• anjali mohapatra

The Sunday Special!

Updated: Jul 28

The Sunday Special! A glittering signboard in New York City was captivating among others. Too many attractive lights were dazzling, but ‘Sunday Special’ had some unusual attraction.


‘Ah-ha! This one- a famous Indian restaurant! Harish- Harish Panda, once again!’ A couple gazed at the light while strolling around the pavement. They had crossed the restaurant. Suddenly the lady gripped her husband’s forearm.


‘What?’ the man asked his wife.



‘Why not try once?’ she spoke in a soft voice.


‘What try? Oh- Harish- Sunday Special?! You want it?’


‘Yeah! I never tasted his food. Let’s see what is that special!’


‘Ok, fine! It’s good. I had gone three-four times.’


‘Did you?!’ her brows drew up.


‘Yeah! He is a nice guy, very friendly behavior. Come, let's move.’


They turned back and entered the restaurant. It was beautiful! Well organized! Harish Panda- a short, fat man with a smiling face strolling around the tables attending to the customers’ every possible amusement!


The cracking sound of the door drew Harish’s attention. He lifted his head to notice the newcomer. ‘Aha, Simon- my dear pal, come on- welcome to your abode!’ Grinning with his white shining teeth, Harish expanded both his hands. Few customers’ brows pulled up, casting their eyes on the couple.



Harish rushed towards Simon. ‘How are you, pal?! And she is..’ he chuckled winking at Simon.



‘Yeah, Harish. She is…’



‘I know- I know, she is Mrs. Simon, right?’


‘Hi- you are, um..’


‘Susi,’ she completed Harish’s half-spoken words. Joining her hands she said, ‘ Namaskar’.


‘Wow! That's amazing! So, you know our culture!’


‘Yeah! A little,’ she responded smilingly.


‘Ok, Simon. Let's move.’ Harish draped his hand around Simon’s neck, led them to a side table. ‘It’s my pleasure, Susi! How can I serve you?! Simon has visited many a time. I think you are for the first time, right?!’



Susie nodded again.


‘Ok, Susie! Everything is arranged there with the ‘Sunday Special’! Feel free to choose your favorites!


Susie was excited! She darted a bewitching smile at Harish and Simon too.


************

Three years back—



Harish was working in a very well-known restaurant as a cook. One day in the middle of cooking, he went for a phone call. When he came back, the half-cooked food was already served to a VIP group who reserved a table of twenty people in advance. A few minutes later, the group called the boss.


One among the group hit the ceiling and screamed, ‘Do you think we are pigs? This is rubbish! This is what you are famous for? These are unpalatable! Eat yourself, you fool!’ They left the table, scattered the plates and spoons, and poured the wine on the serving dish, went out. The boss apologized but nothing worked out. After their exit, the boss lost his temper, became furious at Harish.


‘You scoundrel! Get out from my sight!- you’re junky! Stupid- you have ruined my business! Go- get out!’ He grunted and slammed his cabinet door on his face, firing him from his job.



Harish stared at his partners, taking off the cook’s white apron, stepped out of the restaurant. He was still confused about what was his mistake. He went home with a gloomy face. He hesitated to give the shocking news to his father- the person who was already suffering from cancer last three years! Quietly he entered his house, went to his bedroom, and flung flat on his bed. His mind was completely numb for a while. He couldn't figure out anything. Suddenly he thought of his grandma.

***********



After his mom’s death, he was left under the care of his grandma in India till he touched his first teenager. Grandma’s authentic food captivated his mind from his very childhood. Slowly his passion for cooking grew stronger and stronger. The study became secondary for Harish. Any time the old lady put something on the pan, the aroma of freshly cooked food filled his nostrils. Instantly rushing towards grandma, Harish used to ask, ‘What's that grandma?! Cooking something special?! I am hungry.’ Hobbling around the kitchen, grandma squeezed his fluffy cheeks used to say, ‘’Yes, darling! I know you smelled it, naughty! Right now I will serve you.’


Sometimes he questioned, ‘Grandma, how about me a cook? Can I be like you?’


With a burst of loud laughter, grandma’s teeth-less lips widened stuttering, ‘Of course, honey! You would be a better cook than me! I promise!’ He was too enthusiastic to know what and how she cooked. That was his daily conversation with his grandma. When he was thirteen, he returned back to the USA with his dad who was working over there in a decade. But by that time he grasped a lot of things about cooking.



