The emerald palace,Chennai
The waiter walked by our table for the third time, throwing a judgemental look my way. I had been sitting at the table with Swetha for more than 10 minutes and we hadn’t ordered anything yet.
I ignored him and looked at my watch impatiently.
“My Boss is going to kill me, He’s going to kill me dead” I said “How long is your Dad going to take?”
“Relax Babe, he’ll be here as soon as his morning walk is over” she said placing her palm over my hand. “That’s a habit he hasn’t broken in years.”
“He loves this place?”
“Probably more than he loves me” she laughed tucking a few strands of hair behind her ear (PS: I just love it when she does that)
Even if he did, I couldn’t blame him. He wasn’t the only one in this part of the city who was addicted to “Emerald palace”. The place served the best food in the whole city and even I used to eat here every day, until swetha made me stop.
“Okay, when he comes” she said, “please, please be decent and don’t say anything stupid.”
“You’ll be there to stop me if I’m about to say something stupid anyway right?” I smiled. She said nothing.I looked at her ,eyebrows arched.
“No No No No” I shook my head “Please don’t do this to me…You want me to speak to him alone?”
“Have you lost your mind?”
“Oh Come on! Don’t be such a baby …You can handle this fine”
“Where do I even start?” I cried “should I start with …I want to marry your daughter?”
“Do that and he’ll eat your head instead of his usual breakfast”
“Okay write down on a piece of paper whatever I have to say”
“Honey, we don’t have time for this! We’ve already gone through all this yesterday”.I held my head and stared at the floor.
“Listen, Everything’s going to be alright…Just be yourself” she said as she adjusted my collar from across the table. She also tried to comb my hair with her fingers but I pulled away and then regretted it as she pouted.
She grinned and said “Take a couple of deep brea…..Oh Hi Daddy!”
I looked behind my back and I saw a Fifty – something man in a ridiculous track suit.
Now, I wasn’t very well-known for keeping cool in tense situations.(Of course I lied in my Job interview). I’m not sure whether it was the tension that I was running late for office or that I was meeting my girlfriend’s Dad which made me do one of the things I regret the most in my life, If I had had a gun in my hand at that time I would have gladly swallowed a bullet.
I stood up and blurted out “ Good morning sir!”
The worst part was, I realised a second later that my hand was near my forehead.
Yep, I saluted my girlfriend’s Dad the first time I met him.
All the heads in the restaurant turned towards the weird guy standing in the middle of the room still not putting his damn hand down!
Her father looked at me ,shocked. He recovered a second later and sat down muttering “Good morning”
I sat down sheepishly.
We sat in silence for a whole minute ,All three of us, just staring at the table.
Swetha dived in “ How was your walk Daddy?”
“It was nice sweety” he said.
She nodded ever so slowly thinking of something else to say then looked at me and signalled “Say something!”
“I don’t know what to say!”I signalled back.
Her dad caught us doing this and looked at her questioningly.
“Dad , didn’t I tell you about Venkat?…It’s him” she pointed.
“Hi I”m Venky” I said . Did that sound as cool as I thought it did? I don’t know.
“What is your full name?”he growled.
“Venkataraman Ramakrishnan” I said meekly.
“ I’m Sivakumar” he nodded and we shook hands.
I fell silent.
Swetha was glaring at me and I had no choice but to start a conversation. Wow. I have no idea how she manages to look so beautiful even when she is angry. Uncle had picked up the menu card and it looked to me as if he was trying to memorize its contents.
“Uncle, do you come here every day?” I said after mustering up some courage.
“Everyday after your walk ,I suppose,Uncle” I added.
He nodded again.
Swetha was getting impatient. She excused herself and left me alone with this old guy who couldn’t stop making love to the menu card even for a second.
“Nice,Uncle”I chimed in.
He looked up at me a little annoyed . “ You don’t have to keep saying Uncle”
“Okay sure, Siva”
He looked shocked “What did you call me?” he snarled.
“Oh no no Please God! What the hell is wrong with me” I thought, sweating.
“Sorry uncle! I mean Siva! I mean…Oh God” I pushed both my hands against my mouth to shut myself up.
He kept staring at me spitting fire through his eyes. He took a deep breath and went back to his menu card.
Where the hell was swetha?!
I shamelessly and desperately tried something new.
“What do you do, Mr.Siva?” I said.
I understood from his expression that I had emphasised on the “Mr” a little too much than needed. I slapped myself mentally for that and waited for his answer.
He gave me a ‘Why don’t you just leave me alone, Loser’ look and reluctantly answered “ I’m an LIC agent”
“Oooh! LIC agent, Huh? What a cool and interesting Job!” I tweeted rubbing my hands with fake glee. I was just trying to make nice.
“ What is so cool about that?” he said.
I just stared at him. He placed the menu on the table and looked at me.
“Go on , tell me” he said
A few other eavesdropping busybodies from the surrounding tables turned their chairs towards me trying to get a better view of the show that was unfolding. My embarrassment was entertaining to them.
“Come on” he egged me.
I heard the waiter sniggering as he walked past the table. I couldn’t take it any longer.
“Okay that’s it!” I said getting up.
“Listen here Sir, or whatever you want me to call you, I’m not very good at this as you might already have noticed. But the thing I ‘am’ good at, is loving and taking care of your daughter. I might have screwed up this meeting ,Sorry for swearing sir, I’m a nice guy I promise..”
“Anyway,” I said pulling myself back to the point “ I love your daughter and I want to marry her and spend the rest of my life with her”.
“With or without your permission” I added because I had watched it in a movie and it had worked.
Everyone was staring at me, their mouths wide open. I looked around not knowing what else to say.
“Goodbye” I cried and turned on my heel to dramatically walk away.
But in my frustration and excitement I lost my balance and crashed into the waiter behind me, fell down and banged my head against the floor, spilling hot sambhar over myself, the waiter and yeah… Uncle too.
Now I don’t really remember what happened after that or at least that is what I tell everyone. But in six years of marriage , There hasn’t been a single day my father-in-Law hasn’t reminded me about the ‘Emerald palace’ incident while slapping my back like a giant ape in his laughter fits.
I just hope one of these days his laughter fits give him a heart stroke.
No, I did NOT say that!