There was only one other couple there when we entered the dining area of Maison Perumal. We stood at the entrance for a few seconds, scanning the overall arrangements of tables, trying to decide where best to sit.
The skylight area looked airy, green and tempting, but we were concerned of possible mosquito attacks as the day was getting dark. In the end, practicality trumped aesthetics, we avoided the skylight area and sat instead where there were roof and bright lights.
Things were pretty quiet in the dining area, except for the soft whispers of the patrons. Strangely, the kitchen behind us was quiet as well. After a couple of minutes, a man came out from the kitchen and walked over to us, smiling.
He was dressed in the Indian male traditional attire, the dhoti kurta. Specifically, he wore a light grey kurta over a white dhoti. He looked pretty young, maybe in his early twenties. He is thin and small built with short hair. He has sharp features, almond shaped eyes and a thin mustache. His name is Bijay, and he has the most pleasant smile.
Vee asked him something in Tamil. He spoke back in English, not really answering her question. Twice this happened. After that, we continued our communication solely in English.
For dinner, there is a special set meal that the Chef had prepared. The details of the meal were written on a chalk board held upright on a standee. Bijay moved the board towards us so we could see the menu clearly, and he explained the dishes one-by-one.
We heard fireworks out on the street. It was the same as the night before. We wondered if the fireworks were meant to celebrate the coming of Thaipusam.
When Bijay came to serve our drinks, Vee asked him about the fireworks. With a smile, he answered, "Sorry madam, I'm not sure if the firework is for which festival. I am actually from Nepal. " Okay, that answered why his name is spelled the way it is, and why he spoke English to Vee's Tamil.
It was amusing observing Bijay at work. Every time some new guests came in, he would turn the menu board towards their direction, and began the same ritual of explaining the set meal.
In his kurta and dhoti, he made me think of a school teacher explaining some science diagram to the students (not that teachers in Pondy are dressed that way, I think not...)
As we waited for our order, more guests walked into the dining area, mostly Europeans. Strangely enough, Bijay was the only server around. He walked swiftly in and out of the kitchen - explaining the menu, taking orders, serving dishes, pouring wine, moving chairs, getting the bill - basically tending to all our dinner needs.
What was striking about this Bijay of Maison Perumal was his ever smiling face. I think it is difficult to talk and smile at the same time, all the time. But for Bijay, the smile never left his face.
As he moved back and forth, from the kitchen to the dining area or to the front hall where bills are calculated and printed, back to the dining area and the kitchen, he was all smiles. He looked tired at times, but the smile was never gone from his face.
Bijay was busy with the other guests when we were about to leave. I couldn't do the typical touristy thing of getting a photo of him, to remember his pleasant smiling face by. But all in all, Bijay and Maison Perumal made our short trip memorable.
The next time I am in Pondy, I will try to stay in this heritage hotel and experience its beautiful architecture and hospitality and maybe talk more with Bijay.
Safiza is a Travel Blogger, Common Reader, Book Hoarder, Art and Nescafe Tarik Lover.