One of the things I like about living in the US is that I don’t have to meet anybody I don’t want to meet. Almost. No neighbors dropping by unannounced. No visiting long lost relatives, who one wishes remained long lost. No casual acquaintances getting too friendly. I may be giving the impression that I am averse to people. I am. What I am more averse to is the games one is often forced to play in such gatherings. Take, for example, the popular game called “one-upmanship.” It’s easy to play. You go to somebody’s house and start explaining to them how yours or your son’s life is better than theirs. The goal of the game is to try to be as obnoxious as you can.
We had the misfortune of meeting one of the finest players of this game over the weekend. She was visiting her son in the bay area and bestowed the pleasure of her company on us without even our asking for it. We are apparently related. It is one of those relationships that needs a whiteboard and other visual aids to explain. She started the game masterfully as soon as she entered.
She: Do you own this house or rent it?
Me: We own it.
She: Hmm.. but it looks like an apartment.
Ouch. Then she looked at the kitchen.
She: Is this the only kitchen?
Me to myself: No, we have a couple more kitchens in the garage
Me: (Mumbling) ya
She: Oh very small. Our son’s kitchen is VERY big (she bulged her eyes for added impact)
How ever much I tried, I could’t get myself to give a damn about their kitchen. She was perplexed by my lack of enthusiasm. She reiterated the greatness of their kitchen. What does she expect me to do? Fall on my knees and proclaim, “Ye Master of colossal kitchen, have mercy!”?
Then she inquired how many years I lived in the US. I submitted the information for her perusal. She looked at her son with a glint of pride in her eyes and informed me, “My son has been living here for 30 years.”.
Oh my effing God! He is living here for 30 years AND has a huge kitchen. If I were a woman, I would’ve married him.
Then she compared what companies we work for. This is one time I wished I worked for a well-known company like Wal-Mart. Working for a fruity company like Apple is a sign of a loser. (I don’t work for Apple but something similar)
The questionnaire continued intermittently through the duration of the visit. I didn’t do all that bad because at the end of the interview, she seemed reasonably convinced that we are fit be called humans. She even showed a hint of respect. But wait… there is more.
Just before she left, in a sudden wave realization, she asked, “It’s almost noontime. You don’t seem to be cooking?” While I was trying to find a way to play down the answer, “We are not big on cooking,” she guessed the answer anyway and asked in disbelief, “You don’t cook much?” When met with silence, she continued to interrogate us.
“Or are you like one of those people who make a lot of food and keep eating that stale food throughout the week?”
I gladly assured her that we are not one of “those people”. We cook fresh when we cook but we opt for entrees that are easier to cook, like Pasta. What do you know? Apparently that is worse than eating stale Indian food. She said scornfully, “Ya, a lot of Indians don’t cook proper food these days.” With that triumphant victory, she gave us her blessings and left with a content smile, leaving us to contemplate on our miserable Pasta-eating lives.