The flock gathers at the restaurant. Some are here early, some are on their way up the steps to the long hall where tables and chairs are spread for the meal-after-meal marathon of the day. Some wait for their food to arrive, some are already dipping into chutneys or scooping their iddlis.
The smell of tea and coffee and chutney and iddli and ghee hangs in the air before escaping to the world outside. The clink-and-clank of vessels against bowls, and forks against plates, and spoons against cups, reaches the ears of people hurrying along the road. Some are tempted to drop in, to see what’s cooking.
A few children crowd around the huge aquarium near the steps, observing and squealing at the fish of all colours splashing by. They block the way of – and are immune to the irritation of – the arriving breakfast-seekers. Parents hover around the smallest ones, making use of the distraction to pop iddli-made-into-rolls to little mouths that open and shut like that of the fish they are gazing at.
The air is abuzz with loud talk and laughter. The waiters call out to the kitchen: 2 iddli ! 3 set dosa! Uppittu! Kesari bhath! Tea! Coffee!
The man at the desk scolds the waiters and the cooks loudly, for nothing in particular.
A child opens the tap near the rest room to wash his hands, and a spray surges out towards him and the man standing nearby. The little one giggles, and the man scowls.
A couple of foreign women, one wearing Indian kurta and pyjama, and the other in a saree, tackle iddlis with forks in their left hand, talking in low voices. Next to their table, three Indian women in western attire, laugh as they munch their sandwiches.
The large glass windows on all sides are open. A cool breeze intent on interrupting nothing, flows in.
A waiter hurries past with a tray full of glasses, bumps into a child, whom he had not noticed, for the child was only as high as his knee, and the glasses shoot in all directions and crash. The talks cease, the people freeze, the men in the kitchen stare: all accusing eyes are directed at the scared child and the even more scared waiter. A man grabs the child out of the way: Haven’t I told you not to run??
The waiter begins to clear the mess, and the sounds resume.
Everything is back to normal.