It was a big day for the Dhasas. Their pockets were burping money and they were ready for a feast. Gajodhar Dhasa had always fancied that someday, he would go to the famous restaurant that was adjacent to the mall he was working in. ‘The Unison Hotel’ – the guard would open the door each time someone entered or exited. The guard had big moustache and he would gently stroke it now and then. The hair was greyish and demonstrated the fact, that they greeted several guests in several seasons. He was tall must be six feet approximately and his belly was slightly protruding out. A shining uniform he would wear, white in color and had stars on shoulders. What a dynamic man he seemed like! Gajodhar always loved this man and would watch him while having his food sitting on a base over the construction debris. He was always awed by his disposition and gait. The gaurd complimented the gates and walls so well and the marbles on the wall would echo back.
The hotel was no less than a beautiful ensemble in itself in the city. People frequented the joint which was known for offering Mexican delicacies. It had marble decorative all around, so clean that one could see his own reflection. Above the pedestal and at the right side of the hotel, the name was created from plastic and distinctively put in italics. Gajodhar could never read it but found them very interesting. He often thought, one day he would go to the restaurant with his clan and eat like a monarch. Smiling in his own whims and fancies, his fellow labour friends would often make fun of him, whenever he tried sharing his dream.
He never thought, the day would arrive. His dream was coming out to be true today. Clad in a cream shirt he bought from Shukkar Bazaar, he was looking at his best. Hemanti wore a saree that she mostly draped during Holi and Diwali that was given by her mother years ago. Nima wore the Salwar Kameez that Hemanti had received while she worked as a maid. Pinky and Prince wore a frock and shirt pants respectively that were given by Hemanti’s previous boss.
While making puffs from his Bidi, Gajodhar was glaring at his wife wearing Kajal. Today, her Bindi was slightly bigger than usual and the orange vermillion was visibly perceptible from at least a distance of four kilometers.
“What makes you gaze at me like that?” Asked Hemanti while making the bun.
“I can’t look at you is it? Remember I told you I will take you to eat foreign food?” Gajodhar answered cynically.
Hemanti chuckled coyly while she adjusted her Ghungat and said, “Ya ya I remember. They will give us two spoons. Remember, the one with teeth on right and the other on left.”
Gajodhar asked, “What if I eat with hands?”
Hemanti, “No. Big people do not eat like that. My owner and his wife ate with those two spoons.”
Gajodhar scratched his head a little and said,”Hmm! Ok!”
The family was ready with all its adornments. Prince was running around the hut in ecstasy and screaming at the top of his voice. The vicinity knew of the feast Dhasas were going to have. The fellows who were neighbors whistled as Gajodhar was readying to leave.
It was important to lock the door today. It was for the first time; the entire kin were going out together. Prince was his usual self – loud enough to inform the other planet, Nima and Pinky were extra docile today, occasionally giggling at the public feat that was going to happen, Hemanti recalled all the gods’ names as she put a lock.
Bhayu, his neighbor shouted, “Looks like the entire family is having a feast today? Have a ball of a time all of you.”
Gajodhar smiled back to the greetings and boasted his chest a little more and he signaled Bhayu to take care of the house. His usual slant smile demonstrated an extra bling today and his squint eyes drifted everywhere. He was checking out if the people in his proximity were looking at them making the way.
At a distance of 100 meters was the hotel but the Dhasas required waving hands to the people. The distance between the small gully and venue was covered in a jiffy.
‘The Unison Hotel’ gave a giant welcome to the Dhasas. The name on the pedestal was glowing loud. It had tube lights inside and it was shining bright like that of Diwali lights. The family looked above to the banner which had lesser lights and still they were glowing equal to stars.
The guard was reluctant to open the doors to the latest entrants. Seeing the ungrateful gesture which Gajodhar was prepared for, he gave his usual smirk. Today, his pockets were speaking coinage and there was no dearth like previous years. He took out a fresh bunch of 1000 rupee notes and showed it to the guard. Today, there were no probabilities, Dhasas could be refused.
