Friday 15 September 2017

Short Story 2017, Longlist Aditya Dhaigude


It was all good till the popular Chef ‘Abhay’ met his school friend ‘Dushyant.’ Abhay had always been a great cook and then a celebrity chef. He used to work as a cook at a roadside dhaba (highway food joint concept in India) on NH-8 (Indian National Highway series). Abhay was gifted with the great culinary skills and was of least talkative nature. His art of making ‘finger-licking good’ food, one day landed him as a head chef at one of the best 4- Star luxurious hotels in Mumbai. 

Though his life changed, his routine didn’t. Workplace changed but work-time didn’t. The Dhaba owner cried on Abhay’s farewell. But he blessed him at the same time. Abhay started cooking at his age of 14 and joined the hotel at 27. Now, at 39 Abhay is living a celebrity life.
But his first love still is the kitchen and the tandoor. He has opened his own fine dining in a richest area of Mumbai. Today he has a meeting with an investor at Novotel in BKC. The investors are interested in bringing Abhay on board and start a chain of Leisure hotels. While on his way, Abhay received a whatsapp from the investor’s personal number informing about the change in venue of the meeting.

He insisted Abhay to meet him on table no#45 at ‘Aamrapali Hotel’ in southern Mumbai. Fortunately, his driver knew the place. While reaching, Abhay sighted something that he wasn’t really expecting. He was passing by a red light district. Then the driver stopped the car in front of an old building, built during British rule. The billboard ‘Aamrapali’ had shining, glittering lights with a pink neon tube. Bouncers greeted Abhay with smile under their manly moustaches. Why won’t they greet a person, who came out of a crystal shining Silver colored ‘Bentley’.

All this was happening but suddenly Abhay’s eyes were stumbled upon a woman that was coming out of the main entrance of this hotel. She was a beautiful, 5.7” tall, sleek but with flesh at the right place. She passed by Abhay with a smile on her face. 

Abhay passed the main entrance and his business adviser had already reached there and told him where the table number 45 was. It was on the fourth floor of the hotel. This hotel wasn’t just a hotel; it didn’t have any star rating or anything such. But when Abhay ascended all 3 floors, he realized that it wasn’t lower than any starred hotel. In fact, with little extra facilities.
Every floor had a different price range for tables. Each table had beautiful women around the customers. Each floor had its own way of serving the customer. And then on fourth floor there was something waiting for Abhay. It was the topmost floor of the hotel and full of amusements an adult can dream of. 

Lavish rooms, beautiful girls from every corner of the world and on the other end there was room full of chaos. It was a casino which had every single gambling game specially imported from world. 

Though gambling has always been illegal in India, it was happening here openly and in a prestigious way. This ‘shinny bright world opening its darker edge’ fascinated Abhay big time. At the entrance itself, he found someone. He was trying to remember the name of that person who was smiling at him. And suddenly Abhay said loudly! “Arrey Dushi, Dushi Patnaik.” They hugged each other tightly. He was Abhay’s school friend Dushyant. They were meeting each other after many years.

Dushyant was actually the co-owner of ‘Aamrapali’. He was going to be a part of Abhay’s meeting which both of them came to know after having a long discussion before the meeting could actually start. 

Meeting happened, but that actually lowered Abhay’s interest in getting into any business but increased the frequency of his visits to Aamrapali. Specifically at the fourth floor and more specifically the casino section. He learnt the gambling from Dushyant in the next couple of months after their meeting. He even gained support and credibility to win hands from the co-owner itself. So Abhay thought he should try his luck at few other places too.

He kept changing his destinations to gamble and then those new places started rolling against his luck. He even invested in ‘Dabba market’ (trading market running parallelly to stock). He lost big time, but then concentrated on betting only in casinos and small game parlours.
Many people even spotted him roaming in ‘Matka‘areas. This started hampering his reputation. As he stopped going to Aamrapali, Dushyant also stopped calling him. The reason of not going to Aamrapali wasn’t because he lost interest in going there but drastically falling economic condition of Abhay. In last 2.5 years, Abhay had lost around 2-3 crores in gambling.
In his absence, even his own hotel was losing its reputation. After all, the owner was distanced from its entity. Funds curbed and debt reaped. Abhay had left only with few thousands in his hand. He was dipped badly into gambling. One day cops had to arrest him, as he was interfering a raid that happened at one of the small gambling unit in Abhay’s presence. Cops were okay to leave him but Abhay started swearing the police officer. This took him behind the bars. 

By the time he was released, he had lost everything. His friend Dushyant bailed for him. Dushyant couldn’t see Abhay’s condition. His sudden fall shocked Dushyant. He offered him financial help which Abhay refused to take. 

Abhay said “Dushyant, if anything that you want to help me with, just gift me few kitchen utensils and a knife set. Let me start this blind again, let me reshuffle…. “Dushyant was feeling happy that because of him the whole ‘spoilt recipe’ was going to be good, again!

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