In respone to my post on The Hypocrite, slgayathri opined that it could be the way the couple avoided guests! It was too irresistible a spark to let go unnoticed. I told her I would elaborate on her theme and here is the story of Ponnaiya! Ponnaiya is a guy who thinks that all human beings have the same ailments as he suffers from. I do not know if there is an English word that describes such a condition. Nor do I know if such a thinking process is itself an ailment. But these are mere academic questions. The point that I’m trying to make here is the kind of problem that he poses to others. I happen to be in cocktail circuits very often and my friend Ponnaiya too can be spotted in many such gatherings. You cannot miss him even in packed gatherings, as his presence will be conspicuous by a six feet vacuum around him. It is as if he has been quarantined and cordoned off by some invisible force. The fact merely is that almost everyone present in such a jolly gathering, whose combined aim is to attack the beautifully arrayed bottles and the veritable spread of mouth watering ‘side-eats’ as they are commonly referred to in this part of the world, likes to be nowhere near Ponnaiya. Now don’t jump to any hasty conclusions. Ponnaiya is as sweet a guy as guys can be made. He is not one of those somber people who grimace at below-the-belt- jokes. But, as I told you in the beginning, Ponnaiya is not a chap to have around when you are yielding to temptations that you cannot resist particularly those of the palate. He has this habit of hovering around buffet tables and warning you every time you pick up something to eat. He objects to anyone eating or drinking anything other than plain water! Take a stick of cheese and pineapple and pop it into your mouth and just as the cheese melts in your mouth creating a strong bond between your tongue and the roof of the mouth, Ponnaiya will be there to scream, “Do you know the cholesterol content of cheese? You have just had two months of your life knocked off your span!” He knows how much fat can be added by a single piece of paneer tikka or potato bonda. He tells you that nothing can be a more fatal combination than French fries and scotch on the rocks. When you go near the platter of green salad, he shudders and reminisces about a chronic attack of amoebiosis that he had after consuming green salad in a star hotel. Dishes made out of root vegetables can trigger gas that can precipitate a heart attack. He goes on and on about everything that is there in the lavish spread. He keeps count of the number of drinks that everyone has. If threats of health do not scare you off, he tells you how his friend got arrested for drunken driving after a weekend party and how he had to languish in jail because no bail could be arranged as the courts were closed for the weekend. Ponnaiya does all this because of his extreme concern for others. He strongly believes that what is not good for him is not good for others as well. Very laudable, you may say, that he should take such personal interest in everyone around him and I bet you say so because you are not one of the sufferers like me. Maybe it is unfair to call him a dog in the manger for we know it will be unfair to the dog unless we know what motivates the dog to adopt such an attitude. Ponnaiya has become such a legend that whenever a tight fisted chap hosts a dinner, he invariably invites him as the Chief Guest. The Ponnaiya effect can save him half the cost!