The guard still stood rigid, he didn’t bat an eye. Hemanti and kids were so besotted by the charm of the place that even though it was just a few meters away, it looked like a paradise – such a beautiful garden in front of the hotel, lilies and roses all around, lights that made the venue look like some scene from a movie, glasses and doors all looked alike and the guard seemed like the protector of all.
Gajodhar took out some money and demonstrated the bunch with a smirk, sturdier than ever. There was no way the guard could refuse as Gajodhar and the gang was in its best, fresh clothes, clean faces and pockets full of money.
“What do you want?” Asked the guard.
“We want to get inside. We are here for dinner.” Answered Gajodhar intentionally pretending to calculate money in front of him.
While Gajodhar cajoled the guard with money in his hand, the latter looked at his son almost turning into a tadpole in utter exhilaration. He was jumping from one place to another.
Prince was relishing a ball of his time. He was running around screaming like those singing during Jagrans with mic in hand. “Hualalalala!” Just that Prince had a bandwidth to pierce ears without any mic.
The guard chuckled at the sight. The manager was watching the drama from inside. He signaled the guard to allow them. The door was pushed. Score – guard – 0, Dhasas – 1.
Just as the gang entered the hotel, a mass of condemnatory eyes welcomed them. Gajodhar yelled at Prince for not roaming here and there. The lady with a blue purse quaked at the impulsive decibels. The Unison Hotel was not used to this, it experienced such a tyrannical and loud communication for the first time.
“Table for four, sir?” Inquired the staff.
Hemanti nodded to whatever the staff asked for because Gajodhar was too diverted towards handling Prince. Nima and Pinky stared at all the tables and giggled like docile brides. The brigade followed the staff to a window facing table. While Hemanti kept adjusting her veil, Gajodhar kept grinning at the act of his wife, flattering her in many techniques.
Prince was now calm after a few tight ones on his face. He glued himself on the window like a lizard and tried tracing his hut in their small slum area near the half constructed mall. Posh people sitting at the nearby tables were struck with the question – “How did they make it?”
Menu cards were put forth on the table – food and drinks separately. The waiter ogled his eyes at the family while he controlled his giggles. Nima, as commanded by Hemanti collected all the handkerchiefs kept over the plates. None of the four knew the ambition of the clothes. On this sudden observation of handkerchief collection, the waiter had to control on all his nerves and command the kin to stop.
Gajodhar held the menu and scratched his scalp a little. He and the wife ‘read’ the catalogue. It was a matter of dignity today – they couldn’t afford to let down themselves today. While the waiter kept his diary handy for the orders, he realized there was more performance coming up.
Nima and Pinky slantways peeped into their father’s menu, they all looked together in harmony at the menu. Gajodhar directed Hemanti with eyes and pointed her to bring in their literate boy. Hemanti pulled Prince by his collar and threw him on the table. He was asked to read out the menu to them. Prince – the only ‘educated’ member in the family was now supposed to protect his family’s name and rescue his folks from this deep shit. His government school educated him to ‘read’ – read with struggle.
“Ulta pakda.” Prince shrieked like any cheap orchestra to correct his mother.
Hemanti instantly put her card correct. Gajodhar aped the same in macro seconds, girls remained slanted to the card like usual.
Waiter reacted like his favorite team missed an easy goal to a smart goal keeper. Score waiter – 0, Dhasas – 1.
Prince read the menu:
“1. Turtilaaa 2. Barritaaa 3. Kusidilaaa 4. Nakooooo”
Waiter and the nearby guests had their moments of pleasure while Prince continued reading. A lady with a visible locket in diamond gazed at the Dhasas like she regretted her decision to visit the hotel.
“Any Orders?” Waiter was impatient now.
“Tutilaaa libe hum.” Prince informed the waiter in his usual tone.
“We do not have roti sabzi, is it?” Inquired Hemanti as the pictures did not resemble she had anything like that in her life.
“Maas khayibe hum.” Answered Gajodhar.
