Two men walked into my office the other day and after some preliminary exchanges with them, I got down to business.
‘So what can I do for you?’ I asked the one who appeared to be the senior of the two. Realizing in my mind that I had about 20 minutes before leaving for my next engagement, I gave him a patient hearing while the other man kept nodding. But when time was about to run out, I stood up with some emphatic words.
‘Right, gentlemen, I’ll do the best I can to help. But now I’ve got to run!’
While the senior one appeared satisfied, the younger one did not. To my utter surprise he blurted out this telling statement:
‘Sir, I am not with him. I’d come to meet you for something else. I too need 15 minutes of your time!’
Not for the first time in my life did I find myself in a muddle. I realized my folly in thinking that the two men had come together. The poor fellow had to come back the next day, and I did make amends, but I had learnt my lesson. Always ask visitors the purpose of their visit instead of jumping
to conclusions!
Muddles become muddier when mistaken identities are involved. A year after we’d gotten married, my wife was planning to touch the feet of a grey haired gentleman at a family function, as is the custom. Luckily she decided to refrain from doing so, finding it too cumbersome a task, since she
was in the family way. She told me so in a whisper. Raising my eyebrows in alarm, I whispered the following words in return:
‘He is a peon from office who has come to help with arrangements, not that uncle from Delhi whom you think he is!’
We have never stopped laughing at that memory.


Life presents many situations which tickle the funny bone with gusto, but only if we are receptive enough. I once dressed up for a workshop with top executives and made sure that I looked as impeccable as possible. My wife Neena came to see me off at the door and also brought an umbrella for me, since it had been raining. She remarked that my suit looked natty, and so did I. I smiled at her, duly returned the compliment, and strode off. I did not spot the muddy puddle that had sprung up very recently near my car. As a hurried shoe landed into it, a huge splash and uneven distribution of dirt across my trousers happened instantaneously. I stared in shock at the sudden transformation which my appearance had undergone. A muffled giggle made me turn around in consternation.

Neena was still at the door, trying to conceal her mirth. My temper rose, then subsided, and I somehow managed to see the funny side of it all. A joint bout of laughter, a quick change of clothing, a hurried call to apologise for being delayed, and I was off again, this time having avoided all kinds of
puddles.

The funny side of life also shows up on television at times. When I see cricketers huddled up before a cricket match, I recall the times when we would just saunter onto the field during our cricketing years. This sort of huddling up is a recent phenomenon, as is the pep talk which the skipper gives his men as they take the field. If the opposition’s score is 100 for no loss not long after, the huddle becomes a distant memory and shoulders start drooping with no sign of salvation!
Another new trend is the tendency of people to cuddle up for no reason. As has been mentioned in this column earlier, perfect strangers find it convenient to hug each other at the drop of a hat. The cuddles that I, for one, really miss are my grandma’s. There was nothing as soothing in this world as those cuddles. One wonders how soothing these artificial ones with unknown people are.
It’s a muddled world these days. Let’s avoid the puddles and stay cheerful. Learning to laugh at our own selves is one way to do so!

vivek.atray@gmail.com