I knew I’d made a mistake by turning up at office on the 2’nd. Given that it was the Friday following New Years Eve, I only encountered lonely chairs and empty cubicles. In a way, the sight was a relief. While I’d often had doubts about my career choice after I joined an IT firm, I remembered this was why I opted for IT in the first place. If Thursday or a Tuesday was a holiday, you could be sure that the weekend would last 4 days.
Weekends off, air conditioning, opportunities to travel abroad and the chance to stay in Bangalore…these were the reasons I chose an IT firm. The thought of an exciting and challenging career had never crossed my mind. My more adventurous friends who’d joined faster paced industries like Telecom and FMCG were spending New Year by themselves in obscure villages and small towns, deep in the heart of rural India. No doubt that they would emerge stronger from the experience but for now I gloated over the fact that I could go home now and no one would care. (On the other hand, there was a good chance I could get laid off due to the recession but I didn’t let the thought trouble me too much)
I hung around for a while, completing some trivial tasks and then I left. It was only 12:30 PM and I was on my way out. The sun was shining quite brightly, a bit of a relief considering it was quite chilly in Bangalore. I’d arranged to meet my sister and brother in law for lunch at an Italian restaurant called Herbs and Spices at Indira Nagar.
Herbs and Spices turned out to be quite a spiffy restaurant. The menu had some very fancy sounding Italian items, none of which I understood so I randomly made my choice. My brother in law safely went in for a Pizza while my sister who felt the need for something sophisticated went in for ravioli with artichokes and goat cheese. Having ordered our food, we sat back and relaxed.
Our food arrived. My quiche was quite nice to eat, even though I didn’t know what it was. The pizza though bland was quite a wise choice. My sister took a forkful of her ravioli with goat cheese and artichoke and then her eyes went glassy. She didn’t say anything for a few seconds and then she shuddered.
Out of concern, I took a sample of the ravioli and chewed it. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. The goat cheese overwhelmingly pungent, it made me quite dizzy. The artichokes tasted alien in my mouth and just as I made a masterful effort to keep the food down my throat, I saw his buttocks.
A group of foreigners were having lunch at the table opposite us and for some reason the man with his back to me had half his bottom hanging out of his pants. While I understood the need to make a fashion statement, the sight of his pale pimpled buttocks didn’t go well with the goat cheese. The fact that he was overweight and shapeless greatly increased my discomfort. Struggling for breath, I quickly sat back and averted my eyes. That’s when I realized my family was the only one restaurant not wearing low waist jeans. Everyone’s chaddi was display.
What had happened? I knew low waist jeans were a trend but why was I being subject to the sight of everyone’s underwear against my will? I caught my breath. The girl to my right was wearing a thong.
I looked around again, spying only rows of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. I searched in vain for a Rupa frontline or a VIP but none were forthcoming. The middle class did not dare to bare.
It was depressing. For a few moments I had felt very classy that I was eating Italian food at a posh restaurant. The next moment I realized that I didn’t belong there. Not because I couldn’t afford the food, but simply because my underwear brand was for my own eyes only. My middle class morals would never let me feel comfortable there.
Once upon a time, eating out was special, a luxury reserved only for special occasions. A trip to Saravana Bhavan to eat its special Sambhar Vadai was the highlight of a month or even a year. My family would brave waiting in a crushing crowd in order to get a seat. It was a team effort. We would scan the tables, alert to note which family was likely to finish their meal first and then push our way towards that table, breathing down their necks until they got up. For the next hour or so, we would ourselves endure the impatient looks of the other patrons as we busily attacked our food. The sight of a waiter holding a plate of paper Masala dosa aloft his head as he navigated the crowd to reach our table would almost cause me to burst from excitement.
Sitting at Herbs and Spices, with the nauseating smell of goat cheese in the air and only Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger for company, I missed my childhood.