My first surprise of the day was to receive a compliment from my friends Pramod and Shekhar on the shirt I wore.
“That’s a fine-looking shirt,” they said.
I thought the shirt was just an ordinary plane shirt. But for some reason, they thought it looked good on me.
We had barely occupied our seats in the Anand Restaurant in Fulton, Maryland. It’s an upscale Indian restaurant that had excellent reviews. When Bharati asked Anjali, Pramod’s wife where to celebrate our holiday, Anjali, without hesitation, recommended Anand.
“It’s a great place. Nice décor and ample room,” she said.
Nowadays, none of us want to drive at night. So, we decided to meet for the lunch buffet.
The restaurant was supposed to be easy to get to. We were coming from northern Virginia. I habitually look at the map before using the GPS in the car, to get a general idea of where we are going. Our GPS was giving correct directions until we took the exit off of Route 29 north for Fulton. Then it took us through three round robins that confused the hell out of us. We finally reached the location after driving through beautiful residential neighborhoods of townhomes. There was no sign of commercial establishments. We wondered where the restaurant would be.
“You have reached your destination. Your destination is to your right,” said the GPS lady, after a few minutes, in a business-like tone as if she did her job and didn’t care what we did.
To our right was a brown building — a stand-alone structure with no visible entrance or a name. We realized the access, and the parking lot was on the other side, not facing the street.
The restaurant was, indeed, charming. Large Christmas wreaths were mounted on big Palladian windows. Christmas lights were hung end to end across the ceiling. All that glass provided ample sunlight. Waiters wore black and white uniforms to give it a classy look.
“Maybe I should have worn a red shirt,” I said in response to my friend’s compliments. “Isn’t it traditional to wear red for Christmas.”
“Who cares about the color, as long it looks good on you,” Pramod said. Shekhar agreed.
I thanked them.
When we were getting ready to go to the brunch, I was deciding what to wear.
“Wear something nice and clean looking,” Bharati said.
I have many shirts in all hues and patterns, but it is always a challenge to select the right one for an occasion. No matter what I choose, I have gotten into the habit of checking it with Bharati for the final say. She has the instinct for what not to wear for an occasion.
I glanced over the shirts in the closet. I liked a blue shirt with thin white pinstripes and a button-down collar. Nice business casual shirt, I thought. Bharati thought otherwise. “Looks old and faded,” she said. I finally selected a clean looking plane shirt with periwinkle blue color and a dark blue trouser.
We had a leisurely lunch lasting close to three hours. Towards the end, a waiter walked towards me with a cake and a lit candle on top. He placed it in front of me.
“What’s this?” I asked.
Unbeknown to me, Bharati had arranged to surprise me with a mini birthday celebration.
I was a bit overwhelmed when they sang the “Happy birthday to you ….” song.
It was time to take pictures. Everyone took turns taking photos on their phones in various group combinations. We looked at the pictures taken and were impressed. I am not sure whether the lighting and the ambiance in the restaurant accentuated the color of my shirt.
Returning home was easier due to a short cut Pramod showed us. Two right turns out of the restaurant, and we were on Route 29 south. On our way back, we talked about the get-together.
“They liked my shirt,” I said as I drove.
“Yes. They did. You looked good.”
“It made me look younger. Where do you think I bought it?”
“I think it was Men’s Wearhouse.”
“The Men’s Wearhouse? You mean where the pushy sales lady wanted me to buy three Joseph Abboud shirts for $99. She didn’t care whether the sleeves were a bit longer.”
“Yes. I remember.”
“Can you imagine her recommending that I use the second button on the sleeves instead of getting them altered. What a character. No, I don’t think I bought this shirt there.”
“Then, it has to be J Crew.” Bharati was sure that a good-looking shirt such as the one I was wearing has to be from one of those fancy, high-end stores.
“No,” I said. “The J Crew shirts are for tall and slim young men like Sachin and Ryan. I wouldn’t buy my shirts from them.”
Sachin, our son, and Ryan, our son-in-law, are both about six feet tall and slim.
We kept quiet until we reached home. I went upstairs to change. I remembered to look at the label on the collar of the shirt I was wearing.
“Surprise, surprise,” I said, looking down from the railing of the upstairs balcony.
“What did you find?” Bharati asked.
“Guess where that shirt is from?”
“I have no idea.”
“The good old J C Penney.”
“Yes. It’s their Stafford brand. I don’t even remember the last time we visited J C Penny.”
“Well, well,” Bharati said after a pause. “ You don’t need a “name brand” to look good.”
“Depends on the person wearing it,” I said in jest, but soon added, “I hope the J C Penny stays in business for a long time so I can buy more.”
I walked back to the closet to hang the periwinkle blue shirt to wear the next time we have to go out.