Open 2023 Stories - Arva Bhavnagarwala


A Bowl Of Curd

By Dr. Arva Bhavnagarwala


The restaurant is silent. A couple dines at the table facing the street. My staff is laid back; the rush hour has gone by. The man looks around and I leave my desk to cater to him.

“How may I assist you?” I ask.

“A bowl of curd for this lady here,” he says, his salt and pepper hair glinting in the overhead lights.

I nod and glance at the woman. Recognition dawns. A bud of excitement starts in a dormant corner of my mind—to play that game again, a game I lost only once. A few years back, I was a waiter at this same restaurant. Waiting tables fascinated me. I enjoyed eaves dropping on conversations, making guesses, and filling in the blanks. But I’d also make it a point to ask customers whether they discussed the same thing I presumed they were before they left. And I left the ones who seemed upset with the lemons life threw at them alone.

Many customers became regulars, and if I waited at their tables, they always tipped me well. At first, my seniors were wary of my friendliness, but once they saw the tips, they patted me. A win-win for all. The restaurant turned into my playground—a ground of human emotions, each one different; like a group of executives playing on slides, a bunch of teenagers on swings, or families playing on see-saws. It took pleasure in making them smile.

I vividly remember that group of six women who walked in one day. They were too late for lunch and too early for dinner. As they settled at the table facing the main street, I approached them. The oldest woman said, “We need a few minutes to decide what to order.”

I nodded and stood at the side, listening to them bicker. Who are they? I began my guessing game. A bunch of friends? But one of them was too young and one too old. They couldn’t all be friends. A bunch of relatives? Neighbors for a walk? Hmm…

“Who eats kheema pao for snacks?” One of them said aloud.

“It won’t be even available at this hour.” Said another.

“I also want an egg on the kheema.” The youngest woman said.

“Alara, wait, let’s confirm this with the waiter.”

“I’ll have a cup of coffee and a grilled cheese sandwich.” The oldest said.

The conversation at their table shifted. “Listen, I’m done with classics now. Can’t we stick to contemporary?” Alara said.

“Sshhh… first let’s order.” The oldest woman’s gaze met mine and I went to their table.

She began to rattle off the order and I wrote it as fast as my fingers allowed me. Sandwiches, coffee, lemonade, fritters. Then she paused, “Do you have kheema pao?” She sounded apologetic.

I smiled. “Of course, ma’am. We serve everything at all hours.”

As I wrote it, Alara shouted a hurrah. “See, I told you. Always bullying me, you women…”

I tried to hide a smile. The restaurant was getting empty, save for these ladies. “Why are they so huge?” Alara seemed to be asking everyone. “Huh, that’s why I’m telling you, no classics. They are so boring, and a simple sentence is winded so long that I lose focus. Archer or King make more sense.”

“My dear, not all classics are huge, besides, you need to be in a certain frame of mind to enjoy these.” The oldest said.

Naïve, young me tried to figure out what they were talking about. Subjects? Or historical figures? Who were these women?

Once ready, I delivered their food. Meanwhile, another couple walked in. I showed them to their table. The woman had puffy eyes. The man asked for a chocolate milkshake for the woman and coffee for himself. I wouldn’t be distressing them with my silly game.

“Non-fiction… no!” Alara yelled from her table, as I catered to the other.

By the time I came back to my position, the oldest woman from the group said, “Let’s discuss this again, but for now, please hurry, or else I will miss my train.”

“Oh, but I need my bowl of curd. Excuse me,” Alara called out to me and glanced at my name tag. “Rohan, can you get me a bowl of curd?”

Before I could reply, another woman said, “No Rohan, get the cheque. We are leaving.”

“Sara aunty,” Alara whined, “You know I need the curd or else my digestion will be messed up.”

“We know that. And I’ll get you one from outside, you can have it on the way. Do not waste more time here.” Then she raised her brows at me, “cheque please?”

Clearing my throat, I nodded and rushed to the billing counter. They left me a good tip. Alara lingered behind. I couldn’t stop asking her, “Are those your teachers or relatives or…?”

“Neither”, she said. “Those cronies are getting on my nerves now.” She narrowed her eyes, “My body needs that curd after each meal. But they think I’m an entitled little brat. Huh.


” Then after checking her watch, she sighed, “I guess it is time to find another book club. No one my age wants to engage in reading, you know.” She shrugged. “Anyway, bye Rohan, take care.”

Over the years, as this restaurant transformed into a fine dining one, I climbed up the ranks. An assistant manager. But the frequency with which I could analyze the customers dwindled.

Now, serving the bowl of curd to the couple before me, I wonder whether my guess would hit the bull’s eye. Is he her father? Or father-in-law?
Whenthe man goes to the washroom, I take the opportunity to confirm it. “A father-daughter treat?”

Alara looks at me with wide eyes. I grimace. Maybe I have lost my touch. She doesn’t reply at that moment but while leaving, she winks at me and shows me her left ring finger.


“My fiancé,” she mouths.


Arva Bhavnagarwala from India is a pediatrician by day, a writer by night, and a struggling mother to two boys 24x7 based in Mumbai, India. Some of her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in eShe, Women's Web, ArtoonsInn, and Woman’s Era. When not seeing patients or being patient with her little ones, she loves to read and travel. She prefers chai over coffee and loves potatoes in her biryani..


Our Contributors !!

Some of our writers!

  • We occasionally invite writers to send their musings. Do send in your work, and we will host it here.
  • Do visit the Submit page to submit your work.