Curry at the Temple

You walk into a warm room at the temple and head over to the right-hand side of the room where a row of five sinks stands in a row. You head of to the sinks to wash and dry your hands, only then turning to examine the room. Along the wall next to the entrance is a carpet where people have laid their belongings: skateboards, backpacks, purses, clothing items etc. Three long tables are set up in the room with wooden chairs along them; two of the tables are completely full of people not much older or younger than you are. The third table has plenty of space available so you grab a spot slightly to the right of the middle, facing the door. The kitchen is on your right. The people at the tables are all sitting, speaking softly and looking towards the kitchen hopefully. You have been warned not to take too much food because you must finish it all before you can leave.

Finally, the kitchen is ready and calls everyone over. Every rushes over at once to get a good spot in line. You wait your turn patiently, grabbing the metal cup, a spoon, and a metal tray divided into compartments like a child’s tv dinner tray. Going along the line you accept the curry-like items. You refuse a couple of the items in the middle that look extra spicy, this doubles as an exit strategy that you will thank yourself for later. You then help yourself to rice and the dessert items, and head back to your spot at the table. Dropping off your tray of food you then take your cup over to fill it with water, returning to your seat and starting to eat. Everyone eats as though they have not seen food for days. It is delicious, some of the best curry you have ever tasted, although never having been to India there is a possibility that there is better out there.

Finally, people start telling stories of previous visits there. How they have learned to show respect. People discuss how often they come. One man has been coming for fourteen years. He tells of how just a few weeks ago he decided, for the first time ever in his fourteen year tenure, to ask if he could take some of the food home for his niece. He was told he could – so he fills his container with extra food. Then the one man in the blue turban that has been watching each of us closely throughout the meal had told him that he was not allowed to take it with him, and to sit down and eat it right there. The other men asked what he was doing, and said not to listen to the man with the blue turban, and to go ahead and take the food home, which he did. You and everyone at the table are allowed in on this secret that the man in the blue turban thinks he is in charge, but really is not.

You finish most of your food, especially enjoying the one pasta item that tastes oddly like rice pudding. The only problem is that you got two pieces of naan bread, when you really have room for nothing more. You are stuffed as it is. You ate every last drop off your plate and are feeling ready to explode, but you still have the problem of one whole naan bread on your plate, plus a bit more. You feel as though you cannot even finish the first piece, nevermind the second. Looking over you see a scruffy-faced guy rolling up his one piece of naan bread that he too couldn’t finish, and stuffing it into his pants. You smile at him. He says the birds love it anyhow. You roll up your extra naan bread, and while none of the men are looking (especially not the one in the blue turban) you quickly place it in your bag. You were smart and brought your bag with you to the table just for this purpose. In the future you will remember to always bring your bag with you, possibly lined with a few plastic bags incase you cannot finish some of the less solid food items on your plate. You will also remember to ask for only one piece of naan bread, even though they always want to give you two. That is the secret for anyone going to eat curry at the temple.

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