Mr. Narayana Murthy
has a chance to redeem himself
Mr. Narayana Murthy tried to put the horrors of the morning meeting behind him and looked ahead to the duties of the day. He was determined that the French Consul’s wife’s lunch would surpass all previous lunches and set a new standard. And he, not the Manager, not the Head Waiter, would get all the credit. To this end, he began to order his staff about and made a great nuisance of himself while ensuring that the tables were set just so, and that the freshest and loveliest roses adorned the table where the French Consul’s wife and her group would sit.
The French Consul’s
wife and her group come to lunch
At 12.45, just fifteen minutes before the French Consul’s
wife and her group were due to arrive, there was a minor commotion in the
kitchen. There was a loud crash – one of
the exhaust fans had worked loose and had fallen down – and Mr. Narayana Murthy
rushed to investigate. Luckily, nobody
was hurt, but, because of this incident, he was not present at the entrance to
the Main Garden View Dining Room when the French Consul’s wife and her group
arrived, more than a few minutes early. When Mr. Narayana Murthy
emerged into the Dining Room from the kitchen just a few minutes later, he saw,
to his horror, that she and her group were already at the entrance, and, to his
even greater horror, that the Head Waiter was receiving them.
It took just a short couple of seconds for the whole scene
to make sense to Mr. Narayana Murthy. What he saw was so unexpected that he
just stood rooted to the spot, goggle-eyed. The Head Waiter, far from fawning
over the French Consul’s wife and her group, looked panic-stricken, sporting an
expression of intense distress and confusion. And, a blink of an eye later, Mr.
Narayana Murthy saw why this was so.
The French Consul’s wife had come with her group of six alright
– her butler, her cook, her driver, her gardener, her nanny and her
maidservant. They stood there, looking awkward and embarrassed, overawed by
their elegant surroundings. It was obvious that they had not used the
Employees’ and Servants’ Entrance, and that they were in clear violation of all
the Rules for Servants and Drivers.
In the Main Garden View Dining Room, all activity came to a
complete halt as the Members and the staff took in the extraordinary scene
before them. Everybody just gaped, speechless. Only the French Consul’s wife looked unfazed; indeed she looked annoyed
at being made to wait at the entrance, with nobody bothering to escort her and
her group to her table. Mr. Narayana Murthy made his way hesitantly forward.
The Head Waiter made an inarticulate noise and vanished into the far recesses
of the Dining Room from where he watched Mr. Narayana Murthy’s discomfiture
with gleeful relief. Since the Manager was away at his meeting, this was
entirely Mr. Narayana Murthy’s problem.
In his twenty five years of loyal and meritorious service to
the Oxford and Lawn Club, Mr.
Narayana Murthy had never witnessed, leave alone dealt with, a situation like
the one that now presented itself. He had no idea what to do, yet he had to
act. With all the confidence he could muster, he addressed the French Consul’s
wife. He was keenly aware of the pitiful inadequacy of his English.
“Madam”, said Mr. Narayana Murthy, “there is being no
servants allowed. This is being not according to the Rules.”
The French Consul’s wife was prepared for this.
“They are not servants”, she retorted coldly, “They are my
guests. Now take us to our table”.
Mr. Narayana Murthy looked around desperately. At that time,
the only other Members dining were a handful of Junior Members, none of whom
was prepared to jeopardize his smooth passage into the ranks of Senior
Member-in-Waiting and thence onto Senior Member, for the sake of a silly French
woman who clearly needed her head examined. They kept their heads down and
concentrated intently on their food. Nobody
came to Mr. Narayana Murthy’s aid. Doggedly, he repeated himself.
“I am sorry, Madam”, he insisted, “You are being not
observing the Rules”.
The French Consul’s wife’s voice went up an octave, and she
started to scream. Really, she now
sounded remarkably like Mr. Narayana Murthy’s wife and mother.
“Where is your Manager!” she shouted. “I have never before
been insulted like this! Do you know who I am? My husband is the French Consul.
He has been appointed by the President of France himself! And you dare to tell
me that you will not allow me and my guests into your dining room? Call your Manager at once!”
Mr. Narayana Murthy made one final attempt. Glancing down at the feet of the butler, the
cook, the driver, the gardener, the nanny and the maidservant, he observed that
he were all wearing chappals. He
invoked the Closed Footwear Rule.
