Sunday, January 20th Continued
Dr Singhal wanted to know if I had been permanently crippled – I told him straight: no permanent damage.
I like my Dad in law to be, very easy going and friendly, even offered to have a look at my wounds, but I declined. Wouldn’t look good amidst the Salsa verde, would it?
We get on. I think he likes the idea of me as a son: tall, proud, sturdy, rather Punjabi, really. When Sonjs first told him she was seeing a Gujarati man with a view to settling down, he’d asked in a distressed manner: ‘Will you have to convert?’ Puzzled, she’d said: ‘To what? We’re both easy going about our respective faiths’. Then he’d said: ‘Vegetarianism.’ See, he had a sense of humour.
Mrs Singhal. Mmm. Not sure, you know what mother in laws are like. She was a small, lumpy woman, not much given to emotion. She always looked like she was going to spit at me when no one else was looking, so naturally I kept my distance.
Mr Singhal asked my Dad where he worked, and my Dad then supping the wine and gurgling with it, muttered: ‘Underground.’ (Was he a coal miner?) I told him to stop gurgling.
‘I am tasting it. Seen on it telly,’ Dad snapped.
‘Very good wine, Dr Singh,’ he declared, raising a glass when it could well have been Lidl’s own label – that’s how much he knew about wine … Dr Singh? He knew it was Singhal. Twit. One glass quickly became two and then three. He was going for it. Mum was rightly concerned and cast a withering look as though she was constipated with fury.
I then heard Mrs Singhal ask my mother what kind of Italian food she liked, to which my mum had gone: ‘Garlic bread.’ Sonjs found this extremely funny. I nudged her and she kicked me back on that ankle. I screamed and fell from the chair, causing a right scene.
Suddenly, Isabella was there at my side, holding my hand and looking at me with great concern. Sonia wasn’t impressed and shoved her out of the way. ‘What happened?’
They all crowded round. Vinesh chortled: ‘Sonia’s just told him where she wants to go for the honeymoon.’
Order was restored, Dr Singhal and Luigi helped me back up. Sonia thought I’d been overdramatic and said so. Puh! She was just spiked about Isabella. Dad was gone, an embarrassment. Had sat back down quickly, and grinned. ‘Such a clumsy boy.’
Things were all right for a bit afterwards. Starters arrived, mains were in full flow, as was Dad. I had started to relax. Big mistake.
‘Nitin got small pipi…how can you have children with small pipi? Good thing he have a small one at least,’ announced Dad, holding court over the whole table.
There was stunned silence.
Dr Singhal looked puzzled, worried. ‘Pipi?’
‘Yah,’ my Dad popped. ‘Pipi. He not know how important pipi is, when young he just waste it. I tell him you have to look after pipi, keep looking at it…now you have internet, no excuse.’
‘I look at my pipi every day. Check to see it is going up, not down. Most important when you get married, want family. Now my pipi done good things…can look at Nitin and Vinesh and think good retirement with pipi…Vinesh not have pipi, he can’t find … Dr Singh, you must have pipi.’
I was mortified, but Dr Singhal took the question on bravely.
‘What do you mean pipi?’
‘You don’t know pipi meaning…surprised you being doctor. Pipi – Private Investment Plan Incorporated. Or Pension Investment Plan Incorporated, I forget which now…When Nitin born, I took out pipi straightaway.’
It was true I had a pipi – a small one and Dad berated me for not putting more aside but we have lifestyle choices I told him, in his day, there was just a VHS cassette. We’ve moved on.
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