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.
I DISCOVERED THE ANGEL IN MY WIFE, PARVATHY.
|Eshwar, Parvathy and Krishna|