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HomeFlash Fiction StoriesAtithi Devo Bhavah! (Guest is God in Sanskrit)

Atithi Devo Bhavah! (Guest is God in Sanskrit)

Going out with simple as that.

When people go back home there always are reasons, either they are successful and have a point to prove, or they have unsettled scores, or maybe there is nowhere to go...but the reason why I am going home today is entirely different.

The reason is my dad. The man who is a modern day HE MAN to me. My mom passed away when I was seven and apart from a grieving husband she left behind a very vulnerable father of a seven year old.

As time passed by dad came out of the labyrinth of despair and started rebuilding his life. He nurtured all that was left by mom and turned it into something she would be proud of. It was because of him that I excelled in both academics and life.

We live in different cities now and he is growing old but his birthdays are always a grand occasion for me. At least that is the best that I can do for him, on second thoughts that is actually the only thing he would let me do for him.

I am nearly there at his - rather our home - and the first bell is answered promptly by a man in a starched and whitest of kurta pajamas. That's my dad, the man who used to hold me so tight in a hug that I never missed my mother.

"So where are we going?" asks he, his sentences as clear and frugal as his living.

"To one of those new Bread Basket joints papa. You said you wanted to experiment didn’t you?"

PAPA: "Oh yes, I am always game for new, as long as it is something really NEW and worthwhile."

The ‘Bread Basket’ joint is just 25 minutes away from home and we reach there just in time to grab two empty chairs with the best view. It is rather strange how the ‘best view’ has suddenly become so important for food and beverage outlets. I always thought eateries are synonymous with food, but modern day living has added another dimension to it: Voyeurism i.e. ‘what I see when I eat’.

Meanwhile as I mentally blabber about all this Papa is getting restless. He complains the joint does not have a homely feel to it. I try explaining, "But, Papa, that’s the idea if you want to have a homely feel then why not eat at home?"

"But, Bubba (that’s my pet name)," he says, "we Indians are known for being great hosts. In fact if you remember ‘atithi devo bhavah’ (Guest is God in Sanskrit) is part of our everyday life and you can only be a great host when you make your guest feel at home."

"Anyway, let us go and do the mundane," he says, "let's eat," and he smiles. We walk over to the counter since it's self service and Papa starts ordering.

BBB : "What will you have, Sir?" (the ‘Bread Basket’ boy )

PAPA: "A sandwich."

BBB: "A loaf you mean, Sir? Will you have a foot long or 6 inch?"

PAPA: "Sorry, oh maybe 6 inch."

BBB: "What loaf will you have, Sir?"

PAPA: "What loaf? Well what do you mean by that?"

BBB: "We have a wide variety, Sir, like honey loaf, french loaf, oat loaf and whole wheat loaf."

PAPA: "Well, ah, I will have a whole wheat. That is the only one that sounds familiar to me. The rest all are alien variety."

BBB: "What would you like the filling to be?" (He rambles options in a frenzy: tomato roundels, onion roundels, jalapeno, parmesan cheese powder, cheese spread, cheese slices, onions, sun dried tomatoes, smoked ham, roasted chicken, chicken salami, chicken tikka and what not.)

PAPA: "Oh, all my life my sandwiches have had cucumber and tomato slices. Yours are more interesting but I’ll stick to my conservative cucumber and tomato slices."

BBB: "What sauce will you like, Sir? Chili sauce, mustard sauce, mayonnaise or honey?"

By this time dad looks quite vacant and I run to his rescue. "No sauce, please, thank you," I intrude.

PAPA: "I am lost, Bubba, I thought I came here to eat but this is more difficult than rocket science."

I can see Papa getting unnerved with the entire experience. So I take both Papa and the sandwich back home. Another 30 minutes and both of us, father and son, gobble up the complicated sandwich.

Papa reminisces about the friendly dhabas (roadside food joints) in India he visited when my mother had passed away, since he didn’t know how to cook. He says, "You know, Bubba, those garma garam (hot) aloo (potato) ka parathas did burn my fingers a couple of times but mostly they warmed my heart and kept us alive. An eatery should have a soul; Bread Basket is probably the best place for modern day connoisseurs and people who pronounce theater with a ‘th’ but for me I’d rather eat at the dhabas and feel at home."

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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