From curry leaves to Schezwan sauce

Nikhil tapped the table with his knuckles as his order arrived. The lady seated on the next table instantaneously turned her head and gave him a long gaze as if she had been intensely bothered from her rumination.

As the waiter placed the dish on his table, Nikhil could clearly notice the discomfort on his face. There were valid reasons for it too.

It was not regular for anyone to walk in to a fine dining restaurant and ask for a Kanda Poha. Nikhil was glad that at least they had this dish in their menu. Having missed his favourite staple breakfast ever since he had shifted to this city, Nikhil had no second thoughts what he wanted to have for breakfast that morning when he saw it in the menu.

The so-called elite patrons of this restaurant weren’t used to any noise while dining except the clatter of the crockery and cutlery. The sound of the knuckles hitting the table was therefore quite loud by those standards to disturb the tranquillity and thus make heads turn.

Nikhil looked at the dish placed before him and then looked up at the waiter and smiled. It was for acknowledging his effort in getting him what he ordered in immaculate condition as also apologising for upsetting the equanimity.

From the corner of his eyes, he could notice that the lady at the next table was still staring at him. As if the downmarket sound that he had made wasn’t enough, for her, he seemed to have dismayed her more by his choice of food.

Nikhil didn’t intend to pry but could not stop himself from looking at her, which intimidated her more. She had her eyes back on the menu before he could attempt to say sorry for his mediocre conduct by her canons.

As Nikhil dug into his food, he could faintly hear her placing the order to the server at her table; Enoki Mushrooms in Scallion.

He loved the smell of curry leaves in his food and this dish had an abundance of it. Though having knowledge of health benefits of the murraya koenigii, in spite of the flavour its seasoning provided to the food, it had always been a practice to remove it out from the food before eating.

As Nikhil was removing them from his poha, he could again hear the lady across the table demanding a little more of schezwan sauce to be mixed in her food.

********

In his late forties, Nikhil was an ageing father with a grown up daughter, who was already an understanding adult.

Always a doting father, who ensured that his daughter’s every desires are taken care of, he was more of a friend to her than any of her close buddies were.

Accessible to her whenever she needed him, he had eloquently played his part of a story teller, a punching bag or just a patient listener to all her whims and fancies.

He used to be happy being the curry leaf in her life that was always needed by her to add flavour to her life. Nothing excited him more than those times where she needed his advice before she did anything and he would be ready patiently listening to her or explaining to her, whatever worries or anxieties she had.

Just as the curry leaf would play its part of adding the requisite flavour, his advice would pave the way she would take her decisions. And just as curry leaf would be used, he wouldn’t be there in the final scheme of things. But just that he was a part gave him solace.

It was a bit challenging for Nikhil to comprehend the shift that his daughter went through from her childhood to adolescence and finally to adulthood.

Though he still expected to be part of her life in everything that she did, he forgot to realise that as she grew up she needed to rely on her own sense of judgement.

His daughter had conceivably passed that phase where she desired his guidance at every walk of her life. She was now at the stage where she was looking out for someone who would mix up with her and add spice to her life as a Schezwan sauce.

********

“Would you like to try anything else sir”, he was shaken off from his thoughts by the voice of the waiter.

As his plates were being cleared, Nikhil saw the abundance of curry leaves lying around on his table which he had removed from his favourite dish.

“Just get me the check please”, he looked up at the server and said, while he could hear the lady placing her next order, Stir fried cabbage with Schezwan Peppers.

As he walked out of the restaurant, he was all ears to the orders being placed at the other tables; Drunken Shrimp, Stinking Tofu, Schezwan Green Beans, Chongqing Chicken, Schezwan Chicken in Chilli Oil. Not a single dish with curry leaves, he wondered.

Curry leaves are not in vogue anymore, Nikhil comprehended. Possibly, he needs to acclimatise and adapt rather than lamenting on his destiny.

**********

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