The Thumb Rules
Posted October 21, 2009on:
‘Welcome to The Imperial Grand, sir. May I take your coat, Ma’am? I have reserved your usual table by the window, sir.’
‘Thanks, Jim. My son will be joining us, so could you show him to the table?’
The maître d’ nodded his most sincere assent and politely shuffled off with the coats in his hand.
The restaurant was like any other posh restaurant, where you could order a cheese sandwich worth 20 bucks for 210 INR (excluding taxes) and go home happy that you have maintained your social status by spending a lot over half a peanut. The atmosphere was filled with the fake laughter of women, the perfunctory ‘How do you do?’s of men, little children in tight suits, bow ties, shiny shoes and carefully parted hair with a look that resembled an alien wondering where the extra hand was growing from, waiters floating around with slick smiles fantasizing about the tip they might earn from that table, the muffled screeches of knives, forks and spoons against the china, the occasional wink from a wine glass. The smug whispers around the room were louder than the cheers at any rock concert. This melee of silence was broken by an ungainly sound like that of a machine gun – rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-tick.
A thousand eyes rose up to follow the maître d’ leading a boy to the table near the window. The greetings within the family were punctuated by the same machine gun sound and this time, the eyes that rose were angrier, but polite.
‘Bunty, what are you (rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-tick) going to do about (tick-tick-tick-rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-tick) your future (tick-rat-a-tat-a-tick)?
‘No, what are you (rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-tick-rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-tick) going to (rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-rat-a)… Will you stop the goddam thing?’
‘Am sorry, what pa? Can you be a bit clearer?’
‘About your future, what… Will you put that damned cell phone inside?!’
‘Raj, don’t shout at him. Not in front of all these people at least. Mrs. Khanna just gave me a weird nod.’
‘I don’t care about your Mrs. Khanna. It’s because of you he’s turned out this way.’
‘Raj, not again. He’s just 23, he’s just a kid. Give him some time…’
‘At the age of 23, I used to work 18 hours a day. I was the sole breadwinner after my father… Bunty, you take that damned thing out of your pocket again and no pocket money for you this month!’
‘Why do you scold him? It was you who bought him that expensive a cell phone because he passed in all his subjects this time.’
‘Well, at least he did it in his third attempt…’
‘Raj, what do you think he should do, now that he has passed out? The Guptas have made their son the MD of their company and the Mohans have sent their son for his MBA to Finland…’
‘I think he should stand on his own feet.’
‘Ah, typical bollywood dialogue. Can’t you be original, for once? And practical??’
‘The way I see it, he hasn’t figured out what (tat-a-tick-rat-a-tat-a-rat-a-tat-a-tick) he wants to (tick-tick-rat-tick-tick) do…’
In one quick motion, Raj snatched the gadget from his son’s hand and walked out in a huff, upending the tumultuous peace of the room. Mrs. Khanna almost glared.
‘I just don’t understand who he keeps messaging, all the time!’ said Raj to himself, before opening the inbox on his way to the restroom. Never taking his eyes off the cell phone, he pushed open the door and went inside. It is often said that a blind man who is drunk to his gills can pin the tail on a donkey better than a sober, 6/6-visioned man with a cell phone in his hand. An unearthly mix of powder, mascara and what-not tickled his olfactory system in a rather irritating way. Women screaming about a man in the ladies’ restroom poured into the hotel lobby.
‘…since this was your first ever offence, I will let you off with a small warning, Mr. Ahuja,’ said the judge, in severe tones, ’but anything like this, ever again, and I will make sure that you spend a lot of time cooling your heels and counting the bars. Do you understand?’
Mr. Ahuja almost nodded his assent, when his cell phone beeped. In the silent courtroom, presided by a judge known for her merciless nature when it comes to issues related to women in general, this sounded like a bell tolling the departure of a train bound for hell.
‘Three weeks in the prison, Mr. Ahuja’ said the judge, ‘and social work for three more weeks after that!’
Thud! The sound of the gavel had a baseball-bat-hitting-your-face ring to it as he whipped out his mobile to see the name of the person he was going to kill after his brief stint in the limbo. The message, from his one and only son, the fruit of his loins, the heir to his empire, read:
“Ws juSt cHecKing 2 C if ur moBile ws in SiLenT. HaHaHa, reAd & FwD 2 ur FrnDs… LoL!”