Breaking the Ice – The Black Dog Chronicles
“You are overdressed,” he said.
His nonchalant comment made my heart sink. I was particularly fond of this peacock-blue salwaar kameez. He didn’t notice. His attention was focused on the crystal tumbler he held. The glass cut work definitely belonged to a worthy craft-smith. I was still nursing my wounds; he made his way to the flush teak wood cabinet that had seen better times. The pull out revealed a concealed mini bar, a luxury in middle class Mumbai homes. Yes, effective use of wall space is a direct result of restricted urban houses. However, I am digressing….
“Change into your shorts. Feel at home.”
He interrupted my thoughts. So far my attempt at being the ‘accommodating new bride’ was not meeting with much success.
“Uncle, I don’t have shorts….” Nervousness got the better of me. I could barely complete my sentence. Damn, I should have called him Dad. Daddy perhaps? But I don’t think he heard me. He had his glass in one hand and the remote in the other. The deep voice of Englebert came to life as he sang ‘I’ll never fall in love again’. Well, the song came a tad bit too late as a warning now. The deed was done, I thought to myself. Just then, he settled in the chair, with an expression I could not put a name to. Was he angry? Was he unhappy? Had I done something? God, marriage was tougher than what I had anticipated. And where is the damn husband when you need him?
He raised his glass. The liquid shone like molten gold. I’d never accompanied anyone with a drink before. I came from a family of teetotalers. What was I going to do? What was I supposed to do? So far I was stuck between ‘God knows’ and ‘No clue’. Not an enviable place at all!
“Do you know that Englebert was born in India?” he questioned. And then without waiting for me to answer, he added, “in Madras.”
I had no clue. I nodded. He continued.
“Your mother-in-law and I used to go to all the gymkhana dances. His songs were a rage. Back then the dance hops were the in-thing. We never missed any.”
I don’t know if he was looking for an affirmation from me to go on. None the less, he continued. I kept standing, the tiny bells on my dupatta kept playing with the wind, gently. He took a sip of his drink, and with every flow and ebb in his glass, he reminisced about an era gone by. The twinkle in his eye was unmistakable. I had no clue when I sat beside him, listening to his tales, wide-eyed. Just then the door knob turned in a click and the husband walked in. I was almost sorry that he did. I chose to ignore him and get back to my story-teller.
“Daddy, you were saying……” I surprised myself.
“Ah, will tell you the rest tomorrow. Go, both of you.” He spoke with the wisdom of a man who had seen much.
I got up obediently, and almost as a reflex, I took his empty glass, too. I washed, dried and returned it to the cabinet. A half bottle of Black Dog Whisky occupied the place of pride. Ah, so here was the magic potion. I smiled. Easy evenings were meant for breaking the ice and new beginnings. As I shut the cabinet, I couldn’t wait for tomorrow. As far as I was concerned, this was home. And Daddy had made sure I got there, somehow.
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