|by Amita Murray|
The lobby is a faded olive green with chilled terracotta coloured linoleum on the floor. Stacks of shoes – including my DMs – line the shelves on the walls and lie scattered about. Some pairs look like they’re about to make off in different directions where they’ve been knocked or kicked around. I’m the last one into the main hall because as usual I’m fumbling with my laces. I really don’t know why Velcro is seen as an unacceptable footwear fastening choice for adults.
I catch up with the others, overtaking families and spindly elderly women, careful not to step on the hems of the flower-bright saris. Entering the main hall, I’m hit by a heavy, almost-familiar scent of Indian food. Not the sharp, onion-heavy cooking of the North, but a softer, rounder smell. Steam from huge vats wafts across the doorway. A long queue awaits patiently, very British-like, as food is served on bendy paper plates by men and women standing in a military line behind tables.
We’re here to find Mr Samaddar. Apparently he’s here… somewhere. I don’t even know what he looks like, but I find myself searching nevertheless. Maybe he’ll have something specifically Samaddar-y about him that’ll single him out from all the other South Indian elderly menfolk here, dressed in their thick woolly jumpers and chinos and sport socks.
It’s us who really stick out here, in our sombre academic tones of blue and black and grey, with our rucksacks and awkward bodies. My feet, benumbed from walking about stone cold stone churches all morning, begin to tingle back to life because this place has the miracle of underfloor heating. I reflect that churches could learn a thing or two about design from mandirs. We make a space on the floor and sit down, creaking our legs crossed, and await the appearance of Mr Samaddar.