He said, "Sorry, I dont like mangoes", when the lady in red, offered it to him. And some of us gaped. The rest of us quickly gulped the mango slices we were eating and then gaped. Perhaps he didnt dig the idea of the entire lunchroom, staring at him as if he was a weirdo, or perhaps, being new, he believed lunchhour was only for having lunch, because he got up. He had opened the door, when someone managed to ask him, "Why?".
"Oh. Just like that, you know, I dont like its taste." And he left.
Well work could wait, was the silent mutual consent, as we all stared at each other in shock. Then the theories flowed.
Voice1 "Perhaps as a kid, he was caught stealing mangoes and was given a big beating for it".
Voice2 "Perhaps he is diabetic".
Voice3 "Then he wouldnt have said, "I dont like", he ought to have said, "I like but I cant eat"".
Voice 1 "Perhaps he had studied in Mumbai as a kid, and had thought he had written Aam correctly in his exam, and had asked his teacher what was wrong and she had slapped him and pointed out that it was his Marathi paper not his Hindi paper. (As if you couldnt guess, Voice 1, was a Southie who grew up in Mumbai, (who mixes Hindi with Marathi) and probably had the traumatic experience, of going up to the teacher, swelling with pride, and coming back with a swollen ear.)
The topic was juicy, but for me the mangoes were juicier. I didnt care why he disliked it, as long as I could have the mangoes that had been meant for him. And my hands had been slowly reaching over to the mangoes, when Mr.C suggested, "Its antinational. Mango is our national fruit. Unless one has medical or financial reasons, to say no to it, its an insult."
"He could be a terrorist?" A meek voice.
"How can he be a terrorist, he is not a Muslim!". Voice 2. And there was a silence. And before the attention could be diverted from him to his mangoes, and the tiny white plate that I had been dragging across the table, nonchalantly; I suggested, "Well he could be a naxalite. Recently there was a news that they had played a role in the Stock Market. And maybe he wants to do something like that by working with us."
I had managed to drag the mangoes, over to me while maintaining eye contact with the rest of them.
"That idiotic, he cant be a naxalite, he is well educated." said Yboy. (Educated doesnt mean a Phd, just that his English was impeccable). I prefered to attack the mangoes, then discuss terrorist profiling.
"But I say its still antinational" Mr.C, unwilling to give up. I had swallowed my first bite. And couldnt resist, "Mr.C. you also told me I should take interest in hockey, when I was interested in cricket, do you know the score of the first match between, India and South Africa, which is being played in South Africa?"
Mr.C bristled, "You are lying, there wasnt a mention in the media."
"Well that could be because women were playing. (After all, when cricket means only men's cricket, why cant hockey mean only men's hockey?). But we dont term the media anti national do we, because they dont mention the results of hockey, our national game, after the match? Or the readers antinational because they wouldnt read or listen to the results, if it was mentioned by the media?"
We both stare at each other coldly. Sure I havent contributed to the mango theory, but importantly I have shot down his contribution. Thats the criteria for success in politics.
"Maybe as a kid, his family suddenly became poor. And he couldnt eat mangoes because they were expensive". Voice 2, coming to my rescue. Now I could attack the mangoes again.
"That would mean he would eat more mangoes now, not less mangoes.Unless he was stuffed with mangoes as a kid. You know they say, Those who get everything, value nothing.", Voice 1
"Or maybe its a protest against the goverment policy to export mangoes. I read long back that the locals couldnt afford mangoes in Maharashtra or something like that", Voice 3.
"Maybe the girl he loved, loved mangoes a lot and now they have broken up", a timid voice. Hmmm has she broken up with someone recently? Anyone at work? But the mangoes are more interesting. And the ones not meant for you are always, more delicious.
"Or maybe the first mango he ate, was rotten. And therefore he swore, he will never eat mangoes again, because they are not worth the risk", an angry voice. As I relish the mangoes, I wonder, hmmm any connection between the angry voice and timid voice?
"Or maybe he had too much expectation from the mangoes. And it was not his fault, and not the mangoes." the timid voice (now through an angry voice) retorted. Yup, there could be a connection or atleast two colleagues in similar situation. And I popped into my mouth, the last slice.
"Perhaps he wanted to win friends, since he is new, and thought by sacrificing the mangoes for us, he would get new friends", Voice 3.
Before she could finish the sentence I had pushed away the plate to its original location, silently and smoothly; wiped my mouth, and gulped the piece I had been tossing from one end of my mouth to another.
And to avoid their attention, to the plate, as soon she finished the sentence, said "Why mangoes, to colleagues? A sensible guy would give it to his Boss". Nods and a pause, as each one thought of the best way to butter up to the Boss.
So for your information the best Ethan Hunt, is not Tom Cruise,(who has the luxury of retakes), but yours truly, who is quick with the hand and mind.
And as a cue to : Boss would prefer us working instead of wondering why some guy doesnt like mangoes, I stood up, closed my lunch box and left. And others followed.
We dont know why he doesnt like mangoes. Perhaps, he lost a dumb charades game, when someone made up, the Hindi Film "Aam ki Kasam" or worse, he wrote a script, "Aam ki Kasam" and it got rejected. After all who can dislike mangoes without a reason?
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