The Dubious Pleasures of Eating Out

Yesterday at Peter Cat, we were sitting right opposite the ‘We’re Awesome!’ Martyrs’ Lunch Club.

Throughout our first course, they regaled us with shouts of laughter, and loud tales about inconsiderate people’s lack of basic civic sense.

In the mid-course lull — and apropos of nothing — the group’s fat man recounted a story of an unbelievable bitch, who, after coming home from work and making dinner, actually asked her husband to check on their child while she checked her email. Oh. My. GODDD! The whole group was utterly appalled at this crass display of unfeminine cold-heartedness.

“Not just this”, continued the fat man, lazily swilling his drink and relishing the effect of his story, “She has actually told her husband he cannot come home drunk anymore because they now have a child. To his own home! Just imagine.” The group was astounded anew by this woman’s fascist sense of entitlement. “It is just a regressive mentality”, opined one of the group’s two women. “A modern liberal woman would have no problems with her husband drinking. In fact, I would encourage both my son AND daughter to drink and smoke. After all, we cannot live in the dark ages any more!” With that, they lapsed into a discourse of their own progressive rebellions.

***

With the second course, we were treated to a deep, thoughtful discourse on the Lost Bengali Identity. Bengali men who marry ‘non-Bengali’ women and bring up ‘practically non-Bengali’ children away from the motherland bore a small section of the blame, but most of it was assigned to that evil language, English. The young woman in mini-shorts and an oversized American-flagesque tee held forth on how Bengali families were themselves destroying their mother tongue by speaking only in ‘stupid Hollywood English’ amongst themselves. The thin-but-potbellied man insisted this was the work of the mall-trotting teens. Malls, he declared, pollute the cosy olde culture of the bazaar, and help the children pick up abysmal amounts of Hindi from ‘those money-scattering Marwari children’.

***

Finally, as we were waiting for dessert — and had given up all hopes of a conversation of our own — the group’s bill arrived. This is the following conversation that ensued, transcripted verbatim.
Girl: (in Bengali) So I was thinking… I have some shopping to do, you people go ahead, I’ll come home in a couple of hours?
Fat man: (in Bengali) Where will you go? New Market? We can drop you…
Girl: (in horrified English) Oh my GAWD, New Market? It is like, SUCH an aunty-type place. I cannot think of any place other than South City mall only.
Probable mother: (in Bengali) but that is so far…
Girl: (flaring up) I am just going to take the metro — I’m not like my friends, you don’t have to give me cab-fare!
Fat man [probable father]: Oh yes! Fare reminds me! If you have shopping to do you will need cash… (digs into pocket) here, keep this for now. If you need more, you have my card…
Girl: (immediately melting) Oh, you’re just so perfect! Thank you! No wait… five kay? I don’t need so much! Do you think I’m like crazy or something? Like, this is like so weird! I just say I’m going to shop and he just gives me five kay! No no, I can’t take this.
Prob. mother: (schoolmistress tones) You just handed over five thousand rupees? Are you out of your mind? Had it not been for me she would have been spoilt years back! Take it back right now. (Turning to girl) Here, take my card instead. It’s almost at the credit limit, so be careful what you buy. No more than three, remember! And be home by eight.
Girl: Oh, I love you guys! You guys are like so AWESOME!!! (dances away)

***

We really should eat at home more often, but I tell myself this is a serious ethnographic enterprise.

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