lifted my hands with the sure deftness of an experienced chevalier. At least that was how it was intended but, unless chevaliers make it a habit to get their hands entangled in the table-cloth, something had gone wrong in the works. Whatever it may be, the net result was that
1. two steaming plates of noodles.
2. the contents of a bottle of sauce
3. two glasses of water
4. two containers of pepper and salt
fell into Shalini’s lap.
She seemed to neither appreciate the chivalry nor her favorite dish. Apparently the fact that the noodles had gone on to her lap instead of into her mouth made a difference to her appreciation of the dish. Ah! Women are an unfathomable mystery!
Shalini rose in anger. Her eyes transfixed me to my chair while she stalked off to the washroom scattering noodles and tomato sauce with gay abandon. The restaurant was convulsed with mirth and the Customer Service Executive appeared in imminent danger of popping off with apoplexy while he walked circles holding his stomach and whooping with laughter. A good time was being had by all while the cause of all this fun writhed in misery. Shalini emerged from the washroom, flicked a contemptuous noodle at me and stalked out of the restaurant.
I rose precipitately from my chair, knocking the table down in the process, and ran after her only to be stopped by the iron hand of the Customer Service Executive. Once again in history, Commerce impeded the rash course of youth’s love.
Having settled the restaurant’s bill, after discovering that they were un-commercial enough not to have insured themselves against damages, I walked moodily out with a heavy heart and a light purse and slid down the stairs to the pavement. Thoughts of suicide were uppermost on my mind but I could not convince myself that I would succeed any better in this attempt. If I were to try to hang myself, I would only goof up the knot and fall flat on my face. Having done this often enough, while engaged in less dramatic activities, this exercise had lost its novelty. Poisoning would probably result in extensive nausea and an attempt at drowning would only find me trying to do so desperately in two feet of water. The life of a bungler is certainly hard because life is hardly worth living and dying was an act beyond his limited capabilities.
Thus walking dejectedly I raised my head to see Shalini coming back. Was that a smile on her face? I ran towards her, tripped over a sleeping dog, executed a perfect double somersault and fell flat on my face on the pavement.