Now that Diwali is over and the in-laws have returned to Delhi after gifting me a PSP (yee-haw!) I can narrate recent Diwali related developments in peace.
As most of you may know Diwali is that annual festival where Hindus celebrate the return of Lord Ram, millennia ago, to Ayodhya. The natives, Ramanand Sagar reminded us so vividly, stood around looking overjoyed and waving their hands in the air (like they just didn't care) but not so much that their fake wigs and beards would fall off.
And to celebrate this momentous occasion in our cultural history we invited the missus' parents over from Delhi.
Some of you may know that last year we had celebrated our debut Diwali in Dilli where yours truly was subject to several bouts of point blank ambush laddoo feedings and excessive kurta wearings. Also I had to light many fireworks, some several megatons in explosive strength, with quivering knees while the young Punjabi nephews, as is their way, calmly lit hot dog sized sparklers with one hand, juggled exploding strings of firecrackers with the other while their mother fed them katoris of dahi balles as evening snack.
Unfortunately due to a respiratory system that has been week from birth I was soon overwhelmed by sulphur fumes and had to retire to the living room where aunts (bua-jees) attempted to revive me with laddoos. Their voices said "Koi nahi beta, koi nahi..." but their eyes said "Hey bhagwan (wahe guru!)... please don't let the neighbours see our lily-livered javayi. Oy hoy!"
Or something to that effect.
This year, therefore, I jumped at the chance to bring the in-laws down to aamchi Mumbai to give them a dose of that good old Mumbai hospitality to people from the north of India. Of course the in-laws are possibly the sweetest people in the world and there was much fun and games and shopping from Fabindia.
On the way back from Fabindia in the car I suggested ways of spending a relaxing evening at home: "Perhaps we could see a movie or some sitcom. Or one of the Planet Earth DVDs. Better yet we can watch people lighting fireworks from the safety of our living room windows WHILE watching sitcoms..."
The missus interjected: "Nope. We are all going to play teen patti!" Everyone else immediately sounded their approval with shouts of "Oy Hoy". I feigned tremendous enthusiasm as well of course.
The thing is this. I don't really get that teen patti game. And by extension I don't get poker as well.
As long as a card game involves strategy, planning and no betting, as is the case with 13-card rummy, UNO and Top Trumps Monster Trucks, I am not so bad and seldom finish last. But as soon as a gambling component is involved I completely lose my composure. I simply cannot process that level of probability under those levels of pressure with those levels of speed. Combine that with the worst poker face in the galaxy and you have Sidin Sunny Vadukut: the Tilak Raj of Diwali night card playing.
As soon as we reached home, and while mom-in-law (a dear loving woman I might add who religiously reads every single blogpost I read before making fluffy aloo parathas that no hotel can replicate) cleared the living room floor, I confided my teenpattiophobia to the missus in the bedroom behind closed door. She assured me that she would keep an eye on me, and ensure that everyone involved me in a sporting manner. "After all it is just some good-natured Diwali fun. It's not about winning or losing honey..."
An hour later, when I lost my fourteenth straight hand, the missus understood completely and threw my Guitar Hero 2 guitar at me.
Even accounting for my gambling ineptitude I was performing spectacularly badly. And not just because I suck at cards. The atmosphere was crackling a little too much you see.
So we sat down on the floor, doled out chips and began to play teen patti. Three minutes later the brother-in-law burst into song and punched the air with clenched fists... and this was just because he got to shuffle the cards. The in-laws and the missus--sane, normal and completely lovable people otherwise--suddenly turned into hyper-excited, adrenaline-overdosed, back-slapping, high-fiving, air-dhol playing card fiends. And the aakhri nail in the coffin was the that exquisite punjabi-hindi-card-lingo:
"Gole ka trail! Gole ka trail!" followed by "Sau ki salaami! Sau ki salaami!"
"Mere paas duggi ka pair..."
"Chaar ki chaal hai Sidin... CHAAR KI CHAAL!"
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD... Now first of all I don't even know what a Gola is. There used to be a Gomathi Lakshmi in engineering college who we all lovingly referred to as "Gola" when she was around and as "The girl with the..."... okay that's besides the point and she probably reads this blog.
So no, I had no idea what a studious Electrical Engineering babe had to do with my father-in-law's killer hand that wiped the table clean and made the entire Kapoor khaandhaan explode like a can of Diet Seven-up that had been left in the freezer overnight*.
At first I tried to fit in inconspicuously by folding my cards every time before I had to bet at all. But after four or five times the missus caught on and screamed her head off telling me to be a sport using only her eyes in the way that wives can after three months or so of marriage.
So I tried to play along by making the minimum possible bets and waiting for someone to say "Chalo show karo sab log..."
Of course I would lose every time because one of the Kapoors had a "tiggi, duggi, ikka ka (ki?) sequence" or a "figgy ki trail ki chaal ka hukum". Or some such thing. I always did exactly what my wife did and all was well. One round I won twenty-four rupees and a huge "sabaash bete!!!" but I cannot explain how.
Then after three hours or so everyone got fed up and my heart leapt for joy secretly when the wife suggested we play "Mufflis". But then when I tried to clear the cards the missus lightly rapped me over the knuckles with the PS2 and told me that "Mufflis" was merely an alternate version of teen patti where the person with the worst cards won.
"Ab to javayi jeetega bhai!" said the father-in-law excitedly.
I got three aces in the first hand and was almost about to slit my throat with one when the missus stopped me and told me to use one of the discarded jokers instead.
A little after one in the morning, when enthusiasm had finally drained away from everyone, the in-laws decided to get up and then settle into the couches for a few hours of Diwali Dumb Charades. After a few cans of Red Bull I was feeling quite up for it actually. After all, Dumb-C was one of those events that yours truly excelled in at the inter-school and inter-college levels. And even when we all decided to do only Hindi movies I was still very upbeat.
Of course, I was randomly chosen to start. But my joy was short-lived. The mom-in-law whispered the movie name and my crest fell.
"Bedard Zamaana Kya Jaane" she said in my ear.
Oy hoy indeed.
*This actually happened later that night.