rajagopalvk

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rajagopalvk

Location: Kochi, India

Member Since: January 2014

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Nidha decided to do her higher studies in London for a year, she managed to convince her mamma to be with her in London. As Nidha’bsnl.jpgs younger brother Nihal is too young & he can’t survive without mamma, he too joined them. For a long year my survival will be a  big question without them.

 

 

Though it’s hard to survive, I made my mind to be alone. And when they leave I don’t want to be at Kochi.  So I took the courage to speak to my boss, convinced him and took a year break. I promised him that I will be joining back next year the same day. Thanks to my performance so far, he accepted my proposal and said will call me whenever there’s an emergency. 

Left them in the Airport !  What next? I felt as though I am in a daze.

I took two pair of shirt, jeans, my laptop and packed my back pack, avoided all branded things wore a normal pant and shirt, put my slippers and locked the house. I walked towards the busstand with 10000Rs in my pocket.

The first bus that appeared in front of me was en-route to Chennai. I got in and managed to get a seat. I don’t know what caused me to take a ticket to Salem, Started missing the family soon and a year without them and now in a bus to Salem. Many questions remained unanswered.

The guy sitting next to me was a supplier in a restaurant in Chennai. He speaks so high about his boss, his wish is to own a restaurant which serves only vegetarian food. Being a vegetarian I was curious to know how good a cook he is, though he is a supplier he initiate cooking most of the time in the restaurant. Quiet interestingly he can cook Chinese, Indian and learned Tibetan from his Assami friend.  He speaks so high about his cooking and he is very confident that one day he will be owning the best restaurant in Chennai and wants to name it as Senthil’s Kitchen.

What next ? walked few yards and saw a board written,  house for rent ! Managed to convince the soft spoken Landlord by saying I am here to find a new job.  The Landlord rents single bedroom houses for bachelors who work in the nearby factory, Took 3000rs advance for a monthly rent of Rs 1000 but I need to surrender my Voters ID card to him, which will be returned only when you vacate the house. It was a pretty good house with a single cot, western toilet with geezer, a kerosene stove and few vessels. The stove and vessels was left out by the previous occupant who left to Gulf a month back, for sure he would have been a mallu.

I was happy to find a place to sleep. As I had switched off my mobile phone from Kochi there were no calls eating my head.  I walked back to bus stand and managed to get a new sim card for my mobile by giving my driving license as the proof.  I walked back to my newly rented house, which was in typical Tamil Nadu style.  On my way back, I got into a restaurant and packed my dinner.  Somehow that restaurant was attracting me for no reasons. The restaurant was under a banyan tree and in the background you can see mountains, most of the travelers stop here for the shade which in turn gave more business to the restaurant. 

During the last 4 days I have not shaved and my beard had grown little more. I decided to let it grow, wandered here and there for 3 more days and I purposefully skipped the “Ayyan’s restaurant” and had food from other restaurants near the bus stand.  By these days I have changed a lot in my look, a shabby look which I have not seen in me in my life time.

 

Somehow I gained confidence and went to “Ayyan’s restaurant” and met the owner Ayyanar or they call him “anna” (big bother) and asked for a job. Looking at me he was not sure what I am here for, I convinced him that I will not quit for the next one year and he can hold my license. He asked me whether I absconded from my home town after a murder. I smiled at him and told him that “if so why would I choose a restaurant on the road side were all the vehicles stop and people can easily identify me” , he got convinced and asked me to be the senior supplier.  Wow I got a job again! It remind me the center fresh commercial which shows the suppliers spell the food menu in no time, thankfully he didn’t ask me to do so.  He asked me to join the next day as it was a more auspicious day to join for work.  A good hearted anna, he lives besides the restaurant with his wife and his 5 year old son.  I walked back to my den with an oral appointment letter.

My career started as Computer instructor then, joined Sun TV as marketing and sales guy served there for 7 years then migrated to Central Advertising Agency. I was also the Advertising Manager of Textile brand Seematti in Kerala, PR Manager to Mrs. BeenaKannan CMD of Seematti, consultant for Razzmatazz Events and for many other firms too.  16 years in Media gave me all what I need in life, apartment, cars, bank balance and a beautiful family who knows just to love and to be loved. Now I have a reason to be happy that I got a job in a restaurant without much competition.

