The Boss Came to Dinner full lesson
Mr. Shamnath had invited his boss to dinner. Neither he nor his wife could pause even to wipe the perspiration from their faces. The wife, in a dressing gown, her tangled hair tied in a knot, her make-up all smudged, and he, pencil and paper in hand and smoking cigarette after cigarette, ran from room to room, ticking off items in a long was anxio thirty list. meal toda By five, they had succeeded in putting some kind of order into the arrangements. Chairs, tables, side tables, napkins, flowers, they were all there in the verandah, neatly arranged. Now they turned their attention to the bric-a-brac in the room, either shifting them behind the almirahs or shoving them under the bedsteads Suddenly a problem reared up before Shamnath. What about mother? Till now neither he nor his wife had thought of it. Shamnath turned on his heels and asked his wif English: And what about mother? the veran room thr The wife, internupting her work, did some hard thinking.
'We'll send her to t neighbours. She can stay there for the night. We'll bring her back tomorrow.' Shamnak screwed up his eyes and looked at her thoughtfully.
No, that won't do. I want to give a wide berth to that next-door hag. If mother stays the night with her, she will again sta coming to our house.
I tell you what. We will tell mother to finish her meal early snd retire to her room. The guests won't start coming before eight. F far. last illne The proposition sounded right. But suddenly the wife said, But if she falls asleep and starts snoring! Then? Her room is next to where dinner will be served did not There w of them We'll ask her to close the door and I'll lock it from the outside. Or, better still, I'l ask mother not to fall asleep. She must keep awake and sitting placing 'But suppose she does fall asleep. You never know how long dinner will last. In any case. you can't leave the bar before eleven. Shamnath threw up his hands in irritation. 'She was going to visit her brother and you stuck your nose in. Wanted to keep up appearances before your friends.
Now what do we do? Tchah! Why should I earn a bad name by coming between mother and son? wash my hands of this affair. Do as you please." Mr. Shamnath held his peace. This was no time for bandying words, but for cool thinking. He turned round and looked at mother's room. Her room opened onto the verandah. As his gaze swept over the verandah, a thought flashed through his mind I've got it!' he said. Promptly he strode towards mother's room. With her back agans the wall, mother was sitting on a low wooden chowki, her face almost covered with dopatta She was telling her beads. Since morning she had been nervous at the goug on in the house.
The big boss from her son's office was coming to their house, and she was anxious that everything should go well.
Mother, finish your meal early this evening. The guests will be here at seven- is wife could ing gown, b paper in hand tems in a lon thirty. Mother slowly uncovered her face and looked at her son. ,
I won't take my meal today. You know very well I don't cat when flesh is cooked in the house. rder into te 1 there in the -a-brac in the bodstead ll now neihe his wife i Anyway, anyway, retire to your room early. All right, son. And, mother,
I will receive the guests in the drawing room; till then you stay in the verandah. When we move into the verandah, you will quietly slip into the drawing room through the bathroom. send her to the w' Shamnu For an instant mother looked at her son; then she said faintly, 'All right, son. want to give a will again sta meal carly and 'One thing more, mother. Do not go to sleep early, as you do. Your snores carry far.
I can't help it, son,' she said, ashamed. I have difficulty in breathing since my last illness. But if she falls Mr Shamnath had fixed everything. But he still felt anxious. The arrangement did not seem foolproof. What if the boss took into his head to step into the verandah? There would be about ten guests, mostly his Indian colleagues and their wives. Any one of them might like to use the bathroom. Oh, what a nuisance! He brought up a chair and placing it by the door said, 'Mother, let's see how you look in this chair. dinner will be Or, better sill Mother nervously fingered her beads, adjusted her dopatta over her head, and sat down in the chair. ner will last He Bhagavan! No, mother, no! Not like this. Not with your feet up.
It's not a cot. It's a chair, a chair isit her brother re your friends Mother dangled her feet. 'And please, please, mother, don't walk about barefoot. And don't wear those wooden sandals of yours. One day I'll throw them away. ther and son? Mother was silent rds, but for coo pened onto de ough his mind er back agains overed with de s at the goungs And what will you wear, mother? Tl wear what I have. I'll wear what you ask me to.
