By Sandhya D’Mello
An office canteen and the people who serve in them are usually outsourced, unless there is an in-house facility that serves breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. People like myself and many others who have made the office their second home dwell here and most of the time bank on the canteen to faithfully serve us good food; I can for sure cite some examples of the people who served us and left many memories.
The nostalgia rings a bell and reminds us of how we are pampered when the person who regularly serves us develops a ‘bond’ that affirms that the way to one’s heart is through the stomach. Many times, while rushing to the office from an assignment, we take a quick glance on our watch just to ensure we don’t miss out on the canteen food. The assurance that you receive from your canteen saviour that some food is kept aside for you is indeed a life-saving situation as you need to get on to the next deadline.
The favourable display of care by your canteen staff is indeed touching and self-assuring that — yes — people do care. The men or women who serve in canteens may not be adequately paid, yet serving the office staff and the joy they get is so selfless and it is written all over their faces. The proof is in their smile; a joyful heart needs no nudging to smile as it is the natural reaction.
My bond with canteen staff has only grown stronger over time, even though they have come and gone. Some staff might recollect a guy named Santosh from Mangalore, who indeed left a mark on all of us.
Lunchtime, which is usually 1pm to 2:30pm, is more like people fighting to get their share of the ration for that day. In the mad rush during the peak hour, Santosh would be calm, serving everyone with respect. Even if you would be his favourite customer, he would still politely say, “can I serve the guy who came before you quickly? I will be back with you in a moment.” His assurance would be like a mother trying to calm a hungry child. There were times he would recommend which curry or vegetable would taste better with rice or rotis, and people did delight at his recommendation. After lunch, Santosh, who would be observing from afar, would have a sense of victory written on his face as if he would quip, “did you like the food?”
He left us to join his family and returned to India for good, which did break our hearts. Recently, I was accorded similar care from Navraaj, a man from Nepal in his 20s, serving staff selflessly. He derived certain joy by serving people and it was evident in the way he was much sought-after in our canteen. Some of us were just too blessed to have been served food at our workstations as he didn’t mind walking those extra hundred metres or so from the canteen to our newsroom.
The latest kid who has stolen our hearts is Kiran, also in his 20s and from Nepal. He has been serving people selflessly and tales of his humane nature have already been discussed about in the past six months he’s been with us.
I asked him if it was okay to write about him being praised by people for the fact that he serves so selflessly. The lad smiled, as if his face was radiating a big ‘thank you’ and it was obvious he was delighted to receive all the accolades.
Sometimes, little gestures go a long way in motivating people to continue to do good for others. Kiran willingly posed for his image and it is obvious he is looking forward for his copy of the newspaper — not a bad reward for all the saving he’s been doing for our growling stomachs.
Sandy is always on the lookout for selfless souls, who are indeed rare