Wednesday was a turning point in my life, Senior supervisors uniform, I was excited the whole night and  I saw myself serving all kind orders to the customers with my smiling face, but when I got up from the bed I realized I have not joined yet. I was tempted to use my perfume but changed my mind later. I walked straight to the nearby temple and simply prayed that I should

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be a faithful staff to anna. I noticed that I forgot to pray for my family, I forgot Nidha and Nihal, I forgot to pray for my lovely wife who left everything and came from her home one day. Did I become selfish, have I stopped thinking of them? My eyes were filled with tears, I wiped and walked towards the restaurant.  I saw Anna in the cashier seat, the restaurant was not much crowded, as I walked towards Anna, he introduced me to his wife “Selvi” who is Akka for everyone, and his 4 year old son “Tamil” he reminded me of my son Nihal who is now 5 years old. I saw an affectionate family who were also keen on running their restaurant.

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Anna introduced me as Iyer to all the staffs, there were around 7 boys and a master (main chef ) he took me to the kitchen, it was neatly maintained but a normal mess. This restaurant works 24hours and I joined in the 11am to 11pm slot.  I have had food from almost all 5star 

 

restaurants around the world but as a supplier I was bit nervous to face my customers. My first customer was from Kerala. They were on their way back from Bangalore heading to Calicut. There was not much confusion about the order, they just needed Parota and veg kuruma, 2 sets of dosa and 2 tea. I Went back and placed the order to the master, I could hear shouting by other suppliers after taking the order…2 dosa one tea, chapatti and kuruma, they take the order from the customer and shout to the kitchen what the order is, the entire restaurant can hear what a person is ordering.  I decided not to do that ever.

Within few minutes I heard a loud voice from the kitchen “Parota, 2 set dosa readyyyyy” I went and took my first order in my shivering hand and served to the customer, as I spoke in Malayalam the customer was very happy. I heard the voice from the kitchen again 2 tea readyyyyyyy, served that too to the customer.  My first customer left me with a tip of 5 Rs which was balance from their 35 Rs bill.  My first tip or I should say my first earning, I took the coin and looked at it, I was not that happy when I bought neither my  luxury car nor my duplex apartment. That 5Rs coin was much more for me though I was earning  in lakhs from my previous job.

My co-workers at ‘Ayyan’s restaurant’ who hails from the nearby villages visited their home town frequently. I was the only outsider and everyone was suspicious about me working there. I extended my friendship with everyone and also gained Anna’s trust. I managed to convince the boys not to shout and place the order and eventually trained them to speak to the customer softly. Saravan who lives just a mile away from the restaurant has been working for the past 4 years. He is getting married next year, and wants to earn more money to get married. One day he came and told me he got Rs 70 as tip for the day which was his highest tip ever in the last 4 years. He said that it was because of the friendly attitude towards the customers and he thanked me and said “Padichavanga sonna seriakeirummum”   (If educated people say it will be correct).

Gradually I noticed the change in atmosphere, no shouting, suppliers more friendly with customer. Everyone started getting more money as tips, and as fixed salary Master gets Rs300Per day, Sr supplier Rs 200 per day, and suppliers Rs175 per day as daily wages. Even I started getting around 40 to 45 Rs daily as tips and food was taken care by the restaurant.

I gradually learned everything; I was always fascinated in parota making. So during night shifts I helped Master who works 2 shifts at a stretch which is very tiring. Flattening the dough is a very hard job, yet an art.  You sweat and your hand’s pain like hell. I noticed that the master wears sleeve less innerwear while making parota, I made him wear a t-shirt. One night a black Scorpio loaded with 5 drunken youngsters dashed in to the restaurant, there were shouting and making a mess of the place. Master and Saravanan and I were on duty. I asked them to sit at one place and requested for the order. I learned that they are from Cochin.  I requested for order again, they were rude and shouted at me and threatened me by saying his family name which happens to be a popular family in Cochin, fortunately I know the head of the family Mr. Joseph , I told them I know Mr. Joseph and also referred few people who works for their organization, on hearing that they apologized and politely asked me how I know Mr. Joseph. I handled the situation well and gained Rs.100 tip from them, that Rs 100 may be a bribe for me to forget what I saw there.

