A man with jet black hair and lanky frame entered ‘Seema Hotel’. The board outside it spoke about its rustic charm and 25 year old legacy.
Inside, the counter was manned by a person with salt and pepper hair, presumably in his 60’s. A makeshift platform with idol of Goddess Lakshmi was kept there, adorned by a hibiscus. He indulged in a small talk with the man behind the counter, the smell of incense flaring his nostrils. Taking his leave, he made way towards the corner most table facing the window. Each one of them was made of steel top, mirrored the sun light and the ambience of the place.
A glass of water and a laminated menu with jagged edges was placed before him. The man didn’t bother look at it, as he knew what he wanted. His eyes searched for a waiter. Spotting him seated, one of them came towards him. Acknowledging him with a nod, he replied “South Indian Thali” with a half smile. The waiter scribbled it in his notepad quickly and strode off to the kitchen. He looked outside the window, particularly looking at the branches of the lemon tree, inhaling the smell of it. His mind wandered off to a remnant of the past and lingered on it for sometime. It’s strange how memories grip you tight, even if you want to let go. They follow you like a shadow.
His reverie was broken by the sound of the plate kept on his table. Bringing it towards him, he poured sambar over the heap of rice. Taking a handful of them, he scooped pickle into his mouth. The spice of the pickle and tanginess of sambar created an explosion of flavours inside his mouth. He took carefully measured rice scoops to relish each portion.
While immersed in eating, his attention diverted towards a youth sitting a couple of tables away gobbling the food. “Food is sacred, you greedy bugger!” he muttered under his breath.
After finishing the plate, his attention turned towards the lemon tree. He reminisced his first lunch with his wife. Her arrival was marked by the smell of jasmine on her hair and the sound of her anklets. He remembered how he despised the smell of jasmine but still coped with it nevertheless. They had made a promise equivalent to seven vows. Friendship bound them together but love set them free.
After their marriage, he was woken up by her scented hair and water droplets on its strands. Drying her hair she tied the jasmine he got for her, around her bun. How he longed for the smell of jasmine first thing in the morning after her death! He allowed the fragrance of jasmine and smell of lemons overwhelm his senses. Heading towards the exit, he allowed the memory to play like a record.