Candlelight Dinner

It was their big day.

In the forenoon, Gurinder and Pammi had finalised the deal for the two-bedroom flat overlooking the Yamuna in the Supernova Towers right next to the Okhla Bird Sanctuary Metro Station. Their ears had made a ‘chitchat’ sound when they had come out of the lift on the breezy 67th floor. Oops! It was like taking a small hop flight in an aircraft. The balcony provided an awesome view of Delhi. The meandering Yamuna with its green banks; metro, resembling a toy train; the Delhi-Noida-Delhi Expressway, the miniature cars; the Lotus Temple and what have you––an enlarged Google map.  Only two flats per floor meant sufficient privacy. Their offices in Sector-127 would literally be at a handshake distance––no more pulling hairs in the unruly traffic. They had reasons to be euphoric about the deal. It was a-dream-come-true.

It called for a celebration.

So very relaxed, they spent the evening whiling away their time in the DLF Mall of India. At 8 pm, they were at L’affaire. From the open-air restaurant on the seventh floor of the newly commissioned hotel in Sector 18, they would be able to see their soon-to-be Sweet Home.

With a gloved hand placed neatly and deliberately on his red cummerbund, the magnificently accoutred burly durbaan, bent at his waist to welcome the two. He opened the door gracefully to usher them in with a smile that looked absolutely out of place on his rugged face with thick black eyebrows and sideburns, and a handlebar moustache.

A smartly dressed floor manager smiled at them from behind the counter near the entrance; he was busy talking on his mobile phone. Despite his smile, he was visibly hassled. Only five tables were occupied by customers; there wasn’t much rush. Subdued light and Kenny G’s Songbird playing softly in the background were providing the perfect ambience for a candlelight dinner they had fantasised through the afternoon.

They had barely settled in their chairs in the far end of the restaurant when a young man in whites, in his early twenties, came running to their table. Although dishevelled, he wore a smile, and a genuine one in that. He had a small crystal-glass flower vase in one hand and an ornate candle stand in the other. His greeting––“Good evening Ma’am, good evening Sir”––turned out to be an exercise in apology as he almost stumbled and placed nay, slammed his wares on the table. Mumbling an apology, he made a couple of clumsy attempts to light the candle. And before one could say, Jack Robinson, he was gone.

Gurinder and Pammi looked at each other. “Did we bargain for this sort of service when we chose to dine her?” They seemed to say. And before they could exchange any words, the man returned. With two glasses filled with water on a tray. He was still in some kind of hurry––he managed to spill some water on the table.

Another genuine “S-O-R-R-Y.” But Pammi was furious. Her lips quivered as if to spew some harsh advisory. But he had vanished again before she could vent her anger. Gurinder took charge and signalled her to calm down. “Let’s not spoil our evening. We’ll not tip this guy and will never return to this joint,” he said.

Their minds were on a different trip when the waiter returned with the menu. They ordered food half-heartedly. They observed that there were only two waiters serving all the guests in the restaurant. They were like butterflies fluttering from table to table, taking orders and serving. This made Gurinder and Pammi feel deprived of their rightful services.

It happened so gradually….

The flickering flame of the candle consumed the dreams the two had woven through the day. Like the black smoke of the candle burning silently between them, their aspirations got lost in the thin air. The silhouette of Supernova Towers, which was looking so charming when they had arrived on the terrace, lost appeal. The switch over from their discussion on their dream house to the subject of deteriorating quality of food and services in restaurants happened quite naturally. Kenny G too, lost its charm.

At the end of the dinner when the waiter suggested a layout of desserts, Gurinder declined rudely and gestured for the bill to be produced. In a huff he pulled out his wallet and even took out his credit card and waited impatiently to make the payment.

The waiter didn’t return; instead came the Floor Manager.

With hands joined in a namaste and a disarming smile he approached the table. “Sir, today four of our staff have been injured in a road accident. They have been taken to the hospital; nothing serious but they will take some time to be fit and join duty. Since we could not provide you with proper service, as we would have wanted to, the food is on us. You needn’t pay the bill.” Then with a pause he added, “In fact Sir, the wife of the waiter who was serving you is also indisposed; he was on leave. But he surrendered his leave to help us tide over the crisis. He is a very sincere guy; full of initiative. I hope he looked after you well? Thank you for visiting us. We hope to see you again! Good night Ma’am, good night Sir!”

(Author’s Note: This story is inspired by the Forum conducted by Landmark Education where they teach: “Actions are actions (they are meaningless); ‘we’ attach meaning to them.”)

21 thoughts on “Candlelight Dinner

  1. Too good sir. Was moved with the ending. It’s so normal to disregard the other person’s condition and pre-judge on our own. Lesson for life time. Thank you for sharing sir. Regards

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  2. Sir,
    Thanks for penning down a short beautiful story with such a great message. The ending left me spellbound.
    The apt simple narration about prejudging actions will deeply impact my feelings.
    Pl continue picking more pabbles for us. 😊

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  3. A wonderful story written so beautifully
    Is the story an extract from your upcoming autobiography?
    Thanks

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  4. Textbook case of ‘paradigm shift’ 🙂 it is a very well written story. Thank you for penning it down mamaji.

    On the central point, i think yes have to attach meaning to what we see, that is to reconcile things in our mind. The more important the thing is for us, more due diligence we are willing to engage into. That’s a pure ‘efficiency’ business and probably the reason why different people act in very different ways when reacting to the same situation.

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  5. A certain rhythm.A certain cadence like the cricket in vast thickets and open spaces by night.You look up for that big dark skies above.You are being walked through.Shhhhhh!A trap or welcome snare?
    Ashok still surprises you mellow and sweet honey-like seeking for more of the trip.
    Very humanistic.like always reverent making one no longer embarrassed of our own pettiness but to seek for that which we are not thinking or caring for.

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  6. Too good for words .
    The end is conclusive and confirms the message .
    The narration is dramatic and simply superb 👍👍

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  7. A beautiful rendition resembling your own benevolence, kindness and desire to excel Sir. All the best wishes for success in your new role

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  8. A take on Ashok’s little gems

    Thank you Ashok for such lovely stories. They inspire too, as you will see from this incident, that happened the day after Diwali.

    Our daughter and her friend had come down from Delhi to be with us. We had taken them out for lunch to a nice terrace place in Udaipur. As we were quite late, the main cooks had left. We were told the food may not be up to the mark, as some others were doing the work. The service was slack. We were beginning to get a little upset. Just then I remembered the story and shared with everyone. The tension faded immediately, and we cheerfully waited. We told the staff to take their time. Soon after, we were served a great meal.

    The little story saved our day and humour. It made us behave a little kindly too.

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