Mr. Ahluwalia looked down at his tiffin in disdain.
His wife had packed lauki with two chapattis for lunch. The previous night's dinner had already rendered him extremely disappointed, and not to mention the karele ka juice forced down his throat in the morning.
Mr. Ahluwalia felt close to his treshold. He needed an intervention. Satisfaction now seemed like a distant memory, so distant that nearly forgotten.
And then it struck him; those kathi rolls he used to have as a college student. Now he remembered - ‘Raju Rock ‘n’ Rolls.’
Mr. Ahluwalia snorted at the alliteration. He remembered Raju’s stall in the DU North Campus. Students used to flock to him as if langar was being served.
Mr. Ahluwalia’s mouth flooded with saliva as he reminisced the chicken roll. A huge maida roti, fluffed up by two eggs. It used to be stuffed with tender chicken pieces marinated in green chutney and sautéed onions.
That piece of ambrosia, merely for Rs.10 then.
Mr. Ahluwalia was desperate now. He had to eat those rolls. It was a need now, not a want.
Mr. Ahluwalia rushed to his car as the Dilli ki sardi wali dhoop infiltrated his bones.
He drove to the spot near Hansraj College as quickly as possible. The excitement within him was pouring out.
Mr. Ahluwalia stopped.
He couldn’t see Raju. No stall. None.
But Mr. Ahluwalia had turned into a mad and determined bull.
He saw a golgappa stall and asked the owner, ‘Bhai saab, yeh Raju Rock ‘n’ Rolls kaha hain? ‘
The golgappa wala replied in a monotonous voice, ‘Arrey Paaji, uski issi naam se shop khul gayi hain Hudson road par.’
Mr. Ahluwalia thanked him frantically and returned to his car. He drove down to Hudson lane and finally spotted the shop.
It was tucked between two cafes. The board was white with “Raju Rock ‘n’ Rolls” in bright red LED lights lit even during the day.
He went inside and saw a waiter and asked for the owner. The waiter pointed at the cashier.
There he was, the famous Raju. He was older now, his hair balding. He was wearing a white kurta pyjama, a rarity amongst this t-shirt clad youth.
His face flashed with recognition as soon as he saw Mr. Ahluwalia.
‘Paaji aap? Itne saalon baad? Kaise?’
Mr. Ahluwalia didn’t have any words. All he could muster up was a tight and long hug. Raju was touched (literally).
“Paaji, aaj main banata hu aap ka regular. Ekdum special.” Mr. Ahluwalia nodded.
Within ten minutes, he was served with the same old chicken roll. He bit into it and instantly felt déjà vu. The same fluffed up roti with large chicken pieces, along with chutney and onions.
Nothing had changed. It was all the same. Though both he and Raju had grown older, they had prospered in their careers and families, yet everything was exactly as it used to be. Mr. Ahluwalia had finally found his ground when everything seemed to be blurred.
It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. This great feat had been unachievable by Mr. Ahluwalia’s wife too. Only Raju and his chicken rolls had conquered the journey.
Well, only Raju.
The chicken rolls were embedded in our Ahluwalia ji’s taste buds, where they were belonged.
EDITED BY - DIYA MATHEW