THE LAUGH THAT ALMOST ENDED IT ALL
“Some biscuits, beta?”
Offering a plate studded with Hide-and-Seek biscuits, I stared at my daughter as she sat coyly by her supposed future husband. Seated gracefully, wearing a pretty chiffon sari and a docile expression, Radha looked every inch of the bride-to-be. I murmured a silent prayer to God-please let everything turn out right this time.
Then Mr. Shetty said, “Bhai sahib, we are the progressive type. How about this: you tell us about your glass factory business while my son and your daughter can spend some time alone-you know, breaking the ice and all…” He grinned slyly at his son and his future daughter-in-law.
A quiet tête-à-tête? No way, absolutely not, nothing doing, downright impossible.
“But, Mister Shetty, is it necessary? The kids can talk here as well-”
“Bhai Sahib, we want them to spend some time together.”
“But-” “No buts, ji, now, let’s go and inspect that beautiful rose blooming in your lawn. Bhai sahib, you’re gardener must be a jewel. ” Ushered unceremoniously out of my own house, I turned back to give Radha a desperate, hopeless sort of look. Please don’t muck it up.
I was standing in the lawn, pretending to be charmed out my wits by the ‘blooming rose’ while I kept an eye on Radha’s back, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation taking place in the sitting room. The Shetty kid was saying:
“And will you believe it, the hypocritical drone just went on about how we’ve to save the environment and…”
I turned around to focus on his parents. Radha breathlessly asked:
“Well, so what did you do?”
“Oh, you have no idea how bored I was. I nearly split my face yawning.”
No. No, no, no. Hardly funny. No humor at all. Radha, don’t laugh. Please, just smile a bit. Do Not Laugh.
A raucous peal of laughter floated out of the window. The glass shattered to pieces as this unholy burst of mirth rolled around like a crashing train, screeched like a chalk on a blackboard, and wiped off the Shetty boy’s grin in a single, effortless try.
“Oops, I am sorry, But, that was just hil-hil-hilarious!” cried Radha, before re-dissolving into crashing-train, screeching-chalk, jarring giggles that spurred the Shetty boy to quit the room, collect his frozen parents from the lawn and dash for the car.
I looked at my attractive chiffon sari-clad daughter who had now quit laughing and was staring, drearily onto the ground. Shaking my head sadly, I wondered if Radha would ever get married.