Green gravestones! Yes, bright green enamel paint clung on to the stone below with such stickiness, that my eyes grew sore.
A random tree trunk curved its way amidst Coke-ad wrapped tables. Munching crumbly cheese chutney sandwiches (which were green, again), soaked in bright red sauce and downing it with cups of lukewarm chai, suddenly the disappointment gave way to amusement.
Setting: Lucky Restaurant, on the well-flocked junction near Roopkala theatre in the Old City area of Ahmedabad.
Reason: A random wanderlust that provoked yours truly to ramble across the city in search of a place to shoot a short film; accompanied by an enticing description of a “chai shop in a graveyard”, by a friend!
When I heard that enthusiastic description, I felt compelled to pack my purse and set out to that possibly quaint corner shop, tucked away from the din of the world; mysterious droopy eyed waiters buzzing in and out of tables with smoky cups of brown beverages, a beefy chef massacring the bread and a cashier who typed away on some run down typewriter, smoking beedis in a chain and grumpily surveying the shabby shack, scratching at his scraggy beard! In a new city I hadn’t yet befriended, scouring for a place to shoot, the imagined setting of ‘Lucky Restaurant’ sent a thrill and a chill all at once, down my spine.
But, here I was, sandwiched between five green feisty gravestones, a mad tree trunk, on an ad-table, cheery humane waiters and chefs and cashiers and customers thronging the place that was strategically located at a noisy junction of a busy road! Phew! I had just witnessed the biggest anti-climax, no film theoretician could have explained, by ending up with this radically different place from what I had imagined.
As peaked capped uncles belched around and lovelorn couples passed furtive looks of longing over yummy food, suddenly ‘Lucky Restaurant’ seemed to be a warm cozy place after all!
Set up by K.H.Mohammed as a small corner tea shop just outside a Muslim cemetery, it soon expanded to its current size due to its popularity. Krishnan Kutti Nair soon joined Mohammed, and brewed cups of chai while some long dead souls rolled and stretched in their adjacent graves!
Creamy maska buns chomped away to glory next to the dead kin of a 16th century Sufi poet does sound adventurously romantic, because the gravestones don’t exactly scare you. They sit benignly in green attire and maybe have their ghost-residents happily gobbling up a jam sandwich and piping hot coffee within them. They are so small- barely reach up to your knee-that they could have been ignored and stumbled upon had it not been for the oh-so-greenness(yes! The colour worries me silly!)
So what if there were no gravestones to be rubbed? Maybe the new green homes seemed a lovely change from the stony cold for those buried. What if there was a sparkly kitchen, glossy ads and bright fluorescent lights? There still was a rebel tree breaking across and stomping authority of the old world.
And well…what shall take away the glory of those cheese chutney sandwiches cut into precise rectangles that satiated our stomachs? Lucky, after all was a damn good place.