So I thought the staff of Cafe Laguna restaurant at Raheja Exotica, Ocean City, Madh Island will learn after their karta-dharta admin head honcho Mr Ajeet Shenoy sent me a bouquet and a cake (which I returned with thanks). But just in about a week or more (lol), I have realized, no lessons have been learnt. What a shame!
For the uninitiated, here's my personal experience from a week ago and another kukdookoo one from earlier. Ya, ya. I know. I know. Its seems like a story in sequels. Stories of unprofessionalism. A week ago, food delivery was refused to me by Cafe Laguna, saying that food will not be sent for home delivery, unless the minimum bill was Rs 250/-. Now Cafe Laguna (run by Mr Alfred D'Souza under the auspices of Mr Ajeet Shenoy), being a colony restaurant for the residents of Raheja Exotica: The Ocean City -- where urban living meets a resort ecosystem -- I felt this was rather small thinking.
After all, a holiday home kinda colony restaurant's main purpose should be to serve the residents, I thought. But they seemed more bothered about earning a minimum of 250 rupees from the residents. So I objected and protested after which I was sent a bouquet and cake from Mr Ajeet Shenoy and a sweet and thanking letter from the hospitality person Mr Vikas Ahluwalia. Two of the staff came to my place and apologized for the inconvenience caused. I was also told by them that the 250-rupees-rule was relaxed for me!!! But I requested the staff, not to relax the rule only for me, but for all residents to benefit. Don't much know what happened about it.
And ha ha... foolish me thought, all could be fine now. Little did I realize, I would face discrimination next. Yes, DISCRIMINATION... bole toh, bhed-bhav. Now our Indian law defines a restaurant as a 'public place' and says that citizens can't be discriminated on the basis of race, caste, religion, creed, descent or place of birth. I have to admit that everything here is my personal grievance and experience (as earlier too) and that I am not really knowledgeable about law either, but I sure know that the Indian law protects customers of restaurants from being refused service, even if the restaurants are privately owned.
But this Saturday evening (August 4, 2018), when I called my colony restaurant Cafe Laguna at Raheja Exotica -- the beautiful colony built by the esteemed Raheja Universal real estate builders, promoting great weekend homes and ocean-side luxury living in Mumbai city -- I was once again taken aback.
My friend from the B-Wing of Valencia (another building in the colony) had just praised a speciality-of-the-day biryani he'd ordered from the Cafe Laguna restaurant at his place as home delivery parcel. So I called Cafe Laguna to order the same for home delivery... and was REFUSED SERVICE. This time the staff on the line was the restaurant executive called Mr Dilip (the names change every time; service remains problematic). So I asked, if I can get a home delivery for the special biryani, and I was told it cannot be delivered at home, as its not on the menu, but as a day's speciality and sold only at the restaurant venue.
Mr Dilip told me I have to order an à la carte dish, otherwise he won't be able to send home delivery. Shocked, I protested. "But you guys sent the same thing to my friend in the colony a few minutes ago. Then why not to me? Why this discrimination?" I asked. "Sorry sir, but we can't. You have to order from à la carte or I cannot do home delivery," he curtly replied, as I sensed he was about to put down the phone.
I held a breath and said, "Wait, listen up please." I told him the name of my friend in Valencia building, to whom the restaurant had sent the same speciality biryani a few minutes ago, 'reminding' him that what he is doing was "discrimination."
I told Mr Dilip, "For some strange reason only you know about, you are refusing to send me exactly the same dish which the restaurant has sent my friend a few minutes ago." Then I went on to mention the name of my friend who had recommended the biryani to me. The moment he heard the name, Mr Dilip strangely went quiet for a few seconds and then said, "Sir, I will take your order. What is your flat number again?"
I was shocked once again. If he could have taken my order, why had he discriminated! And I am still trying to understand this! I am wondering, on what basis he discriminated! What I am less in or low in, and what my friend has, which I don't!
A few decades ago, the British ruled India. I have heard of that nasty sign board on a restaurant, which said something like "Dogs and Indians not allowed." But those days are gone, right? We are in the 21st century and we do not discriminate between class, skin colour, creed, religion, language, etc. So what is it that made the staff discriminate? Anyway, while the question still bothers me and will continue to do so, I went ahead and placed the order for the speciality biryani.
