With Love for America
US President Obama's current visit to India has sparked off considerable discussions on Indo-US ties. Many years ago, I was stationed in a small Indian town where I witnessed an attempt by the locals to strengthen Indo-US ties, which inadvertently went awry. The local club members had organised an exchange programme with a sister club in America. The invited delegation consisted of two knowledgeable (and beautiful) lady American psychologists. The locals were enthralled by them and wanted to give them a special send-off at the concluding dinner.
The club members specially procured some bottles of expensive red wine as a treat for their guests. This decision had some path-breaking social implications. Consumption of alcohol by women was socially taboo in this town, so none of the local women drank (if we ignore the glasses camouflaged with opaque napkins to disguise contents).
At the farewell dinner, the two ladies arrived, looking glamorous in short dresses. A small group of club members walked up to the Americans, welcomed them and enquired what beverage they would like to drink. The hosts were dismayed when the foreign guests said "water". They then produced the trump card, announcing with a flourish, that they had very tempting fare which would surely make the ladies reconsider their choice. Their mispronunciation of the wine's name ("chateaux"' sounding like "chat ox") took away some of the sheen from the offer. This got restored by the wine's vintage. To the men's astonishment, however, this new input did not bring about the desired result.
The hosts, overcome by a compelling sense of duty, used every form of verbal persuasion to prevent the ladies from making what they perceived to be a serious error of judgment. The foreigners, however, stood by their original choice. “Why are our no's not being taken at face value?” they wondered, greatly baffled. “Are we missing something here?” Their life in America had not equipped them to deal with a situation where even multiple refusals did not have any effect whatsoever.
The two sides having reached an impasse, one of the club members resorted to a bit of emotional blackmail, indelicately hinting to the ladies that that he had taken a lot of trouble to procure the wine.
In the light of this disclosure, one of the foreigners (who was suffering from a runny tummy) felt obliged to explain their refusal more fully. “I have a bad stomach”, said she.
“Of course not!” suggested the leader of the delegation with a twinkle in his eye, “your stomach is very good and shapely”.
The American gasped in shock. No one had flirted so outrageously with her in a formal setting. She flung an angry stare at him.
With complete disregard for the nuances of the situation, another bold member of the delegation declared firmly, “I am getting the wine for you anyway”. The now furious psychologist threatened the man: “Bring it and I will pour it in your pocket!”
The male delegation had no idea what to make of this statement, though they realised from the tone that things were not looking bright. Some members of the delegation privately compared her to the goddess Kali during a phase of wrath. Some others who had more common sense and a well honed survival instinct prevailed upon the others to leave the foreigners alone.
For the rest of the evening, the American ladies kept largely to themselves. The "vanquished"' delegation decided to drown their sorrows in fine wine (with soda and ice added for good measure!) and for them the evening passed in a pleasant vintage-wine induced haze.
The lovely foreigners left for their country the next day having tasted Indian hospitality, if not the wine!
This article was first published in The Statesman, India. Asian News Network; all rights reserved.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010