Midlife crisis

Midlife crisis

Assigned to cover a French restaurant, I looked forward to the free food.

When Elliott Jaques coined the term ‘midlife crisis’ he must have had me in mind. Some years back at that critical stage in my life I began to question where I was heading; had I reached that point where I wanted to be; or simply put, was I a washout?

The lack of excitement in my working life seemed to be the problem. To my wife’s horror I chucked up a comfortable job and embarked on a journey to ‘discover’ my true self. Easier said than done.

A classmate in engineering college now ran a tabloid. His admiration for my writing capability was based on the wall newspaper I published in our hostel. When he offered me a job I was hoping to become a sports correspondent which would get me a ringside seat at cricket matches gratis. I ended up as a cultural critic.

The first assignment was an arangetram. My knowledge of any dance form was restricted to The Twist, Rock ‘n’ Roll and whatever Hema Malini espoused about Bharata Natyam in a leading film magazine. At the auditorium, pretending to be knowledgeable I followed suit whenever my neighbour clapped. From the speeches it seemed that the guru was pretty famous and the dancer her favourite pupil, which presumably she claimed at the arangetram of all her students.

Back in office I just paraphrased all that was written in the glossy brochure and wracked my brain to add something original, too. The next day the office was invaded by an irate parent. I never realised that my innocent sentences that read, “The dancer looked somewhat ‘healthy’. Probably a reduced intake of carbohydrates would enable her to balance herself better when on one leg,” would cause such a furore. Result: immediate transfer as culinary correspondent.

Assigned to cover a newly opened French restaurant I looked forward to the free food. After being seated at the designated table, a gentleman whom I deduced to be the steward came and introduced himself in French. I just smiled as I could not comprehend what he said in his nasal twang. I could not decipher the menu either so I just pointed a finger at two listings: le cassoulet and la bouillabaisse. The items were a disaster as I had forgotten to inform the staff that I was a vegetarian and both these dishes were patently non-veg. It was rather embarrassing after that. But a review needed to be written within the deadline. A neighbour who worked at Alliance Francaise helped me translate the menu.

That also marked the end of my journalistic career as the restaurant owner objected to my referring to his maître d'hôtel as being supercilious and that the portions were rather anaemic. My friend had the unenviable task of deciding between me and the threat to withdraw all advertisements from his publication.

Soon I could sense that my wife was also fed up of scrimping on our daily essentials and threw broad hints about the need to earn a regular salary. After dipping in to my savings to pay my children’s fees I woke up.

Thanks once again to another classmate I ended up in an IT company where I worked till I retired.