An ordinary life 2 - Radhakrishnan
"Idly, rava idly, pongal, vadai, poori, dosa, chapatti, barota, rava dosa, masala dosa, mysore masala dosa...." Radhakrishnan meandered through his list...
"One plate chola puri. Make it fast!" the customer interrupted. In his mind, Radhakrishnan sighed. It was going to be one of those days, then. "No Sir, no chola puri," he said, resigning himself to some abuse. "What do you mean?What else do you have then?"
Radhakrishnan took a deep breath and started again:"Idly, rava idly, pongal, vadai, poori, chappathi, barota, dosa, rava dosa, mysore masala dosa..."
"O.k. get me a panneer dosa."
* * *
When Radhakrishnan first started working in Krishna Tiffin Home, it was at the end of several months of search and hunger, and he was ecstatic. In his mind, he ran Tamil-cinema inspired fantasies of meeting a rich, benevolent, sugar daddy in the cafe, who would be impressed by his serving skills and adopt him. He retained this dream for about a week after he joined. During the week, he realised several things: No bigwig would even bother stepping into Krishna Tiffin Home; cockroaches ran all over the kitchen, some were cooked with the food; there was more water in the sambar than anything else; the owner had his lunch at Saravana Bhavan everyday and daydreaming would do him no good.
He, however, worked his way from dish washing to waiting on tables. He was hoping to make it to "master" one day and stopped thinking there. There was a roof over his head (he stayed at the hotel), food three times a day, six coffees and Rs.2500 per month. He had few requirements and before he snipped it, his dream.
* * *
The first day there was flooding in Chennai, Radhakrishnan called his mother at the only phone booth in their village, "Amma, you should see this, there is water everywhere. It has nearly entered the hotel!" His mother cautioned him not to get wet or he would fall ill. "Bah! I'm grown up, ma. You don't have to tell me that!" he retorted indignantly. Putting down the phone, he folded his lungi upto his knees, covered his head with a plastic bag and waded out into the street.
A couple of buckets, plastic pots, aluminium vessels, mats, and brooms were floating around in the muddy water. The marriage hall next door was chock-a-bloc with people from the nearby slum, evicted after water entered their thatched huts and carried away the meagre belongings.
The kids were wailing from hunger and the women from losing their pans. Hitching his dhoti higher up, he waded back to the hotel and roughly shook the sleeping cook, "Mani Anna, come, we have work to do. There are hungry children out there. Get the rice and paruppu, let's make some Pongal to feed them, I'll tell owner-saar."
* * *
"Idly, rava idly, pongal, vada..." Radhakrishnan rattled off, a smile dancing on his lips as he swivelled his serving-tray on a single finger. There was a spring in his step as he walked over to the kitchen to deliver his order. Head held high, he walked proudly past a brand new frame on the greasy wall. A square piece of newspaper sat smug inside the frame, the dark smudgy headlines boldly proclaiming: "Young waiter to the rescue."
"Three plates idly!" he told Mani Anna," Fast, make it fast!" still twirling his tray stylishly on his right index finger, a fond glance carressing the bright gilt frame shining on the wall.