Before going to church today, I went to that iconic of all Indian cafes -Indian Coffee House – where turbaned waiters of regal comportment flit from kitchen to dining table and back in one ceaseless motion from morning to late night. I ordered a two-course breakfast: first, puffed puree with mashed beetroot, and then scrambled eggs on toast, concluded with what every fine breed of Indian is reputed to drink first thing in the morning – coffee brewed from the choicest seeds of the finest coffea arabica plants in the country, and available in its full aromatic strength only in this chain of coffee houses.
While enjoying my puree, and my next course waiting beside it, a man walks in, and after looking around for a vacant seat, finds one in a corner of the room. Then he gets up and goes to the kitchen…and emerges again after being shooed out from there.
The man then returns to his seat. He asks a passing waiter to bring him coffee, but the turbaned head does not turn and its bearer walks on as if he didnt hear.
The snubbed customer gets up and goes to the toilet, opens first the ladies’ toilet, peers in, and then the gents, peers in, returns to his seat, and repeats his order for coffee to every waiter that passes by him.
The man continued to sit there patiently for his steaming beverage. One side of my eyes was riveted on him, while the other was following the movement of each piece of morsel on my plate until I lost sight of it under my nose. But it was getting harder and harder for me to swallow the delectables on my table. I called the waiter who served me and asked him if that man had ordered anything, and, if not, to serve him something and I will pay for it. The waiter replied it was not a problem of the expense of a free coffee, but he was a nuisance and would come frequently and pester other customers if he was shown kindness.
As I finished my breakfast and got up to leave, the unserved customer came up to me and asked if I could help him. I did not answer but walked to the cash counter to pay my bill. The man followed me and stood beside me at the counter and repeated his request. I remarked aside to the cashier I would have bought him a meal, but I had been advised against it. The cashier smiled approvingly.
When I left the counter, I took the biggest of the bills in my wallet, gave it to the man and told him to go outside and buy something to eat. The man grasped the money, and in his ecstasy came with open arms to embrace me, but I ducked just before he could touch me. The cashier shouted his annoyance at him, and in the verbal melee I left speedily before the man got another chance to thank me.
I have no problem being hugged by anyone who wanted to show me gratitude or love. But he smelled contagion, and I didnt want to go to church with some of his vermin crawling on my body. I wonder why the coffee house people allowed him to enter their reputable premises in the first place. There’s no doubt hungry people like him are a nuisance to a satiated population.
I prayed as I got out of the coffee house: Lord, give him his daily bread.