Rory Rogerson is 67; an overweight, unfit, retired ‘protection officer’ (that’s PC for hired muscle). He is also a prolific and, by his own reckoning, successful author of crime fiction.
Penny (60) is his headmistress wife and Charlie Watkiss is the bloke next door.
Together, they make a formidable team!
Rory (ret’d). Chapter five, part two.
The Langar room takes its name from the communal kitchen and eating area in the Gurdwara, or place of worship, where adherents to the Sikh religion offer free food to the destitute and homeless. It isn’t widely publicised, but I know that the Masaala Ghar do use the Langar room for that purpose in the mornings. When I asked Ravi about it some time ago, he told me that it allows them to do their duty to the unfortunates who need their help, at the same time reducing or eliminating food waste.
When Penny and I entered the Langar room, we found Charlie deep in conversation with Billy whilst Alan, Meredith and Chloe were looking at the illustrations posted on the walls of the room, depicting scenes in this room, as well as views of significant Gurdwaras and Langars in India and significant characters within Sikhism. Penny joined her friend whilst I made my way towards Charlie and Billy.
I nodded my head towards the two men. “Charlie, Billy,” I said, “Shall we get started?”
“Let’s eat first, shall we?” Charlie said, “There’s a sabji with my name on it and it needs to be eaten.” At that, Ravi came into the room to take our orders.
“I can offer a full menu of Punjabi and regional dishes for your pleasure,” he said.
“Just bring us a selection of the kind of food you offer in the mornings,” I said, adding, “provided it won’t leave you short for tomorrow. Everyone happy with that?” I looked around. No-one argued although I got the feeling that all three Suttons would have, had they not been in such a disadvantageous position. I nodded to Ravi.
“Thank you, Mr Rory.”
“For respecting our faith and traditions, Sir.” Ravi reversed out of the room and closed the door behind him.
Recognising that only Penny, Charlie and I were familiar with this place, I explained to the Suttons the significance of the room to the restaurant staff and its place in their faith. I also gave an approximation of the fare we were about to be served.
“IN a traditional langar the recipients of the food would be seated cross-legged on the floor, and would receive the food and eat it with our hands. As you can imagine, cross-legged on the floor isn’t a position I could get into easily. In any case, we aren’t, strictly speaking, recipients of the offering so we’ll use the table and cutlery. I believe that when this room operates as a langar, the tables and chairs are moved away and the recipients do adopt the position I described.”
Meredith spoke first. “I’ve heard about the Sikhs and what they do,” she said, “and I find it a very attractive way of life. If it weren’t for the God part, I could probably do what they do.”
“What about the God part?” I asked.
“I don’t believe in any god,” she said, “and I couldn’t pretend to just to do the rest of it.”
“Why not have a word with Ravi,” I suggested, “I expect he’d be okay about you helping. If not, there are other places where food is offered to the needy, the homeless and the destitute.”
“I’ll think about that,” she said then, pointedly to her sons, “won’t we boys?”
“Yes, Mum,” Billy replied sheepishly.
Ravi and two other waiters entered with an array of dishes. “For the Langar, we generally serve only this one,” he said, placing a dish in the middle of the table. “It is called Prashad, a simple dish made with butter, flour, sugar, and water. Depending on what perishables we have left over, we add vegetable samosas and roti, which are on these dishes.” The first waiter placed two dishes on the table to join the Prashad. “For you, though, we have added Palak Aloo Sabji, which is mixed green vegetables with curried potatoes. Enjoy.” The next waiter placed the colourful dish alongside the others whereupon the three men placed their hands together, prayer-fashion, bowed and walked out backwards.
“Palak Aloo Sabji,” Charlie said, “That’ll do me.”
“Don’t hog it all,” I admonished him, “anyway, where are your manners? Ladies first.”
“Does that apply in Sikhism?” Penny asked.
“I’ve no idea, but it’s irrelevant anyway,” I said, “We aren’t Sikhs.”
Penny served herself first, followed by Chloe and finally Meredith. Once Meredith had filled her plate, she served portions to her sons, “To make sure there’s some left for the rest of you,” she said. Charlie and I took what we wanted. There was still a couple of servings left in the dishes after we’d finished. Once Billy and Alan had taken second helpings, all the serving dishes were empty.