Sunday, January 3, 2010

Comedy of an error

It was in late Seventies that I was returning to Chennai from Trichur after a visit to Guruvayur.I remember the train departing in the evening around 5pm.I was in a first class compartment with three other passengers.Some one came to collect order for dinner at the next station and I paid a small amount to get a coupon for one vegetarian meal.The others didn’t order as they were possibly travelling short distance.I was feeling hungry and wondered when the dinner would be served.It was past 7pm and the train chugged along slowly unmindful of my plight.When it stopped at a station around 7.45pm I knew the dinner was not far off.

Soon a bearer entered my cabin and looked questioningly.When the others signalled towards me, he placed before me a large round stainless steel plate, larger than the usual aluminium plates that I was accustomed to in the railways.He didn’t ask for the coupon. It was covered by a spotlessly clean towel.It struck me odd and asked him whether it was a vegetarian meal.He responded with an affirmative nod and left after a deferential bow.The other passengers were looking at the covered plate with curiosity.Wondering at the unusually large size of the plate, I opened it gingerly.To my great amazement, there were 24 items of dishes in fairly big katories that looked rich even on a cursory look.They included inter alia two sweets,two packets of chips made out of banana (Nendran) and jack fruit(Chakka) and some fruits too.It was a dinner that kings of yore would have taken.

I surmised there had been a mistake as the food I was expecting was a limited variety of rice,sambhar,rasam and two sabzis in small quantity in a small aluminium plate.I immediately covered the plate with the towel and looked out for the bearer to get the matter clarifed.Meanwhile the train had left the station and there was no bearer visible.The pangs of hunger were unbearable.One of the passengers who was sitting opposite to me asked “What are you waiting for ?It is past 8pm.Have your dinner before it gets cold”

“I think there has been a mistake somewhere.I ordered just an ordinary meal and this royal fare, I think, is not intended for me.I am unable to find the bearer.True I am very hungry.” I replied

“It is not your fault.Please have the food.If he asks for extra payment I am sure you would be willing to pay.It is getting late.The train is not vestibuled and the next halt will take more than an hour.Please proceed with eating” he said kindly.The others too nodded their heads in agreement.

I decided to eat.I gave the chips packets and the fruits to them telling the food is too much for me and they could enjoy the snack.They gladly accepted.the offer. It was perhaps the tastiest dinner that I had ever taken in a train. It was just impossible for the railways or the contractor to give such sumptuous food for the paltry amount I had paid for.As I was musing at my good fortune there was a tap on the door.

A young boy of 7 years presumably from the adjacent cabin peeped in and asked “Uncle, have you got your dinner?”

“Yes, young boy.What happened? Haven’t you got yours?” I asked

“No, we got ours.But it was a small plate” he replied innocently looking at the big plate lying before me.Before I could say something the boy ran away.

It was when one of the passengers in my cabin went out to toilet and returned, we found him laughing profusely.When prodded by his railway friends, he replied that he became wiser to the mystery of the large plate served to me.With a large smile he said “The wife of CCS(Chief Commercial Superintendent) is travelling in the adjacent cabin.The bearer committed a mistake in leaving the large plate intended for her to our friend here and his small and spartan meal to her.She is furious.I am sure the contractor would be paying a heavy price for this gaffe.”

It was then I remembered the bearer’s deferential bow.The comedy of error made me get atleast once a taste of good things that the men in power and their families are accustomed to while travelling.


  1. Dear Partha,
    Good Morning!
    This is Lord Guruvayoorappan's blessings for you.You are such a pious deserved the royal meal than her;it's UNNIKANNAN'S decision.
    next time before you board the train,specially in Kerala where the bananas are plenty,please buy and stock them.Any hotel will pack iddli vada chutney combination.
    Enjoyed your post and loved to know about your Guruvyaoor remember the dishes so well,even after ao many years..........good taste buds,I believe!
    Wishing you rest and relaxation today,

  2. hmm.. :) could visualise it.. ! What anu said could be true..! :)

  3. first time on your blog :) are right!! you have experienced the taste of power!!

  4. That meal looks good
    I hope it was delicious :-)
    Its a very unique story today ....
    Nice to read about your visits !!


  5. Glad you enjoyed the meal! That too the railway thali! Would not mind such a mix up .

  6. a wonderful exp u had..nicely penned..yeah u may take it as God's blessing..nice..u njoyed..the royal meal..luvly..:)

  7. a comedy of error? great post, entertaining indeed...

    life's like that, somewhere along the way, we wish some great things to come our way, though it's not really meant for us...:)

    KP, glad to share to you, i win badges again for Dec 2009...pls see my last post, it's in just sneaking in office...:)

  8. ha ha!! an amazing tale, will read it again:) great story, written by a great writer :) Im impressed with your skills, you truely write really well!Thumbs up to u!!

  9. Someone's loss was somebody else's was great fun reading your story! Sometimes small incidents brighten up our lives and leave a trail of happy moments behind.
    Thanks for sharing this happy story :)

  10. hey....first time at your blog....funny incident...good train food is truly a once in a lifetime experience....

  11. ohh thats really cool..
    i guess it didnt turn out to be a tragedy for the family in the next cabin...
    else it would have been comic tragedy ...

    mere imagination or reality looked through an imaginative head??

  12. Now, that's really interesting. I mean, how often do you get to enjoy a king-size dinner in a train? :D

    Happy new year to you :)

  13. It would have been better if you made the name of the lady public (perhaps from the reservation list).

    I know the state of affairs and corruption and all that. But we can not let this go unnoticed.

  14. great one! ur lucky that u such an error happened.. hope u enjoyed the meal!

  15. Now I wouldn't mind changing places with you for a meal fit for a king like that!! :-)

  16. Normally I avoid taking food from railway catering. It is better to carry curd rice from home than risk a meal in train.

  17. Hey, read ur was really nice...but more than the post, i liked ur description of the plate u got...and I hate myself for reading tht when I was hungry like anything and can get nothing sitting here...OHHH how i wish I was in one of South Indian Restraunt now, tht I could have had a good treat...

    You can go thru mine, not a professional writer..but just writing out pages from my life...

  18. fabulous one!!!
    another masterpiece, close to Shakespeare's comedy of errors

  19. Hahaha thata your story surely brightened my rather gloomy day, and I am back to reading !!!! I missed your stories :)

  20. Comedy of errors?
    Well this was a good error I suppose.

  21. Ha ha ha. Good the VIP lady didn't know that you enjoyed her delicious meal! :)