I hate surprises. I really really do. Well fustofall, unpleasant surprises are no-brainers. But I am one of those people who hate pleasant surprises as well. If flowers arrive without warning, I sniff suspiciously wondering if a burst of soot will hit my face. When an unrecognized voice calls me and chirpily asks — Guess who?, I scowl and reply — No, I won’t. But those are just the tip of the iceberg. Or rather, Adnan Sami’s nose. The ultimate test of human tolerance, comes in the form of that most special surprise of them all — surprise parties thrown by desi married couples.
Now now, before you stomp off angrily, think about it. I am sure it has happened to every one of you at one point or the other. For you married folks, I am sure you have gone through it when single, but you are now married, switched parties and have quickly become the perpetrators of this crime rather than the victims. So nah. No sympathies for you.
A random married male friend will call. Let’s call him Rakesh. He probably responds to other unflattering names as well, but we’ll get to those later. It is Pooja’s birthday. I am throwing a party for her, he will say coyly. You musst come! You sigh silently. And then, building up enough excitement in your voice you say — Ah, how nice! But you can’t mention a word about this. It is a surprise!, he will add. Argh. An unwanted secret. Just what you need. Yet another triviality hogging your precious brain space. Sigh. But wait. The party is being hosted by Nisha aka Ms Efficient Party Planner (EPP) who usually makes a mean gaajar halwa. And with a carrot like that, how can the bunny not chomp? So, you dutifully get the needed details. As you hang up, he threateningly adds — Remember, Pooja shouldn’t know.
But Pooja will know. She will definitely know. Not only will she know, she will carefully pick out an outfit to contrast perfectly with the cream-colored upholstery at EPP’s house. It will also match the green of the palak paneer and the red of the chicken tikka masala on the planned menu. And you can bet your last pre-ordered poori that she will practice her expression of surprise at least seventy five times in front of the mirror. C’mon, no husband who has been married long enough and desires continued marital bliss, will throw his wife a surprise party without giving her adequate warning to look her smashing best for it. The husbands in the audience will vouch for that, yes?
And yet, despite everyone being in the know, the charade continues ad infinitum, ad nauseam. The birthday girl will be whisked off to some local mall while the pre-planning happens. The guests arrive obediently at the pre-determined time. If you are fashionably late, you will have killer looks shot at you by Ms EPP. Why are you so late! Poo and Rakesh are almost here!, she will sternly ask. Damn, you think. Two extra hours of sleep and I still didn’t miss it? But you smile a semi-embarrassed smile, mumble something about the traffic, and go stand in your pre-assigned spot inside the closet.
But soon, the earth-shattering moment arrives and you are dragged out. The lights are switched off along with a medley of sssssshhhhh-s although nobody in particular is making a noise. Random elbows jab at you in unmentionable places which makes you go ‘what the ..’, but you try your best to be polite and not mutter unprintables. Finally, the doorbell rings and a suitably bewildered lady enters with a beaming husband in tow. A disharmony of voices yelp surpriiiiiiiiiise with just the right amount of fake enthusiasm. You make a mental note to go home and send a thank you note to the inventor of earplugs.
But just when you thought it was over, there is more. It is now time for some award-worthy acting. Awww, you guys, you shouldn’t have! This is such a surprise! I never saw this coming, Poo will coo, while clasping her hands to her cheeks in mock shock. You will scour the living room for heavy glass vases to throw as Rakesh narrates the tale of how Poo almost discovered his clever little plan. At which point, the wifey will turn to the hubby. Ohh Rocky, you are such a sneaky thing! she will say and playfully whack him, while you furiously search for a decorative ribbon to strangle yourself with. Eventually, candles will be blown, cake-with-too-much-icing will be cut, greasy food pre-ordered from ‘Maharaja – home of fine Indian cuisine’ will be eaten, and you will discover that the promised home-cooked gaajar halwa was alas, just an illusion.
And finally, your life will resemble the half-empty two-litre bottle of coke on the table that is devoid of fizz and has a lump of cake stuck to it. When the very desire to live has been successfully sapped out of you and you ponder about the futility of life itself, that is when Poo and Rocky‘s surprise party will ultimately come to an end.
Few survive these surprises, and of those who do, fewer retain the sanity to tell the tale. This is one such insane survivorâ€™s story. Read and learn. And be afraid, be verrry afraid.