Monday, August 15, 2011

It was not my cup of tea, perhaps....Part II

So we were two cooks short, post Diwali.

Parvathy moved into the kitchen herself. She suggested that we advertise a week of “Iyers Home Food.”She prepared rare South Indian delicacies which are not generally offered in restaurants. We would advertise the “Delicacy of the day” and the same used to be sold out in hours. We converted a challenge to an opportunity.

But it wasn’t easy for her. She had to prepare breakfast and pack lunch for our sons and send them to school; then rush to the restaurant. Working in the heat of a restaurant kitchen is one of the most unenviable, most trying jobs.

A week later, both the cooks retuned. They had spent the bonus money and wanted to resume duty!

“The electricity meter is tampered. This is a crime. Last one year the restaurant is paying only nominal bills. You need to pay a penalty of Rs. ……! Otherwise I may have to disconnect.” said the Electricity Board employee. I said I took over the business only the previous month; I was not aware of the issue; if there was any violation, the previous owner had to pay!

“But that is between you and other previous owner. Electricity Board is not concerned.”
Why did he not point out the tampering anytime during the last one year? No answer from him.

Pannayar did not even receive my calls! My attempts to meet him in his restaurant were futile.

“No Objection Certificate for this place expired 6 months back,” said the constable from Adyar Police Station. This was in January, 2004- three months after I took over the business. I showed him the NOC Pannayar had given me. “Date in this document is forged. This has already expired. You cannot run the restaurant.”

What to do now?

“You’ve to meet the AC; but I doubt whether he will renew the NOC…. See, you don’t have enough parking place.”

If there was no parking place, how was the NOC given in the first place? No answer from him.

I met the Assistant Commissioner who said in English what his constable had earlier told me in Tamil.

Next was the turn of the Food Inspector from Chennai Corporation.

The wholesale merchant who was giving me credit decided to stop it all of a sudden.

Some of the staff members alleged that Pannayar was behind all these. Their logic was: how could all these happen one after the other? I had no way of verifying this. Also how would it help if I found out he was involved?

Ambi, the “trusted friend” we had brought from my native place, the one who had sworn to be with us through the thick and thin, wanted to quit. He would not listen to our requests for staying back. He left one day without informing us.

I was running from Electricity Board to Police Station to Corporation. I was not able to sit in the restaurant. Parvathy filled in for me. She would send our sons to school early in the morning and sit in the restaurant from 9 in the morning to 5 in the evening. Most of the days, she would pack dinner for the children from the restaurant; most of the days, my sons had to manage their lunch from the school canteen; again most of the days they had to skip their breakfast.

Two months of this and we broke down- both physically and mentally.

“Krishna (my elder son) has fainted on the road. Please come immediately.” My neighbor informed me over phone.

The doctor diagnosed anemia; hemoglobin was at a precarious level. He had to be given blood immediately. We admitted him in the hospital. A few more tests revealed ulcers.
Krishna was treated in the hospital for 10 days.

Our daily routine became unmanageable- send Eshwar to school; rush to Police Station, Electricity Board or Corporation; attend to Krishna; supervise the restaurant.

The obvious question disturbing our minds was….

We decided to sell the restaurant. We advertised in the neighborhood newspapers. The response was not bad.

We chose one Chandrasekar. He owned a restaurant in Valasarawakkam, Chennai. Also he was importing and trading various products. His offer was 40% less than what I had paid to Pannayar. We didn’t have much choice. We accepted. He paid 20% advance; we agreed that he would pay the balance soon and then take possession of the restaurant. Meanwhile we would run the restaurant.

15 days were over since he paid the advance. We did not hear anything from Chandrasekar.

After 30 days, I talked to him over phone. He promised to pay in a week.
Another 15 days. No word from him. He did not receive my calls. When I went to his office, I was told that he had travelled.

Meanwhile I was finding it difficult to run the restaurant. Workers had guessed that I was trying to sell. They started leaving one by one. I had to pay rent to the landlord. There was hardly any crowd in the restaurant. I was incurring losses.

I sent a legal notice to Chandrasekar; if he did not pay in the next 15 days I would be forced to sell the restaurant to someone else. Bang came a threatening call from his aide daring me to try and sell to anyone else! Another 15 days of negotiations between my lawyer and Chandrasekar’s team; we returned his advance and got out of the agreement.
We were too tired, too exhausted, too diffident to try and find another buyer. We closed down the restaurant; handed over the premises to the land lord.

