119 years of Trust Laugh lines THE TRIBUNE
sunday reading
Sunday, May 2, 1999
Laugh Lines

LineFauji BeatLine
Bollywood Bhelpuri

Sugar 'n' SpiceLine
Wide angle

All about plotting and planning
By Amrita Dhingra

IT may seem incredible that you managed to fall asleep in the position you were in, but there you have it. Because fall asleep you did, still ignominiously stuck in the ventilation window. For how long exactly would be a matter of debate and as to the exact content of your dreams, should someone be interested to know, you would fail to be informative because quite frankly you did not remember. But the point of validity here is that when you awoke you were free.

Yes free! It may have something to do with the old adage which drills it into one that when all the doors are slammed shut in your face a window opens somewhere or it may simply be explained on the basis of muscle relaxation during sleep. At any rate the fact was that when you awoke you were no longer stuck in the ventilation window. Precariously perched on the ledge, several feet from mother Earth, it is true, but no longer stuck in the ventilation window.

Rejoicing at this bit of luck you peered into the room below. The two thugs, having given up on any rescue, were deep in sonorous lumber. Leaving them to it you set about your descent for you hadn’t the slightest inclination of spending a single moment longer than necessary in a place that had caused you much grief and agony.

Dawn was only just breaking and as you jumped the last few feet off the fire escape and legged it to the safety of your car, you were conscious of a feeling of euphoria. It is not everyday that one comes out unscathed after such a harrowing experience and this lucky break made it apparent that the heavens, even though they may not be actively aiding and abetting your cause, were not averse to it either. Contrary to all expectation you felt bright and cheery, bubbling over with energy and what you have heard as being termed youthful enthusiasm.

You drove to your flat floating in the same pink cloud. Had your car suddenly developed a puncture you would no doubt have stopped and changed it without complaining and your six inch grin would never have slipped. You were happy.

Reaching the flat you took yourself in for a nice long shower followed by a hearty breakfast. Tom who joined you at the breakfast table was still groggy-eyed and looked at you with distaste characteristic of eleven-year-olds who dislike having their hair ruffled affectionately, an act that you had had the thoughtless audacity to perpetrate.

"Come on eat up and let’s go."


"Back to Fiona’s place."

"Why? I don’t want to go back to Fiona’s estate," he grumbled," I want to be a vagabond. Not a house guest."

The thing with kids these days, you’ve been told, is that they’re opinionated. Far too opinionated for their own good.

"Yes, well I met Amanda yesterday and she said she’d be dropping in to visit us here before lunch. I don’t know about you but I was hopin....."

"Let’s go!!!" he jumped up with some alacrity.

The ghost of Amanda Spence worked just as well as the ghost of Caesar and you quit the flat in under an hour with Tom urging you to "hurry up if you value your life". You made the journey in good time and had the radio playing at a good level, singing along. After a long, long time of dancing to other people’s tunes you felt you were entitled to whistle a few of your own. And since conversations with Tom required no more than listening to his plans for future escapades, your mind was free to wander and plan exactly how you were going to set about extracting yourself from the various messes you found yourself in.

Prioritise. That’s the mantra they feed young executives who one day hope to be the captains of industry. Prioritise. In keeping with your early training you felt it would do you a great deal of good if you were to label your problems — sticky, sticker, and stickiest. And given the current circs. It was clear to you that the situation was most fraught with peril for you personally was your betrothal with that gem among perfect tens, that platinum-blonde-interferer-with-men’s-breathing — Carrie Calloway. Given that the young woman in question was as ravishing an eye tonic as one could wish for it was a sad twist of fate that made it clear to you that she was not your cup of tea.

The trouble was of course that she was firmly convinced that you were the man of her dreams, her knight-in-shining armour and her dragon-slayer. And being a woman she would fight tooth-and-nail before she gave up that notion. It was going to be a tough fight, for women are strange contradictory creatures.

Atleast, the women in your life were, the more you tell them how bad you are the more they try and tell you how good you are. Take Carrie for example. If you were to walk up to her and tell her that you were well an average guy who with a bit of luck managed to get through life, a guy who had no claims to fame in that he was certainly not charitable and that his first thought at seeing a beautiful blonde child about to fall under the wheels of an oncoming automobile was not to rush and save the child with a smile. Not that you wouldn’t do it. It’s just that your reaction would be "Oh no not again! I tore my shirt the last time!" And then you’d go and do it. Would Carrie believe you if you told her all that. Most certainly not. She’d hang on to every word you’d say and then she’d turn right around and set about convincing you what a hero you were and just how wonderful you were. And there you’d be a reluctant hero with a dog-in-the-manger look. No sir! You could certainly do without that.

And while you were thinking about women how could one forego a mention of your least favourite women — Amanda Spence. You had spent nearly all your time with her trying to convince her that you weren’t as bad as she thought you were.

That she needn’t reach for her Colt as soon as you were in the vicinity, that you, although you weren’t a paragon of virtue (let’s face it, they are boring), you weren’t the scum off some primordial soup either. Sadly, she missed the point just as much as Carrie.

