I woke up at 5 am today and with a distinct memory of saving my ma and me from being eaten up by a bunch of zombies pretending to be human.
I swear we were invited to a posh restaurant with dark interiors and grey walls by a very suave ex-student of my mom's who looked a bit like a Bollywood A-lister last evening. I did hate all my mom's students at one time because she loved them and spent a whole lot of time with them but, didn't remember this guy. Though my ma seemed to remember him well enough to accept his invite. To me, he looked smarmy right from the start. What clinched the deal for me however was the fact that he was willing to drive us both in his luxurious dark-tinted SUV and anyone who knows me knows how I hate to drive.
So, off we went, nicely dressed and happy. I was dreaming of the lovely food that I would get to click for my Instagram account while, ma was busy chatting up with the 40-something 'boy'!
We reached this posh and unlisted looking restaurant whose entrance looked like that of an old fort with grey exposed rocks and accompanying arches. It looked pretty cool with vintage furniture and liveried staff.
I was so busy dreaming of kebabs and biryani by now that I couldn't wait to get inside and start. I however saw that the place had valet parking before we all went in to meet this middle-aged smarmy guy's family - this was a lucky thing to do.
The inside was a bit of a let down because once you entered, the walls didn't change. They were still grey exposed stones as outside. The furniture was very flimsy and the people looked almost lost in their own world. Most-importantly, there was no aroma of food. But, I chalked it all up to - bad place to eat and walked with my ma to the table where the family of some kids and their mom was waiting for us. I was looking at a very boring evening by now and all dreams of food photography was off because the place hardly had any light.
We sat down. The entire trek from the door to the table laid out at the back of the restaurant took a while because of my ma's bad knee, She shuffled and walked leaning on her cane while the smarmy 'student' held her hand smiling like he was eyeing a trophy. My ma was obviously soaking in all the attention.
We sat down finally, I insisted on sitting next to ma - thank God!
After a while, I realized that there was no food coming in and then a strange feeling hit my spine. I turned around to see a sea of deadened eyes looking at us as if we were a feast served. I looked back at them archly like any Delhi girl used to having people stare at them in public places. But, suddenly as my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I saw a sea of grey faces and some with cracking make-up.
I knew in a jiffy that we were in the wrong place and in wrong company thanks to all the paranormal romances I have been devouring in the last few years. I knew we were the dinner!
My only worry now was to get ma out of the place quickly which is next to impossible because of her arthritis. I turned back to the table to suddenly see that the kids were eyeing my ma with similar hungry eyes as the others at our back. The smarmy guy was still acting suave and so was his wife though her make-up had started cracking. Ma was oblivious to all and talking 19 to a dozen with the devious duo.
I had to do something and I did. With SFX-defying speed, I stood up dragging ma up from the flimsy chair that broke when it fell. Ma yelped and I said, "grab the cane."
She did it with the speed of a parent who is tired of her defiant-since-teenage rebel-wihout-cause offspring and looked up. I said, "run".
She looked at me as if I had finally lost my mind. With regret on her face, she turned to our hosts who were yet to order dinner and finally saw what I had already seen - the drying make-up that had fallen-off the smarmy guy's cheek showing a row of dirty exposed teeth and rotting gums.
It was perhaps the teacher in her that got really disgusted by the lack of hygiene despite having taught it to all her students that she got wildly angry and suddenly picked up the stick and whacked him on his head.
I must say, that her action took everyone in the room by surprise and bought us a lot of time. I knew already that zombies are slow on the uptake thanks to the paranormal series I had been devouring and broke into a run pulling ma by her wrist.
My only fear now was the arthritic knee that might stop us from making the escape. I spied a closed doorway on my left and suddenly remembered all the airline safety drills that insisted on telling you about the doors on the left and right that "open in case of emergency." This was a bloody emergency said my brain and I dragged ma to the door.
And yes, it opened. Because, it WAS an emergency.
We were out in a sunlit lawn and there were shaded deck chairs full of - yes - more zombies!
I knew that we had walked out into the frying pan from the fire but, still we were out in the open and we could see things clearly. I also suddenly realized that ma could keep pace with me. I looked at her and then her knee and up back at her with awe in my eyes pride in my swelling heart and like some Bond girl she shrugged her shoulder delicately and kept running with me.
My heart swelled in gratitude to see her walk without any pain. I loved this moment more than anything but, we had zombies to get rid of before we could rejoice.
So, I shoved her into an alcove in a stoney wall which was covered with moss and flowers and put a finger to my lip to tell her to keep quiet. The zombies on the deck chairs were stirring a little and I could hear a bit of a commotion coming from inside the faux-restaurant - or was it a real one for "zombies only"?
Anyway, I had no time to loose. I ran to the the edge of the parking and spied an old and battered red Maruti 800 and quickly memorized the number off the twisted plate. With that I ran back to ma and took her out of the alcove and walked boldly back to the entry. A swarm of zombies ran past us - apparently looking for us, so we held our breath. No breath means you too are a zombie - thanks to my knowledge of paranormal literature.
We quickly made it to the front door and I gave the number of the red car to the liveried staff who didn't at all look like a zombie - how were they managing to stay alive? There was no time to investigate or even ask because, they could tip us off to the swarm of greys still running around in the garden looking for us.
Anyhow, the car came in, I took to the wheels, ma got in quicker than me still clutching her walking stick like a talisman or a weapon of mass destruction and I strapped her to the seat. I drove like a manic without sparing any rubber till I remembered that the zombies could follow our tracks and slowing down. When I checked left, ma was fast asleep like my baby niece often is after a day of adventures.
What woke me up was the fact that the zombies knew where my folks lived. I had to move them quickly to my place.
It was still dark when my eyes popped opened and the phone said it was 5 am. Adrenaline levels were still high in my blood and the zombies had lost us for good.
By 9 am I was already up and around for four hours. So, decided to call ma to see if she was doing good. I must confess that I half expected her to be unwell while the other half wanted her to be rid of the pain like she was in the dream.
So, she picked up on the nth ring when I was about to hang up and walk down to her place and said, "you are awake?"
I must say that was a low blow but, I managed to carry on saying, "yes and also done with tea, Yoga and breakfast."
Her reply was a very casual, "oh."
I thought something was wrong and asked her if all was well.
She sounded sad and said, no, Nonie - my niece - was unwell and had been sent to her already for the day because she was not going to school. I tut-tutted and said, "can I talk to her?"
My ma said, "I don't think she'd be interested."
I was aghast. I said, "how can you say that?"
She totally side-stepped that and said, "Are you coming now?"
I said, "Do you want me to? I can if you need help with the baby."
Her answer was a bored, "not really."
This conversation was getting messier by the minute. Had the zombies attacked my parents' home?
So, I persisted, "what's up with you all?"
She sounded really bored with the conversation by now and said, "we are watching Masha and the Bear and Masha has made dresses out of all seven of the bear's towels and now he has nothing to dry himself with when he takes a bath..."
My head was reeling. "WHAT?"
I heard my niece's voice suddenly shouting, "didu, didu, the bear's in the shower..."
My ma said, "I have to go now. The bear's in the shower," and disconnected.
Surely, the zombies have won and even my little niece is one of them. So, much for my trying to save my family from the attack of the zombies.
Realization: As long as there is the television hanging from the drawing room wall. My family will be a part of the zombie tribe however much I try to save their souls.