The Outsider’s Guide to Dillistan: Eating out

Tip #4 – What to do in any local eatery (that’s not a dhaba)

As soon as you saunter* over to a table, summon** a member of staff over, sternly look them in the eye, and in a dismissive tone, grunt one single word:  Volume.

If you voice this correctly, the staff will instantly transform from being sullen, I’m-doing-you-a-favour-by-not-spitting-in-your-food-in-front-of-you minions of sloth into fawning, speed-of-light attendees.

And this is because they will now believe that you are a true Dillistani, and not some foolish out-of-towner.

And that is because you will have passed The Sound Test.

As any Dillistani knows, every cafe, tea-room, bistro, pub, lounge-bar, or restaurant will blare really bad music at sonicbooM! volume, regardless of the time of day and regardless of how many customers there are.  Because, as Serious Research has discovered, when people are exposed to really bad music played at really high decibels for more than 15 minutes***, it interferes with and eventually cancels out the brain-waves that people use to make sensible decisions.

A non-Dillistani, already petrified by tales of how people in the city shoot and stab others when requested to do something logical or sane or humane, will never dream of mentioning to the staff that their eardrums are now bleeding****.  Which immediately identifies them as outsiders who can now be conned into ordering the highest-margin, least-ordered, microwaved-from-frozen dishes on the menu.  And order thus the poor saps will, as by now their brain patterns will have slowly melted and drained away (a process that has the added side-effect of entertaining the staff, as the customers accurately impersonate the ninth Earl of Emsworth*****).


To fully – and successfully – carry out the charade, five minutes after having issued your demand, you will then summon the staff over and order them to turn the volume back up.  This is extremely crucial.  Because a true Dillistani would never stand for namby-pamby background music, and would demand jor, shor, and all of it more.

If the staff are not convincedof your credentials even after Stage 2, insist they play ‘Exotic’.  They will need no further proof.

* A true Dillistani walks everywhere like they own the place.  And the business. And the souls of everybody who works there.  Or has worked there.  Or has visited there.  Or even looked at it.
** When you own all their souls, you don’t beckon, you summon.

*** The minimum amount of time required to look through a menu, discuss your options, attract the attention of the staff, place an order, change three items from the order, reinstall the original items, cancel the original order and ask for something totally different.
**** Leave aside suggesting that perhaps the reason people enter a coffee shop is to have a leisurely conversation in a relaxing environment.
***** Based on the entire conversation comprising of frequent repetitions of “Eh? What what? What?”


Tips for a stress-free life #7

Whatever you do, or say, or believe, somebody, somewhere is bound to criticise it.
Or dislike it.
Or be offended by it.

‘Tis but the law of averages.

So when somebody tells you off for something you’ve done, or said, or believe in – simply because it doesn’t match with their world-view – just smile at them and tell them to go tickle a donkey’s ear.

Because the same law of averages means that somebody, somewhere, approves of your action/speech/belief.  And likes it. And is doing the same.

This tactic is particularly handy when dealing with holier-than-thou, I-know-better, smug neighbours and colleagues.

Bloody Sunday

I like Sundays.  Of course I do, I’m a Bombay bawa.

Growing up, Sundays was about omelettes or akoori for breakfast, accompanied by lots of chai and the weekend paper supplements, and helpings and helpings and helpings (and helpings) of dhansak for lunch.  Sundays was about being morally blackmailed into going to the agiary, and ticking off lists for the study-week ahead.  Sundays was about trying to convince your grandmother into treating you to those interesting looking snacks that the door-to-door salesperson would bring.  Sundays was about lining up all the Duke’s bottles that had just been delivered and delighting in all their colours and scheming about how you could get access to them early this week.  Sundays was about an evening walk along one of the sea-front promenades, or a browsing trip to the original Crossword.  Sundays was about writing letters (and then emails) to distant relatives, and visiting nearby ones.  Sundays was about contemplating the world and the life you were making in it.

But more than anything else, Sunday was about Sunday afternoons.
And most specifically, about Sunday afternoon naps.

Because you couldn’t nap on Saturday afternoons.  Well, you could, but only technically.  Because Saturday was full of shopping and tidying up the loose ends of the working week and meeting friends and going for a movie.  There were always things to do while the shops were open and the city was alive.  But Sunday?  Sunday was for making plans, and having made them, knowing you had the luxury of ignoring them completely, secure in the knowledge that everything was set and sorted and you could just … relax.

And once lunch was done, you could just streeeetch and sigh loudly, contentedly, and then reach out for a last greedy slice of watermelon, and read another few pages, and then unworriedly, uncaringly, contentedly surrender to the warmth of the day outside and the warmth in your tummy, knowing that there was no pressure, no urgency, and no demands. And you could fall asleep comfortable that the only urgent thing that you would have to deal with on waking up was whether you wanted mint or ginger in your chai.

And it was the same everywhere.  Even in a driven city like Bombay, the pace and sounds of life just eased off gradually on Sunday afternoons.  The streets were empty of enthusiastic children.  Doorbells were spared by people soliciting donations or trying to tout spurious schemes.  Restaurants were shut, shops were closed, and everywhere felt like Goa in the off-season, or France any day of the week.

And the world was a softer, calmer, nicer place.

Which is why, nowadays, I have to try very hard not to chuck bricks and let loose with a flamethrower from my window every Sunday afternoon.

WHAT THE HECK has gone wrong with people?  Why are people surprised that I’m too groggy to talk on the phone at that time, even though this is not the first time it’s happened?  Who told my neighbours I would be eagerly awake to talk to them, even though I haven’t been the previous five times they’ve come to talk to me at such a time?  Why in the world would marketing survey types start rattling off their spiel in the face of my bleary eyes and believe I’m likely to give them my time and not a ninja-kick?  Why are these morons shredding the silence by revving and racing their bikes through the colony?  When did it become okay for religious nuts to play loud bhajans just as the world has obviously launched into slumber?  Why in heck’s name is the bloody kabadiwalla making four rounds right now, instead of the morning when people are more likely to give him business?  Why does a monkey-trainer think he’s going to get an audience then, instead of in the evening when people are up abd about?  And why why why why why WHY have people stopped caring so much that they will talk really loudly and shout to each other despite people requesting them to sod off you miserable gits?

People tell me this is progress.

That this is the result of the disintegration of joint families leading to people caring less for others.  That this is what happens when schools insist on telling everybody that they’re special and stop parents from smacking them a deserved one.  That this is the price we pay for becoming a vibrant, thriving economy that’s no longer stultifying under mofussil traditions.   That this is the sort of abrasive uncourteousness caused by a too-rapid influx of wealth for too few people, and the frustration of those not partaking of it.  That’s there’s so much more to do in the New India and how can I just waste time by sleeping.  That this is how it is and if I can’t deal with it, I should head to the hills.

To which I say, purple bollocks.

It’s time to Reclaim Your Sunday Snooze.

Go ahead, switch off your phones and your tablets and your laptops and your TVs.  Put away the book and all the other paperwork.  Turn off your doorbell and put a big ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door.  Persuade and mock and shout at people who make excess noise.  And when you wake up from your slumber, the world will seem a tad more manageable, a tad more amenable, a tad more likeable. Well, for a while, at least.

As for me, the next idiot to wake me up between 1.30pm and 4pm on a Sunday is going to get a bucket of fermented cat’s piss thrown all over them.