“What! You told her you are a prince?” Manpreet’s voice was incredulous.

He had arrived in the hotel about fifteen minutes back. Earlier, on Yaar Anmulle, Ravin had sent detailed directions for getting to the hotel from the airport, including instructions on how to buy the three-day public transport pass. He knew Harprit and Manpreet would connect to the airport WiFi as soon as they landed.

However, Manpreet had a different plan. What? Read endless messages just to reach the hotel? Chuck it, he had thought to himself at the exit of the airport and screamed, “Taxi!”

Thirty minutes later, rolling his luggage behind him, he had entered their hotel room. Ravin and Amardeep had jumped up in order to greet him. The hugs were tight, the pats on the back were loud and the spirits were high. Manpreet’s arrival had brought in a new wave to the bonhomie Amardeep and Ravin had been sharing for the past fifteen hours.

That was when the landline phone in their room had rung.

Ravin had taken the call. On the other side of the call, there was someone from the hotel staff. She had a request to make: Could they please not be so loud? The guests in the room next to theirs had complained.

Ravin had immediately begged her pardon and promised to oblige.

The three had agreed to tone it down, but that didn’t mean the celebrations needed to stop. Manpreet had pulled out the last available pint of beer from the mini-fridge for himself and joined his friends who were already holding their respective bottles. They had raised a toast, cheered and made themselves comfortable on the bed and couch next to it.

Someone had mentioned to check on Harprit’s whereabouts. However, at the same time, somebody else had pointed out that they had run out of beer. All thoughts related to Harprit were unanimously dismissed in favour of making a call to room service.

Right after the call, Ravin had mentioned the trick Amardeep had played on him.

“Not a prince. The prince. The crown prince,” Amardeep clarified with immense pride and took a giant gulp of beer.

“And she believed you?” Manpreet was incredulous.

“His turban and beard made her believe him. She thought he was from an Indian royal family,” Ravin said.

“Lucky you. Had this been another place, she might have thought you were a Talibani or from ISIS,” Manpreet said ruefully. He had had such experiences in the US.

“After what he did to me, I wish she had thought of him as one of them only,” Ravin complained.

Manpreet chuckled and looked towards Amardeep to throw some light on what Ravin meant.

“Well, a prince is meant to travel with his servant,” Amardeep said.

“Oh! What! Hahaha!” Manpreet burst out into guffaws, and encouraged by it, Amardeep joined in. As Ravin watched the two having a good time at his expense, his brows furrowed.

“Wait! Didn’t she ask you about why you were roaming the streets without a cavalcade?” Manpreet asked after he’d finally stopped laughing.

“I was lucky. She didn’t,” he answered, amazed at himself at how easily the woman had believed him.

“And what would you have said if she had asked you that?” Ravin asked, curious.

“Hmm...let me think.” Amardeep closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them. “That I am a minimalist prince!”

“Bravo!” Manpreet clapped and then said, “A minimalist pedestrian prince along with his servant. You two make a good story.”

“And I might have to write one to settle scores,” Ravin said, giving Amardeep an annoyed look.

“Talking of writing stories,” Manpreet added, changing the course of the discussion, “Ravin, please could you turn off the author in you while giving instructions on how to reach from point A to B?”

Amardeep chuckled.

“What do you mean? It didn’t help you?” Ravin asked, surprised.

“I didn”t even read those chapters you had sent,” Manpreet said, throwing his hands up in the air.

“Chapters!” Amardeep repeated that word, laughing out loud.

“Shut up!” Ravin shouted at Amardeep first and then turned to Manpreet.

“How did you get here then?”

“I took a taxi.”

Just then, there was a knock on the door. Amardeep got out of the bed to answer it.

“Areyyyyyy Raam jiiiiii!” came a loud voice.

The last one in the gang had arrived. Once again, the Punjabis went berserk with their ritual of loud greetings.

(I’ve observed so many friends. But then, when it comes to Punjabi friends, you see, this breed of human civilisation doesn’t know how to contain the joy. They have to release it as soon as possible, as loudly as possible. It’s as if it is their moral obligation to let the world around them know that they are happy. They can’t be privately happy. It has to be announced in the public domain.)

As they were still cheering and whooping, the landline phone in their room rang. The noise suddenly died down. Ravin stretched his arm and pressed the speaker button. It was the lady at the reception, and in her beautiful voice, she proceeded to utter some not-so- beautiful words.

“Sorry sir, but I am going to ask you again to do something you don’t like to do, only this time you will have to do it.”

“WHICH IS?” Harprit shouted.

“Please don”t be loud.”

“Oh sorry!” he apologised and then lowered his voice and repeated his words, “Which is?”

The others in the room laughed at that. Amardeep explained, “Dude, she is referring to us being loud in the room.”

“Oh!” Harprit exclaimed, embarrassed.

“Thank god!” said the receptionist.

“We promise to keep it down, ma’am,” Ravin said in a voice that was assuring enough for the lady.

“I hope you mean it this time,” she said before hanging up.

There were two rooms booked in Ravin’s name. Each had a king-size bed in it. However, no one bothered to open the second room as it wasn’t needed till night fell. They wanted to spend as much time with each other as they could. After all, it had been many years since the four of them had hung out together under one roof.

By four in the afternoon, the boys realised that they were starving. The weather was pleasant and they decided against ordering room service, choosing instead to step out of the hotel.

They looked up the nearby restaurants on Google Maps. The hotel being centrally located, they were close to a lot of highly rated eateries.

Harprit and Amardeep wanted to eat something European, try the local cuisine. However, for the sake of friendship, they found themselves heading towards an Indian restaurant. Manpreet had literally begged for it.

“Bhai, chhe dino se pasta, pizza aur croissant kha kha ke tatti band ho gai hai. Kuch desi khilwa do, please (Brothers, six days of eating pizza, pasta and croissants has led to constipation. Let’s eat Indian, please)!” Manpreet said, describing the food he had eaten in Spain.

“Thanks for the warning, MP,” Ravin said drily.

Excerpted with permission from The Belated Bachelor Party, Ravinder Singh, HarperCollins India.