Thursday, January 8, 2009

A story of a famous waiter

He was born in 1947, a few months before we attained independence. My granny used to say he was all white like milk but weak when he was born and had this rosy lips that was later talk of the village. He grew up to be 14th child of my grandparents and the progeny ultimately ended at 18th child. Unfortunately, only 7 offspring saw more than 10 years of life. That was mainly blamed on poor nutritional value and foreboding.

My dad was named Sunder which meant "beautiful" appropriately. He was a sincere boy and used to do all the chores as expected and very naive too, unlike his elder brothers. Many a times, it so happened that he was the one sleeping empty stomach while the younger siblings got rice. He attended school but complemented it with household and farming errands like collecting dungs, drawing well water and et al. He seemed to enjoy these hard work to flipping pages of book. Apparently, he left school at the age of 13 after attending his mid-term exams which he, no doubt must have failed, owing to poor attendance which was mainly due to his dad's failing health and demanding need of people at farm. My grandpa had better things laid out for him. At least he thought it was so. He left school, now he left the village and set out for Bombay.

He landed on Bombay in the year 1960 and this was the period of conspicuous panic and turmoil since Bombay was drafted to its minimal boundary and Maharashtra and Gujrat was drawn on lingual basis. No doubt, there were some linguist and regional tensions going on then. He spend his initial one month wandering from one place to another with hardly anything to lean on. He did menial jobs, earned too little to save and slept on jutecloth sacks. He once told me that he was given Rs. 13 by his father while leaving his native and half of it was spent on travelling.

This gloomy period was soon to end as one day, he was spotted by this Gujrati-speaking Parsi rich and was given table-cleaner's job at a small bistro-like place. He is still grateful of that one touch of kindness that provided him proper mat for sleeping and ample water to wash. This continued for about a year or so when suddenly he got a note from his brother who had got himself a job in Pune. My dad was earnestly sent for to fill up vacancy there. Without any second thoughts, he escaped. He had to escape because he knew that he was now quite an asset to the working place and won't be let off with ease.

He arrived in Pune in the summer of 1962. Pune wasn't anything like it is now. It was rather dull and wildly empty to say. But my dad was more than happy to be there in comparison to Bombay as he was homesick and wanted someone from his family to behold. So he got this job, again as a table-cleaner at a small hotel run by some Mr. Nayak. He worked there and was "promoted" to water boy and this went on for less than a year when he was asked to fill in for some waiter who was absent. Dad impressed all with his serving skill and memory. Now, there wasn't any need of a genius in a hotel and neither my dad was one but its a tradition in an Udupi Hotel for a waiter not to write down the orders and to serve all the orders mentally without any note to remind. He did superb and it stayed on like that for good long time.

Now, by the year 1966, he realized that Bombay was a better option because he wanted to do something else with his life, something in business, for option. So he left Pune and headed to Bombay again. Here once again, he donned the role of waiter at a place called Madras Cafe which was in King's Circle. This joint was quite renowned and was a daily pilgrimage for students and teachers from nearby campus. He was quickly took a liking to by all and girls in particular, if my uncles are to be believed. They even say some of them were deadpan smitten by him that they even proposed! My dad, being the person he is, still undermines this anecdotes. But he did said once that there was this girl studying at Khalsa College who was in awe of his eyebrows and she always used to wait for his table to get empty so that she can get his service. Bizarre but my dad had other plans and wasn't keen on romance with nubile wealthy students. He worked there for five years and remembers serving today's superstar Akshay Kumar who was a student then at nearby place and used to take lunch at his place regularly.

In early 1972, he was asked by the owner of Madras Cafe, Mr. Shetty to transfer his service to Saroj Hotel which was located at Chembur. He couldn't say no though he was a bit disappointed considering the camaraderie you strike with most of the customers there. He left and joined Saroj Hotel and was again blowing off competition, if any, with his dedication and hard work. He was good looking, better with four plates on his hand, moved swiftly, talked softly and was good with numbers too. This all helped him again to establish genial relationships with customers. He remained a waiter at Saroj till 1996. Then one day, he was asked by Mr. Shetty's son, Rohit to work as a manager. Considering his time as a waiter for almost 35 years, this step was inevitable.

He was made third manager since there were already two working since long time. Dad was assigned with stuff related to banks, accounts, Municipal clearings, taxes which required him talking with bigshots and he was clearly a charming personality to chat and discuss. He was accepted into the fold of managerial clan. It wasn't all easy coz most of the times customers were awestruck to see him in formals roaming the corridors looking out for customer satisfaction and proper disposal of service. Some old customers haven't seen him before in anything other than formal uniform topped by a traditional waiter's cap. But his run continued with a demeanor which made him one of the famous person on the streets of Chembur and even struck a chord with innumerable faceless customers that he met and made sure to leave a etch on.

This story seems all rosy and colorful but it wasn't always so. My dad is and was a reasonable man with virtuous lining but he too wanted to do good. so he tried other avenues of success. He once opened a pan-shop in Mazgaon Dock area which was later usurped by his dear brother, fraudulently. My dad, even to this day has no malice in his heart for this treachery. He earned fine money due to the kind tipping gestures of his customers. He made records with quick serving and multitasking tables. He was sort of a legend of his own.

Today, he is 62 and wishing to retire off in the quiet of his native. He is still working though his pension is up. He still feels that working as a waiter was something more fulfilling coz it had nuances of customers attached immediately to the whole process. He still remember the great doyen of CINEMA, Mr. Raj Kapoor who was a regular customer owing to the presence of R.K. Studio in vicinity, who according to my dad, was a big niggard, unlike his siblings who were a bit too "noble".

My dad always used to say when i was a kid that he didn't want me to be a waiter and that's the reason why he's working double shifts to fill up expense. He was unfazed by his goodness and that's quite unique considering the tag we attach to someone who is good and then ruin his goodness to capital assessment. My dad didn't wished for fame nor did he got one, but he lived a life of memory where people recognize him for his kind way with them. Happy B'day Pa.


R@ju Krish said...

Really Superb man, touching one....god bless u dude

Krish said...

That was really good. Your dad's story makes me think about myself, the carefree life that i live now.

This story reminds me of my father who migrated to this city when he was 15. New place, no shelter, he did not know Hindi and Marathi.

Well I need feel the pain and suffering in order to succeed.

siddique said...

its so touching,inspiring,encouraging etc etc....
seriously u rock wid ur words.......