We don’t see even a single star walking in and out to dazzle us, neither do we see many more guests through the evening. But we make believe as if all those photos of the celebrities from the past and the present that cover all four walls of the restaurant and are looking down at us from the wall behind the high backed rounded leather-upholstered-in-the-period-burgundy-red, are there with us in flesh and blood and we’re indeed rubbing shoulders with them. I am sandwiched between Marilyn Monroe and Katherine Hepburn happily babbling away. Similarly, Levi, Steve and Ron are surrounded by Cary Grant, Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall and Spencer Tracy. Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin. Elizabeth Taylor, Dean Martin, Rock Hudson, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly too are peering over us from not too far. Making us feel we’re the real stars and we are happy to share the table and the space with them.

To be fair, the food is quite good. It’s been a while since I have been treated to such a nice meal in a good restaurant with wine and all. Something no longer within my budget. But tonight, I am with the people with expense accounts and am relaxed in the knowledge that one of them is certain to pick up the tab. Wrong! The bill with the tip comes to an even $80.-. The three slap on the table $20.- bills each. I would be lucky if I had half that much in cash in my pocket. I had left home with a twenty dollar bill and some change, ten of which I spent on filling up my Buick. It’s turning into an expensive evening for someone on the dole, struggling to make ends meet with his unemployment benefits and whatever extra he manages to make by doing freelance stuff. The wheels in my head are wheezing frantically. But I don’t let any of what I am thinking show on my face. Without missing a beat, I slide out my Amex from the wallet I am holding and throw it on the table like tossing a dice while swiftly swiping the three twenty dollar bills off as from the gaming table. I come out of the restaurant feeling flush, my pocket stuffed with hot cash!

‘Not a bad way to raise some quick interest free cash,’ comments Steve – the man from Sygma.

© Haresh Shah

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

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Next Friday, April 12, 2014

THE WORDS OF WISDOM

No business school or a bestseller can teach you how to succeed in business as much as what you learn on the job and from the people you work with. And if you happen to be as lucky as I was to have had the kind of bosses I did, they could become your ultimate gurus and pass on the secret mantra to guide you for the rest of your life.

 

 

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