Metropole Magazine

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14 Aug Written by  Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

Man Walks into Indian Restaurant

Walking back from Sahad Stores in Garki, Area 11, one night weeks, months ago, the come-and-eat-me smell of roasted beef wafted into my nostrils. I was with a friend and we both saw the smell had travelled some way as the grill was a few metres behind us— clearly we had just walked past it. It had awoken the carnivorous instinct never fully concealed in every Nigerian. We had a little debate about whether to walk the approximately two and a half steps it would take to indulge in the divine pleasures of flesh.

Sloth won the debate.

So we walked on. A few metres away stood a sign; a few metres away, a different smell hit us and our brains interpreted it as meat. The sign read Indian restaurant now open; the smell said, meat exotica. We entered the gates. A half-asleep guard pointed in the general direction of a dim-lit bungalow, never mind the question we asked was ‘bros, dem dey sell meat for here?

Inside, there was a buffet setup. The picture was getting clearer, but what man gives up on what his nose has told him? Well, such a man wasn’t in sight. Chances are we wouldn’t bother with him anyway.

Before we could make our way out and perhaps back to the spurned grill, a waiter appears. (No, he was not Indian.) We were cornered. It was amusing enough to recall childhood when you walk into an usher at church services just as you wanted to escape by feigning a burning urge to pee. How they look upon your soul with cosmic pity. Beyond this non-physical rebuke, there is hardly anything else. Yet its efficacy is not to be messed with. It would put you in your place; it would escort you to your seat.

Thus unsurprisingly, we were carried to straight backed seats— the man didn’t even have to brandish the sneer waiters and ushers probably now carry in SON-certified holsters. We sat meekly, glaring at the hard cold facts of Indian names, wondering how a three-digit middle class treat of suya had morphed into unfamiliar dishes and a promise of a sizable expenditure.

Confused and somewhat irritated by the names and peculiar circumstance, we asked, “don’t you guys have beef?

The head waiter or, possibly, manager left at this point. Then my accomplice’s cultural lessons kicked in: “aren’t cows sacred in their culture?”

Of course I knew the expression ‘sacred cows—’ approximately 6,789,682 editorials in Nigerian papers have carried it since the first Nigerian politician behaved like a high earning bovine. English is hard as it is without having to memorise etymology; which is a long way of saying I moved to reply that this wasn’t the case. As if to reinforce my point I remembered a simile, from primary school: ‘like a bull in a Chinaman shop.’

Language doesn’t fib. Thus it stood to reason that, say we were in a Chinese restaurant...

‘Relax,’ I said, ‘this is an Indian restaurant.’ I was comfortably smug in the inadequacies of English expressions.

A younger waiter appeared at our table. (He, too, was not Indian.) My accomplice, a little worried at the disappearance of the older waiter, and unsatisfied by my smugness, felt compelled to seek clarification. The young man said it was offensive to many Indians, thereby putting the English to shame.

We secreted our embarrassment behind the menu and called the young man to help fish out the meatiest meal available. He selected something, something biryani— a word, as if in penance, now legal in many English dictionaries.

We ate in silence.