“Ko ko ko ko!” Where did this cock appear from? I am not aware of any cocks in the vicinity - except of course for a few cocky males of the species Homo sapiens. In fact I have not set eyes on or heard a real cock crowing in years. Something does not make sense. I try for a few moments to understand where that sound is coming from. All I can see is deep mists from behind which the sound emanates. Slowly the mists clear and my brain wakes up with a shock. It is that darned alarm clock which has been putting on the finest impersonation of a cock that I have ever heard. Not that it makes me appreciate it any more. I am still mad at the cock, sorry at the clock. It takes all my rationality to prevent me from reaching out, picking it up and hurling it at the wall. I still need that cock impersonator tomorrow morning.
I sit up in bed and rub my eyes. I can scarcely open them. I don’t want to open them. Why would I? I have been on the most delightful date of my life. I resent the fact that I have been dragged out of that date without even a good bye hug. Why, oh why? What a stunner he was! Tall, dark and handsome, like he just walked out of some M&B book!
“Hi Swati” he says as he walks into the restaurant giving me his most dazzling smile. Oh the charmer! I am totally swept off my feet. But being the Virgo that I am, I cannot help my critical streak from popping up just then. Why must Daya insist on coming dressed the way he is to a restaurant?
I have known Daya alias Dayanidhi (no, not of the Maran nor of the Azhagiri fame) since I was a kid. He was a daily visitor at our place. One could go to the extent of saying he spent most of his time with us. Daya would make an excellent candidate for a “Fair and Lovely Menz” cream – that is for the “before” version. Shahrukh Khan could do the “after” version if he chooses to, but one thing is for sure, Shahrukh’s “handsomeness” quotient would not be a scratch on my Daya’s, even if he exhausted all stocks of the said cream from all the go downs owned by the manufacturer. In fact, Shahrukh should feel flattered to be shown as the end product of Daya’s transformation!
I look at Daya and give him my most disapproving look. He does not fail to notice it.
“Now what?” he asks looking puzzled.
“Can’t you come appropriately dressed to a place like this?”
“What’s wrong with my dress? Isn’t this how you have always seen me?”
“All that’s fine. There would be no problem if you were coming home. But here of all the places???!!! Do you want to be the centre of attraction? What's with that peacock feather and topless style with all those pearl necklaces?”
“Oh, don’t overreact. Just look around. Not a soul is interested in you or me. Now, if you have finished fighting with me, tell me, why did you want me to meet you here and that too so urgently? The way you called out, it sounded like the world was coming to an end.”
I look around consciously and am surprised to see that it is indeed as he says. No one is looking at us. In fact, we might just as well be invisible! Is everybody BLIND or are they just ignoring us politely?
“Oh, the cook is on French leave today. I was absolutely famished. Now some cove called Murphy seems to have stated that, it is precisely when you think you are going to die of hunger and just on days when the cook decides to act very French that one starts dreaming of all the wickedest things to eat. Why did you have to create that guy Murphy? I had no option other than to come here to fulfil all those gastronomic cravings of mine. Now it is not quite appropriate for an Indian woman to go all alone to a restaurant, is it? Imagine what would happen if the moral police heard of it! So I was wondering whom I could invite over, when I remembered what a good buddy you have been all along. That’s why I thought of calling you over. If you have any objections, you can go back. I shall call some other friend.”
“Oh, cool it lady! I was just wondering at the urgency. I was so busy sorting out some major issues when you called. Listening to your desperate calls, I thought you were in some crisis. I just left what I was doing and rushed here, only to find you sitting here, cool as a cucumber.”
Oh, sure! I know, I know, you don’t need to tell me how important you are and how indispensable your services are. You carry the burden of the entire universe on your shoulders, don't you? Why, if it was not for you, the universe would have wiped out, wouldn't it?” I let out a blast of sarcasm.
“Oh, there you go again! Will you for once stop fighting with me? Tell me, what you’d like to order?”
I pick up the menu card. This time round I read the card from left to right, not the other way round. After all, I need not worry about the bill. God will take care of it.
“What are you planning to have?” I ask. Maybe I can order something else, so I can taste two dishes at one go! I think to myself.
Daya winks at me mischievously and orders ‘Thalipeeth’ with butter. Oh, that is so like him! I get mad once again. He knows only too well that I avoid butter. He guessed my agenda when I asked him what he was going to order. He does not want to share it with me.
“Daya, how many times do I have to tell you, so much butter is bad for the health?”
“Oh, cut that crap, I know you would have brought along a box of your home-made butter for me to eat. You are one smart cookie aren’t you? You avoid butter and foist it on me every time.”
“What do I do Daya? I miss the old times when mom or dad would churn butter early in the morning and little me would be parked right next to them, refusing to budge till I had got my daily quota of butter. Oh! I remember the taste of that butter which would melt in my mouth. The only way for me to recreate those days is for me to sit and churn out some butter from time to time, ogle at it, feel happy, turn it into ghee, smell it, drool over it – don’t be horrified, I don’t mean ‘over’it in the literal, physical sense - and then distribute it to folks who would appreciate it. I can’t eat so much butter and ghee, no matter how much I would love to. I am on a diet, as you know! You, Daya, are more considerate to me. I don’t have to spend so much gas converting butter into ghee. So here is your ‘dabba’ of butter. Remember me when you are eating it. And there is no need to act as if you are doing me a favour by accepting that butter. You love the stuff, I know it. You know what a big sacrifice it is for me to have to cut it out of my diet. You also know how I feel about the fact that you can eat all the butter you like without the scales budging a milligram.”
“This is a new definition to the term ‘buttering’ someone” quips Daya. He has an amused look on his dark features.
I ignore his jibe and order a ‘kanda pohe’ and adrak waali chai. Daya’s eyes sparkle mischievously.
The waiter brings our orders. I sit there, mesmerized, looking at Daya having a go at the thalipeeth and butter and asking for extra helpings of the butter. Whether it is Daya, or Daya eating, or the butter that mesmerizes me, I would be hard pressed to say. Sometime later, I suddenly remember that I was ever so famished and that was the reason I was sitting here. I pick up my spoon and reach out for my plate only to find that the kanda pohe has been polished clean! I look at my plate surprised and then up at Daya. He sits there as if nothing has happened.
“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“What happened to my pohe?” I ask. Is that a look of guilt I see creeping across Daya’s face? I shall not say “shadow” of guilt, as it would be impossible to see any shadow on his dark face.
“You mean to say you wiped my plate clean without my even knowing about it?” I ask shocked.
“I swear by both my moms, I have not touched your pohe” he says, sounding very injured.
“Do you think I am a fool? Just look at my plate” I rage and reach out for my plate to thrust it under his eyes. Suddenly I see it is full.
Blimey! Am I awake or am I dreaming? I blink at the plate, then at Daya. He is watching me with a smile playing at the edges of his lips. I put a spoonful of the pohe into my mouth. It tastes delicious. It even has a buttery taste!!! I have a distinct feeling of floating in heaven.
I hear the strains of a flute playing somewhere in the background. The peacock feather on Daya’s head dances in the breeze of the fan. A few Gopis sit around churning butter. Some cows are grazing on the almost fluorescent green grass around. I have never seen such a shade of green before. I sit under a tree, my back resting on the trunk, my feet stretched out, my eyes closed. A waiter is walking around taking orders. This restaurant, (or is it heaven?) is called ‘Brindavan’.
“Ko ko ko ko!” Where did this cock appear from? Wasn’t it supposed to be a peacock?
Back to my mundane life. I sigh. It was good while it lasted. It is not everyday that one gets to go on a date with God, does one, even if it's only a dream?