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)