With feral disregard to Valentine’s Day propriety that prohibited them from being seen in public, five comprehensively single people, including moi, decided to meet up for dinner. And not just dinner at any place, we boldly decided to hit Ego’s, the Italian restaurant in South Delhi that is immensely popular among those of a romantic persuasion out to enjoy good food and great music with their match chosen by The One Himself. It was perhaps a symbolic choice for us considering that we had enough of it of our own (I mean Ego or Pride or Shamelessness, call it what you may) to not want to hide under our beds on a day when Non-Singles so heartlessly paraded their Facebook status.
One look at the abject appearance of our fivesome and the nimble-footed usher hurriedly chose for us a table situated in the remotest boondocks of the restaurant. Clearly, where we thought fashionably torn jeans, hawaii chappals, black t-shirt with haldi stains, customized unkempt hair, a two-day stubble etc. etc. were all motifs of cool hipsterishness, our man saw them no more than signs of date-less reality. Yes, we were confined to the ‘table on the far side’ – the one by the popcorn machine, and so close to the kitchen that one could smell the artificial pink color being used to make the cake frosting inside. When my friend Sanjiv twirled his finger at the host of untaken tables strewn all over more desirable real estate, his quizzical gesture was shot down with a firm ‘They are all reserved, Sir’. No doubt reserved for happier faces that would oh so seamlessly blend in amidst red ribbons and roses pockmarking every nook and cranny of the place today.
Chris de Burg’s “Lady In Red” spat out of the Bose sound system. Typical, I thought.
“It’s not so bad,” I said half-heartedly, as we were all seated at our outpost.
“Well, at least it’s a good view of the whole place,” Asha consoled herself.
“And no one can see us. I need some JD,” muttered Ravi.
Drinks were ordered at warp speed and were served just as promptly. Vodka, mojito, whisky and such like.
A young couple entered the restaurant and was quickly accorded prime seating. They seemed to have barely cracked puberty.
“How can Chintu and Munni even afford a place like this with their pocket money?” asked Goldie as she pointed at the newcomers with her eyes and used her hands instead to pick up the vodka glass.
“Maybe he saved all year to give his girlfriend a special VD present,” I offered intelligently.
“Must you call it VD?” said Goldie, making a face.
All of us sniggered at the VD joke, hardly justifying our chronological ages.
“But seriously, how? I bet you, Munni put her Barbie to bed before coming here,” Goldie pestered with her pertinent financial cross-examination.
“Parents are only too happy to see their kids go out and have a good time. Maybe this treat was a reward for them passing their Social Studies exam,” said Sanjiv trying to read the menu card by holding it three feet from his face. “Hey, why have they reduced the font size on this bloody thing? And why are the lights so dim?”
“Arrey, give it to Ravi, let him order. You just make sure that you check-in all of us on Facebook!” I said, thus ending Sanjiv’s unsuccessful tryst to hold the menu right side up sans reading glasses. (Ravi, incidentally, is 28 dog-years younger than all of us)
“Should I order ribs?” Ravi suggested. The three vegetarians at the table looked at him glumly.
“Don’t tell me they are going to serve them drinks! They are what, twelve? Fourteen, tops!” wailed Goldie observing from her vantage point.
“Let them be happy. Chocolates, roses and tea are the new combination on Valentine’s Day,” Asha said authoritatively. “And by tea, I mean the one from Long Island that comes in a tall glass!”
“Amen, Sister!” said Goldie, and the ladies sipped copiously from their glasses.
Food was ultimately sorted. It was decided to “just order lots of appetizers”, which is infinitesimally easy to manage, though it also ensures that only microscopic portions of the “awesome” stuff eventually end up getting passed around.
A young couple walked in with their small kid. The kid was five, perhaps ten – we were unlettered in matters of kid’s ages. Or kids, generally speaking.
“Who brings kids to their romantic dinner? Fools!” said I categorically.
“My friend just moved to Bangalore. He is having trouble getting his kid admitted to school,” Ravi said.
“Terrible,” said Sanjiv munching his jacket potato with oodles of butter, cheese and chives.
“Why? I think it is great!” said Asha as she looked at Sanjiv suspiciously. Ravi looked up from his buffalo wings quizzically.
“Oh, I meant the whole school thing – terrible. The potatoes – YUM!”
“My colleague at work has invited me to his daughter’s happy budday this Saturday”, I said. “What should I take as a gift?”
That set off a cackle of laughter at the table. Despite choked food pipes, loud coughing and misty eyes, the other four still managed to mock at my predicament.
“Do get us all return gifts. UNCLE!” managed Sanjiv through more hysterical laughter.
“Bastards!” I said.
The food and drink ravage-fest continued. Presently, the unfriendly usher came by our table again. He enquired pointlessly if we were enjoying our evening, to which we nodded politely.
“I have a request,” he added, this time a trifle sheepishly.
“What is it?” asked Ravi.
“We start our Valentine’s Day Special in an hour. This will become a couples-only restaurant after that. Couples Only. No single people. Not even in groups.”
“Yes, yes, we know,” said Sanjiv gruffly.
“I just thought I should remind you all. Thanks for understanding,” the usher added as he flashed a creepy smile and begged our leave.
“Asshole,” I said once we were safely out of his hearing range. Everyone concurred.
“I am not coming out on Valentine’s Day. Ever again,” said Goldie, as she gulped the last of her vodka.
Asha looked at her and smiled.
“Let it be, dear. One last round? Happy Hour doesn’t end until 6.30. We can still be out of here by 7 before the crowds come in.”
To be clear, I shall remain tightlipped on which parts of this story are true and which not! But, do know that all the characters in this story are absolutely real – these are my close friends, who also happen to be happily single. Also typical are their reactions!
And please don’t get angry at the management of Ego’s! It’s an awesome restaurant in New Friends Colony in Delhi…fun, lively, good food – you should definitely visit!