Thursday, 20 March 2008

John Walker and the Amber restaurant


John Walker eats the Indian way, breaking a piece of tandoori roti with both hands, dipping it into the Chicken tikka masala and popping it into his mouth with obvious relish.

We are at the famous Amber restaurant off Chowringhee in Calcutta, enjoying a late afternoon lunch. The table is laden with food: apart from the ubiquitous Chicken tikka masala, we have ordered a number of other Amber specialties as well – Fish tikka, Vegetable kadai, Mutton pulav, all to be washed down with some chilled Kingfisher beer.

John is a big eater. Like most Englishmen, he is also very fond of his “curry,” the spicier the better.

John and I are celebrating a big order, won after two days of tough and gruelling negotiations. It is a relaxed, elaborate meal that takes almost two and a half hours. We can afford to dawdle as there are no more appointments for the day. All we have to do is hop into the car and drive to the airport to take a late evening flight to Mumbai.

But while we have been digging into our gargantuan meal, unknown to us, it has been raining heavily and the street outside the restaurant is completely flooded. Perched precariously atop a parked scooter half-submerged in water, our driver shouts at us to take off our shoes and socks and follow him.

Bare-footed, John and I wade into the dirty, knee-deep waters of Waterloo Street and, with our shoes and socks held high above our heads, follow the driver to another, less-flooded side street and clamber into the car.

The road to the airport is one endless traffic jam. The rain has stopped but it has become unbearably humid. We sit in our car, breathing in the diesel fumes spewed out by the Ambassador taxis, trying hard to make ourselves heard amidst the rising cacophony of senseless honking.

We inch forward. John’s lower limbs which had come into contact with the dirty water have started to itch and the skin has become red and blotchy. He is suffering.

Finally, we make it to the airport barely twenty minutes before the scheduled departure of our flight. John rushes to the toilet to scrub down the encrusted dirt and muck from his legs and feet. We run to the check-in desk with our suitcases in tow, panting with the effort.

We need not have bothered. Predictably enough, the Indian Airlines flight is delayed and “is now expected to take off around 11 pm tonight”.

1 comment:

Thiruvengadam said...

This instantly brings to memory the infamous monsoon onslaughts in Mumbai. I too have been to such waterly experiences. It was one of those fateful monsoon days where it had rained cats & dogs throughtout the day. The rains were unrelenting. All sorts of transports had come to a grinding halt and I had to left at myself to take on with the monsoon miseries. I managed to get to the nearest to my home by a screeching BEST bus, but it was still a good 3 Km away. Not left with any choice I had to wade through the flooded roads. There was a caravan of people wading through the water. The water was crossing waist height in the mid of road and we had to walk atop the medians to negotiate with the water levels. As I neared Kural, being low level, the water level started to rise precariously and reached almost my neck. My height came to adavantage here. Any short man would have surely got into the water. The electricity was off and it was pitch dark around. Praying the Almighty, I was inching towards my home. Fortunately the water level remained same for rest of the harrowing journey and I had a sigh of relief after reaching safely at my home.

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.