Indian notes: Afternoon tea, Bombay style
by R. Saheb
I could not have imagined that the doors to Taj Hotel, a 4-diamond property in downtown Mumbai would be opened by a diminutive smartly dressed woman. But so it was, in this new wave of modern India. Still the third world though!
We went up to the Sea Lounge to enjoy the Afternoon tea. Beautiful setting, overlooking the colonial Gateway of India and the Arabian Sea with rows of white painted yachts. We were asked to wait 15 minutes, till the buffet lunch was over. Well, the 15 minutes stretched on and on in the Indian tradition, to an hour. A gross disregard of the time conscious global culture in which India is playing, and plans to play an ever-bigger role.
Finally seated, we looked at the menus. I could have very well been in New York!!! The exquisite Indian estate teas, which almost never retail in India due to their high demand overseas, were featured here. Darjeeling from Namring, Castleton, Margaret's Hope and Assam from Meleng and Mim estate. I was thrilled that this would turn out to be a pleasant experience after all. Spoken like a true optimist!
Sadly, it was not to be. There was a hoard of restaurant staff milling around, in their various uniforms, displaying the 'Upstairs-Downstairs' hierarchy, no doubt. But none to take our orders yet. Customer Service doesn't mean much to an Indian yet. In a Mumbai pharmacy or dry cleaning store, you could literally stand for quarter or an hour, before anybody deigns to attend to you. The tea buffet wasn't ready, it would be another 15 minutes, we were told. Yes, I knew what that meant.
Finally, we were able to heap our plates with a vast array of snacky foods and pastries from around the world: Dim sum, Bhel puri, Empanadas, Bruschetta, Ham sandwich, Kebabs, Napoleans, Swiss rolls, Barfis, Mince pies, Cookies, Gelatos. The chefs certainly had it to together.
The Indian experience, though charming, is not for one feeble of heart. Neither in culinary exploration nor in outsourcing!
R. Saheb lives in the New York City area.
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