Sunday lunch

On Sunday we drove to Frankfurt to meet a relative – my father-in-law’s cousin, to be precise. He lives in Singapore with his wife and four children, and owns an investment-banking firm. This was the first occasion I spent a while talking with him – the last time we met was at my wedding, and you know how much the bride and groom get to talk to guests during their wedding. No, you wouldn’t really know that – you aren’t married yet. Anyone on the radar?

So we landed up at this hotel in Frankfurt on Sunday evening, and soon after we drove to a nearby Tandoori restaurant. Taj Mahal, said the board outside, in glittering silver. We seated ourselves at a corner table, and a pleasant-looking waiter came up and greeted us. Drinks were ordered first – me Ginger Ale; my wife Mango juice; her uncle Scotch – and we then asked for some starters. While he was taking our order, another waiter came up and started talking to this guy in Punjabi, telling him how to take the order. Among other things, he told this chap not to feel shy about asking the guests if he didn’t understand something, and to note down the number listed adjacent to the dish we ordered. Yeh yahaan naya hai, he explained to us, and gave some more gyan before leaving the naya waiter, and us, in peace. This on-the-job training was the first I’d come across in all these years, and funny thing was that the new guy seemed more composed and gracious than his mentor.

The conversation was relaxed and slow-paced, which suited me very well. I asked him a question I always ask people in that line: how are currency values regulated? How does the Pound go up one day, and the Dollar the next? He replied – in a general and slightly vague manner – that it had to do with the flow of goods, with how much each currency could buy. We then drifted to other matters, and as always, my question remained unanswered. Perhaps you have an idea?! (I’m pulling your leg, of course).

At one point during the conversation, he spoke of people taking a year off and doing something divorced from their usual line of work. The Swiss, he said, do that every seven to eight years – they quit what they are doing and take up something else for an year. One could take up political science – it would broaden one’s horizons. Or literature (my eyes lit up at this point!). Or simply travel somewhere.

The rest of the evening my thoughts kept drifting back to this theme. It would be really nice to take an year off. I would probably study literature, or history. And backpack along the Mediterranean coast, following Paul Theroux’s route in The Pillars of Hercules.

Castles in the air, of course. Next year – when my wife will be occupied with her full-time MBA – would be perfect for such a break. But that is out of question – finance has suddenly become a major topic for discussion and planning. Further, I’m mid-way through a career transition right now, and a break at this time would be most inappropriate. (As I write this, I wonder if there wouldn’t always be some “practical reason” that keeps me from taking this step…)

A different topic. You say you like my new style – hmmm, that’s interesting. I’ll keep that in mind. And about your comment regarding your pet name, I first read it as “My pet’s name at home is..” !! But that is a nice coincidence, yes. And it makes me wonder what your real name is. Don’t tell me.