My husband looked up as I put down the telephone receiver. “Don’t tell me the fellow is coming again?” he asked.
“It’s an interview, he says,” I replied.
“So his fairness creams didn’t work, eh? I knew it wouldn’t!”
Chinos, the son of our neighbour in Delhi, had come down for an interview last year and had insisted on slapping on all the fairness creams in the market, because he believed that a fair skin was the best way to success. Obviously, he hadn’t applied enough! Or, not the right ones.
This time, he staggered in with a bag full of bottles and two huge thermos flasks. My husband looked him up and down. “Don’t tell me you are carrying your fairness creams in those?” he asked.
“Oh no, Uncle, I’m off such creams now,” said Chinos. “I’ve found a simpler way of being successful.”
“What’s that?” I asked curiously.
“Health drinks, Aunty,” he replied with a beaming smile. “Drinks with memory chargers, memory builders, memory boosters, and I’ve forgotten what the fourth does as it’s a bit complicated. But I’ve got them all here.”
“Are you crazy?” asked my husband. “I have never heard of health drinks helping interviews!”
“That’s because you never watch TV, Uncle,” said Chinos.
“I certainly haven’t time to watch such rubbish,” said my husband. “And let me tell you young man, if you studied seriously, you’d stand a far better chance of succeeding than gulping down all these fancy drinks.”
“But why should I bother to study when these drinks are all I need?” said Chinos smiling.
“Come, Chinos, I’ll take you to your room,” I said, “you’d like a cup of tea, I am sure.”
“Oh no, Aunty, considering the interview is tomorrow, I’d better stick to drinks number 1 and 2 which are said to be the most effective,” said Chinos, taking out a couple of bottles from his bag, “just let me have some hot water please.”
My husband snorted. Chinos asked, “Uncle, do you want me to tell you the full name of Aurangzeb?”
“What for?” asked my husband, frowning. “You’re not applying for the post of a history teacher, are you?”
“Oh no, but it’s a good way to check how the drink is working. Now, let me see, Nur Jahan’s full name…”
I dragged Chinos out of the room.
“I hope you have a large cup?” asked Chinos anxiously. “And four teaspoons of the drink please.”
“But will you be able to have your dinner if you take two large cups of drink just now?”
“I’ll manage,” said Chinos, “And we’re not having dinner right now, are we?”
“In an hour’s time,” I said.
“In that case, let me have the electric kettle in my room, and I can make the drinks late at night.”
“How will you sleep if you keep having drinks half the night?” I asked. “I just have to. My memory needs to be charged, boosted and connected to the brain before the interview.”
Chinos could speak of nothing else during dinner. “By the way, Aunty, please wake me up early tomorrow, as I must carry two flasks of these drinks and keep having them until I’m called in for the interview.”
“Don’t you mean to study at all?” asked my husband, raising his eyebrows. “No need, uncle,” said Chinos with a smile of supreme confidence.
As he made his way to the bus stand the next morning lugging two huge thermos flasks full of the wonder drinks, my husband muttered, “I hope the place has a washroom!”