Food cravings among expectant mothers are known to be a common phenomenon. But my nephew, Prakash Kumar, a male species, gets these sudden cravings at weird hours and there is no stopping him. This foodie can go anywhere to savour a particular delicacy.
For example, he can drive for 200km to eat a particular chicken curry or can wake up at 5am to buy Nahari, (a mutton delicacy prepared all night and sold in Old Lucknow at dawn) to eat as breakfast. He is well-known in our family for driving long distances to eat a dish because of his craving for it. He once flew down to Bengaluru to savour his favourite dessert prepared by his grandmother. In his words, he can go to any length (or distance) to satisfy his taste buds.
The other day, he dropped in, unannounced. It was lunch time and my wife was busy cooking when he started having a strong craving for Dhaba-food. For the uninitiated, this type of food is usually available on the sides of busy highways where buses and truck drivers stop by for a meal. The specialty of this type of food is that it is prepared in a traditional, open-kitchen rustic way and served in an informal seating arrangement. Diners sit on cots, not on chairs.
Prakash pleaded with us to join him explore a newly-opened restaurant which served Dhaba-style food but was about an hour’s distance from our place. Initially reluctant due to the extreme weather conditions outside, knowing his love for food (I call it madness), we eventually agreed to go.
The venue was a visual treat. The beautiful interiors were of a village in modern settings. The chic ambience lived up to our expectations with local music playing in the background. The place did not have too many guests so we made ourselves comfortable.
My wife and I spoke about how the experience took us back to our growing up years which were spent in similar settings.
We ordered for food. And then began the endless wait for it. After about 45 minutes, which looked like a century, our main course arrived but the rice and chapattis (flat bread) were missing. Since we were quite hungry, we started ‘tasting’ the curries and before we knew it, we had finished them. However, the chapattis had still not arrived. Just as we ordered another round of the main course, the rice and dessert arrived. Amused, we requested them to get the second round of curries but it took them another 40 minutes.
Frustrated because of the poor service and no respite in sight, we decided to pay and leave. As we waited for the bill, my nephew, a social media addict, casually wrote about our experience on his blog. He specifically mentioned about the delay in serving us and how the staff lacked training and familiarity with what they served. Prakash had barely posted it when he got a call from a friend who incidentally had designed the interiors of the restaurant. He gave a patient hearing and then passed on this information to the restaurant owner, Heer Singh.
Within minutes, Singh had reached us and apologised for the teething troubles he and his staff were facing in the new venture. My wife and nephew lost their cool and told him that they would never revisit the place. They wanted their pound of flesh.
I asked them to cool down as it was a new venture of the man who was, till the other day, one in a crowd of millions of unemployed.
The fact is, no one wants criticism. But there is another side to the coin. Recently, there have been a number of stories on how renowned hotels and restaurants were ‘blackmailed’ by Influencers and bloggers ‘who demand free food and stays’ for a fair amount of positive ‘coverage’.
I tried to reason with Prakash that writing a bad review on an online platform is a powerful decision that can mar someone’s reputation. He, however, said that it was a form of catharsis. “I spent money on a bad dining experience,” he argued, “so I did what I could: warn others. But yes, I should have been a little more considerate as I do not know what went on behind the scenes.”
What made the outing bearable was the lesson we learnt: Post an experience online as constructive criticism and not sound like you are taking revenge. Even if the business owner is not sporting and helpful, it is better to give them another chance. As Jesus said, there is nothing like forgiveness.
Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.