For: Birthday Bash Blog Relay. Excited to win Second Place! Now Media Prompt entries, too.
|Day Four: SCARIEST BIRTHDAY EVER
My parents got married on 4th February, 1961 — two days after my Dad's 26th birthday. So his honeymoon was also an extended birthday celebration. This birthday-honeymoon was 'scary' on a couple of counts, one being a 'funny' scary and one an actually 'terrifying' scary. Both were the result of Dad trying to prove how macho he was.
Mom and Dad went to Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) on this birthday-honeymoon. They were booked in a reasonably fancy hotel, containing a restaurant that served traditional Ceylonese food.
For those unfamiliar with traditional Ceylonese food, let me tell you – it can be deadly. The tiny green-chillies sit there looking innocent, but they can set the hardiest mouth on fire.
Dad, being just-returned from a stint at UCLA, had acquired an 'American' mouth and stomach. My parents were at dinner, with a birthday cake all ready for cutting later, when he decided to prove to his bride that he could eat spicy food.
"Don't," she cautioned. "You are used to bland food now, don't try this."
Never say 'no' to a macho man, especially not if you're the woman he is madly in love with and keen to impress.
In all fairness to Dad, he took a teaspoonful of the spicy curry and mixed it into a whole bowlful of rice. He then nibbled at it, to test it out.
It took three seconds for the pain to start. It started at the back of his tongue and went up his ears and pierced his nostrils. His eyes turned to waterfalls.
Gasping, he downed his mug of beer and Mom's glass of orange juice. He then proceeded to grab fistfuls of birthday cake ('so disgusting!' is how Mom related it) and smear his smarting lips and tongue with the sweetness.
When he emerged from his fog, his new bride had disappeared. She was, the manager informed him, at the front desk phoning a divorce lawyer. She could NOT stay married to a man who smeared his face with birthday-cake in public.
My terrified father ran to the front desk and went down on his knees. He begged, he pleaded, he promised anything.
She didn't divorce him.
She thawed enough to forgive him. She thawed enough to even allow him a special birthday treat the next morning.
In those days, Dad was a SCUBA-diver and qualified lifeguard. One of the attractions of Ceylon was the diving there, especially at a beach called Hikkadua. He had arranged with his friends, Tony and Carle (locals who knew the coast well) to go out in a boat and dive. It wasn't Mom's thing, but the birthday boy was keen on it and she'd go on the boat for the ride.
"Now, Arun," Tony said to Dad, who was preparing to dive off the boat. "Remember what we told you. That side is dangerous. Keep to this side of the boat."
"Right," Dad replied, diving off.
Immediately, he decided to show off to his bride.
"NO, NO," Tony and Carle shouted, as he headed for the dangerous side.
Never say 'no' to a macho man if you are in a boat with the lovely bride he wants to impress.
He ignored the shouting. He ducked one wave. He knew waves came in pairs. He ducked another. Cheekily, he waved at the trio in the boat.
Another wave. He ducked. He ducked its partner.
He did NOT see the third wave coming. He was looking for the boat, wanting a glimpse of his bride's admiring face.
The third wave caught him by surprise. He was carried along, helpless, straight at some very jagged V-shaped coral.
On the boat, Tony and Carle were mouthing at each other to save Mom from hearing, "Poor guy, he was on his honeymoon, it was his birthday, too ..."
Mom hadn't quite realized the danger. "Where is he? I can't see him."
They wondered how to break the news to her. He had probably been cut. Badly cut. Very badly cut. "He WAS on his honeymoon" in the past tense.
"Oh, there he is, on that patch of sand," she said. "Arun, Arun, wait there, we'll come and get you."
They had to maneuver the boat from the other side, which took a bit of time. It was only when they neared that Mom realized her groom was bleeding badly from both arms. She turned, shocked, to Tony and Carle, in time to see them cross themselves in gratitude.
They didn't get divorced. Dad didn't become past tense. They were happily married for 45 years, till Mom passed away. (Hey they had to be happy, they had me, didn't they? )