The French Consul’s wife was a fighter. She counter-invoked the Revised Sub-Clause to
the Closed Footwear Rule which she claimed allowed Open Footwear to be worn in
the Main Garden View Dining Hall during the summer months of May, June and
July. Mr. Narayana Murthy gave up. He told her to wait while he fetched the
Manager from his important meeting.
When Mr. Narayana Murthy left to bring the Manager, the
French Consul’s wife marched into the Dining Room, trailed by her butler, her
cook, her driver, her gardener, her nanny and her maidservant. There was total
silence in the room; the hum of conversation in the Dining Room had died
completely. Nobody dared stop her. She made her way to the table with the
freshest and loveliest roses and sat down at the head. With an imperious sweep
of her hand, she bade her butler, her cook, her driver, her gardener, her nanny
and her maidservant sit down. The driver
and the gardener looked like they were starting to enjoy themselves. The maidservant looked ready to cry. The
others sported no expression whatsoever.
In a clear, calm voice, the French consul’s wife asked to be
told the day’s specials. Someone, probably a naughty Boy, pushed the Head
Waiter towards her table. More inarticulate sounds came out of him when he
tried to speak. His hard-acquired French
accent completely deserted him. He made a vow right then that he would never again
aspire to the Head Butler’s position.
Mr. Ravi Thirunal,
eminent Member and member of the Travancore Royal Family, comes to the rescue
While the Head Waiter was blubbering incoherently, Mr. Ravi
Thirunal, member of the Travancore Royal Family and the most eminent Member of
the Oxford and Lawn Club walked in.
He was the author of many of the Club’s most revered Rules. He strode towards
the French Consul’s wife’s table with a broad smile, mentally rehearsing the
French phrases he intended to impress her with. When he reached the table and
saw who was sitting there (and saw the blatant violation of some of his most
cherished Rules) he leapt back, as if stung. All eyes were upon him. But Mr.
Ravi Thirunal had no idea what to say or do. At that moment, he did not want to be the Club’s
most eminent Member. All
he wanted was his Glenlivet with two teaspoons of warm water.
Then the Manager burst into the Main Garden View Dining
Room, followed closely by a panting Mr. Narayana Murthy. The Manager was
furious as he had been interrupted midway through a speech which was nothing
less than inspired. He had barely understood what Mr. Narayana Murthy was
telling him, but Mr. Narayana Murthy would not leave until the Manager left
with him. The Manager’s Catering College training had taught him to be observant. Mere seconds after he entered the
Dining Room, he caught the import of the situation.
Seeing the Manager triggered Mr. Ravi Thirunal into action.
He fired the Manager. On the spot, mincing no words, to the delight of Mr.
Narayana Murthy, the Head Waiter, the Waiters, the sub-Waiters, the Boys, the
Dining Room Plant Gardeners and the Dining Room Sweepers (all of whom were in
attendance). He shouted at him that he had no business being away at a meeting
when someone as important as the French Consul’s wife was expected to lunch.
Turning towards the French Consul’s wife, he assumed an
“Madame,” he said, smarmily, “I do apologize, but the
Hygiene Rule states that the kitchens of the Main Garden View Dining Room shall
be closed on the second Tuesday of every month. Unfortunately our Manager, who
has just been fired for gross violation of this Rule, failed to follow it. May
I request you and your guests to dine elsewhere, the new 5 Star River View
Hotel, perhaps? I could assist you with a reservation.”
The French Consul’s wife had lost interest by now. She had wanted to teach them a lesson, these
Members who were so wedded to their Rules, these people who brayed about social
inequality and loved to talk with hushed horror about how badly the Nouveau
Riche treated their servants. She would give this smug, holier-than-thou lot something
to think about. She felt very pleased with herself.
“No thank you,” she told Mr. Ravi Thirunal, “I think I will
just go home and cook a simple meal for my guests”.
And she swept out of the Main Garden View Dining Room as
imperiously as she had swept into it. Followed by her butler, her cook, her
driver, her gardener, her nanny and her maidservant.
Mr. Ravi Thirunal
thinks of new Rules; and Mr. Narayana Murthy hopes
All Mr. Ravi Thirunal wanted was his
Glenlivet with two teaspoons of warm water. Mr. Narayana Murthy rushed to prepare it for
him, making sure that the temperature of the warm water was just so. He served
it to Mr. Ravi Thirunal with a deep bow, but Mr. Ravi Thirunal was too deep in
thought to notice. He had new Rules to write.
And once again, hope blossomed in Mr. Narayana Murthy’s breast. He hoped he would be made the next Manager of the Main Garden View Dining Room.
(C) Kamini Dandapani