So, picking up from where I left off in my last post: https://os.me/short-stories/so-so-far-saat-samundar-paar/

1.       On the same trip to China, 20 of us students ended up at Pizza Hut. My best friend and I, being neither too young nor too old among a lot of students going from 6th all the way up to the 12th grade, were given the responsibility to place the order. After half an hour of debates and arguments, we walked up to the counter and tried to place our order. We ordered some 7 different pizzas but the only word common to all the items was obviously ‘pizza.’

“PIZZA?” said the lady across the counter in an accent we almost couldn’t understand.

“How does she work at PIZZA Hut if she doesn’t even know what a pizza is!” we exclaimed.

But we found a jugaad and pointed at the items we wanted to order in the menu one of the servers had given us earlier. After having a hearty meal coupled with loads of laughter, we realized we had ordered a bit too much and could sneak some of the leftovers into the hotel for late-night snacking. But how would we possibly ask anyone to pack the food with the language barrier that wasn’t even forgiving of ‘pizza’?

I decided to take the mammoth task upon my hands. I say hands and not shoulders for what ensued was a long game of gestures. I remember folding my hands as in namaste so that my palms touched, then tilting them so that the palm of my lower hand would face the ceiling. I kept clapping my hands together slightly while each of my hands took turns in being the one to receive the clap. I don’t know if I’ve been able to explain myself properly but imagine teaching your child how the jaws of an alligator might snap shut.

So, so far 2. 0 2

Now switch the position of your hands and repeat the action. And repeat it again- this is what I looked like in the middle of the restaurant in a country not my own and at 13 years of age. I’m sure most of them would’ve taken me to be a lunatic. Anyway, this was my best bet at trying to explain to our server that we wanted to get our food packed and I kept whispering ‘Pack’ desperately under my breath. I had been at it for about 2-3 whole minutes with the server staring at me wide-eyed yet expressionless when she muttered “Takeaway?” in an accent that was perfectly intelligible.

“YES, GOD YES!” I was overjoyed but when I looked back at my table, I could see nothing but laughter. They had finished all the food in the free entertainment my 5 minutes of struggle had given them. But I, to this day, never understood how she knew the word Takeaway but failed when it came to PIZZA!

2.       In my time in the US, I was at McDonald’s placing an order when asked “Bottomless or Regular?” as a response to the Coke I had just asked for. I had no idea what ‘Bottomless’ meant and so I learned that it is a concept that MUST be brought to India. If you get a bottomless beverage, you can refill it AS MANY TIMES AS YOU WISH! THINK OF THAT FOR A CHILD!

“Bottomless please,” I said, excited beyond measure.

“Size?”

“LARGE,” my declaration was emphatic.

It was later when I had finished my meal and went to refill my glass that I had my Eureka moment. In my gluttony, I had paid extra for a large-sized Coke for an already refillable glass. SMH.

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Viveka Goswami

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