Monday, November 28, 2005

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.



Blogger sanchapanzo said...

Nice ones!

7:16 pm

Blogger G.Muthukumar said...


You are writing very nice.. let me read all your posts.. and write comments.. cool..


7:28 pm

Blogger Speech is Golden said...


That was simply superb. Good luck with your series of 'unsaid' stories. You have your readership waiting eagerly.

7:01 am

Blogger hari said...

Hi Ramya,

My vocabulary is too insufficient to appreciate this post. In simple words, its a beautiful post.

11:22 am

Blogger :: The Protector :: said...

thats nicely scripted!.... i hate peopling calling them using sign lik **chu chu**, **Sssshhhhhhhh**

i wonder they dont have names?

afterall they are also humans!



12:37 pm

Blogger The Comic Project said...

:) Lovely!

5:53 pm

Blogger The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Have been to your blog a number of times, first time I'm saying hello. So hello and also thanks for the wonderful story.

10:51 pm

Blogger Arun Srinivasan said...

Activities that would be every citizen's responsibility some 20 years ago had become something that would get published in paper today.. wonder what the world is approaching to.. It was a very heart warming story and greatly scripted, and we need more people like Mr. Krishnan, who would not just stop reading this story and go to everyday life, but to stop on seeing a poverty striken man, and ofcourse,help him..

1:31 am

Anonymous shyam said...

Phew, glad to see it wasnt a sad ending here, Rums :)

4:48 am

Blogger ammani said...

Good one. But, why is his life 'ordinary'? How is our life any less ordinary than his? And why are 'ordinary' people in these stories waiters and watchmen and not journalists and investment bankers? Something about the label smacks of a patronising attitude :(

9:02 am

Blogger None said...


uh-huh, you misjudge me. there have been just two in my series and they happened to be waiter-watchman. of course journalists ( i consider myself eminently ordinary) are prt of my series and i have a rather nice idea working in my head of a coder, but investment banker... i must confess i havent thought of that one yet.


1:39 pm

Blogger ammani said...

I'm sorry if I have. But did you not say that you wanted to write about the ordinary lives of watchmen, maids, bus conductors and garbage men in your earlier post? My comment was a reaction to that.

2:34 pm

Blogger Swahilya said...

Your stories are Paulo Coelho style. Great reading.

6:21 am

Blogger asdasdhjjf said...


Lovely piece again. Thank you!

11:51 am

Blogger Ganesh said...

Ramya this is great, waiting to read more

5:53 am

Blogger sanchapanzo said...


of course journalists ( i consider myself eminently ordinary) are prt of my serie

Guess, it is okay to accept that folks on the road are ordinary. It is of course pathetic to classify people in this pattern! Trying to avoid damage by using euphemistic words also means that we are afraid to handle this.

8:08 am

Blogger Mahadevan said...

Very often we eet "Radhakrishnans" in an Ambi's Cafe or an "Anna Poorna", and dismiss them from our memory the moment we collect the bill or tip them off. But you have vividly brought out the 'significance' beneath the seemingly ordinary life. Loking forward to more such stories.

6:15 pm


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