The big boss from her son's office was coming to their house, and she was anxious that everything should go well. fe could Dwn, her in hand in a long Mother, finish your meal early this evening. The guests will be here at seven- thirty. Mother slowly uncovered her face and looked at her son. 'Son, I won't take my meal today. You know very well I don't eat when flesh is cooked in the house. into the re in the rac in the bedsteads ow neither is wife in Anyway, anyway, retire to your room early.' All right, son.' And, mother, I will receive the guests in the drawing room; till then you stay in the verandah. When we move into the verandah, you will quietly slip into the drawing room through the bathroom. her to the Shamnath, nt to give a again start al carly and For an instant mother looked at her son; then she said faintly, 'All right, son." One thing more, mother.
Do not go to sleep early, as you do. Your snores carry far. I can't help it, son,' she said, ashamed. 'I have difficulty in breathing since my last illness. if she falls Mr Shamnath had fixed everything. But he still felt anxious. The arrangement did not seem foolproof. What if the boss took into his head to step into the verandah? There would be about ten guests, mostly his Indian colleagues and their wives. Any one of them might like to use the bathroom. Oh, what a nuisance! He brought up a chair and placing it by the door said, Mother, let's see how you look in this chair. ner will be better still Mother nervously fingered her beads, adjusted her dopatta over her head, and sat down in the chair. will last. In 'He Bhagavan! No, mother, no! Not like this. Not with your feet up. It's not a cot. It's a chair, a chair. it her brother your friends Mother dangled her feet. And please, please, mother, don't walk about barefoot. And don't wear those wooden sandals of yours. One day I'll throw them away. her and son? ds, but for cool pened onto the ough his mind er back against overed with the s at the goings Mother was silent 'And what will you wear, mother? TIl wear what I have. I'll wear what you ask me to.
The Boss Came to Dinner full lesson ( 2nd part)
Mr Shamnath inspected his mother with half-closed eyes, trying to decide what his mother should be made to wear for the occasion. He was a stickler for discipline in the house; he had the final say in everything. Where the pegs should be fixed in the walls, in what coner the bedsteads should be placed, what should be the colour of the curtains, which sari his wife should put on, what should be the design of the tables- Mr Shamnath was meticulous about the smallest detail.
He looked at mother from head to foot, and said, "Better wear white kameez and salwar. Just go and dress up. Let's see how you look in them. but sh legs f with Indiar could with gown femal Mother got up slowly and went into her room Shamnath turned to his wife and said in English, Mother is a problem! There's no end to her oddities.
If something goes wrong and the boss is offended. know what will happen the me Mother came out in white kameez and white salwar. Short, shrivelled, lard. lustre cyes, only half of her sparse hair covered with the dopatta, she looked only slightly improved Shammath lookcd at her dubiously. That will do.
If you have any bangles, pt and the weak i had lef She sn when s them on too. T have no bangles, son, you know that. I had to sell all my jewellery for your dopatta portion education" All right, all right! Why do you make a song about it, mother? he said. Why carry on about it? Just say that you don't have any. Why bring in the question of my education?
The jewellery was sold to good purpose, wasn't it? I'm not a loafer, am 1 pay you back double what you spent on me." then pu what co May my tongue be reduced to ashes, son! Does a mother ever ask a son to pay back? I did not mean it. Don't misunderstand me.
Had I the bangles, I would have wom them all the time. But I don't have them. confusee awkware tremblec Now it was past five-thirty. Mr Shamnath had to take his bath and get into his dinner suit. His wife was getting ready in her room. Before leaving, Shamnath agam instructed his mother, 'Mother, don't sit silent as you always do. If the Sahib comes your way and asks you anything, reply to him properly. I'll tell you what to say." the boss. I am illiterate, son.
I can neither read nor write. You can tell them that you mother is ignorant, if that helps." T As time passed, mother's heart started pounding heavily. If the boss came to her greeting effort loo and asked her some question, what would she say? She was scared of English Sas even from a distance, and this one, they said, was an American. God only knew what sort of questions American Sahibs asked. She felt like going away to her widow-friend but she lacked the courage to defy her son's orders. She kept sitting there, dangling her legs from the chair. what ine in in the Mr Shamnath's dinner had reached the crescendo of success.
