The air was just what my nose anticipated. A soothingly familiar mix of dust, burning vehicle fuel, fried food and the undetectable scent of my friends. I am being too generous in the description of the prowess of my nose. To be boringly honest, I was suffering from the ever faithful, ever present common cold and hence, I couldn’t smell a thing. But the truth is boring. And you’ve certainly not come here to be bored. So, from now on, I shall not second guess my imagination. The tar road was grey with age and lined with a layer of that slippery mix of mud and pollution. I was not walking on the tar road. I was walking on the footpath. Some of my friends were walking behind me. Some were walking ahead of me. One was walking with me. My legs were on the verge of mutiny from all the walking. I was mildly thirsty despite having downed an Oreo milkshake. Or perhaps I was thirsty because I had always been thirsty and the milkshake was just enough to remind my throat of the thirst but not enough to quench it. Whatever the case, my body was far from comfortable despite being in the presence of the one place in the city most synonymous with comfort. MG Road. Mahatma Gandhi Road. Named after the infamous old man who supposedly stood up to one of the largest empires on Earth. A lot of what we are taught about him leaves a lot to be answered. But that is a tangent for another day. I am only talking about it now because I am thinking about it now. As walked with my friends that day, I was not thinking about Gandhi. I was not thinking about my thirst or my legs. Despite all my discomfort, I was under the impression that I was in the right place at the right time. That is the effect our friends have on us.
As we walked and took a left turn, I noticed a board on a building which read “Yak Restaurant”. I wondered what it meant. I didn’t notice the building itself. I didn’t notice its shape, its door, its colour or its height. I was looking at the ridiculous board which had a doodle of a Yak on it and read “Yak Restaurant”. I simply had to find out what this was about! So, I ran ahead into the restaurant. The building was empty. The lights were on. The air conditioning was working. I could hear noises in the background. Noises of metal clashing against metal, the rasping hiss of water evaporating off a boiling surface, voices barking orders. I had a vague feeling that something was amiss. As I look back now, I realise that a restaurant with no customers should not have been so busy. I did not like walking around in the summer heat. So I decided to take advantage of the air conditioning. I sat down at a table and noticed a menu card on it. I was rather thirsty and hungry. So I decided to go through the menu in case a waiter decided to materialise. Two seconds into reading the menu, I realised it was not a menu at all. Well, it was a menu of sorts… A list of the exact things I wanted to consume at that moment. The perfect starters, the perfect main course, the perfect beverages, the perfect dessert. There it was, listed on the card. And not a single thing more than exactly what I wanted. I didn’t even know I wanted these things. But they felt right when I read them. Yes. This was the meal I wanted. I looked around for a waiter. No one was there. And then I saw it.
A Tibetan yak. It was my first time seeing one in real life. Its hooves thumped on the floor as it walked towards me. Yak Restaurant. It made sense. It shouldn’t have made sense. But it did. Was this a mascot of some sort? Was it my waiter? Was it my cook? What manner of Pavlovian debauchery was involved in the making of this restaurant? It stopped near me and tried to tap the menu card on the table with its horn. I realised what I was supposed to do. I skewered the menu to its horn and nodded. The yak promptly went back into the kitchen. Was that even sanitary? Did they take special measures to ensure that the kitchen’s hygiene was maintained? I realised I had left my friends outside. They must have moved. It didn’t matter. The point of our excursion was to find a place to eat. It was never compulsory for all of us to eat at the same place. I did wish I had at least one friend with me. At least the one who walked with me. My thoughts were brushed aside by the reappearance of the yak. His two horns now served as a transport mechanism for two plates which contained my food. It looked like a beam balance. When it came near my table, I untied the plates from its horns. It stood silent. I waited for it to move away. It did not. Unperturbed, I began eating. It was good food. And there is an old saying. For a hungry stomach, even cow dung tastes heavenly. That being said, this was not bad food. It was good food. And it was just what I wanted. It was time for me to pay the bill. That was when I realised the menu card actually did not have the prices on it. I assumed the food could not have exceeded 500 rupees. There was no way I could have crossed that limit. I pride myself on being economical when it comes to spending on food.
The yak prodded the empty plates with its horns. I assumed it wanted me to tie the plates to its horns. It walked back into the kitchen when I did as it expected. This was beginning to get slightly worrisome. Here I was. I had eaten at a fancy restaurant and I had no idea how much it was going to cost me. Had I known, I never would have entered the place… A young woman walked out of the kitchen. I didn’t notice what she was wearing. I didn’t even notice her face until she came near me. It was then that I saw it. She was a good looking woman. Something about her was making me anxious. “Did you enjoy your meal, sir? Was it everything you expected?” She asked me in a sweet voice. My knee jerk response to such queries is always, “Oh I loved your food! It was amazing! It was everything I expect and more!” And so I replied as such. The moment I spoke the words, I saw an insane grin creep across her face. “Thank you so much…” She said, “I am finally free of this place… AND NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!!!” Before I could react, she took off her cap and forced it onto my head. “Wai-what?! What’s going on?!” I asked, frantically trying to take off the cap.
“HAH! THAT’S NOT MY CONCERN ANYMORE! I’M FREE! I’M GETTING OUT OF HERE NOW!”
“No! Please wait! I need to leave!”
I tried to get up and follow her as she dashed out of the building. But I was stuck in my place. I could not move. I still hadn’t paid for my meal. The yak came out of the kitchen and walked towards me. I had a feeling a intense dread. Its horns were covered in blood. How had I not noticed that before? Or was this fresh blood? Whatever this was, I had to get away! I had to escape! I had to run!