Sushil woke up to find that Shreya was not in bed beside him. He smiled at the memory of last night. He would have slept much longer and maybe even had some coffee in bed, he was on vacation after all. But he did not want to keep his in-laws waiting for breakfast so he got ready and went down to the dining table.

As he had expected the whole family was gathered at the table for breakfast. “Good morning everyone!” Sushil said as he took a seat at the table. No one replied. This was strange, his in-laws were always very polite and welcoming, that was the only thing he looked forward to in these trips. Perhaps he had not been loud enough, “Good morning!” he said again and felt an awkward silence descend on the room. His father-in-law was hidden behind the morning newspaper that was stretched tight to the point of tearing apart. His brother-in-law was dipping the same idly in the sambar again and again so that it kept melting and less and less of it came out each time.
His mother-in-law was holding her copy of the Ramayana like it were a life jacket and was reading it as if she desperately needed to resuscitate someone and it gave instructions on how to give mouth to mouth.
Shreya and his sister-in-law kept going in and out of the kitchen like a pair of windup dolls. They kept piling everyone’s plates with idlis as if they had a competition to see who would make the tallest tower of idlis.

Sushil looked around him desperate for a clue as to what was going on. The only person making any noise was his seven-year-old nephew who was playing on the coffee table in the living room. When Shreya came back to add a few more idlis to his plate, he frantically wiggled his eyebrows asking what was the matter. She, in turn, wiggled hers even more frantically and pointed behind her. Sushil turned around but all he could see was the bathroom. What did she mean? He simply nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders to say it did not seem to be the right time for kinky thoughts. Shreya made a gesture of hitting her forehead with the sambar ladle, muttered a few cuss words at him and went back into the kitchen.

Sushil scratched his head, then dipped his idly in sambar and chomped on it in confusion.
“Who’s your daddy?”
Sushil almost choked on his idly, he burst out coughing. His brother-in-law calmly placed a glass of water in front of him and continued to dip the disappearing idly into the sambar.
Sushil drank the water and through watering eyes looked to see where the voice had come from.
It was Ajay his seven-year-old nephew. He was holding an action figure of the Hulk in one hand and Spider-man in another. Hulk kept hitting spider-man and kept asking him, “Who’s your daddy? Who’s your daddy now?”
Shreya walked out of the kitchen with another plate of idlis. Ajay’s Hulk hit Spider-man again but Spider-man shouted “Harder! Harder!” and Spider-man flew away with a satisfied scream as Hulk did hit him harder. Shreya’s face went from looking like a Rosh Gulla to a Gulab Jamon and she went back into the kitchen.
Sushil gulped and drank the glass of water. It was his turn to dip the idli into the sambar.

He did not understand how. He and Shreya were in the guest bedroom that was on the second floor practically secluded from the rest of the house. Shreya had promised him that no one would be able to hear them.
“It’s the plumbing!” his father-in-law said from behind the newspaper which quivered with every word.
Sushil looked around for more of an explanation.
“The upstairs bedroom…”his brother-in-law was telling his sambar, “the plumbing needed to be replaced, the pipes have been opened, the noise from the room carries to the whole house…”
Sushil stared at his own sambar, “Oh!” was all he could say, he wondered if it would be possible to drown himself in the sambar, but the sambar seemed too conservative to let him do so.
“Harder…”spider-man was telling Hulk, “yes, just like that!” as Hulk continued hitting him harder.

“Madam, I already told you I can’t work here if you are going to have a dog, madam!” the maid had walked into the room.
“What are you talking about? We don’t have a dog.” his mother-in-law managed to sound furious while still muttering.
“But madam I found this dog collar, in the upstairs room…”
Shreya shot like an arrow out of the kitchen and jerked the collar from the maid’s hand and gave her the dirtiest look possible before climbing to the bedroom.
Sushil wondered if he should go after her, decided against it and sat staring at his sambar.
Ajay walked towards Sushil, pulled on his shirt and pointed to his father-in-law and said, “Grandpa is aunt’s daddy!” he smiled and went back to his toys.

He counted the days, there was still more than a week that they had to stay at his in-laws.
“You have been a very naughty boy!” Spiderman was telling Hulk as he spanked him.
This was going to be a very long week Sushil thought to himself.

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