Updated: Aug 12
Tuesdays are when temptations take over the palate in our house. It’s the day Pizza Hut offers a 1 + 1 deal, notifications for which land in my mail and message boxes promptly at the beginning of the day. It takes a lot of self-control and dissuasion to ignore the messages and settle for the drab, homemade dal-roti-sabji combo, but today was not one such day. There was a burning appetite for Pizza that I couldn’t conquer.
Ever since I made the Covid connection, I have been in a state of delusion. My gustatory demands have grown in the recovery period. I have begun to believe that to safely navigate out of the fatigue, I must eat the ‘good stuff’. Margherita Pizza, Jamoca-Almond Fudge, Choley-Baturey, Honey Cake, Kerala Pazham pori etc. And I want to make no compromise with regard to getting back to my elements. I will eat what it takes!
So Pizza it will be this Tuesday, we jointly decided. (‘Jointly’ should be taken in an operative sense. I propose, he accepts. The husband, I mean.)
The lady taking the order at the other end of the phone has a foreign accent that always makes me apologize a dozen times in a three-minute order taking ritual. You can’t have subtitles for a telecon, you see. Nevertheless, by now, I know the questions she would ask and I keep my answers ready in the expected order. Phone number. Tuesday deal. Flavour. Cash or card. No add-ons. No drinks. In spite of it, many details are lost between the two ends of the phone and here’s what happened today.
‘Have you stopped giving us ketchup for free?’ I asked the lady. Twice before, the pizzas had come without ketchup, I stressed.
What did she say? Had they stopped?
One can’t say, you see. There are cost pressures everywhere. Covid, Climate Change, War, Inflation, Energy Crisis and all else have resulted in getting us lesser and lesser for our money.
‘Have you stopped giving ketchup?’ I asked again.
This time my ears picked up what she said. No, they hadn’t. The ketchup sachets still come gratis. Thank God for small freebies.
Urging her not to forget to slip in the sachets this time, I disconnected the call. In 20 minutes, the antidote to my fatigue would arrive. Tell me about small sensory pleasures that turn us into silly, slavering mongrels!
As it turned out, the delivery boy didn’t show up in 20 minutes. The waiting made my hunger pangs go on an overdrive. I began to suspect that the lady must have got some delivery information wrong and the pizza must have gone elsewhere. It was a vexing thought. The last thing I wanted was to eat leftovers from yesterday. I called up the lady to make sure things weren’t leading me to the fridge, and she said something that I assumed meant 'the order was on its way'.
‘Confirm with the delivery boy that the ketchup sachets are there. There is no ketchup in the house,’ I said to the husband.
After what seemed like ever, my manna came to the door.
‘Ketchup,’ I prompted from my desk and the spouse opened the box to look.
‘Oh, I forgot to put them,’ I heard the delivery boy say.
‘This is the third time you have not given us ketchup,’ I hollered from where I sat. He couldn’t have seen me, but must have made no mistake in knowing how I felt about his oversight.
The spouse too made his disappointment apparent in his own way. ‘Why do you forget it every time?’
‘Sorry Sir, I will go and bring it now,’ the man said and left.
‘He is bringing it,’ said the spouse and I nodded approvingly.
‘They are making it a habit now. They must learn,’ I said with a grunt.
Soon after, I began to feel a knot in my stomach as reality sank in. It was the kind of unease that makes me reach out for Xanax before things spiral into a semblance of panic.
It’s the month of August and the temperatures are in the range of 45-46 degrees. One can’t look out the window without squinting. One can’t walk in the sun without getting scalded. One can’t be forgiving to the lethal intentions of desert summer during these days. Given this, did I really want the delivery boy to take a ride back to our house to give us a few sachets of ketchup? What on earth had stopped me from saying it was all right if he had forgotten? Did my kindness go to graze in this hot sun?
I felt ditched by a flash my own insensitivity. The sense of remorse one feels when she has not been the best version of her is very hurtful.
It might be a different thing that the very nature of the delivery boy’s job kept him outdoors for a major part of the day, rain or shine. If not us, he would be out delivering to someone else. But that didn’t dilute the fact that I had been inconsiderate to him. It didn’t absolve me of the guilt of being downright heartless to a fellow human being.
‘Don’t be so hard on you now’, I said to myself, as I sank my teeth into the cheesy Pizza. ‘You weren’t heartless; probably a little hasty and hungry.’
The self-talk placated my nerves presently and I got down to enjoying my meal.
‘I will answer the doorbell when he comes with the ketchup,’ I said to the husband, amidst the busy chomping. I wanted to apologize to the man for making him sprint back in the scorching sun to keep his side of the bargain. It was the only way I could have atoned for my indiscretion.
We were close to finishing our lunch and there was no sign of the delivery boy yet.
‘For all you know, he may not come,’ the husband said. ‘He must have said it just to please us.’
‘I will be happy if he doesn’t. I really don’t want him to. I was briefly brain-fogged then. Blame it on long Covid,’ I said, tossing a hardened piece of crust into the empty Pizza box.
(What do you think happened afterwards? Did he return with the ketchup?
Your guess is as good as mine.)