The topics changed with every change of glasses. Everything was going superbly. The Sahib liked the Indian dishes and the Memsahib the curtains, the sofa covers, the decor. What more could the hosts ask for? The Sahib had shed his reserve and was regaling the audience with anecdotes. He was as jovial now as he was strict in the office.
His wife, in a black gown, a rope of pearls round her neck, wearing a loud perfume, was the cynosure of the female guests. She laughed, she nodded; she was so free with Mrs Shamnath and with the men; as if they were old friends. of the es-Mr cad to 's see Nobody realized how time flew; it was now ten-thirty. They came out of the drawing room, Mr Shamnath leading the way and the boss and the other guests following Reaching the verandah, Mr Shamnath stopped short. What he saw made him weak in the legs. His smile vanished. Outside her room mother was sitting exactly as he had left her, but both her feet were on the seat and her head swayed from side to side. She snored heavily. When her head fell to one side, her snores became louder, and when she awoke with a jolt she again started swaying from side to side.
The end of her dopatta had slipped from her head and her thin hair lay in confusion over the bald portion of her head Mr Shamnath seethed with anger. He felt like giving her a wild shaking and then pushing her into her room. But the boss and the other guests were standing by what could he do? The wives of the other guests tittered and the boss said, 'Poor dear.' Mother woke up, flustered. Seeing so many people around her, she got so confused that she could not utter a word. She covered her head, and getting up awkwardly she stood before them with downcast cyes. Her legs shook; her fingers trembled. Mother, go to sleep. Why do you keep awake so late?' Ashamed, he looked at the boss. The boss was in an expansive mood. He smiled, and said, Namaste Mother almost shrank into herself. Hesitantly she tried to fold her hands in greeting. But one hand was inside the dopatta, with which she held her beads, and her effort looked clumsy. Shamnath was annoyed. The boss extended his right hand. Mother looked at it, alarmed Mother, shake hands with the Sahib!
she placed her left hand in the Sahib's right hand. Someone giggled, Shamnath wa furious But how could she? She was holding the beads in her right hand, In confusioe The Shamnath the party Not like that, mother! Don't you even know how to shake hands? Your right industry pa hand,please But hy mow the boss was purmping her let hand saying, How are you ? 1How are Mr his cars. V you? for you. I'l Masiben, say, "I am quite well, thank you.
Molher mumbled somothing. Someone giggled Bun dhe crisis passed. The boss had saved the situation Shamnath's anger started cbbing No said, shak which the The Sahib was still holding mother's hand and sho standing still, utte confused women m Shammath said, 'Sir, my mother's from a village. She has lived in a village all her liafe. That's why she's feeling so shy. embroider mother. 'N "Is that so? the Sahib said cheerfully. Well, I like village folk. I guess your modher must be knowing folksongs and folk dances. The boss nodded his head and looked approvingly at mother. M Th come off Sir, this Mother, y Mother, the Sahib wants you to sing. An old song. Any old song. You know so many M eyes feel t I can't sing,' mother said in a weak voice. 'Have you ever heard me singing? 'Mother, he said, 'does one ever refuse a guest? If you don't sing, the Sahib may feel offended. Look, he's waiting. O. You'll be But I don't know any song.
I know nothing of singing. Th Come, mother. Just sing a couplet or two. The pomegranate song. for instance table. Oth The Indian colleagues and their wives clapped their hands at the mention of this song. Mother looked with imploring eyes, first at her son, then at her daughter-in-law, W sOoner hia with the de feelings h before the showers th Mother! The son was getting impatient. She could detect a touch of asperity in his tone There was no way out. She sat down in the chair. In a fecble cracked voice she started singing an old wedding song. The ladies burst into laughter. After singing lines,mother pathetically trailed into silence. It sitting with of the loca usion h was The verandah resounded with applause. The Sahib would not stop clapping Shamnath's anger suddenly changed into joy.
