Mr. Narayana Murthy’s daring
and unusual dinner of the night before
All his life, Mr. Narayana Murthy had never strayed from his pure South Indian Brahmin vegetarian diet. Not once. He refused to even try North Indian vegetarian food; he loathed North Indians, those loud-mouthed Hindi-speaking barbarians who were always reeking of onions and garlic. It was not that he was unaware of other cuisines; as Head Butler of the Main Garden View Dining Room with 25 years of loyal service at the Oxford and Lawn Club, Mr. Narayana Murthy was in fact extremely knowledgeable about the French, Italian, Chinese, Thai and other cuisines that were served there. However, he had never once tasted any of those exotic dishes (even the vegetarian ones); if anything, he was repelled by their buttery ostentation, the overly fussy garnishes and complete absence of chili powder. He had never once been tempted.
Except yesterday. The Rules of the Main Garden View Dining
Room did not allow children to eat in it (they could eat at any time they
wanted in the lowly Pool View Dining Room), except between 10 and 11.30 am,
when a daily Children’s Special was served. For what was served, the Children’s Special was outrageously priced, Mr.
Narayana Murthy thought. He disliked children – after 15 years of marriage, his
wife had not produced any, and this just intensified his distaste of them,
shrill, noisy creatures, running about with appalling manners, demanding this
and that, messing up his precious table settings. It rankled Mr. Narayana
Murthy no end that he had to dance attendance upon these brats, but they were
future Members after all, there was possibly even a future Dining Committee
Chairman in their midst. Mr. Narayana
Murthy saw himself working at the Oxford and Lawn Club (as much as he hated it)
long into the future.
Yesterday’s Children’s Special was Maggi Noodles a la Queen Victoria, a slithery concoction of Maggi
Noodles with generous lashings of butter and cream. Standing watchfully at attention at his station near the entrance,
Mr. Narayana Murthy watched the children with well-concealed dislike, but soon,
he could not help but be captivated by how the snake-like noodles were slurped
up, one by one, each accompanied by a wet smacking of the lips. He watched with
a kind of fascinated horror; hearing the shrill laughter of the children, and
watching the glee with which they scarfed down the soggy mess, something
awakened deep inside Mr. Narayana Murthy. He wanted to try the Maggi Noodles.
During a lull in the dining room, he slipped into the kitchen to ask his
friend, the Head Chef, how to prepare the noodles, South Indian style.
So, that evening, on his way home, Mr. Narayana Murthy
stopped at the Bengal Provision Stores and bought three packets of Masala
Flavor Maggi Noodles. The Bengali who ran the shop assured Mr. Narayana Murthy
that the noodles were pure vegetarian, made especially with Brahmins in mind.
Although Mr. Narayana Murthy distrusted Bengalis, he took this man’s word for
it. By now, he had a serious craving for those noodles. This, for Mr. Narayana
Murthy, was an extremely daring and unusual move, a radical departure from his
At home, the Maggi Noodles provoked an instant and violent outcry.
Both his wife and mother refused to touch the bright yellow packets. Who knew
what impure hands had touched those noodles, what foul ingredients they were
made of. His assurances to them, that
they were pure vegetarian, produced in a factory with the highest hygiene
standards, fell on deaf ears. His mother started wailing and shrieking that her
son, her only child, had become polluted with his years of contact with those
contaminated foreigners; her voice rose still higher as she sobbed that now
there was nobody fit to light her funeral pyre, that her soul would be forever
condemned to wander about, fruitlessly seeking its final home.
Mr. Narayana Murthy’s wife was stunned speechless when her
husband held out the Maggi Noodle packets to her and ordered her to cook them
for dinner. She took a big step back, to place as much distance as possible
between the offending packets and herself. Then she found her voice. With ear-piercing screams that drowned out her
mother-in-law’s shrieks, she accused Mr. Narayana Murthy of carrying on with
the white women that he was always boasting about, of becoming too big for his
boots, of spoiling the family name.
Mr. Narayana Murthy lost his temper. Not caring that this
drama was being witnessed with bated breath by his entire street, he yelled at
them to shut up. Then he took the packets and entered the kitchen. If his wife
and mother were too illiterate and small-minded to appreciate progress and
innovation, he shouted, he would cook the Maggi Noodles himself.
Once inside his kitchen, Mr. Narayana Murthy found himself
in unfamiliar territory. He had never spent more than a few seconds here, and
he had no idea where anything was kept. He adopted the authoritarian air of his
Manager and hollered to his wife to help him. Sulking, still furious, still giving the noodle packets a wide berth,
she provided her husband with the cooking pot, oil, mustard and cumin seeds,
chopped onions and green chilies, red chili powder, turmeric and salt that he
demanded from her. Then she stomped out of the kitchen.
Fifteen minutes later, Mr. Narayana Murthy had successfully
completed his very first attempt at cooking. The kitchen was a mess. The counter top was smeared with oil, salt and
red chili powder. Turmeric powder streaked the walls. The mustard seeds had splattered
over every available surface and the floor was littered with the Maggi Noodle
packets and bits of onions and green chilies. The cooking pot had been flung
haphazardly into the sink, where the impact had dented two coffee cups. But Mr.
Narayana Murthy noticed none of this. He
was ready to eat the noodles.
Unable to contain their curiosity, his wife and mother stood
beside him, watching in appalled fascination. His mother uttered a non-stop
series of incantations to Lord Venkateswara to forgive her son for what he was
about to do. His wife, for once, had no words for the occasion. Mr. Narayana
Murthy plunged his hand into the steaming plate of noodles (he did not use
forks); the slippery noodles slithered right out and the hot sauce ran down his
arm and pooled in his elbow. With greater determination he grabbed a handful
and shoveled it into his mouth. It was the strangest thing he had ever tasted;
no Masala he had ever had resembled this one. Determinedly, he slurped up the
entire plateful. Till the very last
noodle, he was not sure whether he liked his dinner or not. He did not say
another word to his wife or mother that night. He retired to bed early, and
left them to clean up the mess he had left behind. He woke up the following
morning with a splitting headache and his stomach felt bloated and gassy.
The Morning Meeting
continues after a brief pause
There was a brief pause after Mr. Narayana Murthy’s Maggi-flavored burp. Never had poor Mr. Narayana Murthy felt more miserable. He could sense the venomous gleam in the Head Waiter’s eyes and he knew that the ferocity of the burp had rendered the Manager dumbfounded. But only for a couple of seconds. Shooting Mr. Narayana Murthy a look of contemptuous disgust, he continued with the meeting. He conducted his daily inspection of their uniforms (again, something that Mr. Narayana Murthy felt he ought to be doing) as if nothing had happened. He concluded the meeting by reminding them about the French consul’s wife and her party of six. The Manager would not be present at the lunch as he had a very important Club Dining Rooms Managers’ meeting to attend at that time. He hoped Mr. Narayana Murthy and his staff would do the Main Garden View Dining Room proud. The Manager stood up – the morning meeting was over. The staff dispersed to their work stations in respectful silence; nobody dared look at Mr. Narayana Murthy in the eye.
The end is nigh... continued here