Signing Off

Thayir Vada Recipe | Dahi Vada Recipe | Curd Vada South Indian Style -

It was strangely not crowded inside Saravana Bhavan today. May be because it was only  3.30 in the afternoon? The lunch crowd must have departed by 2.30  and the evening diners en route to the temple were yet to descend.

I had initially made my way to the airconditioned section on the first floor, only to find it locked!

“Madam, AC section is closed now” informed the boy who was cleaning the floor.

So, here I was in the main hall, sitting under a whirring ceiling fan, at a table that  seemed to be still carrying memories of the curries served during lunch.

“Madam, what would you like to have ?” asked the waiter, his pen poised against a note pad.

 “Masala Dosa?” I asked

 “No Madam, that is available only in the morning and in the evening” he replied

 I ran my eyes over the menu card wondering what were the other options. I was sure that the usual Idli, Vada , Uthappam might not be available now.

 “Madam, what about Thayir Vada” he suggested

I nodded at him and smiled.

I was beyond caring by now. All I wanted was something to eat before he arrived. My nervousness about this meeting had ruined my appetite. But considering that I hadn’t eaten anything after my breakfast at seven in the morning, I wanted to make sure that I did not pass out in front of him due to hunger.

The waiter was back with the Thayir Vada.

I could smell the sourness in the curd on which floated a dark and angry looking Vada. They had tried to make it look appetising by sprinkling some bonda on top, along with the garnish of coriander leaves.

I thanked him and attempted to pierce the Vada with my spoon. It took more effort than what I had thought. They should have let is soak a bit more so that it could have been softer.

But then, I was an unanticipated visitor, not someone for whom they needed to make an effort. I was that stray walk in during the lull in their business hours.

Strange, that he had picked Saravana Bhavan for our meeting. It wasn’t his style. He generally  liked pricey places.

The acid in the curds was burning my tongue and the rancid smell of the Vada assaulted my olfactory senses! But I crunched on stoically! I was not going to let any of this cow me down. I actually felt a sense of camaraderie with the curd and the Vada. Both of them were in a way left overs, like me – from breakfast and lunch  The curry leaves and the pieces of pepper seemed to have embedded themselves deep into the body of the Vada. I struggled to pull them out before dunking that last  piece into the sour curd and popping it into my mouth.

I washed the meal down with a glass of water . The cleaning boy came almost immediately to clear it away. Poor fellow! I had probably interrupted what must have been his resting time .

“Anything else?” asked the waiter coming back with his pen and pad.

 I was amused at the confidence with which he asked that question. Both of us knew that the choices around “anything else” at this point, would be limited.

But I wasn’t sure if I could stay on like this without any purpose. This was not the kind of place where you could “hang out” aimlessly. You came here for a reason – to eat!  When that was over, you left!

I wondered perversely, what would be the waiter’s response, were I tell him that I was here to meet my soon to be ex husband and if he would be kind enough to allow me to stay until he arrived.

But thankfully ( for both of us) ,at that very moment I saw Raghu walking in. The waiter’s interest in me waned for a moment as he rushed out to usher in this new customer. He looked confused as Raghu ignored him and walked towards my table.

“Phew it is so hot here! Shall we go upstairs?” he asked

I was about to tell him that the upstairs section was closed for cleaning, when the waiter intervened saying“ Yes Sir. You can go there.”.

I looked at the waiter with a raised eyebrow.

“Madam cleaning is over. Section is open now”

And so, we went upstairs to a cool room, smelling of cleaning fluids and air freshener. The waiter in this section wore a tie and carried an iPad.  I was surprised to hear him ask Raghu in English what he wanted.

As always, I was the invisible one!

 Raghu asked for coffee and looked at me . I declined saying that I had already eaten.

I had eaten and I was ready. I was ready for that document he probably had inside that leather satchel of his.

“Can we finish this quickly? I have a meeting to attend” I said

 He nodded, taking out a transparent plastic folder from that expensive bag of his. The green paper on which the document was typed, screamed for attention, like a bratty teenager at some unsupervised party.

Raghu took out the document and handed it towards me. I glanced through the pages quickly. I had already read a draft on my computer.

“Yeah, okay” I said nodding at him.

He extended his parker pen towards me.

I shook my head and rummaged through my bag and found what I was looking for- my unbranded gel pen!

I guess, if I was going to sign away a part of my past, I might as well do it my way.

( Thayir Vada is Tamil for what is known as Dahi Vada in the north. Unlike its North Indian Cousin, Thayir Vada is a no frills dish with a vada dunked in curds and seasoned with mustard and curry leaves”)

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