The cook out party was in full swing along with the spiritual flow.  During that time period, Manoj Mathew’s uncle had a huge bungalow off Cunningham road in the quiet by lanes.  However, if one travels to Cunningham Road in the present times, you would spot the Fortune Cosmos Hotel in place of that bungalow.  Realizing the family was away for a while, we seized the opportunity to have a ball of a time! Sandy Nayak was enjoying the tender succulent pork pieces from the famous Pandi curry, cooked expertly in a mud pot by MG Ravi. He is from Coorg and learnt the perfect recipe from his mom. He was a popular steward in our Southern Comfort coffee shop at the Taj Residency. We were the budding hoteliers, still learning the ropes, having been recruited after the Cat colleges. It was our off day; somehow we conspired and managed to take it on the same day. We four boys were roommates living at Viveknagar near post office, having rented a two-bedroom house at a princely sum of Rs 250. There was the Kashmiri handsome hunk Harish Rangroo from Memories of China restaurant, Nicky, Banquets, Manoj, Jockey Club, hero Sanjay Goel, the look alike of Ajay Devgan from coffee shop. Sandhya from Cake shop and myself under room service. All key outlets represented.

The morning was spent in leisure, the usual haunt was Brigade road, we were parading up and down the stretch with helmets in our hands like big racers. Little did people know, that we owned pidly mopeds which always struggled to start and got defeated easily by a speedy cycle! Thereafter some chilled beer at Church street Pub owned by one of the regulars at Taj, Mr Ashok Sadhwani.  Lunch was at the Kohinoor mappila restaurant known for its kuska and chicken kebabs clubbed with matthi meen fry. By four I had a brain wave, “Let’s go to our Taj cake shop boys, Sugar and Spice where everything is nice”. Harish said, “Sala, kyon Sher ke mooh Mein shir dal rahe ho, if MK see us, your day will be made”. The beer took the effect already, it emboldened us four boys adequately to shoo him away! We promptly landed at the cake shop with our Chests puffed up of course!  Sandy’s reliever Anita Fernandez was watching helplessly while we gorged on yummy pastries, raising a ruckus. “What does he think by putting us on 15-hour shift, bonded labourers? “Someone asked. Every one nodded in agreement with their mouths stuffed, making hmm/ ha sounds. As a result, mutiny and revolt plans were hatched at that specific moment. None of us noticed the warning signs from Anita, slowly a voice came from the door.

“Hey boys, good fun eh? great to see every one relaxed! How come all five caps are off on the same day? “Said Ms Jacky Bond, the assistant manager, Banquets. I instantly remembered -Spy who loved me, the famous blockbuster. We ran for life to the Kamadhenu hotel opposite the Taj with laser lights under our heels. Zip. Ordered masala dosas with extra kempu chutney in dire straits. Finishing them in a second, we lit our ciggies at the pan shop, puffing and huffing. Calculating the next day’s Mis-En-Scene (read preservation strategies).

Back to the cook out party scene, we fine-tuned our plans over some more beer. It was my turn to drop Sandy home at Malleswaram. My Avanti Garelli moped didn’t have GPS, so promptly got lost for about two hours, mind was already stressed on the impending fire crackers show the next day.

There was a furore at the morning F&B meeting, each of our outlet managers were dressed down, neatly filleted, and gently broasted. Spitting venom, my own immediate manager Aziz Athiculla gave me a ‘look’ and said. “Well super Cap Venu, your weekly offs stand cancelled for a month. When they resume, we will make sure that none of your pals will be giving you company at the cake shop. All weekly offs charted out already. German precision at work, I swallowed hard and tried to resist, but failed. The stewards were having a free show and I didn’t like it one bit. Especially from that naughty waiter Kenneth Andrews; grinning slyly. He was my ever tormentor, would purposely delay tea orders since I wouldn’t give him fat dinner trolley orders. A-ha, the spy lady did accomplish the espionage mission quite successfully! I was planning revenge- should it be dish wash chemical, perhaps steaming oil, or a blunt bent room service dinner knife? Slow torture.

Just then the big boss PKMK waded into the room service area amongst the din. I was ready to scoot once again. All the 1857 great mutinies vaporised in a flash. He smiled at me sweetly, patting my shoulder and enquired of the morning rush. “I am very happy with you, there were zero complaints past one week, keep up the nice work”. I lost my colour, knew he was mocking, but thanked him with a guilty shy head nod. He moved on few steps, turned back with a glint in his eyes; asking casually, “BTW hope you enjoyed chef Prasanna ’s yummy Choco chip pastries”.

Venu Rao

22nd  September 2020.

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