Sunday morning – felt like a Dosa. Asked Dad ‘Will you have one?’ He nodded a yes. I got on my bike, rode to the South Indian cart near our place, placed my order & waited at the curb. All this under 10 minutes. Impressive.
And then the politics began.
‘Can you stand a little to the side Sir? ‘
The cook cum manager – (referred to henceforth as the ‘man’ ) asked me to move. I took a moment, looked aside- was I in his way? Blocking the sun ? Or his view to a customer? Bingo! That was it. The minute I moved – his eyes fell on two street kids. They were right behind me at the curb, attacking a Dosa.
‘Hogayaa kya – Are you done?’ The ‘man’ asked them. They didn’t bother looking up. One of them put his index finger up – 1 more. The ‘man’ muttered something – definitely not prayers. So that’s why I had to move – so he could look and curse them. Made no difference to them – they continued taking the Dosa apart.
‘Idhar ka order lo na – Take the order here’.’
That voice had come from behind me. I turned to look. A burqa clad lady and her daughter were seated on stools close to the cart. Those had cornered the only two chair there. Other customers – a family of four on scooter, two banker-type men discussing scooters, quiet couple in car, the newly weds giggling away, an impatient girl on her phone & a few teenagers. The customers stared away, but mother-daughter didn’t care. or leave the chairs.
The ‘man’ making Dosas ignored the burqa lady. She flared her nostrils, but kept quiet.
I felt a dark shadow towards my left. I looked, a man in ‘stripped’ shirt had extended his half eaten Dosa plate. ‘Give me chutney.’ , he said to the ‘man.’ He nodded, scooped out watery chutney from a steel tin & plonked it onto the man’s extended plate. ‘Can you add some butter to the dosa? Stripped shirt guy asked.
The ‘man’ stared at Stripped shirt guy. Chutney is free, butter was not. Stripped shirt backed off. The ‘man’ continued making Dosas.
Then rolled in the Desi Tom cruise & Nicole Kidman.
T & N stopped their ride inches away from the cart. N got off with a grumpy look & moved away. Tom came really close to the ‘man’, rattled off his order with a swag. The ‘man’ didn’t bat an eyelid. Tom removed his helmet, showed off hangover eyes- thick moustache, raised his voice – drawled his order again. Same -result, ‘man’ just kept on making more Dosas.
‘Thodi luakar kara bhava, please – Amigo, please make it fast.’
Finally the ‘man’ acknowledged Tom with a nod. A relieved Tom, tucked tail & helmet and stood next to Nicole who gave him grief. Because she could. And she wanted to.
10 minutes, since I had placed my order. I looked around at the others, wondering – when would it be my turn? Meanwhile the street kids came back to the stall. The ‘man’ plonked a dosa in their plates. They giggled, he cursed – they went away, seemed a regular affair.
This time it was the burqa clad lady’s daughter who had shouted. Again, the ‘man’ ignored her. But not Tom. He shouted back -’We were here first’.
Burqa lady – ‘Says who?’
Nicole – ‘Says me’.
The man continued his job, a hint of a smile curled at his lips
The burqa lady & daughter rushed to the counter, “That’s not true and you know that.“ The man looked in the direction of T & N who were also heading towards him. This did not look good. They would fight. That would delay my Dosas. Not good.
That’s when the ‘man’ turned the tables on the both of them.
‘This Sir is waiting way before the two of you.’ At first, I thought he was talking about someone else – but then saw them staring at me.. My turn soon. Good
This cooled the two, they retreated to their respective corners. But their eyes were on me. In the meanwhile, the ‘man’ packed off the family, the banker-types – the couple in car, the newly weds. There were a few waiting. The Burqa lady seemed sleepy, Tom & Nicole were busy fighting.
“Psst -” A voice besides me. I turned to look. It was one of the street kids.
I raised my eyebrows, did a What.
“Your parcel”, he spoke a tad softly. That’s when I understood. The ‘man’ had played it brilliantly. He had served a few, while the troublemakers waited. Now they were busy. He had to make me disappear. I looked towards him. Like magic, he looked up – found me. He nodded, I nodded back.
I paid, took my parcel & quietly rode away, leaving the Dosa politics behind.