The Waiter

Vikram had heard about him. But had never interacted with him very openly. His name was Raju. He was among the popular people at Star hotel. Since Vikram had to tour a lot especially to the south, Star hotel in Pondicherry was where he used to stay. Unlike other hotels this was a quite and less crowded place. The USP was its proximity to the sea. Almost all the rooms had a magnificient view of the beautiful white sands of pondicherry beach.
Raju used to be there every morning by the side of the reception desk, greeting people cheerfully with his captivating smile as they entered. He used to help them to their rooms and even go out of the way to ensure that every guest was well looked after, even though he was not the only Waiter at star. Yes, he was a waiter but in terms of popularity he was the real star. Apart from that his duty was to ensure to keep the lobby clean. As the hotel was popular people used to check in quite frequently,often the guests used to walk in with the sand on their feet into the hotel. Raju never frowned or complained about this. He used to mop the lobby floor every half an hour because of the above and do so cheerfully. The lobby was almost maintained spick and span due to his perseverance and commitment to duty. At the same time he used to interact with the guests, help them out as required and even guide them as to what places they can see.
Raju’s father once had a flourishing Hotel business. Actually he was among the pioneers who saw the opportunity in Pondicherry at a time when this place was unheard of and rarely frequented by foreign tourists, who preferred Goa more than any other place.The business grew as more and more people started to look at other alternatives where they could spend a nice and peaceful holiday. However destiny had its cruel turn of events and he had to sell it to Mr.Kapoor, who changed the management but kept the name of the hotel intact….Star…yes, the hotel were Raju worked once belonged to his family!. Yet he had no inhibitions about working under the new boss or for that matter even working as a waiter. Probably he considered this to be his hotel and hence the commitment came naturally. Whatever the reason Mr.Kapoor never got to hear any complaints about him. In fact all the guests used to praise him and Tip him off pretty well when they left. However Raju used to treat everyone the same, even to the misers who never tipped him but demanded extra attention!
Vikram always used to enjoy his stay at the hotel and more so because of Raju. Right from the early morning newspaper to the Tea, with not much sugar, Raju used to see that he was well attended. However there was one thing which always caught Vikram’s mind. Raju had a bright red tattoo on his hand, pretty much visible under his half shirts named 'Florence'!. On the first visit Vikram was pretty much amused when he saw it. But as he became a regular to the hotel and more aquainted with Raju, he made up his mind to just ask him about it.
The door bell rang. It was 7:30 am. Vikram was sure it was Raju with the tea and newspaper. “Come in…the door’s open” he said aloud. “Good Morning Vicky saab came the reply even louder with the usual bright smile!!. It was Raju. There was something new about him today. He looked more than just pleased!
“What’s that thing on your arm Raju? Who’s Florence?” Vikram asked. For a moment Raju looked taken aback. He then looked at his tattoo and smiled .
“Saab she had come to the hotel last year with her mom. She stays in italy. Her dad’s no more. Was her first trip to India last time. Actually they had come for a weeks stay at the hotel. I first saw her at the lobby and was pretty much captivated by her beautiful green eyes. As she arrived with her mom I thought the entire lobby just lit up!I controlled my emotions knowing that she was a guest and me a plain waiter.
For the first three days of their stay I hardly interacted with them. They preffered to be alone and not disturbed. Even at the restaurant she always used to quietly have her dinner and retire to their room, while her mom used to chat with fellow tourists. Often in the afternoon as i used to water the plants, she would be there by the pool engrossed in a book. The interactions actually started later.
One day as I was getting to work he heard cries for help. It was Ms.Fernandes, florence’s mother.“Help!!somebody help daughter’s drowning”.As I rushed towards the beach,i saw Florence caught up in the high tide struggling for life. Without thinking i jumped into the waters and brought her ashore. “Oh thank you young man you come as an angel to save my daughter’s life. She's all that i have.God bless you!”.“Its fine Ms Fernandes. Let me help you carry her to the hotel” i replied. Back in the hotel as i was placing her,heard a voice...'ThankYou'. It was Florence. She looked relieved and was smiling. I felt as if I had already got my biggest tip!
As the days passed we started to talk. i took her around as a guide and a friend. During the sightseeing, shopping which we did, i learnt about her and told her about myself. Usually my services used to be restricted to the hotel, but for her i was now a confidant too !.I used to enjoy her company. The way she talked, laughed, gave those wide eyed expressions, all brightened up my day.I used to take out time especially for her and made sure that she got all that she wanted to see and experience.
It was sunset at the beach and her last stay at the hotel. Had finished my work at the hotel just to be with her.“ I am going to miss you Raju. I know you may find it strange but then I think you are the best guy to have come into my life so far. No ones been so nice and understanding with me before. Coming to think of it,I guess I am falling in love with you.” I was speechless, felt my throat dry up. I liked her, maybe even loved her, but had never let it show, as i knew that being just a waiter Florence could not lead a comfortable life with me. As I tried to put this point across, she just would not listen,“No Raju, I will talk to mum and come back. I promise exactly one year after today on the first of August, when I am done with my education , I shall be here with you. I could get a nice job here too. Together we will take care of each others needs…it will just be perfect, don’t worry i will come back. But…will you wait for me?.“I will..all my life”i said .As i looked into her beautiful green eyes,she kissed me goodbye. I felt as if I had found true love,the first time in my life!” Raju’s eyes went a bit moist as he narrated his experience.
As Vikram sat there hearing this sweet story he was touched. Touched by its simplicity and the genuine love that Raju had discovered. As Raju left, Vikram picked up the newspaper. It was friendship day. Yes the 1st of August. As the thought crossed his mind he looked down from the balcony to see Raju smiling and waving at him.“I am going to the station,Sir!. She’s coming today…1st august YES…!!!”No wonder Vikram had noticed a spring in his step in the morning!!.
Vikram had a meeting to attend that afternoon. As he returned to the hotel in the evening, he was surprised not to see Raju back. The dinner was served at the restaurant at night…still no sign of Raju. Wonder whats happened…did she come?...did they meet?...did they suddenly decide to shift somewhere else…a hundred thoughts crossed Vikrams’s mind.The next day too… no sign of Raju.
On the third of August ,the doorbell rang. “Come in…the door’s open” Vikram said aloud. “Good Morning Vicky saab came the reply even louder... It was Raju!. How pleased was Vikram to see him.“Where were you ,what happened and where is Florence? I want to meet her”.Vikram said enthusiastically. Raju’s eyes became moist again.“She didn’t come saab. Maybe her mother would not listen or maybe her studies is not over.I don’t think she did it on purpose.”.
“What!! are you crazy Raju! What makes you think she will come. You don’t even have her contact number”.Vikram reasoned.“No saab I trust her. She won’t cheat me. In fact she had said that she wanted to stay back, I was the one who insisted her to finish her studies and come back. She won’t betray me…she won’t…”.A tear escaped Raju’s eye.
He wiped it off immediately ,“Till then i will wait for her not one, not two but maybe even all my life. After all saab...I am a Waiter...he said flashing his usual smile!


suchi said…
a very touching makes u cry.a blend of mixed emotions with a unique sense of amusement is clearly expressed

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