London. Frigid February. “Bombay” Palace. It is an eclectic place – Indian drawings on the walls with Louis Armstrong from speakers give a bit surrealistic feeling, but it still feels like being at home. Originally, from Russia, last 5 years of my life I have been living in India.
Business trip with my Indian bosses. Race of business meetings from late morning (official ones) to well, early morning (unofficial ones). My company has that USP – we try to show to our business partners piece of India anywhere we are in Europe. Shortest way is Indian dinner. Not, I’m not carrying along with my laptop suitcase with pressure cookers, atha, masala etc., we are going to Indian restaurants.
A business is a business, a life is a life. I called up my Russian friend whom I haven’t seen for 5 years to catch up for a coffee and chat. As usually in trips all schedule goes haywire, I can’t reach coffee place by 9 pm, so invited Nadya to join me right there in Bombay Palace. We had a nice time, remembering our good old times in Saint Petersburg, discussing life in Oxford where my friend lives. From highly ordered and organized London Mumbai seems to be crazy place to live, moreover to work. Nadya is in between of jobs and feels a bit, so I decided to treat her for a dinner.
Waiter is a bubbly Northern Indian guy.
Me (to the waiter): “Bhaiya, aaj kya khana achha hein?” (Brother, what good food do you have today?)
Astonished waiter “?!?!? – Madam bohot achha hindi bol sakte hein!” (Madam speaks Hindi really well)
(I’d say, madam knows how to show off, not so sure about Hindi)
Nadya (with look of a child who just saw magic trick in the circus): “Natash, do you really speak Hindi?!”
(Put it this way – I speak fluently, true, but with no grammar to be seen. Somehow, people understand me)
Waiter (with that roaring Indian accent): “Oh, madam is from Mumbai? We have chef from Mumbai! Madam would like to see our kitchen and to meet him?”
In 10 minutes Rajan, infamous chef from Mumbai, monumental, exuding aroma of all Indian spices at the same time with smile wider than Indian ocean is our friend. As well as the whole staff of the kitchen, including kitchen helper from Africa. Nadya’s eyes were becoming bigger and bigger as our little Indian show was unfolding.
Dinner is over, our stomachs are full till day after tomorrow, red wine from Sula (can you imagine to drink Indian wine in London!) gave us that warm feeling as if we’ve just been in Mumbai. Time to wrap up.
– Can I have a bill, please?
– Yes, madam. 44 pounds 50 pens, including 10% discount specially for madam”
(5 pounds of discount – I’ve just returned cost of 1 personal class of Hindi back in Mumba, not bad). I’m generously opening my wallet… only to figure out that my credit card is in the hotel! I did not even bother to withdraw cash. I work in online payment company, so “zero cash” is our motto. Professional deformation, damn…. Awkward silence. My dignity is way below ground level where we are sitting.
By that time, we already spent in Bombay Palace 3 days in a row, 10 business meetings and 1000+ pounds.
- Madam, you work for company “Best online payment system” and your boss is Mr Vassa?
- Correct (in disbelief).
- Madam, you can just leave your business card and pay when you can.
Now you understand why I love India?
I called up next day and paid with credit card on the phone. 2 min deal. Nadya is planning her next vacation in India (after she will get new job).