I keep my mobile switched off all day; it will be on only when I am at home. I call London every night and get updates from my wife; it was hard to convince her , why I am out of Cochin and what I am doing in some part of Tamil Nadu. I lied to her that I am on a new project,  working for a company as consultant. I open my Facebook during nights and was getting all updates about my friends, many messaged me and enquired where I was, but I never replied to anyone.

I started loving the new job and also the loving family of Anna. His son Tamil speaks to me a lot. He loves cars, I started teaching him the entire car names whichever came to our restaurant.

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He was a fast learner and soon recognized the car brands even from a distance.  A BMW came to our restaurant one day. Tamil was with me and on seeing the car he said BMW and asked whether I’ve ever travelled by a car? I replied smiling and said my boss owns a car and I have travelled in that. He said when he grows up even he’ll buy a BMW and take me to Erode. I could feel the innocence in his face as he promised me an ice cream from Erode.

Months passed by, I witnessed a huge change in the restaurant. Earlier only small cars used to stop in front of our restaurant, but now name the car & you can find it here. I also have a handful of regular customers who just want to see Iyer’s face before ordering.   All these days I made a point not to take any one to my house as I don’t want anyone to know I own a Laptop and ultra-modern cell phone, which is more than imaginable to my co-workers. 

Anna slowly started giving me the responsibility of the shop, I started handling the cash and purchase in short “all in all”, right from cash to cleaning, though I was a  supplier. On the eighth month Anna raised my salary to Rs.225 per day. Now Anna is always busy with his real estate business.  One day Anna accompanied me to the market and on the way he shared his idea of opening another restaurant near the market and he wanted me to take care of the entire process of starting the new venture.  I started feeling guilty for not sharing anything about my background, that night I couldn’t sleep for a while. Next day morning I was on my 7am shift, went to the temple first and then to the restaurant. Anna turned up in the afternoon. I went and asked him to spare an hour with me that evening, as I wanted him to take him to my home. He agreed happily and told me that even Selvi akka would join us. I was a bit shocked to know that they were curious about where I lived! I said okay to Anna.  

Anna, his family and I in his Indica car went to my house. He was impressed on seeing myhouse and asked me frankly, “There’s something you are hiding from me. Tell me who you are”? I took my laptop, he was shocked to see a laptop with me, I opened my Facebook and showed all the pictures I also googled and showed my works and work profile. He was convinced about my whereabouts but wanted to know what bought me here. I explained to  him that my family is in London and I just can’t live in Cochin alone, more over I did’t want to go to London. Apparently Selviakka had a doubt, and she told Anna on the very first day itself that I am an educated guy. They assumed that I fought with my family and took asylum in Salem.  I took my phone from my back pack and dialed Ruby. I asked Anna and Akka to speak to ruby as if they were my friends here in Selam and I am working in a company.  Anna was apprehensive about lying to Ruby and he was also upset as I didn’t disclose about my whereabouts. Ruby spoke to anna and akka, I could see them struggling to answer her questions about my job and house where I stay, but they managed. Before leaving Anna said he wants to see in the restaurant next day morning around 8 am, though my next day shift starts only by 11am.

Next day I reached the restaurant, I was worried how Anna was going to react, would he fire me from job, many thoughts flashed, but I stayed cool and calm. When I went, he pulled the chair and asked me to sit. That was the first time I am sat in front of him in the last 10 months. He took a cover and handed me the driving license which I gave him as my proof, and from Iyer he called me Thambi (brother). He said, “you promised me that you will be working with me for 12 months, 2 more months left I don’t want you to work as a supplier here, I want you to start the new restaurant next month itself”. He already got the vibe of me leaving.  I told Anna I will do it for him but requested him to keep me posted as the Sr. supplier of his restaurant. While we were discussing, I noticed an Audi with Kerala registration and a known number parking in front.  I just got up and went inside the kitchen and stood near the tea samovar as if I was making the tea. My guess was right, it was Kumar who is the personal driver of Mrs. Beena Kannan of Seematti. He ordered food and I continued to stay behind the samovar and I covered 

my face with a towel so that he wouldn’t recognize me. When he was done, he walked straight to cash counter and gave the bill and asked for something, Anna waved his hands towards me, believe me I was at the verge of fainting. He came towards me and asked for a match box. I gave him the match box and avoided looking at him, he suddenly asked how far Chinnanoor is from here ? I was forced to answer him the route. Though I was nervous, I was confident that he will not recognize me since I covered my face, he went out with the match box had a smoke and came back from behind and called “ Rajagopal anna”. On hearing my name I suddenly turned, and he caught me.  I removed my towel from face, he said on seeing my eyes he was thinking who’s eyes is that, and the question was just to listen to my voice.

