Photo by Catriona Ward (flickr).
LOCAL—“I remember the first time I saw him; my heart leaped,” local Indian restaurateur ‘R.B.’ recalls. “He was large . . . larger than I like to see during the lunch hour. This is going to cost me, I thought. But then he went straight for the chickpeas and dal and I felt great relief.
Ranjan, whose face remained hidden by shadow throughout our interview, had long considered a ‘pay by weight’ system for his food. He later wished he’d implemented such a system for the customers.
“Some weeks later, the man returned, larger than ever. The vegetarian diet must have been a fad because I remember watching in horror as he filled several plates entirely with meat. I called for the kitchen staff to bring more naan, but it was too late. He completely cleaned us out.”
Week after week the man continued to eat the equivalent of several chickens per visit. “I would drop subtle hints in our conversation. If he said, ‘Sorry I wasn’t here Monday, I was busy,’ I would say, ‘I like it when you are busy.’ Sometimes he would give me a funny look but nothing kept him away.”
Later schemes to deter meat consumption involved systematically increasing the spiciness, but it led to a rash of complaints from the customer base as a whole.
“That’s when I became desperate,” Bhattacharya, 47, confessed. “I. . . tampered with his water.”
Even from the dark cloak of his shadowed chair, R.B. would not say exactly how he had tampered with the customer’s water.
“It seemed to work; for several weeks he did not come back. I was very happy at this. But then he did return, on different days each week, and he never drank water again.”
R.B. reports that he is being “forced to consider alternatives” but would not elaborate clearly. He did admit he is currently trading menu and preparation tips with another local chef who runs a profitable Asian buffet.
During our interview, Ranjan seemed flustered when he received a telephone call from the local animal pound. He later explained that he lost a dog, but he wasn’t certain of the breed, or indeed its colour.
Any readers who see a lost brown or yellow or black or white spotted dog wandering downtown in the Little India district are invited to help. The dog answers to the name “Maans.”