The hundred-year-old five-star hotel, a landmark of Mumbai stood on the shores of the vast Arabian Sea. Admiring its grandeur, I sauntered towards the entrance. A feel of pride descended on me as the guard bowed and opened the door with a salute. Amazing feeling it was! While waiting in the lobby for my colleagues to join me, I was slowly rewinding my thoughts to the day before. I was working fervently on my laptop when I was startled to receive a direct call from the MD of the company. I was informed that the senior management team was impressed with my project and was interested in further discussions over a dinner. It took a while for the magnanimity of the imminent event to dawn on me and I was exhilarated.
Image courtesy- findermag.com
So here I am, seated at Wasabi, the upscale contemporary Japanese restaurant at the Taj, dressed in my best attire, well before the stipulated time. One by one the management team arrived. Finally, the MD arrived in a Hugo boss tailored suit. What an aura of authority around him. After a formal handshake, we headed to the reserved table. I was awestruck with the ambience and could not stop gaping each and everything there. Then I noticed that another colleague who is well known for her perfection was also on time. Well being on time in Mumbai is a difficult task but surprisingly everyone was in time. That Awestruck me! The colleague seemed so perfect even in the way she took the napkin and the way she smiled at everyone. I followed the suit, picked up the napkin, and Alas! I noticed three sets of forks, knives and spoons were placed on the either side of the plate and glasses of different sizes and shapes were dexterously placed on the table. It was my first experience in such a big hotel. Rather I was not aware of the etiquettes of fine dining. A fear developed within me but I decided to play smart. I thought I just need to follow what others did. It is going to be simple as that. I convinced myself.
The waiter approached our table and it was time to place orders. Oops! This had completely slipped out of my mind. I grabbed the menu card and hurriedly glanced through it. All the words looked like Greek, Latin and of course Japanese. I could not find any familiar word that I had ever heard or seen before. Just then the MD suggested that if we hadn’t decided on anything yet then we should try the Miso soup which is very interesting. What a relief! Everyone agreed. Obviously, nobody can deny the MD’s suggestion!! But of course, for me, it was a blessing in disguise. The conversation moved from one topic to another and meanwhile, the soup arrived. I sat up straight and on that pretext actually saw which cutlery was used by others. (I later came to know that cutlery placed had to be used from “out to in” in sequence). The soup smelled a little strange but my taste buds were waiting to have the taste. In all haste, not realising, I rushed one spoon full of soup and Ouch! It hurts, my tongue got burnt. Tears welled up in my eyes but controlling myself, quaffed the rest of the soup carefully without making any more mistakes.
I had just begun to feel ease when the starters had to be ordered. Of course, the menu card made no difference to me even now. So I smartly called the waiter and asked him to suggest the restaurant’s speciality dish. He gave me two options and I chose the one that I could pronounce. (Yes I know this sounds funny but this is the truth. The pronunciation was also difficult). Suddenly everyone at the table looked at me, I thought I made some terrible mistake, but then one of the colleagues complimented me. “What an amazing choice!” Wow! I chuckled slyly at my smartness. Slowly, discussions regarding the project got rolled on. The starters arrived for everybody except me. While I was wondering the waiter comes with a big plate, walking head high as though he was proud to serve the dish. My stomach was growling with hunger and mouth watered. The large plate descended in front of me. I was aghast at what I saw. Few tiny bowls of different sauces and two pieces of something, to be precise, raw fish and Japanese rice.
My team head was telling me something but all I was going through was a volcano of emotions which would burst any moment. Everyone was having plateful to eat and here I was with hardly two mouthfuls.still the main course is there, I convinced myself. After serving starters, the waiter stood right there. I was reminded of the Monalisa painting. It is said that wherever you stand in the room, you can feel that the lady’s eyes are staring at you. this was exactly how I felt about the waiter. I was so conscious of his presence over there. Obviously, because I was damn hungry now. Finally the main coursed arrived. The place was nicely decorated with few chunks of paneer. I was about to pick it up with my bare fingers but then no! Etiquettes! I glanced at my colleague. How gracefully she held the knife and fork and skewed the paneer and deftly dipping it in the dip and indulged in eating as if she was eating a Cadbury silk. I started figuring how to tackle my paneer.
While I was engrossed cutting the paneer, one the senior asked me something and me, assuming it to be regarding the paneer, in a sport, answered, “ Yes sir it is tasty …” but the sudden change of expression on his face made me realize probably the question was not regarding the paneer being soft but about the software of the project. Instantly I carried on with my sentence “Software developed by …. Blah blah.” With a sigh of relief, I tried to pin down the paneer with the fork when whoosh a lady screamed in astonishment. The whole place seemed to be silent at the moment and I froze with fear, guilt and shame. I had never wanted my dream dinner to end like this, but luckily the floor manager saved my day. Though nobody could guess where it came from, the lady was pacified and things moved on.
We got back to our discussions and thankfully this went quite good. Dessert was very tasty but unfortunately, good things don’t come in big plates. After bidding adieu to everyone, we left our way. Thinking of whatever happened in my mind and hunger still in my tummy I rang the doorbell of my house. Mother opened the door eagerly looking at my face.
I just asked,” Mother is there leftover DAL RICE?”