One lean middle-aged man wearing a broad smile came with the Menu Card. He must be in his 50s , hardly five feet tall.
“Hello Sir..What would you like to have?”
“ I will have a Masala Dosa” said my wife. Being in Mysore, probably she wanted to try authentic Mysore Masala Dosa.
“Sorry Madam, we do not have Masala Dosa” waiter said politely.
“Why don't you serve Masala Dosa”? My wife was not ready to give up.
“Madam, we serve masala dosa only in the morning for the breakfast” replied waiter
“Then I will have Veg Thali ” wife dropped googly!
“Sorry Madam... we do not have Veg Thali on the menu as well ...If we served dosa we would have offered Thali too!” waiter said. He probably suspected that the next order would be of “Curd Rice” !!
Finally, my wife and son settled for paneer tikka, cheese omelette and potato fries.
“ What about you Sir?” He turned towards me. I could clearly read that he breathed sigh of relief having finished taking half the order!
I ordered my drinks.
“What will you prefer Sir?...soda or water?” waiter asked.
“ both..soda and water” I replied.
“Sir... normal or cold?”
“I would prefer cold” I answered.
“Sir.. I will get chilled soda and normal water”
I did not understand logic behind this but I wasn't interested in knowing it either! I said “as you wish”
My son looked at my wife for the confirmation. She nodded in agreement.
I found this guy interesting...sensing my thoughts, he came towards my side of the table.
“ We are from Mumbai” I replied.
“Oh... I was in Mumbai for many years” I could see a twinkle in his eyes as he uttered the word “Mumbai”..
“What's your name?” I asked. I thought after knowing that I was from Mumbai, he would talk to me in Marathi or Hindi but he continued in English
“Howard... my name is Howard ” he said
"Why did you leave Mumbai? I asked.
“It's a long story Sir. I am originally from Mangalore. When I was in school, my mother sent me to Goa...there I stayed for few years and then left for Mumbai on my own. I was just 18 years old then” He was lost in his old days...
"Where were you staying in Mumbai?" I asked
“I used to stay in Kalyan. Actually, for the first few days I stayed on a platform of Dadar railway station. My belongings were stolen and then I found one gentleman who was a fruit merchant.. He took me to Kalyan with him. I started working for him. I used to work with him till noon. At the same time I found job in one of the restaurants in South Mumbai as a waiter. Everyday I would work there till midnight"
His story resembled to many people from places like Mangalore, Udupi who come to Mumbai in search for job. Now my wife and son also started showing interest in his story.
“What happened next? “ I asked.
“One day, a lady came to the restaurant where I was working. I attended her that evening. She liked my service. She would come there often and I would serve her every time. Later she offered me a job in a small restaurant that she and her husband started in Bandra. I accepted the offer and started working for her. She was a very nice lady and used to pay me well. Having worked with the fruit merchant, I knew how fruits business operated. I started my own part time business of selling fruits to the people staying in nearby buildings. I would sell fruits till noon and work as a waiter in the evening till late night. Because of my good service, many families in the nearby locality became my permanent customers. I used to save every penny that I earned. I saved decent money during those days”
I was curious now...I started thinking of many people like him who had come to Mumbai with nothing and made big. But then here he was in front of me still working as a Waiter.
“But then why did you come back?” I asked
“That was the time when my mother thought of getting me married she started searching a girl for me. I got married with a girl from Mysore. After marriage, I worked in Mumbai for two years but you know how the wives are!!"
“I worked hard all these years to give the best education to my kids and they have made me proud” I could see dreams in his eyes.
“ I teach in an engineering institute and let me tell you that Mechanical Engineering is in great demand nowadays...your son has a bright future" I said.
He was very happy with my comments.
“Thank you so much Sir.... Enjoy your dinner" he said and went away.