My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. Studies come first, 2. Don’t sleep around with random women and 3. Don’t eat meat. The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.
I come from a very conservative South Indian family. As expected of every middle class Indian boy, I finished my engineering with flying colours. I was recruited by a top software company straight out of college, thus enhancing my family’s standing in the society. I worked hard for three years, preparing for GMAT on the side, as every middle class Indian software engineer does at some point of his life.
The moment I aced my GMAT and got interview calls from a couple of reputed universities in the U.S, my parents registered my profile on a matrimony website. My feeble protests were drowned by their 100 megaton bombs of ‘You are a young boy. You don’t know,’ and ‘We know what we are doing, don’t you trust your own parents?’ The Little Boy and Fat Man atomic bombs that were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a combined blast yield of only 36 kilotons. Hey, I’m from a conservative South Indian family. We like our trivia, alright?
Coming back to the matrimony profile, my mom had already initiated conversations with parents of three prospective brides, all from Bay Area. So typical, you might think. It’s ok, go ahead. I thought the same too. I didn’t feel like breaking the castles my mom was building in the air by mentioning trivial issues like getting an admit, getting a scholarship, getting a student visa, completing the course, getting head-hunted, getting a work visa etc.
I did get an admit from one of the prestigious universities. I think my dad’s chest expanded to its full 56 inches and my mom’s grin was so wide that I remembered my old Tamil teacher’s comment. There is a verse in Tamil literature that describes the beauty of the heroine’s eyes by describing them as stretching till her ears. My teacher used to extend that simile to our grins by describing our mouths appearing as if they were stretched to our ears. I think I understood what she meant the moment I looked at my mom’s grin.
Soon, the D-day arrived and I was all set to fly to the land of dreams and obscenely expensive idlis and dosas. My dad, the pseudo-Gandhian that he is, gave me the aforementioned life rules. I know that I promised him just to make him stop bugging me, but the twenty three hour flight journey gave me ample time to contemplate. Well, that and the nasty bit of turbulence that made me deposit my lunch into the barf bag with Jurassic park sound effects. I’m not ashamed to say that my life flashed before me for a microsecond. I thought about my dad’s rules and realized that I could uphold them without any issues.
The first rule was so easy, that I almost laughed. C’mon, asking a conservative South Indian to concentrate on studies is something like asking the sun to shine or asking the U.S President to tweet something stupid. Don’t worry! That’s what we do, people. The second one was also easy. I didn’t have to worry about sleeping with random women, no one was ready to sleep with me. Problem solved. That’s what I thought.
Until I met Sarah Lee Jones.
Beautiful Sarah Lee Jones with her twinkling blue eyes, body that would put a Goddess (not a Hindu one! I’m not a cheapo, alright?) to shame, and her oh-so-sexy southern drawl. The moment I saw her, I forgot the faces of the matrimony.com girls. I had fallen, and fallen hard. That was no surprise. What was a surprise was that she fell in love (gradually, obviously!) with me as well.
And that’s how we come to the situation I narrated at the beginning. You see, Sarah Lee comes from a proud Texan family and if you have seen enough American sitcoms, you’d know that the Texans love their meat. Especially beef, which comes from a cow, an animal that my family worships. It just so happens that Sarah Lee’s dad, Mr. Jones has this weird rite-of-passage thing for his daughter’s potential boyfriends. Yup! Just Mr. Jones. I haven’t got the qualifications to call him by his first name yet. I mean its ok. I would have been forced to call the Bay Area girl’s father as uncle. I was happy to call this former line-backer Mr. Jones or Sir.
Coming back to the rite-of-passage thing, it involves the potential boyfriend eating Mr. Jones’ special cheeseburger. Sarah Lee smirked when she said only two of her ex-boyfriends had managed to polish off the cheeseburgers. The others were chased away with the promise of an ass-kicking. How many boyfriends did she have before me? I think that’s a problem for a later date, provided I survive this cheeseburger episode. Now, do you understand my predicament?
On one hand, I want to uphold the rules my dad had imposed on me and on the other hand I don’t want to hurt the one person, other than my parents, who loves me. I spent the week thinking of ways to escape from the cow-meat-bun fiasco that was waiting for me with a vengeance. Various scenarios played out in my mind, all ending with Mr. Jones humiliating me and his daughter dumping me. I needed an inspiration and that meant only one thing.
$10 filter kaapi!
I spent nearly fifty bucks on coffee alone and felt nowhere inspired. In fact, I felt a little acidic. I was about to give up when I saw it. My caffeine infused brain started working in overdrive and I grinned. And burped.
I made my preparations and left for Angleton, Texas. Sarah Lee had pinged me the location pin to their house and I took a $49 cab journey to reach the place. Their house was in the suburbs with ample space in front and back. The Indian in me immediately calculated the number of houses I could construct and give them for rent. There was a strong odour wafting from the backyard. It must be the minced cow meat burning. I resist the urge to throw up all over their porch and ring the bell.
Sarah Lee opens the door and places a light kiss on my lips. Ha! I nearly forgot to gloat about the fact that I have a girlfriend. Who kisses me. And stuff. Alright, back to the story.
Sarah Lee takes my hand and leads me to the backyard where the Jones family areseated. Mr. Jones, at nearly 7 feet, towered over me.
‘C’mon in, Son! You ready to taste my famous Cheeseburger?’
He pumped my hand furiously, ‘Grab a plate. You don’t want to miss the first batch.’
I gulped and tried to reply, but only a squeak came out of my throat.
‘What was that?’
I cleared my throat, and with as much as confidence I could muster said, ‘I’m a vegetarian, Sir.’
He looked at me as if I was some kind of a circus freak. ‘Vegetarian? You should have told me, Sarah Lee. I wouldn’t have wasted this perfectly fine beef. Say, do you worship the damn cows, son?’
‘As a matter of fact, I do. Sir!’
‘Brings a complete new meaning to the word Holy Cow, doesn’t it?’ He bellowed a sarcastic laughter. I realized that I had had enough.
‘Mr. Jones, I have a proposal for you.’
He stopped laughing and looked at me with curiosity, ‘and what’s it, son?’
‘I’ll finish your cheeseburger, provided you could finish a signature dish from my household.’
‘Alright! What’s that?’
I opened my backpack and retrieved the Tupperware box from inside. I removed the lid and placed it on the table. The dark brown puliogare grinned with evil intent at Mr. Jones.
He looked a bit unsure. He took the box in his huge hands and moved it tentatively towards his nose. He winced at the strong tangy smell emanating from within.
‘Son, what the hell is this?’
‘Oh, just rice. With some tamarind, dried chilly, mustard and assorted spices. Please try it. I guess you could call it zingy.’
Mr. Jones took a few morsels and popped them into his mouth. His eyes widened almost cartoon-esque and he reached for the jar of lemonade almost immediately. He took greedy swigs and blew out air.
I reached for the cheeseburger. Fair’s fair right?
Mr. Jones placed his hand on my shoulder, ‘Forget about the cheeseburger, son. I think we have some mashed potatoes and okra.’
I grinned, ‘Terrific! They’ll go perfectly with the puliogare.’
Needless to say, neither puliogare nor cheeseburgers were served at our wedding.
Please find my earlier entries below