Friday, May 02, 2008

Moving into a new place is like sleeping on a new coir mattress - It looks and feels generally great, but there are tiny coconut fibres poking you where you least suspect it. The right thing to do, of course, would be to pull out those fibres, or else ignore them, and enjoy sleeping on the new mattress. That's not how people work, though.

Went to an office party last week. It was at an amusement arcade, with bowling and beer and games. The games weren't free. Someone called me over to join in a Foosball game. He inserted tokens into the system and we began, four of us. After the first goal, we realized that the game would be over once all five available balls were eaten by the game, and we stole menu cards from nearby tables and blocked the goal-holes with them. "If it hits the menu card, we'll consider it a goal. We could go on playing all evening this way!" Someone said. At this the guy who'd bought the tokens said,"There's no need to be this kanjoos - a game is just 40 bucks, man! We'll just get more tokens..."

Suddenly my interest in the game had vanished. For some reason the number 40 haunted me. I went through the rest of the evening in a blue funk, doing miserably at bowling and downing a Sprite without tasting it. Somehow, though, I couldn't figure out the reason.

It came to me much later that night. It was all about this time my dabbawala had quit on me...

Towards the end of my first semester of college, someone pulled down a Mosque in UP, and suddenly everyone was rioting. My dabbawala, who used to bring me my lunch and dinner from across the city, decided to stop operations suddenly. With curfew in the town, I couldn't get out of my room to eat. For a while, I starved, surviving on Tomatoes and Fruit Bread.

At this time, a classmate who lived in the same colony took me to this nice Andhra lady nearby who made meals for a small number of students. "Aunty, can't you take on just one more person?"

Aunty thought a bit. "I could give you a dabba in the afternoons, I think. Some of my boys only take dabbas in the evening, so it's possible in the afternoon."

I agreed enthusiastically. "I need it only for a few days, I think. My normal dabbawala should be back once the riots are over." (which never happened, by the way. I wound up taking a dabba from this aunty during all the remaining years of college. )

"No problem," she said. "Pay me for the week in advance. It's eight rupees a meal, so for 5 meals, that will be 40 Rupees."

I went through my pockets and gave her the money. It was expensive - my older dabbawala used to charge me 5 Rupees a meal. But I had no option right now.

Half an hour later, I bought my empty dabba, had her fill it, and went back to my first proper meal in ages. I can still remember what it tasted like. It was worth paying so much for it - it tasted home cooked.