“What will you have – tea, coffee, cold drink? “This is invariably the opening question when I visit anyone – at home or at work. A teetotaler who doesn’t believe in any liquid diet other than a glass of milk with breakfast and pure acqua the rest of the day, I answer, “water please, at room temperature.” This seems like I’m asking for the moon because in offices a hot or cold drink is easily available – but water-no.
When My hubby was in the Navy, at cocktail parties, I had an agonizing time warding off young bachelor officers who kept pestering me with a “I’ll get you a drink, ma’am” – hoping to net a dinner invitation in lieu. They don’t take a ‘no’ seriously, so I would get my husband to ask for a ‘neat water’ for me, either in a gin glass or a wine glass. This way I end up drinking at least 10 glasses of water in a party lasting over a couple of hours. My doctor tells me it’s good for my skin! Once I sipped water out of a beer mug. Some extremely hospitable hosts refuse to accept my refusal and even go to the extent of getting me ‘coconut water’ which is the only other drink I can tolerate. In our social circles I’m branded a difficult guest – all because I want only water.
Worse fate awaits me at dinner parties. A rather finicky vegetarian who doesn’t like onion and garlic. I am the nightmare of many a hostess. Needless to say, I’m not too popular a guest and get invited only to parties organized for elderly aunts and grandmothers. I’ll never forget the graceful gesture of the Admiral’s wife who had over 50 guests at a lavish dinner thrown before hubby’s transfer. When dinner was announced she led me to a small table in a corner on which was spread an elaborate fare – same as on the main table, except that she had made them all without onion and garlic. There was a special desert too – sans egg and bananas which I abhor. But then that was just an exception. At official parties, I ended up eating ‘fried rice’ with ‘papads and ‘boondi raita’.
Ever since I visited the kitchen in a hotel and saw the chef tackling a beef sandwich and a tomato sandwich, I refused to eat out. All this has no doubt helped me maintain my figure and health but ostracized me socially. However, my husband was at a greater disadvantage. A vegetarian by choice, he attended the Sheik’s dinner when his ship went to Kuwait on a goodwill visit. The large dining table was groaning with food – chicken and meat in various shapes and sizes. As the guests helped themselves to the mouthwatering delicacies, there was my husband, his dinner plate loaded with grapes!
“Thank God they were not sour”, was his compliment to the Sheikh’s banquet!