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Any Which Way


By Ratna Manucha

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die…

  • Alfred Lord Tennyson

On one of our travels by road, the husband (a retired army officer) and I spent the night in an army mess. The former, being a diehard non-vegetarian, on finding that there were just lentils and some vegetables for dinner, decided to order a chicken dish as extra messing. Dinner over, on finding that quite a lot was left over, I asked the waiter who was serving us if he could keep the leftovers for our next meal. He looked a little bewildered, so in order to save him from any more embarrassment, I asked to speak to the Head Waiter, at which the poor man scuttled off with a decidedly relieved look on his face.

In no time, the Head Waiter arrived, stood before us and saluted smartly.

Our conversation went something like this –

Me: ‘Would it be possible for you to please keep this leftover chicken in the fridge and give it to us for lunch tomorrow?’

Head Waiter: ‘No, ma’am. That won’t be possible’.

Me: ‘Why not?’

Head Waiter: ‘Non-vegetarian food is not served in the mess at lunchtime. Those are the orders.’

Me: ‘But this is leftover food.You are not cooking it especially. You just have to reheat it at lunchtime.’

Head Waiter: ‘Yes, that is true. But I can’t disobey orders.’

Me: ‘Well, then please keep it in the fridge and serve it to us for lunch tomorrow.’

Head Waiter: No, ma’am. I won’t be able to do that.’

Me: ‘Why not?’

Head Waiter: ‘I don’t have the Mess Havaldar’s permission to keep it in the fridge.’

Me (trying to keep a straight face): ‘So what do you suggest we do?’

Head Waiter (helpfully): ‘I can pack it and give it to you and you can put it in the fridge in your room.’

Me: ‘So can we bring it tomorrow afternoon and will you then heat it and serve it to us for lunch?’

Head Waiter: ‘Yes. That is possible.’

And that is just what we did!

(Ratna Manucha is an author and educationist)