This post was long due, probably should have been the first post. An incident that leaves us, the school buddies, in splits every time we talk about it. An incident that’s 12 years old and yet fresh and vivid in our memories. A post dedicated to the girls involved –
Unlike now(I’m sounding like a granny!) where eating out is more of a norm than a luxury, it wasn’t so in 2002. And we did not have as much pocket money to eat out every other day too. But this was a special moment that was approaching. 10th standard Board Exams. So along with the exam preparations a bunch of us, class mates, started putting aside our pocket money of Re.1 and Rs.2 for the ‘Treat Yourself’ Day.
After the last exam we jubilantly threw our books and bags (you imagined the picture of students throwing their graduation hats, dint ye?) and merrily walked to the the eatery of our choice. Before we entered we counted how much each of us had so that we order within the amount. We were 8 of us with around Rs.25 each.
Woohoo Parrrty Time!
We occupied the best table and my pal Shrinidhi and I started scanning the tattered, antique menu card. We went to the rate side of the page first and then matched it with the menu item. We had to be within our budget you see, can’t indulge in something exotic with 25 bucks. The one item that caught both our eyes was this –
Pav Bhaji Rs. 5
Woah, that’s what we should order first. That’s damn cheap for a restaurant of this range – echoed our expressions and we announced to the girls , “Let’s start with Pav Bhaji”.
“8 plates Pav Bhaji, please”.
We then resumed scanning the card for the next item to be ordered.
Bhel Puri Rs. 10
Sev Puri Rs. 10
Dahi Papdi Rs. 18
We settled on 4 plates Bhel, 4 plates Sev and 4 plates Dahi Papdi. We could all share and eat, that’s the whole point.
We brought the roof down with our yells and laughter, licked clean the plates,burped loudly, and finally called for the bill.
’Twas Shrinidhi and I again to receive the bill and our eyes popped out looking at the amount – Rs.272. How in the world? It had to be Rs.192. We found the culprit right away –
Item Price Quantity Amount
Pav Bhaji Rs.15 8 Rs.120
We called the waiter and told him, “There seems to be a mistake in the bill. It says the first item is Rs.15 but the menu card said it’s Rs.5”
The waiter was taken aback and he returned with a menu card, this time a new one, with clean pages and no rate revisions and pointed it on the Menu. The Menu ,now, clearly said
Extra Pav Rs.5
Pav Bhaji Rs.15
You’re bad at Match the Following said the waiter’s looks while his mouth uttered, “Ma’am looks like you saw it wrong”.
“Oh Okay, Thanks”, said we and turned to the table and continued chatting. He waited for a minute and left. The moment he was out of the earshot I said, “People we are 80 bucks short. Quickly devise a plan or we need to get ready to work in the hotel today”. The girls frantically searched their wallets for more money but how will it appear when we had counted each rupee before entering the restaurant? We settled on the escape route of calling up a parent to bail us out. Next question was who would that be? Shrinidhi’s dad said Sandhya as his office was a few blocks from the restaurant and he could get there in the shortest time.
And again unlike now, (granny talk) where even 4 year olds have mobile phones we were in an era where 1 land-line was shared between 4 households. None of us had a cellular phone. So Sandhya and Shrinidhi immediately jumped off the chairs and rushed to find a PCO. After reaching the place they realized that all the money was with me and they were penniless. Miraculously Sandhya’s pocket had 3 coins – 50 paise each. 1 call was Re.1, so they could make only 1 call and it had to get through. They dialed Shrinidhi’s dad’s mobile number. No answer. It could be that he is driving and hence couldn’t answer, they thought. What’s the point in calling up or walking to his office now? So they called her mom.
“Mom, Hello. Dad’s not answering the call. Could you ask him to come over to the chat shop in Mylapore right away and bail us out? The bill amount is more than what we have. Please Mom.”
“Are you crazy? Where do I find him now? He might be out to meet clients.”
“Then you come over, please”
“I am no way getting into your foolishness”
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Line got cut.
The guy at the counter was fast asleep. The shook him and woke him up.
“Anna, we need to make just 1 more call. Would you please let us call? We are just 50 paise short. 1 quick call, Anna, please”
“Out, both of you. Out of my shop”
Not knowing what else to do, they loitered around the shop.
Meanwhile in our parallel universe, we were trying to somehow prolong the payment. 2 girls suggested that they would go out and see what the first two were up to. When the 3 of us still sitting inside could not pretend of being in deep conversation anymore we asked for the Menu card once again.
“I feel hungry again, how about a Roti?”, said Neeraja indicating that 1 roti was only Rs.8.
“What subzi would you like to order with the Roti, Ma’am?”, ridiculed the waiter. “Wait my dear boy”, I thought, “I ain’t leaving you any tip”. But that’s only when we leave.
For now, back to the menu. Not a single curry was less than 25 bucks. So I tried to save our skin by saying, “No I ain’t that hungry. Let’s order a dessert”.
Bombay Halwa – In House Speciality Rs.15
“1 Bombay Halwa, please”
“Yes, that will be it”
He immediately served us a small halwa with 3 spoons. We started eating the sweet minuscule amount by minuscule amount. We were competing as to who could cut the smallest possible bite. After what seemed like ages and after the halwa became half its size, I saw the much awaited Blue Bajaj Scooter materializing near the window. Uncle Sundar! The sight of him filled me with so much joy and in a reflex i popped in the remaining sweet into my mouth.
We breathed a sigh of relief when he paid the bill and thanked him profusely. I gave him the money that I had and told him that we will pay him the remaining amount soon to which he said, “Don’t bother about that. Enjoy your vacation and next time you go out to eat make sure all of you visit an ophthalmologist first“
After he left, I got a sound thrashing on the road. No, not for the menu fiasco but for this –
“Bitch, you gobbled up half of the halwa in an instant without giving it to us!”