He was on the way back to Cochin after dropping Mrs. Beena Kannan at Bangalore,  Both of us walked towards Anna who was in the cash counter and Kumar started telling everything about me and wanted to take me back to Cochin then and there.  I promised him that I will be back in a month as my family will be back, he smartly took the number of Anna and went. He called up few times but he kept his word by not telling to Beena Madam.

I slowly started involving in the new venture; it was not that hard as what I thought. It took 10 days for me to set everything.  Anna got a auspicious day to open the store after 20 days.

Anna and family started calling me Thambi instead of Iyer. Their attitude changed towards me, and Anna promised me that he wouldn’t disclose about my whereabouts to my co-workers.

I called up Ruby to find out how Nidha did her final exams. Nidha was happy speaking to me and thrilled about coming back to India in two days and visiting Salem and from there to Bangalore for a week.  I got the shock of my life. How can I ask them not to come to Salem. I was confused but I decided to stay back in Salem till the inauguration of the new restaurant.  In two days time my family landed in Cochin and the next day they decided to visit Salem.  I gave the address of  “Ayyans Restaurent” and told them to come there and ask for  “Ayyannar” Ruby remembers Anna as she had spoken to him. I also told her not to call me in my mobile as it will be switched off during my working time.

I had my 11 am shift on the day they arrived. I got up a little late, went to temple and reached restaurant 30 minutes before and joined for duty.  After an hour Anna came in, I informed him that my family is on their way to the restaurant. He was astonished and asked me to change my uniform and wear a good dress. I smiled at him and said, “No Anna today I want to work full day and nothing is going to change today”. He said, “Thambi unaku paithiyama pidichiruku” (have u gone mad brother). I said Anna if they come just tell them to sit inside.

Restaurant’s lunch time gets over by 3.30pm, there were two groups from Bangalore for lunch. Nearly 300 lunch was sold on that day, I was happy that I got Rs. 76 as tip for the day.  Around 4pm a BMW parked in front of the shop and there comes my man Mr. Abeesh who drives for me from 2010, he went straight to Anna and enquired about Ayyanar. Anna got out of the seat and went straight to the car and invited Ruby and kids to come to the shop.

 

I was standing behind the same tea samovar, and watching. Seeing Ruby and kids after a year, Ruby had lost weight, Nidha has a western outlook and my little fellow with his spiky hair. I just wanted to run and hug them, but I decided not to. I could hear my heavy heart beats. Anna himself took the order and after a year I heard the shouting from anna “4 teaaaaaaa”. I made the tea by myself. Sugar less for Ruby, Normal for Nidha and Abeesh, more sugar for my little one. Ruby and Nidha was seated facing the road, Abeesh and Nihal sitting facing the kitchen.  I took the tea in a serving plate,

put my servany+one+know+Him.jpgers cap walked towards them, as I did I was going blind.  From the darkness of the Kitchen I was walking towards the sunlight, I saw nothing while nearing them, Abeesh noticed me, he just stood up with his mouth opene, Nihal was staring at me, he had not seen me in short hair and long beard, Ruby and Nidha was wondering why Abeesh stood up astounded. I placed the tea on the table. Ruby just jumped from the chair, screamed and hugged me, followed by Nidha and Nihal too.  I can  feel my tears when I write this, they had never seen me in such a state, Ruby just slapped me and asked why was I doing this?

 

 

I closed my eyes as tears were flowing. When I opened my eyes I could see the fan on top, the room was chill as the AC was running the whole night. I realized that my family is at Calicut to spend the Christmas vacation. The bottle of water that I keep every night besides my head is opened and spilled (for sure I remembered serving water to one customer from a bottle) , the cushion in my bed is squeezed and crushed (that may be when I learned to make porata).  

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Why such a dream? 

any how, I liked the dream very much than any of my other dreams, Now I am really looking forward to go to Salem and see is there "Ayyan restaurant" exists or not.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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