We returned the money my co-brother had invested. We were ashamed to tell him that we had failed in the project. We told him that I got a good opportunity back in Dar-es-Salaam and hence sold off the restaurant.

I did my best to compensate my brother, who had quit his regular job to help me in the restaurant. His loss was more than just financial and I could not compensate the same adequately.

At the end of this 6-7 months of misadventure-
  •           I had lost money; nearly 80% of my investment was lost.
  •           I lost my self confidence; I had successfully run a plastics company in Dar-es-Salaam and a bulk drug plant in Gujarat in the past; but I failed in running my restaurant.
  •           I lost faith in people; I lost faith in the system-Police, EB, Corporation and other departments.

But there was one unmistakable gain.


Eshwar, Parvathy and Krishna


  1. It is shameful that so many years after independence, honest, creative, hardworking entrepreneurs still cannot make it in India. Sigh. Good luck to you. I think it is a fitting article for this independence day.

  2. It is sad isn't it? Our country has come to such a state that only crooks can survive in it and control it for their own profits.

  3. Lucky to find your great blog.This made my long weekend.

    Liked the Kashmir Post very much. "550 Arundhati Roys" was too good.


  4. Thanks Agnija and Merrymusing- Your comments have been quite comforting. We have managed to come out of this.
    Thanks DLR- I am glad liked the post on J&K.

  5. I felt sad as I read your post. I hope we can make our country better in our lifetime. I really do.

  6. Hi,I felt very sad and bad abt what u've gone thru.Hope and pray everything is fine with U and will be.TC.

  7. That is really sad.. didn't expect it would end this way (I mean the restaurant business).. Wishing you good luck in whatever you do next..

  8. Oh! that was sad. I seriously hoped that everything would end on a positive note.


  9. Oh.. no I felt that it would be good.. after all the ordeals.. felt like reading a thriller movie.. but the end brought me back to reality.. coz in movies good people always win!

  10. Thanks for all your support. We have moved on. I felt some relief when I wrote the whole episode; I felt greater relief when you all expressed your support. Thanks once again.

  11. Ohh... I did not expect this to be the part 2.. I appreciate that your family stuck together despite the loss.
    There are many loopholes, but to set everything right, I think it will take a lot of time.

    Wishing you all the luck for everything in future!

  12. It is sad the way you were cheated. The things people do to other people. Hope things are better now. It is nice how you can see a silver lining in the adversity. Wishing you all the best.

  13. Hope Anna Hazare's qwest for a effective Lokpal Bill comes true. Thats ways we - the common man - wud hav a chance to make those responsible act responsibly too.

  14. Came to your blog from one of your vote to my post on indiblogger.

    I really like your posts. Though the story behind the post is sad. Very honest voice.

    Running a business is a tricky thing isn't it. Being head of a an established firm is something. But starting from scratch is completely different. I have had some similar experiences. I hope your loss was within manageable limits.

    Keep writing. Who knows. You may hit the jackpot in publishing :)

  15. Thanks for all your comments. They are a source of encouragement.

  16. //A week later, both the cooks retuned. They had spent the bonus money and wanted to resume duty!// This is exactly how daily-wage laborers behave. Can't expect anything better from them. There are people who can handle them in much better ways. Let them do their job. It's not our cup of tea. We shouldn't even look at the cup.

    Unlike many people have told, the end is not tragic. You have ended with a positive note. Yes. That's what bad experiences bring. They teach many lessons and show us the real good people around. They are the most testing times in any marriage. A failure in business or profession can ruin one's family even if it's decades old. You are lucky to have seen the best of your partner in your worst times. I am sure you would have cried many times for the pain that your family (including children) had to go through. It's this kind of experiences that makes me believe in stuff like destiny, astrology, etc. Why out of the blue such an idea should strike you and that should give sleepless nights to a family that was otherwise leading a peaceful life?! :(

    Yes. I have no faith in our people or the system. They are horrible to say the least. All cheats everywhere! :(

    Sir, by the way, the faces of Eshwar and Mrs. Hariharan look familiar to me. Maybe, they have a typical boy/lady next door look. :)

  17. It took all of us in the family sometime to get out of this. Ultimately we consoled ourselves that it was a good learning.