Real party politics

Real party politics


Have you ever been invited to a party by a very gracious and hospitable hostess who is a gourmet with extraordinary culinary skills?

 Have you gone there ravenously hungry, ready to gobble all the delectable food served, but returned home without tasting a single dish, and hungrier than ever before?

Well, it happened to me once and has left me with regrets to this day! This is how it went.

Early 1960s found me as a newly married bride setting up my house in the Middle East. I experienced the usual trauma of being in a strange country with an unfamiliar language and culture. In simple terms, I was homesick.

Being a novice, my cooking was a disaster. I hated my cooking so much that I stayed hungry all the time. My husband, not daring to displease me, ate up the food I prepared, exercising great will power.

Though invited by fellow Indian families to their homes for weekend parties, we hardly accepted any invites, as courtesy would require that I reciprocate, which was impossible under the given circumstances.

One fine morning, luck smiled on us and we received an invite from the Indian Embassy for an Id ul Fitr party. We were thrilled. Here was a golden opportunity of tasting Indian food that I was craving for, and it was rumoured that the ambassador’s wife annually imported a chef from Lucknow specially for the Id party.

 Hearing all this, my gastric juices had started working overtime. However, a little apprehensive about the etiquette and proper behaviour to be followed at such august gatherings, I decided to observe others and follow their lead.

Finally, the D day arrived. When every guest glided in limousines, would it be proper to go on foot? Since we didn’t own a car, we hailed a cab. When we told the fat Arab cab driver that our destination was just a few blocks away, he spat on the ground and drove off after delivering the choicest abuses in his native tongue. Ultimately, it was padyatra to the party.

The banquet hall was huge, well ornamented with chandeliers, exquisite artefacts and elegant furniture. Top leaders, civil servants and diplomats had gathered and were conversing in small groups. Amidst all the grandeur, I was lost and did not know where to go or what to do. I later spotted a Kashmiri friend and joined the group.

 But the banquet table with all the goodies was beckoning me the whole time. I just waited for a decent interval before I could head that way. A smartly-dressed waiter stood in front of me with a tray full of steaming cups of coffee. Did they offer coffee as an appetiser in such highbrow parties, I wondered. Coffee on an empty stomach raised my acid level and my Kashmiri friend added fuel to the acid fire. “Why did you take coffee? You have not eaten na?”

“But how could I refuse when he offered?”

“He offered because you were with people who had finished eating the excellent food that was served.
”“It does not matter. I will have food after coffee,” I assured her. She would have none of it. “There is something called protocol to be followed in places like this. First the appetiser, then the main course, and then coffee. You cannot break this sequence. We are leaving shortly and you are following us,” she ordered. Helplessly, I looked for my husband. He was busy at the table stuffing a juicy rasgulla into his mouth! In his left hand, he held a plate piled with food.

As we walked home, my husband could not stop raving about the food, its taste, texture and fragrance. And as soon as we reached home, we had our first fight.