That winter evening

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By: Dr Dhrubajyoti Bora

It was a cold evening and a cloudy sky added an envelope of melancholy in the air, bringing the evening much earlier than expected. Everything was sluggish. The number of patients coming to the emergency department was only a handful. So the interns were gossiping around the large elliptical table of the casualty ward as if they were inside some amusement park, devoid of any stress. As those interns were not too friendly, Palash and Pranjal came out of the casualty department and started sipping black tea at a makeshift tea stall before the line of pharmacies in the east direction of the hospital campus. These stalls used to run throughout the night, and served the patients’ attendants as well as the on duty doctors with tea and cigarettes. In the night duties, coming to these stalls was fun, and the recently passed out interns seldom missed that opportunity. Sometimes, the stall owners used to catch a fire and two or three no’s of such open fireplaces scattered here and there before the hospital campus and the doctors and the attendants used to surround them to get rid of the sting of the dropping temperature, and chatted while drinking tea, ignoring the barrier of superiority or inferiority between them.

Palash, while sipping his cup of tea, said, ‘’It is very cold today. How about eating pork?’’

Their evening duty was up to 8pm, and after that, it was quite possible to enjoy a dinner with pork curry in the hostel. Palash had a good reputation in cooking.

‘’Then we’ve to buy it now if you’re sure,’’ Pranjal said, sounding serious. He thought if they didn’t go at that time, the chance of getting good pork meat was scarce.

‘’Hmm… You better go and buy half a kilo and keep it in your bag till we finish our duty, and don’t tell anybody.’’

There was a pork butcher in front of hostel 4. 40 rupees per kilo. Half a kilo meant 20 rupees. Not a big deal!

One interesting fact during those days was that most of the first year medical students in the hostels looked like they were suffering from malnutrition. Hard work and lack of proper nutrition had taken a toll on their health and physique. But by the grace of pork meat, towards final year, most of them gained weight in such a way that when they looked at their old photographs, they teased each other for their once skeleton-like appearances.

Tonight, dinner with pork curry would definitely kill the boredom of this winter night. When Palash talked about the idea Pranjal could feel his mouth going watery at the hope of chewing tasty pork meat and Palash’s mind wandered how he would be able to apply his culinary skill to satisfy their appetite. Just then Palash’s cell phone rang. It was Samarendra.

‘’Where are you?’’- An enthusiastic Samarendra on the line.

‘’Doing casualty duty, why?’’

‘’Come to hotel Landmark, I’ll give you a treat.’’

Bewildered, Palash at first couldn’t believe his ears, because Samarendra wasn’t that kind of a boy. Rather, he was the boy who knocked on other’s doors if he sniffed something aromatic coming out of that room, struck up a conversation until the hosts offered him something. For this quality most of his friends became afraid to go out with him.

‘’Yeah, come to Hotel Landmark, I’m waiting for you.’’ Samarendra repeated.

‘’But Pranjal is also with me,’’ Palash said, knowing that it was the time to grab him. Such type of opportunity never comes twice.

‘’OK, bring him too,’’- Samarendra said without a hesitation, and cut the line.

‘’What happened?” Pranjal overheard their conversation to some extent.

‘’Samarendra will give us a treat,’’ Palash said, joyfully.

‘’But we’ve duty?’’- Pranjal was still confused, thinking seriously whether it would be a nice idea to accept the invitation.

‘’There’re so many interns in the casualty ward, nobody will know if we disappear,’’ Palash said.

Palash immediately kicked his bike and rode through the crowded traffic, taking Pranjal with him. He had attended Hotel Landmark twice or thrice in the CMEs organised by the medicinal companies. Its food was tasty and costly and to get a treat from Samarendra was an unbelievable offer.

When they reached the restaurant, Samarendra was sipping coffee, waiting for them. After they had occupied their seats, Samarendra waived at a waiter to give the order. He offered the menu card, but Samarendra pushed it away.

‘’What is today’s special?’’

‘’Sir, you can have plain naan, butter naan, chicken manchurian, chicken garlic,… .’’- The waiter started to speak like a robot. Samarendra snapped him midway, – ‘’OK, bring a full plate of Tandoori chicken, and three plates of steamed momos.’’ Then he winked at Palash and when the waiter left, said, ‘’Steamed momos here is very tasty.’’

After about twenty minutes, the waiter brought them their ordered food. In no time, the three gorged on their food like wolves deprived of meat for a long time. Samarendra licked on his fingers several times after finishing his part (suffice it to say, most of the Tandoori chicken pieces were consumed by Samarendra). Then he let out a satisfied burp, holding his bulging lower abdomen with his left hand.

The waiter at the reception counter waited impatiently with the bill, hoping to get a good tip. Samarendra walked to the wash basin with heavy steps and happily looked at his own reflection in the mirror. Sensing disaster, Palash and Pranjal just gulped down the Tandoori pieces without proper chewing and went to the wash basin. By the time they were settled at their respective seats after washing, the waiter approached them with a big smile. He placed the bill before Palash. Palash pushed it to Samarendra as it was his turn to pay the bill. Samarendra lifted his back from his chair to search for his wallet. Then, as if something horrible had happened, he frantically searched the front pockets of his pants, then the breast pocket of his shirt with shaking hands!

‘’Oh no!’’ Samarendra mumbled, and brought a serious expression to his face. ‘’I’ve forgotten my wallet!’’ he said.

‘’What?!’’- The other two shouted so aloud in disbelief that it was sufficient to attract a few curious glances from the neighbouring tables.

‘’Oh God, where have I left my wallet!’’- Samarendra soliloquised.

As there was no option left to get out of the restaurant graciously, Palash and Pranjal had to contribute for the bill, and when they were walking out of the restaurant, the waiter just stared at them holding his empty bill tray, and tried to remember whether he had witnessed such type of an incident earlier. As far as he could remember, he’d not met such types of customers in his lifetime before.

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