“Can I have two sets of Poli putai dosa?”
“Two sets. Like the other day- same place.”
“And please make it quick, I’m starving. Don’t forget the plates”
By now Prathik had lost his patience. It is one thing to entertain a female voice just because it has a sexy base tone to it, but to have food orders shouted at you in that same tone is a bit disheartening.
“This is not a restaurant.”
“Yeah, you… What? Oh, I am so sorry”
The sexy base-toned female voice mumbled a few more apologies and he cut the call. Back to playing with the rowdy kitten in the flat.
The phone rang again.
“Two sets of Dosa. Poli putai. Add an extra serving of coconut chutney. And please make it fast”
“You are at the wrong end again”
“That’s... I’m terribly sorry”. Beep.
He chuckled to himself and kept the receiver back. Poli putai dosa. Fancy that. A middle aged South Indian, bred and brought up in the capital city of the southernmost state in the country, and he didn’t know all varieties of Dosa! He boasted about being an insane cook when around his male friends— most of them couldn’t crack an egg without killing a chicken. He could pass off as a decent one if you considered the fairer sex as well, but he didn’t have much female company. Salt and pepper were his forte, never small talk.
He mixed the leftover rice from the day before with some fish curry, and offered it to the cat.
The phone rang again.
“Hello, is this Azad hotel?” Sexy, but tired. Did Frank Sinatra have an Indian daughter?
“I honestly wish it was, but sadly…”
“You must be kidding me! I am famished! I can’t see things. Rather I’m seeing two of each. Make that four. I’ve been standing since the morning. Do you know that? Since the fucking morning! The peon isn’t even here today. I did all the passing and moving, and god knows what not. What is wrong with the world…”
He tried hard to focus on one sentence at a time, but the harder he tried, the faster she seemed to speak. Even though he could comprehend most of the words and their intended meanings, he could barely understand why he was at fault for whatever this lady was going through.
“Yeah… I’m sor...”
“…again. Never again will I do that for her. Huh? What did you say? You are sorry? What are you being sorry for? You have all the food in the world there and people like us will die of hunger here. Just ridiculous. Why would anyone b…”
“SHUT UP!”. He slammed the receiver down.
Silence. The cat looked up from the pile of rice. The wile creature, like a professional had separated the fish from the rice and gobbled it all up. He had read somewhere that cats were worshipped in some ancient civilisation. Remarkably, a lot of the current stock seemed to expect the same treatment. The cat started licking itself when it realised that he had calmed down. He threw his trimmer at it in anger, and missed.
One good thing about land line phones is that you can slam it down with a clank. Leaves one with the satisfaction of slamming a door, but with far lesser effort. However, the anger simmers down sooner too— it isn’t quite as heavy as a door at the end of the day. For a forty year old bachelor working his day hours in a rusty old government building, anger was a daily emotion. Cooking was his end-of-the-day-guilty pleasure. To add inane amounts of butter to his home made recipes was pure ecstasy— he was a man of simple tastes. The random wrong call was a strange blip on the screen. Where were his manners, and what did he know about the battles she was fighting? Her job sure didn’t sound like fun. Worse, she could be a married woman, driven crazy by her half-nut husband. A possible single mom, with a brat for a child. Or she could just be a lonely soul, good at heart like him.
The phone rang again.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“What exactly is Poli Putai?”
“Huh? It’s dosa…I mean it’s normal dosa, but thicker and is spicier than usual. It also has this… this... taste… I don’t know how to-“
“Yeah. I mean, it is difficult to-“
“Explain in words. Yes. I understand. So where can I get a sample?”
“There’s this hotel called Azad. Oh wait, you already know!”
“Yeah, thanks to you.”
“I am a good cook, I can make it…pretty well. You can try if you want. I mean, no rush, just if you aren’t very busy…perhaps?”
Prathik smiled at the mirror on the wall, and started looking for the trimmer on the floor.