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April 02, 2004 12:49 IST
My Tam Bram friend was madly in love with his Catholic girlfriend, though he dreaded the thought of interacting with her family. Their stiff Western etiquette -- they ate idlis with a fork and knife -- both bored and unnerved him. He was a lovable boor of bohemian habits who preferred to reach across the table, and three fellow diners, for the sugar than ask for it to be passed to him. She obviously loved him just as much, for she suffered his bumbling efforts at dinner-table courtesy with stern amusement.
One day the two of them attended a wedding, to which her parents and younger sister were also invited. It was to be his first meeting with them and she had prepared him well for the encounter.
Her instructions: "Greet the ladies. Warmly embrace them. Shoulder to shoulder, no hands around the waist. Kiss them gently on both cheeks. If you are afraid the makeup will come off, press your cheek gently to theirs and make a kissing sound. Don't squeeze my sister too hard! When you meet my dad, greet him warmly and shake his hand.'
They had a few practice sessions and a dry run at home with a friend. Resplendent in a white shirt, traditional dhoti and gold-embroidered veshti, he left for the wedding ahead of his girl (she was to arrive with her parents). En route, he bumped into a college friend, a known cannabis smoker, who offered to share his joint. Now, my friend has few vices but this happened to be one of them. Initially he resisted, but finally succumbed to a few tokes. By the time he arrived at the wedding, he was five minutes late and hallucinating uncontrollably.
Her parents had already arrived. His girlfriend was frowning at him impatiently. As she introduced him, her father raised an eyebrow at this young suitor in traditional garb. My friend took a second to process his instructions. He reached forward and shook hands firmly with his girlfriend's mother and sister. Then, in one swift motion, he gathered his girlfriend's stupefied father in a warm embrace and kissed him on both cheeks.
Convinced that he had done well, he looked at his girlfriend in triumph. She looked away, aghast. Her sister was giggling. The parents, evidently rattled, did not say a word.
Four years later, my friend and his girlfriend are happily married.
Bijoy Venugopal, Mumbai
The company I work for specialises, among other things, in information security. In 2001, when IT security was the fad, we would make our solutions seem attractive by presenting the unimaginable and unthinkable consequences that could unfold by way of hackers and malicious worms.
The prelude to a corporate presentation was a telephone call where we generally introduced our company, the services we provided and fixed an appointment for a personal meeting.
I began one such call to the IT manager of a large public sector units by introducing our company as one of the pioneers in IT security. I named some of our more famous clients. I talked for five minutes on vital need for IT security.
The gentleman gave me a patient hearing. "Well," he said when I was finally done, "we already have a security guard in front of our office."
Govind Haridas, Chennai
Ever since a friend described in vivid detail a terrifying dream she had about spiders, I've been petrified of them.
Once, I was in the washroom in a client's office and saw the dreaded creature making its way towards me. I was in a situation where I was unable to move. Practically defenceless, I tried to shoo the spider away with toilet paper. But the spindly creature seemed determined to head in my direction. The closer it came, the more I panicked. I couldn't even scream for help; after all, I was in my client's office. What would he think of me?
Just then, I remembered something I'd read about insects camouflaging themselves by nestling close to colours similar to their own. The bathroom tiles were spotless white and I was wearing a grey suit. No wonder the spider sensed an affinity. I chided myself for wearing grey and frantically looked for something to distract the creature that was now less than a foot away.
Suddenly I had an idea! I lifted the wastepaper basket, which thankfully was a nice royal blue, and placed it between the spider and me. The spider stopped in its tracks. Relieved, I took a closer look. It had so many tentacles that I instantly concluded it belonged to one of the deadlier varieties.
I began to worry if a mere wastepaper basket could stop this menacing creature. I glanced at it again. And realised that the menacing spider was in fact a soiled cotton seed. I will leave it to your imagination as to how foolish, and relieved, I felt!
Bellinda D'Souza, Hyderabad
Time to bargain
My friend greeted me at Miami airport. We were driving home when I asked if it was possible to pick some flowers and fruits on the way.
We stopped at the local Friday market, which looked like it had been transported straight from India.
"How much these apples cost?" I asked a vendor.
"$2.50 a pound," he said.
"Please give me three pounds then," I said and handed him a $ 10 note.
He gave me the fruit and $4 in change.
As I stared at him in surprise he grinned, "You forgot to bargain!"
Sarat K Swain, Boston
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Illustrations: Dominic Xavier