By Ananya Saha:
Social media is legitimately in upheaval as a lady and her employee/chauffeur, who she wanted to treat for his dedicated service; have faced atrocious behaviour from the management of an upscale restaurant in Kolkata. The establishment is an old and a prestigious one, it’s popularity preceding itself. But alas, while serving up a royal vintage menu, they have probably forgotten that we do not live in the colonial times any longer. Therefore, taking their eminence for granted and displaying arrogance is not sitting comfortably with many.Snootiness has achieved new heights in the Indian fine dining industry as we see in this case. The lady was obviously ready to pay for her guest, hence it is not an issue of money which could have defended the restaurant’s concern. Rather, it is an issue of unconscionable ‘snobbery’ that robbed the establishment of a patronage, and many more, given how unfavourably the crowd is reacting through the digital media platforms. The management has produced lame excuses of the male guest being drunk when they apparently had no proof. Also, if a wealthy customer was allegedly drunk but was wearing the right sort of clothes, would they be treated in the same fashion? The eatery does not have a specific dress code. Hence, the entire excuse of him flouting an abstract ideal of clothing is completely irrelevant. Once, the Calcutta Club refused entry to the eminent artist Ananda Shanker as he was not dressed according to the code. But at least they had a code. Yet, they were not spared from criticism for their rigidity.
Furthermore, whether this gentleman was eating street food before crossing the threshold of the eatery or not, is none of their business either. The management presumed that the other patrons might have a problem with the lady’s ‘unseemly’ guest being there. But how could have they been sure? Perhaps the patrons inside at that very moment were also sensible, like the people raising their voices against this outrageous conduct. Unless this person had created some unnecessary ruckus inside the dining space, probably the other diners would have just minded their own business. After all, they were also out to have a good time; not to police the absurd standard imposed by the restaurant on their guests one fine evening. And if they did, who needs customers like them, except for a conceited upscale dine-in without a shred of ethics?
During my frequent air travels, I meet a lot of people. I have noticed similar thread of behaviour in flights for some time now, especially the ones whose tickets come at a reduced price. Owing to cheap fares, certain financially weaker passengers also choose to avail them in cases of emergency or otherwise. Inevitably, they end up receiving offensive stares from certain passengers who behave as if they have no right to be there. What I do not understand is, if they are so disturbed by the affordability of another who is not up to their ‘high and mighty standards’, why avail a cheap flight themselves? No one is stopping them from paying for a full fare business class ticket after all.
Many others like myself have been brought up in open minded families. In our social realities, the maid or the household help invariably come from a lower economic echelon. Yet unlike many, we have never seen our parents maintaining a different set of utensils for them to eat from. What is the point of it when that very person is in charge of cleanliness of the entire household? I myself have been often guilty of guzzling down the delectable fish prepared and boxed with care by an elderly lady, the wife of our long term family chauffeur, now retired.
As often witnessed, old helping hands become a part of the family. They look after us when parents have to step out. We are instructed to help their children with school work. A school mate of mine unfailingly celebrates the birthday of the lady who has been working in their family for almost two decades. One might mistake it for condescension or an opportunity to ‘feel-good-patting-oneself-on-the back’. But two decades is quite a long time. It might be a tad difficult to carry on the charade of self-celebration devoid of attachment for so many years; especially when it remains a strictly private affair without a hundred pictures splashing the social media platform.
For people like us who possess at least a minuscule amount of sensitivity, it is enraging to witness such misconduct go scot-free. Especially when the alleged establishment is refusing to even admit that they have erred. Instead, they continue to be exceptionally rude to the reviewers who are speaking out against them on various sites. One only has to see the Facebook pages linked to the restaurant. Eateries such as these who need to attend a course on ‘Ethics and Humanity 101’ should be picked apart on principle. Not that personal interests are the ‘be all and end all’ of an argument; it could have been any of our friends or acquaintances of limited means who could have been harassed that evening, or any other for that matter, if the business concerned does not mend it’s ways. The establishment forgets that it does not have a monopoly. There are numerous other fine dine options in the city. If patrons find them offensive, they might be obliterated. And by being rude to the protesters, they keep digging their grave deeper and deeper. As we all know, no one finds an entrée of disdain appetising!