Somehow he cleared high school but after that, he never showed any interest in studies. In spite of his father’s advice, he left his studies and engaged himself as a helper in a small factory. A few months later, he didn't like that job and left it. Every two-three years he jumped from one job to another. At last, he worked as a cook in that restaurant where he got fired.


Suddenly his mobile vibrated. Harish spoke in a harsh voice, ‘Hello! Who’s it?!’



‘Jack- Harish, remembered?!’


‘Oh! Hi Jack! What's up?!’


‘Nothing great, Harish. I just wanted to tell you the truth.’


‘Come on, Jack! What truth! Leave it, pal. Forget it.’ Harish’s voice showed his frustration.


‘You know what?! Kim was afraid of you. He thought you might be selected by the boss as the chief chef. Internal dirty politics, Harish! I know everything but- -


‘Oh! Anyways, don't mind. Thank you, Jack! You- you would be always my friend,’ Harish said in a compatible voice.



‘I know that Harish! You- you are such a wonderful chef! I mean it. Don't lose hope,’ Jack said firmly.



‘Hmm..leave it, pal. Everything is over. I am not sure if ever I can work under anyone!’



‘Har- Harish! If you don't mind, can I suggest you something?’



‘Well-ok, tell me.’



‘Harish- why don't you open your own hotel? I would like to work with you. I’ll leave this idiot boss, please- Harish! Think about it.’


‘But- but what about money--


‘That’s my problem. Do you agree….’ Jack assured him from the other side.


‘Ok, fair enough! I’ll talk to you tomorrow.’


‘I’ll take it as done. Bye! See you then tomorrow,’ the connection was cut off.


Harish took a deep breath, whispered, ‘Not a bad idea! Why not try my grandma’s magic food!’


He got up quickly, finished his remaining work, sitting on his couch dialed to his grandma. They talked for hours together. The old lady had a hearing problem due to overage.


‘Grandma- Harish speaking.’


‘Wh- who?!’ The old lady pressed her mobile harder to her ear.


‘Harish- your grandson’


‘Oh! Hi, honey! Are you ok?’


‘Yeah, grandma! Fine! Grandma- I, I am going to open a restaurant.’



‘Wha-what did you say? Redundant… what’s that?’



‘No, no grandma, restaurant.’


‘Ok, ok! Good! Go on,’ she flipped her words.


Every time Harish had to repeat his words three four-time. Her last conversation was- ‘Honey, break a leg! Never feel bad that you are not studious. You have chosen what you are best at. You’ll shine like a star! Put your innovative ideas on grandma’s recipes and startle the customers with amazing food! You’ll win their hearts! Trust me!’



A gleaming light of hope flashed on his face! The next day Harish explained everything that he talked to his grandma to Jack. Both were excited for the coming tomorrow!


Within a very short period, a new restaurant was raised up in New York City as ‘Sunday Special’ by Harish Panda and coordinator Jack Paul.



Slowly Harish earned name, fame, money everything. From far and wide, people visited his restaurant. They loved the food! Once a customer asked Harish curiously, ‘Hey, Harish! Why named ‘Sunday Special’?! Any superstitious belief?!’



As usual, with a broad smile, Harish said, ‘No- no, no superstitious belief! I have tasted almost every type of food all over the world in my lifetime of thirty-two years. Worked so many places, so many ups, and downs, but eventually, I decided to prepare the authentic magic food of my own grandmother which you might not have tasted before anywhere!


Every Sunday she was serving me a new dish. I was overwhelmed with joy when the idea came to me of opening one restaurant with Jack’s collaboration, of course! I put one dish of my grandma’s unique preparation as ‘Sunday Special’ to honor her talent in spite of varieties of other categories! Less oil, healthy and tasty food! You can taste it yourself, ‘The Sunday Special fish curry for today.’


They were amazed at the delicious fish curry perfectly blended with Dahi- half-sweet half-sour!


Once Harish was engrossed in his crowded restaurant, his grandma sent a message: ‘Harish, you should be thankful to your old boss! Had he not been fired you, you would have never thought of your own hotel! He is the first person who gave you a chance of getting your dream job- a cook! Better you should treat him with respect. That will be a blessing for you! Believe me.’


Harish was always obedient to his grandma. He smiled and gave a return message: "Well, grandma. Definitely, I’ll invite him with due respect to attending tomorrow’s ‘The Sunday Special! You are right, Grandma- life is not defined by studies only. One can flourish if they sincerely do the work they love and are best at."




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