Rotisserie riots: Why peace is not on the menu
Suresh Pattali's musings on everyday life
Last night, I was run over by a battalion of kids playing train by holding each other’s shoulders. Where the tragedy happened is more exciting than the antecedents of the little ruffians, who not only smashed my weekend dreams to smithereens, but also dismembered my concept about children. The incident occurred in a high-profile restaurant.
Let me take anticipatory bail before I move on.
I love kids, of any age or gender. I am like a magnet to them. At parties in Dubai and Singapore long ago, mums would take advantage of my kid-friendly demeanour to serenade their howling kids to sleep, leaving me literally “holding the baby” while they partied and gossiped to glory. It would also leave a chance for my adversaries to make snide comments like, “Suresh needs to grow up.”
I never wished to. I wanted to snap the break-neck speed of the time machine that rocketed me from my reckless salad days to harrowing midlife, but life is, alas, just a two-speed vehicle. It crawls like a snail, run over by a steamroller, when you are a kid, and darts like a dimensioned dog when you are in the forties. So, I would keep the company of kids in the hope that my age never progresses to the point of no return. The balding crown was, thus, blamed on hard water and the loose skin on night creams bought online.
For a person who had temped as a babysitter for working couples in the neighbourhood and in the wider family, rowdy children were never an issue. I was like a horse whisperer. I would stand still in the midst of a kiddie hubbub, as tranquil as the summer sea, and communicate with the young, restless souls in the language of silence until they were hypnotised.
But my time-tested mind magic was put to ultimate test last night, when a friend took wifey and me to a restaurant where I cooled my heels for a table in sweltering humidity. In the one-hour wait, my friend assured me Saint Peter would soon lead us through the 12 Pearl Gates into a culinary heaven. I was reminded time and again by my friend: “Behold, the way for man is narrow.”
When the wait finally ended, the promised imageries of Heaven disappeared in a gist. I descended into Hell. The whiff of barbecued flesh hit my face like a warm wind and made me retch. Human figures silhouetted against amber lights clamoured for their orders while their wards ran riot like in a national park. Angels donning white tunics and face masks hovered around, holding on-the-house potions.
As I sank into my seat, gory images of the San Fermin bull running festival flashed across my head. I felt like being chased and gored in the Pamplona streets as children chased themselves in the dining hall with whatever they could lay their hands on, from spoons and forks to paper mats.
Girls played hide-and-seek under the tables, while “Pakistan and India” met in the aisles for a game of T20. Fielders leaped over diners to stop sixes; balls landed in bowls of soups, splashing cream of vegetables onto salwar kameez; and stumps flung across red faces. Little Tarzans swung from table to table while their parents howled “take care, baby”, “slow down, son”, “enjoy darling”, etc.
China and crystals clattered up and sent shrapnel flying as they hit the floor. All the conflicts of the world — from Syria, Gaza, Beirut to Yemen — were fought with hand-to-hand combats while the restaurant’s peacekeeping forces periodically cleaned up the remnants of wars on the floor and seats.
“This looks like the Indian parliament,” quipped wifey. “My head is spinning, darling.”
I accosted Saint Peter, seated on a high stool, at the cash point.
“Can we have some peace?”
“It’s not on the menu, sir. Nowhere in the world.”
Back in my seat, I was reminded of the pre-party tutorials I ran for my kids: “You are going to a party. Make merry but mind your manners. Be a young gentleman.”
Was I wrong? Why don’t we Indians give a damn about etiquette? Is it because we are so used to mayhems in every sphere of life, especially political and religious, that we cannot survive sans the daily dose of chaos? Are parents bringing up our kids battle-hardened to take on life’s challenges? Yes, let children be children, but not to the extent that the rest of the world is denied of their right to a weekend of peace and tranquillity. Many of us really need to grow up.
“Sir, your order please.” One of the angels was ready with a tab.
“Two strips of Panadol Blue and some plain water, please.”
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