In all the frivolities that I have been subjected to in my very limited professional career (and believe me, there have been a LOT of instances; I mean, what can you expect, when you’re a journalist, stuck in a marketing department, in an bureaucratic establishment which is, with all due respect, as stagnant as the Dead Sea.), I have encountered a lot of.. well.. interesting souls, with ideas that could be termed as earth(read: appetite) shattering. Among all these souls that I have had the misfortune of making acquaintances with, one will always find a place in my long-term memory. Let’s call him Mr. Pious-Dynamic. This particular gentleman, as the head of our department, is the supreme authority on all things under the sun, as far as he is concerned. Pious Dynamic is typically characterized by a saccharine sweet tone of voice and a limp-wristed demeanor that would typically offend devout Catholics or Republicans. Before making assumptions, please note that Pious is happily married with two, as he himself puts it ‘hot n happening daughters’. Wow, talk about progressiveness, and please ignore the Freudian undercurrents to that statement, if you must. Boney M probably envisioned Pious Dynamic, back in the 80’s, while coming up with the concept of Daddy Cool.
Well, Pious Dynamic aka Daddy Cool is an out and out family man. One day, the minute details of which are still vivid in my memory, he lovingly described his ‘hot n happening’ daughters, and how the elder one religiously woke up at 6 am to dress up and put on makeup, so that she could look ‘tip top’ when she went to college everyday. He further went on to describe, clearly overlooking the uniformly horrified look on the faces of his listeners, how his daughter Beloved never ate in front of anyone, and sometimes took a rickshaw ride just so that she could finish her ‘dabba’ out of the sights of inquisitive people (Yes, Pune colleges are infested with shady predators who look at pretty girls while they’re eating, and then stare at them with a judging look so that their poor victims are inflicted with a bad body-image for the rest of their lives).
Pious Dynamic’s magnanimity knows no boundaries. A person with true foresight, he saves every penny that he can amass out of his considerable remunerations, in order to secure his family’s future. So tied up he is in this endeavor, that he overlooks the petty things in life, and even sacrifices the paltry luxuries in life like investing in his own digital camera. The eternal socialist, he makes do with the ancient office-owned camera (the chief function of which is to supplement my feeble attempts at reporting) and carries it along for his family vacations, daughter’s birthday party, their dance classes, etc. True to his name, and displaying all traits of piety and humility, he never approaches me for the camera. He has found a fawning minion in our office, Mr. Swollen Tonsils, to run all his errands. Mr. Tonsils and Pious are as close as symbiotic bacteria and share the ‘sab kuchh apna hi hai’ attitude, which would’ve certainly brought tears of insuppressible pride to the eyes of any self-respecting modern Marxist.
Pious is also an epitome of how-to-respect-women. He belongs to the old school, where men never looked directly at the faces of the women they were addressing, unless they were family members. In accordance to that age-old custom, Pious hardly ever looks at the faces of his female subordinates. Instead, he very respectfully looks down at a certain area approximately a foot below the eye level of the female, and addresses the subject with lowered eyes. How archaically honorable of him.
Mr. Pious is also especially fond of certain good ol’ Indian elements in everyday life. However, he also loves to mix it up a bit with western banalities. Where on one hand, you will hear him address his or family with the occasional “Daahling”, you would also hear him pronounce the word ‘chic’ as ‘shik’ (just substitute the ‘t’ with a ‘k’ in the word ‘shit’ to say it like Pious). A certain instance stands out in my mind, where, while deciding the menu for a gathering, Pious pronounced ‘Quiche’ as ‘Kishy’. (Picture an over-indulgent aunt telling her young niece, “C’mon baby, now give me a nice kishy on the cheek.”). Then again, it’s a hard word to pronounce, no? Anyway, obviously uncomfortable with the word, Pious proposed the following, “Instead of the quiche, we can offer the guests Batata Wada or something, no?” he insisted. Yes indeed. Invite people to a swanky 5-star restaurant for a gourmet hi-tea, and offer them ‘assal’ Maharashtrian street food that you get on every street and every ‘galli’ for Rs. 5, including the complimentary fried green ‘mirchis’. What an idea, ‘sirji’.