The story so far
Mr. Narayana Murthy gets ready for his Morning Meeting
Mr. Narayana Murthy got off the bus, and took a deep breath of diesel-choked air to brace himself for the day ahead. He checked his watch to make sure that he would not be late (his new Manager was ridiculously prickly about tardiness) and then walked slowly towards the Employees’ and Servants’ Entrance of the Oxford and Lawn Club. He punched in his time card in the Employees’ Office and entered the Employees’ Locker Room with an air of great disdain.
It galled Mr. Narayana Murthy that he had to share the
locker room with the Head Waiters, Waiters, Sub-Waiters, Boys, Plant Gardeners,
Sweepers and other assorted riff-raff who worked at the Club; after 25 years of
service, he ought to have been allowed to use the Managers’ Locker Room, surely
a much nicer facility than the dark, dank-smelling Employees’ Locker Room with
its peeling walls, which were painted a sickly shade of green, the cheapest the
Club could get from the paint merchant. Inside
the Club, though (and, Mr. Narayana Murthy suspected, although he could not be
sure as he had never been allowed inside, inside the Managers’ Locker Room as
well), the walls were painted with a designer-selected paint called Dusky Pearl,
known to the non-designer paint selecting world as off-white.
Mr. Narayana Murthy pulled out his Head Butler’s uniform
from his locker, and put it on with great pride and attention. It was made of stiffly starched thick white cotton,
and the excessive and cheap starch on the collar caused the back of his neck to
always suffer a brightly spotted rash, which he covered with a thick dusting of
talcum powder. Mr. Narayana Murthy licked his forefinger and rubbed the brass
buttons on his jacket until they shone. Carefully, he pinned his 25th
anniversary pin on his left collar, smoothed his hair, washed his hands, and,
holding his head up high (nobody but he had the Head Butler’s uniform and a pin) swept imperiously out of the
locker room, his entire staff of Head Waiters, Waiters, Sub-Waiters, Boys, Dining
Room Plant Gardeners and Dining Room Sweepers scurrying a short distance behind
him. They entered the Main Garden View Dining Room exactly at 9 o’clock, where the Manager awaited them. They were
right on time for their morning meeting.
The Morning Meeting,
in which Mr. Narayana Murthy suffers humiliation when he emits a Maggi-flavored
At the morning meeting, the Manager sat at the very edge of
a chair, his knees and feet placed wide apart. Possibly he thought that this position conveyed an authoritative and
decisive demeanor, but Mr. Narayana Murthy thought it rude and vulgar, hardly
befitting a place of such stature as the Oxford and Lawn Club. Of course, Mr. Narayana Murthy’s face conveyed nothing of his
disapproval. He stood in front of the Manager, assuming an expression of intense
alertness and concentration, while the rest of the Main Garden View Dining Room
staff stood at attention immediately behind him. The Manager cleared his throat
and got the morning meeting going.
This new Manager, in Mr. Narayana Murthy’s opinion, was a vainglorious
peacock, a puffed-up, self-important windbag who enjoyed the sound of his voice
entirely too much. He started the meeting by taking attendance, as if they were
a bunch of small school kids, as if punching in their time cards in the Employees’
Office were not proof enough of their presence.
He then embarked on a ponderous and long-winded discourse
about the Rules of the Main Garden View Dining Room. The Oxford and Lawn Club was certainly fond of its Rules. Many thousands of reams of paper
had been put to use to explain its Rules, Sub-Rules, Special Rules, Special
Sub-Rules, Clauses and Sub-Clauses. There were General Club Rules, Rules for each of the Dining Halls and
Bars, Library Rules, Rules about Drivers and Servants, Rules about Children…the
list seemed endless. Every Rule had appended to it lengthy lists of Sub-Rules,
Clauses and Sub-Clauses. These were in
constant flux, depending on the whims of the Members of the many Committees
that made up the Club Management.
The Footwear Rules were currently being hotly debated; this
summer had been a particularly torrid one, and many of the Members felt that,
for the hot season at least, the Closed Footwear Rule should be relaxed. None
of the Committees had arrived at a consensus, and nobody was certain of the
current status of the Rule. The Manager told his staff that until they heard
otherwise, they should assume that the Closed Footwear Rule (dress shoes and
dress socks for the men, closed-toe sandals for the women with no hint of a toe
peeking through) was still in effect.
That done, he started
explaining, in excruciating detail, the day’s specials (which Mr. Narayana
Murthy felt, in his capacity as Head Butler, ought to have been his
responsibility). The Manager took every
opportunity to show off his Catering College training, pronouncing the names of the Continental dishes with an absurd and
exaggerated accent. To the embarrassment of Mr. Narayana Murthy and the Head
Waiter, the Manager made them repeat the names of the dishes in that ridiculous
accent, and would not let it go until they achieved some approximation of it.
Apparently, the new French Consul’s wife was expected to lunch at 1 o’clock today, along with a group of six, and
the Manager wanted them to be impressed. The Manager of the Main Garden View
Dining Room had his sights set on the position of Manager of Club Dining
Services, where he would oversee the Main Garden View Dining Room, the Pool
View Dining Room, the Smoking Bar, the Poolside Bar, and the Snooker Room Café.
He was ambitious, the Manager.
Having coaxed the best French accent he could muster from
Mr. Narayana Murthy and the Head Waiter (Mr. Narayana Murthy was pleased to see
that the Head Waiter struggled more than he had with those preposterous rrr’s and auu’s) the Manager droned on about the importance of polishing the
cutlery properly and ensuring that there were no spots on the glassware. Behind his mask of intense alertness and
concentration, Mr. Narayana Murthy’s mind began to wander. He had heard this all before. He knew everything that needed to be done
to maintain the standards required by the Club. He didn’t need this upstart to tell him, or his staff, what to do. That was his
responsibility, in his capacity as Head Butler.
Mr. Narayana Murthy’s stomach rumbled. It felt strange, as if large gas bubbles were
popping about inside. He stifled a yawn.
And then, to his horror, completely without warning and control, he
burped. It was not a polite, hiccoughy
burp which could be sternly stopped in its tracks, but a prolonged, deep, thunderous
one, a rich, manly baritone, surprising from someone of his small stature. The
burp was redolent of Masala Flavor Maggi Noodles. The Manager, seated directly
in front of Mr. Narayana Murthy, received the full blast of the smelly burp.
Mr. Narayana Murthy felt everybody’s eyes on him. He was certain that the Head Waiter was sniggering. He knew that the Manager was disgusted from the way he wrinkled his nose and covered it with a crisp white handkerchief. He felt thoroughly humiliated.