Right people, wrong place, wrong time, right ho

T.S. NAGARAJAN writes: Delhi in the early sixties. My wife Meenakshi, a convent-educated matriculate, had just joined me after our wedding in the temple town of Madurai. I took much pride in taking my pretty wife along with me whenever we were invited to receptions, cocktails and dinners in the Capital. Invitations from close friends just couldn’t be missed.

Once there were two in this category from my friends, Shankar Pillai, the famed cartoonist, and J.P. Chaturvedi, a senior journalist. Shankar had invited us to his daughter’s wedding reception at the Hyderabad House on a Sunday evening, while JP’s was for celebrating his son’s wedding on the lawns of his house in Kaka Nagar, also on a Sunday. We looked forward to these evenings with much interest.

The first of the two Sundays arrived. Accompanied by Meenakshi, I drove straight to the reception. It was a red carpet welcome at the Hyderabad House. The place looked bright with immaculately dressed guests, which included a number of foreigners. The hall reverberated with the chatter of the crowd as liveried waiters scurried around with snacks and drinks.

Time ticked away but there was no sign of the married couple. “This happens always. The bride dashes off to a beauty parlour in the last minute and arrives late”, commented my wife.

Wondering what might have happened to Shankar Pillai, I got busy with some eats and a drink. To my surprise, I found no familiar face in the crowd. Everything appeared strange with no evidence of any sights and sounds normally associated with a wedding reception.

But, luckily, I found Frank Moraes, the doyen of journalists in the Capital, talking to someone. It was like finding an oasis in a desert. I joined him. Within minutes, I realised the dreadful truth that we were at the wrong place.

The cocktail was by the Ministry of External Affairs to welcome a new ambassador from a friendly country. Those present were from the Capital’s diplomatic corps and officials of the ministry. Coaxed by Moraes, I decided to hang on for a while. But this appeared impossible.

I found my wife at a distance in a bit of a mess. Ambushed by a knot of elegantly turned-out ladies, she was struggling to find answers to their probing queries:

“I feel I have met you somewhere. Paris?”

“Where were you posted earlier?”

I found my wife totally perplexed. But, the women just couldn’t leave her alone.  It appeared that they had only one objective – to find out where both of us fitted in.

I walked fast towards the group holding my young wife hostage, excused myself, and nearly pulled her out. “Come on, you must meet Frank Moraes”, I said and managed to whisper to her that we were at the wrong reception and managed to disappear  quickly from the scene.

The ultimate finis to the evening’s slip-up was at the exit.  A towering Sikh in a black ‘bundhgalla’ with a mike in hand accosted me and asked politely: “Your car number, Sir?” I mumbled something for an answer, shot straight to the parking lot, started my faithful lambretta scooter and drove past the bewildered Sikh, with my confused better-half sitting behind me on the pillion.