I like good Indian good as much as the next man, but I wouldn’t dare lay claim to the mantle of “foodie”. My cousin, Tim (aka Mullah Omar), on the other hand is never sprightlier than when he’s inventing things in the kitchen and discovering new and frightening cuisines that he has never encountered before. He delights in hunting down food joints that are reputed to manufacture delicious good despite looking about as salubrious as satan’s rectum. It is solely due to him that I once ended up in a sketchy Calcuttan establishment that put complimentary ants in my biryani. To his credit, his culinary creations are usually much more diverse than mine and he has only poisoned us once (with a satay that was thrice as spicy as it was supposed to be).
Yesterday, Tim nearly suffered a sudden and brutal death at my hands.
Here’s the context: I had had a week of poor sleep because of a damn gastrointestinal system exam that was full of shit (literally) and I had just driven up from Virginia to meet Tim and Liz (his splendid girlfriend) in Princeton. Over some brilliant ice-cream in “The Bent Spoon”, Tim insisted that we go to this Zagat rated hole-in-the-wall which was, in a stab at irony, christened “The Paradise Restaurant”.
Knowing that he’d be about as cheerful as a killer whale that has recently been punched in the face if we went elsewhere, Liz and I-- against our better judgement-- sought guidance from Jane, my english accented GPS. She told us, after a brief tantrum, that our destination was in Mercerville, 13 miles away.
Alas, she had betrayed me (not for the first time). All we saw at the end of our hot (literally) pursuit of her directions was a tragically named groceries store: “Wawa supermarket”. At this point, Tim, not accepting any alternatives, scoured the internet for all information on the seemingly mythical Paradise restaurant. According to the “infallible” internet, the damn restaurant seemed to be in three cities of New Jeresy simultaneously. By now, this desire for supposedly sumptuous Indian food took on the fervour of a quest for Tim and he insisted that I drive him to Hamilton and promised me adequate compensation in the form of unimaginable gustatory experiences.
My dear mother had taught me at a shockingly young age that it is best not to upset madmen. Consequently, I drove the 14 miles to Hamilton with Tim licking his lips in the back of the car, awaiting flavours beyond his wildest dreams, and castigating Liz and me for spoiling our appetites with kit-kats and gatorade en route. My car doesn’t have AC and, despite being Indian, I begin experiencing systemic shutdown in the heat.
Like any quest, ours was full of wrong turns, uncertainties, and distractions (Tim spotted a strawberry farm and wanted to pick the “in-season” strawberries). Ultimately, however, we reached the accursed restaurant. Tim leapt out of the car and sprinted to the door. Liz and I followed wearily. From, the almost indecent keenness he had shown to get there, I had expected Tim to barge into the kitchen of the restaurant and attack the nearest dish. Consequently, I was not a little astonished to see him walking back looking about as sheepish as an elephant that had been wrestled to the ground by a rat.
Tim: You’re going to kill me when you read the sign on the door.
Pranay : WHAT?
I squinted at the sign in the distance and my worst fears were confirmed. The damn restaurant was closed for maintenance just for that day.
Pranay : You little...
But, he had already accomplished a 15 yard head-start by then. I tell you, no judge or jury would have convicted me.