"Bubz, I come bearing gifts for Mia", declared a beaming Sid when I opened the door. I ushered him through the front door, helping him fight off the whirlwind of fur that was hurling herself repeatedly at him. A hurried emptying out of the contents of a brown Windsor Pet Shop bag revealed a ball on a string, some bacon chewies and a tasseled contraption that caused the whirling dervish to now resemble a calmer, yet still excited, brown eyed and bushy tailed dog. Mia immediately sat on all her gifts, staking her claim over all that lay there including the bag, and licked everything slimily for good measure. Sid beamed approvingly at her, "That's my girl, daddy brings you the best gifts...that's me the best gifter in the whole wide world"! He looked at me and patted me on the head, "And for you bubz, it may not be bacon chewies but we're off to the English Dhaba for dinner!" My disappointment was obviously apparent so he mollified me with a quick, "It's meant to be good. Someone gave me these discount vouchers and we should definitely try it". Me being quick to judge a book by its cover was not easily convinced, "I am not going to any English Dhaba...sounds ridiculous. Probably one of those multi-cuisine specialty places with Continental, Chinese, North and South Indian and momos thrown in for good measure." Sid looked at me like I was crazy, "Who cares whether it's dahi kebabs and american chopsuey...two words, 'I have vouchers'. Oh wait, that's three words, let's make it "I've vouchers', that's two isn't it?" I'm a big fan of his bald head but sometimes I wished he had some hair so that I could pull it and hurl him around the room a bit. He sensed the tension and said, "Come on, my barber's friend's uncle owns it and said we can come anytime and eat there at a great price". Ever since I've known Sid I've called him "jugaadu", since he always knows someone somewhere who can do something and help us get a deal, a discount, a something or the other. It's not unusual of course, in fact most people in India are fairly good at it especially if you've always been good at maintaining relationships and networking. I, on the other hand, just find it too much of an effort to ask for anything, not to mention that I'm completely crushed if the person refuses, but that's simply because I've never had the thick skin for it or the patience.
When we first started dating, Siddharth would take me for a movie and once we arrived at wherever we needed to be, he would head towards McDonalds. Thinking he needed a quick snack I would follow obediently and then watch absolutely puzzled while Siddharth would go up to the counter and ask for a 'Sanjay' or 'Bunty' or 'Micky' or whoever. He would then wait patiently until they came and have a quick word, be handed two tickets, thank Sanjay-Bunty-Micky and then walk back towards me. I would ask if he knew the guy and he'd say "Nope, first time I saw him, but my friend is the manager here. I hate waiting in line to get movie tickets so I always call McDonalds and ask my friend to get one of the guys there to get tickets for me and I'd pick them up when I got there. Just saves time". I still thought it was a bit of an effort, but who was I to argue with his tried and tested methods. Since we still had time to kill before the movie, we headed to the pub next door. We would order whatever and when the bill came after it would be some ridiculously low amount, which I would puzzle over, making me wonder if that second drink had happened at all! If I had observed closely, while we chatted Sid would always be waving out to to one of the waiters, or shaking hands with another and generally seemed to be on good terms with everyone...which is anyhow what he's good at...being the cheerful cheerio that he is. Further questioning would reveal that he knew the manager here as well and since he came her often to catch a drink he always got a good deal. And so it carries on over the years, 'Bubz, we're off to the back of beyond. There's a cottage in the boondocks that I'm getting for free...friend of a friend". "Bubz, new TV...friend knows the distributor, etc". "Bubz, we could get upgraded to first class...we just have to recite a silly poem and not look at any of the co-passengers in the eye. It's worth the trouble". There are times I've waited outside a packed pub and given up on ever being able to get a table, when all of a sudden someone will come running at me..."I'm Siddharth's friend. He called me saying you were waiting outside, come in". I'd definitely be grateful for the table, but then wish that Siddharth hadn't made the effort when the friend would make me order an evening load of drinks within two minutes since happy hour was ending and he wouldn't want us to have to pay full price. The pressure was immense, I ordered all the wrong drinks and told Siddharth that next time I'd rather just wait!
But then again what's life without a good deal and doing someone a favour. Sid in turn helps whoever he can in whatever way he can. He views his jugaadu-ness as his gift to whoever he can offer it to. "Sure, I can help you get a phone connection this evening. My friend's shop". "Great offer on this hotel...yeah, dinner there and I'll get them to charge you just for the drinks and get you a discount on the food...oh yes, a round of golf for free here, I know the caddy, etc etc." I found it extremely strange in the beginning but I'm so used to it now. I think he finds it less challenging to just try to do something in the boring, straightforward way...the challenge of calling 10 people and the satisfaction of helping someone through these efforts gives him great pleasure. As I watched Mia looking dangerously close to getting lock-jaw as she crammed the tasseled contraption, the ball on the string and attempted to also pick up the packet of chewies, I asked him if he had got a deal on her stuff. He looked at me in shock, "Never! For Mia, no freebies. Whatever is asked for, I will give. Nothing but the best for my girl". It was my turn to look shocked, he hadn't even tried to find out if he knew someone. I looked at him questioningly, "Ok all right, there was an offer on the chewies. A free bowl, but see it's red! She'll love it. And a friend of a friend knows the manager, told me he'll get a great deal the next time we go". And there we go...all was normal again :)