Corporate team lunches seldom serve any purpose to most invitees. In this part of the world, formally dressed professionals are herded like sheep to 5, 7-star hotel restaurants with grand European names. Ones with brilliant chandeliers, long ornate hallways, and waiters who actually care for you.
The despicable salaried employees pick up chinaware worth more than their monthly paychecks and proceed to dump specimens of exactly the same food they eat every day out of their domestic Tupperware.
They insanely stroll past glorious Lasagna and adventurous Bean Sauce without even fielding a look. They instead stop at the Dal. They debate in their mind whether to spoon in Dal Makhni or Dal Tadka. They finally settle on the ridiculously named Spicy Dal.
Meanwhile, the carnivores cannot look beyond the “do Pyaza” and the Kebab of the day.
It ached my senses to see them lounge about the insipid Dosa counter and to see them join the Pani Puri assembly, not unlike a family of beggars waiting on alms.
And to finish matters off, earnest brown fingers mixing rice with mountains of white curd. An abhorrent sight for the naked eye to behold.
All around them are exotic dishes. Chow from the Orient, catch from the Pacific, tubers from a distant land. But no, they wouldn’t bother.
With their plates full of empty unremarkable food, they sit around and eat, talking, chiefly about bugs.
I meanwhile looked forward to the spread. I skipped breakfast like any glutton worth his salt would with a buffet forecast.
And so it was with two plates of delightful food that I sought out a corner table and some precious peaceful eating time.
A crab lay dead and inviting on my plate. For want of space, I had squeezed in some mashed potato under its rear. I swooped in like a beast and embarked on my journey to La La Land.
I had still not extricated all of the crab’s meat from its underbelly when a chair was rudely shoved to the table, across from me.
I swore under my breath at the interruption but didn’t bother to look up from the plate. I poked at the Basa next, fried beautifully to a delectable brown, and started tearing at it.
Normally used to hearing the chomp-chomp of only the food in my mouth, I was surprised to hear, minutes later, an after-sound. Was it an echo from my mouth? Impossible. It was too stuffed for sound to reverberate inside it. What was it then?
I stopped chewing for a second to hear. There it was again!
The unmistakable sound of a set of formidable molars at work on cooked meat. I concentrated hard, trying to understand where it was coming from. Could it be the person sitting across from me?
The eating sounded hurried, yet thorough and devoted. Excitement gripped me. A fellow believer? I waited for the meat to be devoured before I chanced a glance upwards. Who was this person, a soul-mate?
A girl was exploring the depths of a mutton bone. With her eyes closed in what looked like a teetering orgasm, her mouth was enclosed around the bone, her cheeks drawn hollow while she sucked at the mush inside.
I looked agape at the joy painted on her face. It was a joy I knew well. The joy you find at the end of a bone, marrow.
I continued looking at her fondly desecrate the bone. She kept sucking at it, finally drawing a low whistle. The mush had all been sucked in, it was just hollow air inside. I chuckled audibly.
She kept the remains of the bone carefully to a side as if she had unfinished business with it.
She then took to two King Prawns entwined on her plate. She drew their whiskers aside with care and with industrious fingers, delved into them.
I watched captivated, lost in the melee of her appetite, beside myself with happiness. I had forgotten all about the food on my own plate.
After she was done with the Prawns, she spooned a little biryani into her waiting mouth.
I marveled at her disdain for compartmentalized cuisine. Pacific Prawn followed by Hyderabadi Biryani. Respect.
My joy grew with every helping that vanished from her plate.
“It’s rude to look, you know”, she said, startling me.
With great resolve, I took my eyes off her mouth and to her eyes.
This would be an appropriate time in a love story to describe a girl’s flawless complexion, beautiful jawline or striking hair. But this is not that kind of a love story.
All that registered was her love for food. That’s all that mattered. This is that kind of a love story.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have looked”, I said, without conviction.
She glowered at me, but only for a second. Her face lightened up gradually.
“Shall we?”, she asked.
“Yes”, I breathed.
We both got up and walked down the hallway on the first of our many journeys to the buffet table.
Inevitably, we fell in love.
We talked of everything from fish to fowl. From the nitty-gritty’s of chutney to the finer aspects of pie. Bread to batter. Butter to bone.
We toured all over the place. Nestled in a cozy booth at KFC, we would each take a leg and pull the bird apart, bringing us closer in the process.
We essayed the obvious meeting of lips over a solitary noodle. I routed whole bowls of Haleem as she whistled away the bones.
Feeding off of each other, finishing each other’s sentences and completing each other’s meals. At times we picked china we thought was appropriate, at others we ate right off the stove. We were at once both reverential and irreverant to the magic of food.
Our lovemaking, ah! Divine. We ate before and after every session. Crumbs, therefore were an inseparable part of our sex life.
One night, we finally decided to make the big move. Over dinner.
Sitting at the dainty pastry shop, I waited for her. I was tense, emotionally eating to calm my nerves. She had broached the subject with her parents and it was Judgement Day.
I had already had half a dozen blueberry muffins. I had also saved a large chunk of red velvet pastry for my beau.
She finally arrived.
As was our custom, she first ate and then spoke, as I waited on her, watching her eat.
“Yes”, she whispered, her teeth speckled red and glowing.
“They said yes”, she said.
Blueberry met red velvet as we dished out a new chapter of our love.
Write Club Hyderabad – May 2018 – Weird Places to find Love