The Tipping Point

Staring at the remains of what was an elaborate dish about half an hour earlier, i wonder what the bill will come upto. And how much i really would have to pay.

This uncertainty abounds in great revelry. The other uncertainty about which part of the body all the extra fat will settle down in, still is uncertain. The only certainty being, that it indeed will get implanted somewhere. For sure. Hopefully, not for life !

And i sit here. And twiddle my finger. The uncertainty that surrounds ‘how much to tip’, i notice, is unsettling me. Quiet a bit. I wonder why. Here was a restaurant which charged me a bomb, and provided me with average service and good food.

Now, how much do i tip ?

’10 % of the bill’, says my friend.
‘But Why’ asks his wife.

That sparked off an argument between them. And that perhaps will culminate ( last heard it still was on) with this post & your responses (hopefully) ! Read the tourists dilemma here

Many years ago, a professor taught me that TIPS was an acronym for ‘To Insure Prompt Service’. The web wasn’t around then, and his expounding sounded logical. Here is some recent read. Back then, that was the recipe for ‘belief’ ! So this acronym was promptly hoovered up and accorded a status of an aphorism !

This logic doesn’t bake in my oven anymore. Here are my reasons.

a. Tips are generally shared. So for every bloke who extends the extra arm length and gets tipped accordingly, there is the shirker in the background who slouches. Or perhaps the good guy having a bad day, who shouldnt be paid for the service ! Or is actually doing some disservice ! So, at some plane, this even distribution rewards the wrong ones too.

That is a valley of discord.

b. When there is a common fund, the ‘share holders’ become equally important. Friends from the hotel industry tell me that it is shared by all, including the chef ! (Unverified information). If that is the case, the tip should be based on what is on the plate, and not necessarily based how it was served !

And that ’10 % of whatever bill’ will definitely be a thick stick in my thin craw, and perhaps will help me perfect culinary skills at the home kitchen !

To read that there is a legislation that is being contemplated around this, makes me roll my eyes. When will the last be said on this ?

Will i ever walk out of a restaurant with just a full stomach or will it be always with a lurking feeling of having over tipped the wrong guy or with a sidle and shuffling feet to avoid probable dirty looks from an under tipped waiter !

I can do with some education ! Please.

Will help me have a peaceful meal. So !! And besides will help an effective closure to that raging argument.

In praise of the leaf !

Being born a South Indian has many de riguers and ‘typical of’ comments associated. Right up there, amidst the top percentile is the practice of eating out of a banana leaf.

For years, i used to dread eating out of a banana leaf. The reason was simple. The leaf didnt have the boundary wall that a plate offered, and you had to be careful, not to spill food on you. That was the quintessential slip on its way to the lip, that caused a ton of anguish and another of reprimand from your folks !

The other reason for dreading the banana leaf was because it used to offer expanse ! Expanse enough to make many heaps of rice appear like a spoon full. And of course, complimented by many mounds of vegetables, served by what i recall as a set of people who seemed so passionate about getting men and women to believe that ‘pear’ was an exotic shape !!

Where best to see this but marriages. Every guest had so much rice that sometimes used to give me a complex. On two counts. Both on account of speed of the clean up operation and the quantity of the clean up ! For within minutes, the leaf used to be shimmer ! And the green would show. And there i would be, huffing and puffing to see if i could finish the first serving. Morsel after morsel !

The banana leaf has always been a tradition that you couldnt miss if you travel to the south of India ! Biodegradable! And very special ! And of course, quite an honour !! And by the way, the food takes a new taste when served on the leaf !

For all those years that i steadfastly stayed away from it, i miss the good old leaf these days.

Today, when i nibble at my chappati thinking of how many calories went in with each swallow, the carefree, boundary less banana leaf seems to bring a new definition to the word ‘temptation’ !

Inside my head, i try hard to close my eyes. And think of something else. The futility of the excercise make me realise how difficult it can be…to turn a new leaf !!

Fundamentally Speaking !

As the world shakes under the impact of Lehman Brothers & Merril Lynch, i cant but help wonder whats happening. These after all were institutions that were built on layers of credibility over many decades ! To see them sink into a quick sand is not only numbing but also unnerving. Well, this isnt a post about Lehman or Merril ! I am no economist nor am i anyway qualified to write about them !

But this pictue that i clicked sometime back, seems to rest at the forefront of my memory and refuses to go away ! Here i was at a restaurant in Bangalore. Having ordered a take away, I had nothing else to do, but twiddle my thumb and check the cobwebs. Thats when i looked at the main notice board in the restaurant !

The wide array of services befuddle me !

Ranging from giving Punjabi Lassi, to Tandoori Chicken, Aloo Gobi to a real estate business is quite a spectrum.

Add Life Insurance, Medical Insurance, Mutual Funds, Tax Return filing, share brokering, Public Provident Fund through State Bank Of India, ‘all woodwork’ (wardrobe etc)…. under one roof..well, the spectrum becomes SOME spectrum !

Dawning the curiosity coat, i approach the chap manning the counter, and ask him how many people form part of this set up, vaguely pointing to the notice board and the array of services displayed ! He looks up, shouts out ‘two Tandoori’ to his waiters, and says, ‘One’.

And adds with an emphatic ‘ME’ in a ‘dont-you-see-it-dude’ tone !

I look up with a ‘Lassi-to-Unit-Linked-Insurance-Plans-is-a-quite-a- stretch’ look on my face. His eyes look sqaurely into mine, and asks me, what do i want to do : buy shares ? sell shares ? Do you have house to rent out ? Do you need to rent a house ? File tax returns….?

The big burly gent arches his eyebrows, wanting to know what i would prefer ?

An apparition of my commerce professor, with balding head and steady voice appears in front of me ! With no fear of sounding ‘repetitive’, he used to say, ‘stick to fundamentals’ !

‘Err..’ i reply, ‘my rotis and gobi masala’ !

Jowar Bhakri & the coronation !

It was one of the tastiest vegetarian meals that i have had in a while ! Jowar Bhakri. We are given to understand that it is the staple food of Maharashtra. Or North Karnataka. Not withstanding the border disputes, the food has permeated and has a following too ! Now it has one more in me !
The place is called Kamath Minerva, at Minerva circle in Bangalore. We were lead to a different floor, exclusive to the meal called Jowar Bhakri meal ! And the place does get crowded with office goer footfalls.

The food is served on the traditional plantain leaf, and you get the most delicious Jowar Bharkri ( & a cheese cube to go along with it) with other vegetables. Especially with a brinjal curry ( i think called ennegai) !

The most engaging part is the transparent kitchen where you can see the the flour’s metamorhposis into soft rotis. I am given to understand that it is extremely healthy, ( ate without guilt). We ate in silence, all our attention focused on the food, punctuated by the sound of skillful hands tapping the flour on the oven !

Some warnings:

1. To all people who will be getting here for the first time, remember this as you are thumping the rotis. There is rice to follow ! And there are bananas and a version of paan to sign of. So !

2. You will be served with rotis and rice the moment there is space in your leaf. The folks that serve you smooth operators in slipping in the food to you ! So beware. The quantity that would have gone in will be realised only after some time !!!

The entire experience can set you back by a princely sum of Rs. 75/- only. As the rotis melted in the mouth, my mind raced back to the song from Maya Bazaar! Felt like a king ! A king for Rs. 75 /- only !