Nandan stretched and stood on his tiptoes to look at the golibajes on the counter. Automatically his tongue came out. Kartik saw that and screamed. Nandu, scoot. Don’t stand here. Do you have money to busy some golibajes?’
Nandu shook his head in a no.
‘Then run’, said Kartik.
Shanti, wife of Kartik made a face. Why was Kartik so miserly? By God’s grace, they had plenty. They had some farm land and this small restaurant too. This restaurant had been taken over by Kartik only because of his love for food. And also because the original owner had died and there was no one to run it. Kartik loved good food. That was what she had been told by her mother in law when she came into the family 20 days back. Yes they had been married only 20 days back. And already she was confused.
Confused because Kartik seemed to be a complex man to understand. At home he was very cordial with his parents, with his sisters mischievous, with his staff very strict and what he was in their bedroom…. that was another issue altogether. Shanti sighed. What was the problem in giving a couple of goli bajes to that nine-year old boy. ”Kanjoos” she muttered to herself.
Kartik caught that word and asked, ‘ Did you say something?’
‘No’, said Shanti and then afraid of Kartik’s stern look said,’ You could have a given a few goli bajes, you would not have been bankrupt….’
‘No I would not have been bankrupt but…. I will tell you a story.’ Shanti perked up. Who did not like a story? ‘But not now. In the afternoon when we close shop’.
The time between 2.30 p.m. to 4.00p.m. is an idyllic time. It’s when dogs and humans stretch alike. It’s a time when Kartik makes sure that his hotel is cleaned nicely and is shining to receive the evening crowd.
Shanti came took a chair and sat near the counter. ‘You said you will tell a story’, she said.
“Hmm, just a second’, Kartik said. Counted the morning collection and kept it in the safe.
The staff too gathered near them.
‘Kittu was a very naughty boy’, Kartik began. The day began with his scampering over all the village. His father would leave him in school and Kittu would go out from the back door to run about in the fields.
‘Oh you are talking about that Kittu’, asked Appanna. Appanna had been working for the restaurant from 30 years back.
‘Yes mama’, Kartik smiled, ‘I am talking about that Kittu. Kittu though bright had no interest in studies or any work. He always found excuses for any responsibility given by his parents. And his father was tense. Already 10 years old he was worried that what would become of Kittu.’
Wild, carefree and without any worry, Kittu had only one weakness. His love for Goli bajes. The round golden bajes would make him salivate. His mother often used to make those for him. And would tell whoever came near their house that,’ If you see Kittu, just tell him that I am making Goli bajes today. And he would come running home that day.
Near the village square where the panchayat used to gather, an old man came thrice a week to sell golibajes. A couple of times Kittus father had given him some annas to buy goli bajes but after that had refused to give any. But the old man was kind. He would give him some free of cost.
One day when Kittu was approaching his 11th birthday, fed up of his behaviour Kittus father threw him out. Kittu did not mind that. He knew it was friday and Ajja (grandfather) would come with his goli bajes in the evening. Ajja came but that day he went and stood in some other place. By the time Kittu reached there, the goli bajes were all sold out. Ajja left that day with the promise that the next evening he will surely come with goli bajes for him.
Tired and hungry he sat under a tree. The sky was overcast with clouds. Fearing a storm, no one was coming out. He did not want to beg for food. And he suspected that even if he begged no one would give him any. His father would have seen to that.
Cold winds blew. He remembered the cosy room of his. The love of his mother and ajji (grandmother). Of the day he had high fever and his father; ignoring his work had sat with him till the fever subsided. Of the hot food his mother served him. She always sensed what she wanted. ….
Cold winds blew. Memories warmed him. Sleep cradled and he slept under a tree. He felt warm with the cosy memories of his family.
The sunrays touched his eyes and he woke up to see that it had not rained. He also saw that it was not memories that had warmed him but a blanket. He sat up with a start to see his father sleeping near him, keeping a hand over him. protectively’
‘And fromm that day’, Appanna added,’Kittu became Kartik’.
‘Huh’, Shanti said, ‘so it is your story?’
‘Yes it is my story. That day I realised the value of family and to what extent a father can go to protect his son. From that day I have tried hard to be a good son and a good human.’
The staff nodded in agreement.
‘Giving some golibajes free to Nandan is not a problem. But I don not want to make it a habit. He has to learn that nothing in this life comes free and……
He went on talking about values, education etc but Shanti just gazed at him with respect. Men, they are complex!!
Trivia: Goli baje or Mangalore baje is a snack famous in Mangalore. For a detail recipe you can click here.