Arjun, the waiter, looked like an amiable young man. He was wearing black trousers with a white shirt tucked in. He had a ready smile and didn’t hesitate in engaging his patrons in talk about his homeland.
“Have you been here before?” Arjun asked in heavily accented English.
“No. No. Not to your restaurant.” Nanji replied.
“Hope you like Indian food,” he said as Demond and Nanji were seated at a table in the back.
The restaurant had just started to fill up with lunch time crowd. Being close to the market was helpful. A policeman had just wandered in and took a seat four tables away from Demond and Nanji.
“Sure,” answered Nanji. “Make it spicy.”
Demond had never eaten anything other than the Nsima, apparently Nanji had. He was ready to experiment.
Arjun recommended they try the chicken biryani and cucumber raita with homemade Naan. For drinks he recommended the mango lassi.
“So, what do Indians do to get high?” asked Demond as he took a morsel of chicken biryani. He was afraid he was being too pushy and waited for a response.
Arjun described how only the rich drank liquor in India. It was not a household custom. Then he looked around to see if anyone was nearby, leaned over and said in a hushed voice “we have hashish.” He said there was a large hidden market for the stuff in Bombay. He also said that it was used during weddings and celebrations of the Holi festival in the form of bhang lassi.
“It’s been used in India for ages,” said Arjun. “Even as far back as the time of Emperor Akbar in the 15th century, they smoked the Hookah in the palace.”
Demond and Nanji looked at each other and smiled.
“You think you can make a bhang lassi for us?” asked Nanji. Demond was surprised at Nanji’s straight forward manner. What if Arjun informed the authorities that they were two drug dealers?
Arjun looked at them as if they were joking.
“You mean, here, like, now?” he said in a hushed tone.
“Yes. We can give you the good stuff.” Demond discretely showed him a packet he had in his pocket. He was lucky he had his back to the policeman. Before he pulled the packet he quickly turned and glanced in the direction of the officer. The officer was busy eating and turning the pages of a local newspaper as he ate.
“No, No, No. I’ll go to jail,” Arjun said as his face reddened and he looked in the direction of the policeman.
“No need to worry. Look, you make some for us now. You don’t have to tell anyone. You can have some. If you like it we’ll be back. There’s plenty where it comes from.”
Arjun went inside the kitchen with the sample Demond had given him. He had no idea what to do with it. He took the chef in a corner and explained what was going on. He handed him the packet with strict warning to keep it quiet and a secret. The chef didn’t have the exact recipe of mixing the cannabis in the Lassi but he was innovative. He concocted an extract by boiling it in water, let it cool and then mixed with the Lassi. Arjun returned with a glass of the sweetened drink.
“This tastes great,” Demond and Nanji both said together, hoping the policeman didn’t get a drift. The beauty of the drink, they were to discover, was that it didn’t have any effect on the person consuming it until a few hours later. So there was no risk of anyone passing out or behaving strange in the restaurant.
Arjun smiled and waited a few steps behind their table. He still had that worried look on him as if he had done something terribly wrong. The policeman called him by waving his finger. When Arjun approached him he extended the fingers of his right palm to make a sign for something tall. Demond and Nanji couldn’t hear him, but it appeared he was ordering the lassi. A while later the police man drank his drink and left. Demond and Nanji gave a sigh of relief hoping it wasn’t the one with the cannabis.
“We will be back. Maybe your boss wants to sell the lassi to some special people. You know, young tourists looking for a kick. Make it an unwritten item on the menu.” Demond said to Arjun in a hushed tone.
“Shukria,” Arjun said with folded hands as he saw them out the door. He had that smile on his face as if he was holding a secret among them.
Demond and Nanji knew that it was too much to think that Arjun would agree to their proposal. But they had planted a seed and only time was going to tell what lay in the future.
For chapter 6 click here: Chapter 6