Mother had introduced a new note into the party When the elapping stopped, the subject suddenly veered round to village industry products of the Punjab; the boss wanted to be enlightened on the point. ow are Mr Shamnath was bubbling with joy. The sound of clapping was still ringing in his ears. We have so many of them, he said enthusiastically. TIl collect a complete set for you. I'll bring it to the office, sir. You'll like it, I am sure. No, no, don't get me wrong. I'm not talking of those bazaar things,' the boss said, shaking his head. I mean those things which are made in Punjabi homes, things which the women make themselves. started Mr Shamnath thought for a moment.
The girls make dolls, sir, andand women make phulkari. utterly Mr Shamnath inefficiently tried to explain that a phulkari was a sort of embroidered piece of cloth and then, giving the effort up as bopeless, he turned to his mother. 'Mother, do we have an old phulkari in the house? lage all Mother went in and returned with one ess your wead and The boss examined it with keen interest. It was an old phulkari, its threads had come off in several places, and the cloth almost crumbled at the touch. Shamnath said, Sir, this one is almost threadbare. It's useless. I'll have a new one made for you Mother, you will make one for the Sahib, won't you? Make one for him. know so Mother was quiet. Then she said, 'My sight is not the same as it used to be. Old cyes feel the strain. ging? ahib may Of course mother will make one for you, Shamnath said, interrupting her "You'll be pleased with it. The Sahib nodded his head, thanked mother and proceeded towards the dining table. Other guests followed. nstance When they had settled down to dinner, mother quietly slipped into her room. No soOoner had she sat down than her eyes flooded with tears. She kept wiping her eyes with the dopatta, but the tears wouldn't stop, as if the flood-gates of years of old pent-up feelings had suddenly burst open. She tried to control herself, she folded her hands before the image of Krishna, she prayed for the long life of her son, but like monsoon showers the tears kept flowing on of this in-ia sperity in It was now midnight. The guests had departed one by one. But mother kept sitting with her back set against the wall. All the excitement was over and the quietness of the locality had also descended on the house Voice she nging two
One could hear only the rattling of plates in the kitchen. Someone knocked at the door. 'Mother, open the door The a be Her heart sank. Had she made another blunder? She was making mistakes. Oh, why had she dozed off in the verandah? Had her son not forgiven her for it? She opened the door with trembling hands. she Shamnath hugged her wildly. 'Ammi, you have done wonders today. The Sahib was so pleased with you, Ammi my good Ammi! Abe Her frail body looked even more small against Shammasth's heavy frame. Tears came to her eyes. Wiping them, she said, Son, send me to Hardwar. I've been asking you for a long time. The situ Sha Shamnasth's face darkened. He let go of her. What did you, mother? Again the same thing? mot his the He was getting angrier. 'So you want to discredit me before others so that they will say that the son cannot give shelter even to his own mother! No, son, don't misunderstand me. You live with your wife, in joy and comfort. well Tan befc fellc I've come to the end of my life. What will I do here?
The few days that are left to me, I would like to spend in meditation. Please send me to Hardwar. If you go away, who'll make the phulkari for the Boss? I promised him one in your presence. You know that. Son, my eyesight has become feeble. It can't stand any strain. You can have the Glo Bric phulkari made by someone else. Or buy a ready-made one." turn Look, you can't let me down like this, mother. Do you want to spoil the whole thing? If the Sahib is pleased, he'll give me a raise beds scre Mother was silent for a minute. Then suddenly she said, "Will he give you a lift in the office? Will he? Did he say so? give hag: threw stuc keep wash He did not say anything. But didn't you see how pleased he was with me? He said when you start making the phulkari, he'll personally come and watch it being made. If the boss is pleased, I may get an even higher post. I may become a big official. held band going dang regal Her complexion started changing, and gradually her wrinkled face was suffused with joy 'So you are going to get a lift in the office, son anec spars shriv foolp
'It's not so easy, mother. You don't understand. If only I could please the boss. .. There are others too, all wanting to get promoted. It's all a rat race, mother. But I'll have a better chance. 'In that case I'll make one for him, I'll... I'll somehow manage it, son.' Silently she prayed for her son. 'Now go to sleep, mother,' Mr Shamnath said as he turned towards door -Bhisham Sahnl