Little did I know that another sneaky surprise awaited me soon. The delivery boy who brought the biryani from Cafe Laguna seemingly lied to me. Handing me over the delivery, minus a rasgulla sweet dish which was supposed to be part of the biryani (including mirch da salan and raita), HE DID NOT HAND OVER A BILL. So I asked him for it and he said, "Sir, due to a technical glitch, I could not bring the bill. But since the food would have gotten cold, I got it first. You please eat it and I would get your bill in 10 mins."
Now, from my various experiences earlier, I am well-aware that most of the boys at Cafe Laguna handled by Mr Alfred D'Souza and Raheja Exotica affairs handled by Mr Ajeet Shenoy, are prone to goof-ups. So I readily believed the "technical glitch" story. Little did I realize, I could have been set up for a FREE MEAL, maybe in order to make me indebted with a freebie, or maybe discredit me later on (probably by stating that I am a free-fund guy) as a reply to my earlier blog post.
I finished my food and waited for the bill to come, so that I could pay up. 10 mins passed. Then 15 minutes. Then 20. Then 40. And then, it was more than an hour. Finally, I realized, the bill wasn't coming.
Now of course, I am not the type who could offer and enjoy hospitality like Mr Ajeet Shenoy and Mr Alfred D'Souza. But excuse me, I am also not a FUKATIA. I don't want anything for free. And am not at all the types to accept freebies. Because, with sad service, policies and now discrimination from this colony restaurant, accepting food for free from a place which seems greedy most of the time, would be a pain on my conscience and a blow to my self-esteem.
Saddened with all this, I headed down at night around 11pm from my flat to the colony restaurant to cordially pay the bill. The first thing I did was to request for Mr Dilip, the chap who had taken my order. I wanted to find out, why he hadn't sent me the bill with the food. I also wanted to ask him, what made him discriminate me from my friend in Valencia building. But even though I asked various waiters at the Cafe Laguna restaurant, Mr Dilip was nowhere to be found.
Then I went to the bill counter, explained the matter, and asked the guy at the counter to make me the bill for the food sent, so that I could pay. He said, "No worries, Sir. We'll send you the bill later and you can pay then." Really? Really? I could hardly believe my ears! A restaurant known to be so greedy just a week ago -- so as to not send me food, since it wasn't above 250 rupees -- couldn't have changed so drastically almost overnight, so as to not bother about earning.
I smelled a rat and refused to budge. I was wondering what to do next to pay up, when suddenly Mr Alfred D'Souza, the fantastically quiet guy who runs the restaurant, came up to the billing table. I approached him, explained that I was sent food but not given the bill, and that I had come down at the restaurant to pay. His answer shocked me even more! Mr Alfred D'Souza promptly replied. "Don't worry, we can send you the bill tomorrow." Whaaaat! I couldn't believe my ears once again! All this sounded strangely connected and coordinated, as if everyone just knew what they were doing and how they had to respond to my queries.
I persisted, "Sir, I had the food today and would like to pay for what I had today itself, and with the bill with today's date. So please do issue me a bill, so that I could pay." Mr Alfred D'Souza agreed and finally after a wait of 10 mins I got the bill, paid and left.
On scrutinizing the bill after returning home at midnight, I found that they did not charge me container charges (as they did charge my friend for the four containers of biryani, mirch da salan, raita and rasagulla) and the bill showed that I was a customer of "Table No 52" which made it seem as if I ate at the restaurant and hadn't asked for home delivery. Strange again! After this incident, I hope they do not further discriminate between residents and stop the home delivery to my friend or any other resident of the colony.
By the way, Raheja Exotica is no ordinary residential colony. Aptly titled Ocean City, it's a beautiful piece of real estate from Raheja builders, Raheja Universal. A bit noisy in the day because of loud music often playing at the resorts around, but still cool, calm and amazing at other times.
It's like a township with hundreds (or maybe thousands) of owned and rented flats and apartments. Mumbai's real estate icons Mr Suresh Raheja, Mr Ashish Raheja and Mr Rahul Raheja seem to have built this place with lots of love. Lovely buildings named Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Andalusia, Amalfi, Sicily, Capri and the towering Sorento tower from where one can dream of touching the clouds or even the airplanes descending towards the Mumbai city airports. It's another matter that I felt discriminated here in the 21st century. Sigh!