May I

I stealthily glanced in front of me when I had heard the sound of someone eating food just in front of me in my table.

I was having lunch at a restaurant in Pune. The restaurant was crowded and I was sitting alone in the table, eating my food. A middle aged gentleman had walked in, looked around and finding no other vacant table, occupied the vacant seat, in front of me, in my table.

It was an ordinary restaurant in Pune where a customer could sit on any empty chair in any table, it did not matter if someone was already sitting in the table or not. Probably this is true for any ordinary restaurant in any city in India. In western countries the custom is almost similar, with only difference is that the person takes a formal permission by saying “May I” and in most cases do not even wait to hear the word “please” from the person who was already sitting there.

I tried not to notice him and with undivided attention continued eating my food. Over and above lunch I had also ordered a plate of green salad having cucumber, tomato, carrot, beet root, lettuce and few other green vegetables.

While eating my food I heard the gentleman ordered his food.

From the first glance, I realized that the man had started eating my food, green salad, probably without even realizing that he did not order the salad. The salad plate was at his arm’s length distance so instead of sitting idle and waiting for his food to be served he had started eating my food, absentmindedly.
It was so comical that I did not glance for the second time lest he would stop eating my food. Soon afterwards the waiter had served his food and he started eating. I also realized that he had no interest on the green salad; he did not touch it again after he had started eating his food. Without making any sound I slowly pulled the salad closer to me so that he could not eat it again.

But I had even more comical experience about eating other’s food. I was travelling by Air France from Bombay. As soon as food was served I started eating. After I had the first bite on the last item, which was a bun sandwich having a sliced meat, dill pickle, tomato, lettuce &C., I realized that I was full. Hence I took out the meat slice and the dill pickle from the sandwich, ate them and kept the remaining sandwich on my plate for the air hostess to collect it.

I turned my head to my left when I had heard “excuse me” from the gentleman who was sitting on the window seat.
“Are you going to eat the sandwich”, he asked me pointing his finger to my partly eaten sandwich, which looked like the crescent of the moon probably two or three nights after the full-moon.
“No”, I replied.
“Can I eat it”, he asked.
“But I have taken a bite from it”, I suggested politely.
“That is okay”, he said and immediately took the sandwich from the plate and started eating.
“This one tastes funny” he said after he took a bite at the same spot from where I had taken my first bite.
Probably he did not realize that the sandwich was missing its best components, the roasted meat and the dill pickle, so what remained were the bread, lettuce and few slices of tomato. But he finished the sandwich.
After our used plates were collected by the air hostess we started talking. The gentleman lived in France, near Paris. He came to Bombay for his company’s work.
When the plane arrived at Charles de Gaulle we said good-bye to each other. He went straight to his home from the airport probably to eat more sandwiches and I started looking for the terminal to catch the connecting flight for Toronto.


Author: Mintu Ghoshal


Follow him on facebook: mintu.ghoshal.9


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