Ranga Mess - continued...
by Vaishnavi Rao
Back to story - Ranga Mess - Page 1
“Well I didn’t mean to be stubborn Uncle…I’m sorry that we need to hurry with this…..”
“I was just joking son, I’m all ears…tell me what you have in mind.”
“Of late running the mess has been nothing but pain. The amount of money spent for gas, raw materials and the wages for the other two cooks is more than what you earn back. Also the house is old enough as it is. Re-wiring and redoing the plumbing will also be futile at this point of time.
You also mentioned that your cooks are expecting a raise in their wages, which cannot be avoided for long…So…”
“Aravind all that you have been telling me is something that I’m already aware of…”This” is the problem….the financial and physical obstacles in running the mess…What is the solution, according to you?”
Aravind hesitated for a minute, and took a deep breath before he continued, “I know this is not an easy to hear. But the truth is, we have no options. The only positive element, in our scenario, is the location of the mess. Fortunately, we are located in one of the main and busiest street. If we decide to sell the property, there are people lined up to pay a fortune for this place. My close friend is very much interested and is willing to buy it any cost”
Rathinam felt his chest tighten. Selling the mess was not something he had on mind, but then again things don’t happen that way.
“If we do decide to sell it, what does this friend of yours intends to do with this? Is it like a contract for a few years?” The minute he asked he asked the question, he had a feeling that he was not going to like the reply.
“Well if sold, he is planning to tear down the building, and build a coffeehouse with a browsing center”
Rathinam felt like his second attack was on the way. The mess meant a lot to him. There were too many memories weaved in there. Being a poor, crippled cook, Rathinam had no hope in getting married. His wife Ranganayaki was firm to marry him, in spite of her parents and relatives advising her no to. She had believed in his talent and hard work. When times were hard, she had given her jewels with a smile on her face. Although they did not have children, both of them never let it hamper their harmony any day. More importantly Ranganayaki had died
peacefully in her sleep in the same house.
He was still lost in his train of thoughts, when Aravind spoke again.
“Uncle I know it is a lot to digest. But don’t worry about your future. Myself and Veena would definitely take care of you. “
Rathinam had no doubts on that regard. He knew that Veena loved him as a father, and since she was from another caste, her parents did not approve of her marriage, it was Rathinam who supported them a lot. Prior to this discussion, Aravind had mentioned that he was offered a job in the US and was still thinking about it. This afternoon, he remembered it, and asked Aravind its progress.
Aravind replied, “Yes Uncle, the offer looks very promising. I’m planning to accept it, in a few months. But it is a 3 year contract. Once I take care of some visa stuff, you, Veena and kids can join me there. I’m sure you will love it there. The air would be so fresh and clean.”
He went on with much excitement, but all Rathinam did was nod and smile. He slowly walked away, with a lot of things to ponder. The next few months went faster than he expected. The documents were signed, and the process of cleaning the mess began. The new owner was planning to name the place “Java Café”. Rathinam heard Aravind and his friend discussing the menu, and there were items like Donuts, burgers, cappuchino, latte, pastries etc. Rathinam felt the names sounded strange and wondered how it would look or taste. For some reason, he could not imagine drinking coffee cold.
Rathinam was planning to stay at his childhood friend Kesavan’s house while wrapping up the mess. Prior to the day of demolishing the building, Aravind and family had come down to take him to Hyderabad. Aravind felt that it would be painful for Rathinam to watch but Rathinam insisted that he we would not leave before that. The next morning, the men came and removed all the portraits, clocks and calendars on the wall and handed them to Aravind. They also took out the board of “Ranga Mess”. Rathinam sat on an old plastic chair just outside the entrance. Once the fixtures were removed, the bull dozer was ready to crush down the building.
Aravind knelt beside Rathinam and said that it was time to leave. When Rathinam did not respond, And as Aravind slowly touched his shoulder, a lifeless Rathinam fell down on the ground. ******* Back to Short Stories - Main page