Indulge in this charm

HUMOUR

The unimaginative mandarins of the Karnataka tourism department cry themselves hoarse peddling the rather jaded favourites — the Lal Bagh, the Belur and Halebid temples, Jog Falls et al., and that naturally induces a sense of ‘ennui’ and ‘deja vu’ and turns off potential visitors.

If the tourism people are really keen on enticing more visitors to the state, what they should do is bring out a glossy flyer proclaiming, loud and clear that Karnataka is the home to a unique institution — the by-two coffee and that alone merits an extended visit to the state.

The by-two coffee is as much an institution in Karnataka as the change of guard ceremony outside the Buckingham Palace in London, but its genesis has been lost in the dim mists of time and antiquity, but its protaganists are usually two casual acquaintances who have fallen on hard times at the fag end of the month. Feeling sorely beset for a cup of refreshing hot coffee, they repair to a nondescript restaurant with only the faintest rattle in their anaemic wallet.

They will repair towards a distant and dimly lit corner and seat themselves unobtrusively behind a pillar and beckon diffidently towards a passing waiter. “By-two coffee,” they will whisper conspiratorially lest their ‘order’ — that is, if you can ‘order’ by-two coffee — more likely than not, you will have to beg and grovel obsequiously, for it ignites a hearty guffaw from the more affluent patrons enjoying their business luncheons on credit cards and expense accounts.

The otherwise dim-witted waiter will at once grasp the gravity of the crisis and for once in his chequered life, peace be on him, he won’t bawl out towards a distant kitchen — “By-two coffee, one. Coming up!”

He will soon return with a small cup of coffee and two tiny tumblers. With a look of infinite compassion and commiseration, he will slither into the background discreetly, leaving his indigent constituents to sort out among themselves the complex conundrum of making a single cup of coffee magically metamorphize into two.

The name of the game is to judge to a nicety the exact amount of coffee available and proceed to fill the two empty tumblers till each is half full and there you are — by-two coffee all ready to be drunk and savoured. But there is a catch, one hesitant sip and the cup is as dry and as empty as the Gobi desert, but there it is, the charm of by-two coffee.
There is another variant to this game called ‘two-by-three’, wherein three fellows pick their frail brains trying to think of ways and means to make the two cups of coffee go among the three of them. But to satisfactorily resolve this Sphinx-like puzzle requires the combined intellectual faculties of Srinivasa Ramanujam and Albert Einstein.
By-two coffee that cheer. Anyone?

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