That Japanese Smile

Morning flight hazard, extensive traffic congestion for more than two hour from airport to guest-house, late brunch, and a head-ache to be the cherry on the top, my first evening at Fort Kochi still could not be dumped in the bin. A finger full of Amrutanjan balm on the forehead and a quick siesta had to be good enough to manage for the evening. If not, then a walk to the beach would definitely have to suffice it, as I would go out anyhow.

I think the headache was half gone after the nap and for the rest of my head-ache I had my plan B already in stand-by. And my Plan B showed it’s result soon after I started my walk in the town. The long walk across the beautiful streets of Fort Kochi, followed by the beach made me tired though, and my love for beach gives me craving for papaya, pine-apple and melon. So while walking back to the guest-house, I found a small road side shack and I loved the simplicity of that place that I wanted to have anything the place could be selling. The shack was quite small, may be a 10 by 10 feet room, with a small cooking come billing area. The walls were freshly painted white, with one or two pictures hung on them. A small fridge at the left after entrance, and a small sitting area at the right, also an open air seating arrangement at the side of the fridge. A black board announcing ‘today’s special’ kept at the edge of the footpath. Though small, the place had a very jovial vibe and I loved it immediately.

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As soon as I entered, two pairs of small eyes from the other side of the cooking area; welcomed me with grinning smile, their broad smiles hid their eyes even more behind their eye lids, and it seemed they met their long lost friend after an eon. Both of them must have been at their mid thirties, looked like from the North-East for their small shiny eyes, lustrous straight black hair and organic blushing cheeks. For the late brunch and a bit of over eating, I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I needed a chilled fresh fruit juice like anything.

‘Do you have fresh fruit juice?’

 ‘Yes, we have, there’s banana smoothie, water melon juice, grapes..’ the lady with long hair tied into a high bun replied, so flowery soft was her voice!

‘Do you have Papaya?’

‘Yes, we have papaya as well.’

‘Then may I have a papaya juice please? I would like it slightly chilled and no sugar please?’

‘Sure, I will make it for you. Please take a seat.’ All the time both the ladies had that happy smile on their face.

About 20 minutes of waiting at the open air bench. Listening to the ladies’ whispering chats in some other language, watching over the Saturday evening streets of Fort Kochi, the trip started just the way I expected. The other lady with short round cut hair, who hadn’t spoken so far, brought the juice with that same happy face. ‘Enjoy!’

Oh, I just loved that thick pulpy juice or smoothie of Papaya. Quite different than our usual understanding of runny yet little-heavier-than-water textured fruit juice! They served the glass of juice with a straw and a spoon (I really didn’t understand the necessity of spoon at first), the spoon was used more than the straw. It was the exact coldness I could have imagined, and hardly any water was used to prepare the juice. A fully customized-as-per-guests’-choice kind. If you are a papaya lover like me, I’m sure you are cursing me to give you a craving!!

‘Was that ok?’  The first lady asked, when I went to pay for it.

‘Just the way I wanted.’ And both of them were happier to this answer.

*** ***

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I already had made up my mind to go for another papaya juice the next evening after my dinner. The first lady was alone that day and was way too happy to see me again.

‘Hellooo.. How are you?’

‘I am good, How are you?’

‘Great!!’ Ooh that 1000 watt smile

‘You are alone today?’

‘Yes my sister is out for some work but she will be back in some time.’

‘Oh, great.’

‘So what can I get for today?’

‘The same, papaya juice just like yesterday.’

‘Less ice and no sugar?’

‘Exactly..’

‘Where are you from by the way?’

‘I am from Kolkata?’

‘O right, yes I have heard of Kolkata.’

‘You are from?’

‘I am from Japan, settled here for few years now.’

‘Japan? You mean you are Japanese?’

‘Yes that’s right. I was born and brought up in Japan. The other girl is my sister. She has come to give me visit here.’

‘Hold on, so your family is still living in Japan right?’

‘Yes, of course, all of them.’

‘Then how come you came all the way from Japan and settled here in this island?’

‘Oh, I am married to an Indian, and this is his home town.’

‘Wow..’ though this sort of match makings are not unnatural to me, but I was somehow speechless and it was reflecting on my face 275%.

‘There’s a long story, my husband went to study at Japan, we met and now I am here. I run a hostel right across the street and this shack.’

‘This is so amazing.. Really.’

‘I know.’ ‘Hey Hi!!’

Her sister just came, equally happier to meet me once again. And we continued our chat a little longer. The sister pays a visit to her sister every year for about a month or two. And the first lady does go to her home to meet her family once in a year or two. For the papaya juice, if you are interested, that day had few more addition in the recipe to make it never forgetting, I couldn’t make out all the new ingredients but the garnish with a generous scraping of coconut on the top, I can never forget.

For Post I: click here

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