Nima and Pinky had taken over the cocktails’ menu so they gazed at the pictures in amusement. Those pictures of wine bottles meant taboo to them. Just one stare and they at once kept back the menu in fast motion.
“Nachos and Tacos will be good for you madam. Sir, for you, moles with guacamole and Enchiladas will be good. It will have meat.” Waiter was patient with them this time.
All Russian, all German did the waiter sound.
Gajodhar and the gang nodded in all angles in affirmation and in blind trust.
“Sure. Will take 15 to 20 minutes. Thanks.” Waiter blatantly informed his guests.
“uff!” The waiter felt relieved as he came inside the kitchen area and his fellows decided to have a good laugh.
Dhasas took a deep breath of relief too. All eye balls in the room now were diverted at the family to see their next move. Hemanti looked at the people, people looked back at her. The peek-a-boo session kept happening just like those fast paced badminton rounds.
This time Dhasas wanted to act smart. Score – Dhasas – 0, people – 0. The match was on till the food arrived.
Dhasas struggled to stay quiet for the allotted time but maintaining the decorum was important. They decided to look around the hotel because this whole time, they were not able to concentrate the adornments of the hotel. They could see so much to look at – lady with the blue purse, shining mirrors on walls, aristocratic men, a stout judgmental woman in an extreme corner and a fountain that was a mile away in the hall. But! But Prince had caught the fancy already. Fountain did not seem far anymore. Catastrophe was just a moment away.
Prince quietly made his way from below the table. Rest of the Dhasa battalion was still in awe with the decorations and posh. For them, the geography of music was still a mystery. Their curious eyes rolled around every nook and corner of the hall but they did not know who was playing it.
“They have good cassettes.” Gajodhar gave discerned answer to all the mystery. Women Dhasas nodded in affirmation like earlier.
Meanwhile Prince had already reached his location. Crystal clear water cascading down the hands of a statue. This white sculpture of an English woman was stunning, something inspired from that of Michelangelo’s works. It took some time for Prince to realize something. The revelation required to be delivered to the rest of the Dhasas.
“Yu aurat nangi haiiiiiii!!!!” Shrieked a shocked Prince.
The vital information reached every ant, entire cosmos and every molecule. Pin drop silence. The lady with blue purse already made a decision with her conscience, she wasn’t coming here again. Posh men kept back their glasses of wine and the stout woman in extreme corner decided to find refuge in washroom.
Score – Dhasas – 0, People – 0
The manager decided to play his integral role. He went upto Prince who was busy splashing water in all junctions – “Har har gange, har har gange!”
The food was ready to be served, the waiter was ready to bring in. The manager commanded him to go back. Gajodhar knew his plans for the night. Holding the fork and spoon upside down, the complimentary buns on his plate looked at him with detachment. Nima and Pinky did not bat an eye on these unprecedented commotions. They knew night was going to be even more dramatic in their dwelling.
Holding Prince’s hand with utter annoyance on face, the manager came to Dhasa’s table. Dangling Prince was all wet but seemingly happy.
“Certainly, it was our fault to bring you in. But it is a lesson learnt.” The manager said in agitation draped nicely in manners.
Dhasas nodded in affirmation again.
“You can take the food with you and eat at your comfort. I do not think; we can allow it here.” The manager completed.
Gajodhar quickly took out the money from his pocket. A fresh bunch of notes, they seemed to be the only answer. Gajodhar was all panicky as he tried counting the money. He couldn’t, his hands shivered.
“Leave it. On humanity grounds, we are letting you guys go. Please leave peacefully. Our eatery doesn’t entertain this thing.” The manager completed his answer without no interest to speak more.
Dhasas nodded in affirmation again.
Score – Dhasas – 0, manager – 1
Gajodhar caught hold of Prince and the evening was like never before. While women Dhasas carried the food packets, father decided to turn into a bull. The family was back in the shanty. Prince was blue and green and there was no mercy.
Score – Gajodhar – 1, Prince – 0.