So there you were stuck with the contradictoriness of women. But as you had mentioned earlier the stickiest problem was making Carrie see that you were not the perfect man she’d set you up to be. That the moment her back was turned you’d jump down from your pedestal with a "tralalalala" and go back to being footloose and fancy free.

It was problem worthy of devoting some thought to you and you gave it the cogent amount of attention on your drive back to Fi’s house. And you are happy to report that when you pulled into the garage which housed the fleet of cars they own, you had a plan of action all chalked out. You turned to Tom and conferred with him on the matter for he was to be your aide in this particular campaign.

Instead of avoiding Carrie till you could no longer put it off, which was your usual policy, you actively sought her out, with Tom lugging a heavy suitcase and bringing up the rear. She was sitting in the garden wearing a huge floppy hat and working on an oil painting.

"Darling! How lovely to see you again!" Her face lit up.

"Darling! How wonderful!" you echoed.

"And who is this?" she enquired looking closely at Tom who had put on his most weepy expression.

"Tom Spence. He’ll be in my care for a while," you said shortly.

"Really how nice! Shall I get you some lemonade Tom dear?"

Tom looked to open his mouth in acquisal but you cut him short, "No let the young devil be a little useful! Run upstairs with the case and double back again. No loitering I have some more work for you! And be quick about you!" you played the wicked uncle to the hilt and watched Tom lug the case across the lawn as if it weighed a ton and was half-killing him. You also watched Carrie’s slightly puzzled and crestfallen expression out of the corner of your eye. So far so good.

"Would you like to take in a movie before lunch? Jameson’s got a great collection in the den," you asked her.

"A movie?" her eyes lit up, like twin stars you believe the expression is, and Tom forgotten momentarily she nodded her assent.

"Do you like this piece I’m doing? she asked as you helped her fold her easel, "I’m planning it’ll go up in our room."

"It’s nice," you said careful not to overdo things and keeping your voice neutral, "though personally I prefer psychedelic prints, not landscapes, they have so much more originality, so much more character." You prayed that she did not visit your flat before you had a chance to remove all traces of your rather conventional taste in art.

No doubt she was still mulling over your revelation about your preference of fluorescent and concentric circles and apparent distaste for what she liked, because Carrie was oddly silent till you reached the den. There upon she regained some of her animation and the two of you chose a movie you’d like to see. Or atleast that’s the way you made it seem. For you left the choice of the movie almost entirely to her hoping all the while that she’d pick one of her favourites. And after much "this one or that one I can’t decide" she did settle on an oft-watched favourite of hers.

It was a movie about character. About how a man ought to stick to his guns, to walk bravely in the face of trouble, about how he ought to stand by what is right defending it with his very life if necessary. You fell asleep, or atleast pretended to fall asleep, when the hero and heroine were being torn apart. Not only did you fall asleep you also put in a couple of very creditable snores. Carrie meanwhile dug into the bowl of popcorn and did nothing to staunch the flood of tears the harrowing experience brought on. The hero continued to be brave. The heroine continued to be tearful and beautiful. You continued to snore. The hero made sacrifice after sacrifice. The heroine continued to need rescuing from the evil forces of the world.

You, the cad that you were, rather than sacrifice your handkerchief for Carrie, refused to even wake up. And when you did, towards the last bit of the movie, you watched it dry-eyed and straightfaced. You did not rejoice when the hero overcame the forces of evil. No sign of animation could be found on your visage when the hero and heroine were united to live happily forever. The Complete Man, you let it be known, failed to move you.

"Did you like it?" She turned to you hoping against hope that you had some extra-sensory powers that enabled you to watch movies even while you were asleep.

"Yes. It was fine."

"You missed the best part," she couldn’t keep that slightly accusatory tone out of her voice.

"Yes well I always say sleep is the most important thing."

"Really darling it was quite a marvellous movie," she took your proffered handkerchief with a sniff, "all about character and bravery and chivalry. I hope you’ll pay more attention to it the next time we watch it."

"Character, bravery and chivalry?" you said stifling a wide yawn, "Rather out-dated ideas don’t you think? It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. One must live with reality. I really wouldn’t waste too much time watching it again if I were you."

"Really darling......."

"I wonder where that young rascal Tom’s got to I’ve got a lot of work for him to do. And then he’s my caddie on the golf course this afternoon." You interrupted her.

"About Tom," said Carrie, "He did seem rather unhappy I hope you aren’t too hard on him."

"Nothing wrong with the young devil that a bit of hard work won’t fix. Well I’ll be of now," you said briskly, playing the affectionate fiancee and kissing her on the cheek albeit in a slightly absent-minded manner as though being a slave driver to Tom was more important than being with her. "I’ll see you around."

With that you left the den. Once outside you waited for a minute before opening the door a wee bit and peeping inside. A very thoughtful young lady still sat where you had left her. As you closed the door you heard her say in a very small voice, "Oh Frank!"

It was no wonder that a six inch grin split your face as you made your way down the corridor. Things were looking up at last.Back

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