Never Say Yes

On Monday, Amit, who was recuperating from home, and I, who was working from home, sat down to a simple homemade meal at lunchtime, when the phone rang.

There was absolutely nothing noteworthy about this, because the phones – all four of ‘em – had been ringing off the hook with worried family members demanding hourly updates on his health. On this particular occasion, it was his Calcutta Aunt, who, yesterday, had wanted to know why our household hadn’t a thermometer to its name and had made it plain that this was a shortcoming to be rectified at the earliest opportunity. He therefore hastened to assure her that a thermometer (a digital one, with read-outs in both C and F) had indeed been procured, and, what’s more, had shown him (to my utter disbelief) to have no fever.

The Aunt, thereupon, suggested that a distant (not very distant “relatively” speaking – nor, unfortunately, geographically speaking) branch of the family resident in Bangalore be informed of the situation, so that they could provide succour – or something like it.

The thought so scared Amit that he immediately resolved to get well without further delay.

The situation with these rellies is such that when DDB visited Bangalore, though he is equally related to them and to us, he not only didn’t stay with them, he went to great lengths to stay away as much as possible. A great deal of energy went into plotting, scheming, and strategizing devious ways and means of encountering them for the minimum possible period of time. The main intention was to “drop in” without notice, create a lot of noise and confusion, and escape quickly before arrangements for a meal could be made. This escapade would also have to be carried out at the last possible moment in his stay, to avoid invitations to subsequent meals together that would inevitably ensue should they be given any advance notice of his presence in town.

In these endeavors, Amit was a willing and active participant. Though he sometimes agrees that we “should” be more sociable with this branch of the family, he never goes so far as to actually act according to this good intention. On the rare occasions that he is called upon to explain this reluctance, he says that developing any kind of warm relationship here would upset the delicate balance between various other factions of the family, including incurring the wrath of his father – something to be avoided at any cost as it always results in great damage to the phone bill and the ear drums.

So, he vehemently assured the Aunt that he would doubtless survive the day and it was only merely a small, tiny little passing flu and there was no need whatsoever to call in the heavy artillery and that he would call and tell her the moment he felt better or worse or just the same, so why bother these other folks.

The Aunt, who has learnt a few tricks to justify her white hair, demanded to speak to me.

The problem with my conversing with any member of Amit’s family is that they thoroughly overestimate my language skills and assume that I understand everything they say, when in fact my comprehension consists of 10% understanding, 80% inspired guesswork, and 10% non-committal replies to mask a total lack of comprehension. So, when the Aunt admonished me to keep her updated on the situation (or that’s what I thought she said, using inspired guesswork), I readily agreed. Only after a few moments did I realize that what she was actually asking me was whether I would update the distant rellies on the situation – and I had agreed!

I hastily recanted, and handed the phone back to Amit to do further damage control.

Moral of the story: Inspired guesswork is all very well, but never agree to do anything!

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