It was a habitual night at the Nath family’s high-rise apartment. It was 9 pm, almost dinner-time. Mr. Nath sat comfortably on his couch, reading the sports page of one of the many newspapers delivered at their house. Mrs. Nath was in the kitchen, making sure the food was warm enough. Ojas was sprawled on his bed, peering into his mobile phone and making sure his fingers received their daily dose of strenuous exercise.
“Dinner is ready” Mrs. Nath bellowed from the kitchen.
Ojas was the first to reach the kitchen. Spotting the golden fried prawns, he quickly grabbed a plate and piled on as many prawns as he could on his plate. He picked up a couple of slices of cucumber and lettuce and started to make his way back to his bedroom, his very own bat-cave.
“Where do you think you are going mister? Aren’t you forgetting something?” Mrs. Nath asked her teenage son, blocking his path.
“No mom. See, I even took vegetables so that you don’t make a fuss.” Ojas said, trying to sound as earnest as possible.
“Did me a huge favor by eating them.” Mrs. Nath said, her words dripping of sarcasm. “Today is Friday young man, our weekly family-dinner night.”
“Oh damn. Alright, to the dining table it is.” Ojas said, as he stomped his way to the dining table.
Ojas picked the middle chair. His mother sat to his left and his father took the chair to his right.
“Mmm! Anita, the prawns smell wonderful.” Mr. Nath said, his eyes eyeing the juicy prawns in his plate from behind his glasses.
“Thank you, Sujat.” Mrs. Nath said, beaming.
Over the years, her culinary skills had become her sole source of the compliments that she received from her husband.
“Okay, now I think we should all tell each other how today went for us. You know, a nice conversation.” Mrs. Nath asserted.
Ojas and Mr. Nath looked at each other. They were both men of few words. But, they knew there was no escaping this weekly-dinner conversation, or there would be hell to pay. Ojas nodded his head. His mouth was too full of prawns to manage any reply in words.
“Brilliant. Ojas, why don’t you tell us how your day went? And for heaven’s sake, eat like a civilized human and not a nomadic barbarian.” Mr. Nath said looking at his son and offering him a glass of water to wash down the food in his mouth.
Having swallowed the mouthful, Ojas wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
Ojas started his day’s tale.
“Well, okay. My day was normal, you know. I got up- “
“Late” Interjected his parents.
“Well yea, but I did wake up earlier than yesterday. Anyway, I ran to college since I was late. The lectures were normal. Did the same old shit, differentiation-integration all that blah. Then you know, my class bunked and we went and played football at the college ground. It was kick-ass. I scored two goals. Then, post my lunch break, we had free lectures. Apparently my class-teacher Mrs. Desai left during the lunch break. You know, that Mrs. Desai you guys had met in the last parent-teacher’s meeting.”
“Umm, I don’t really recall her, but okay.” Mr. Nath said, adjusting his glasses.
“I remember her. Sweet lady. Okay, go on Ojas.” Mrs. Nath said.
Ojas resumed his tale.
“So yea, she left early for some reason and when she came back after one free period, she seemed to be in a great mood. So, she gave us the rest of the day off. I decided to come home and take the car for a spin with my friends. But, I saw no lights in the house. Mom usually leaves them switched on because it gets dark so early. Had you gone out or something, mom?”
“Yes. I had to buy a few things. You know, for making the prawns.” Mrs. Nath said quickly.
“Ah, well. So anyways, I did not even see our driver, Kailash kaka near the car, so I used the car keys I had and took the car out. I met with a couple of my friends and we took a long drive. Then I dropped them home and came home. Ta-da! End of tale.”
“Okay, looks like you had a fun day. My turn now.”Mrs. Nath said, placing her fork on her empty plate.
“My day was fairly normal too. It began with me getting up and preparing tea and breakfast. Then I saw you both off. After that, I started my preparation for dinner. I had my early lunch while watching my favorite show- Broken Hearts- “
Mr. Nath and Ojas sniggered. Mrs. Nath shot them a killer glance. Both of them fell instantly silent. She continued her tale.
“After that, I called you during your lunch hour, on your cell.” She said looking at Mr. Nath. “But, you didn’t pick up. So I called your office up and they said you had left office. “
“Well, I had a meeting. So I left office early, slightly before lunch time and did not answer my call because I was in the meeting.” Mr. Nath said, and proceeded to gulp down the contents of his glass.
“Oh, okay. So, after that I went shopping. Like I said, there were a few things I needed to buy. I needed beer for making the batter. But, I could find only one bottle. I’m sure there were two yesterday.”
Ojas swept his palms through his hair.
“So, you went to buy beer, mom? “
“Yes. I went to buy a bottle, just in case. Then I came home and started frying the prawns. They turned out really well though. I’m happy you liked them so much.”
“Yes, they were really amazing.” Mr. Nath said, giving a broad grin which he reserved only for the rarest of occasions.
He began his day’s narrative.
“After all the daily morning rituals, I left for office. The roads were lovely today. No traffic. I sorted a few files in the office, nothing much. Then I left for my meeting before lunch.”
“How did it go, dad?” asked Ojas.
“It went really well. The second party was very pleased with what I had to offer.” Mr. Nath said, scratching his beard. “ So then, after the meeting I called you, Anita. But your phone was picked up by Kailash-“
“Yes. I had taken him along to carry stuff and had handed my phone over to him while I was looking at stuff.” Mrs. Nath interjected.
“Oh! That is why he wasn’t near the car. You guys must have gone walking.” Ojas said.
“Bingo. I needed some exercise. Haha.” Mrs. Nath said, brushing aside her hair from her brow.
“Right. So then I got back home. Oh yea, I fired Kailash today.” Mr. Nath said.
“Why?” asked mother and son in unison.
“I found cigarettes in our garage today, around the car.”
Ojas coughed and quickly reached for the bottle of water.
Mr. Nath continued.
“So, I went and confronted Kailash. He seemed strangely guilty even before I broached the topic of cigarettes. He directly started apologizing. But, I know his kind of people does not improve. So, I fired him there right there.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Nath in a soft tone.
“That is dinner done then. You guys clean up the table. I’ll get the dishes done.”
Just a regular family-dinner for the Nath family.