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And…..back! December 19, 2007

Posted by fungus in Uncategorized.

More than a year. That’s how long it has been since I last wrote. It isn’t like the blog was very popular but the few who did log on have felt cheated. And, rightly so. My apologies. Let me quickly run you through what I’ve been up to since you last heard from me.

After I signed off I served out the period of my notice rather uneventfully. It also left me free enough to make sure two of my friends got married. To each other, no less. I came back to Delhi in January and my mother, who had been so stellar in her support, previously, was worried sick.

“Don’t tell me you plan to sit at home now.”

“My son. Unemployed.”

She was aghast. I was quite happy to sit at home in the beginning. But three weeks is all I could tolerate. And, pretty soon, I was doing the one thing I never thought I’d do again – making my resume. A week later I was mathematics faculty at an institute that prepares people for the CAT. Ironic, considering my entire preparation comprised two simulation tests. I signed up for the weekends, originally, but as the CAT approached, and my interest in teaching grew, my hours shot up like mad and the time and opportunity to fully pursue the restaurant dream became hard to come by.

I did, however, manage to get some experience and a lot of learning under my belt; thanks, mainly, to some amazing people and a fortuitous series of events.

It happened like this. Near the end of January I was showing one of my ex-corporate friends around my favourite part of town – Connaught Place. And, as I rounded yet another corner I brushed past a tall chap who said, “Hi, Rajjat.” Instinctively I replied, “Hi, Gaurav.”

Truth be told, I was surprised that he remembered me. What was more surprising was that I remembered him. I suck at remembering names, you see, and to do so for someone I hadn’t seen in eight years wasn’t something I trusted myself to do.

I asked him what he was doing.

“Not much. Dad bought me some share in a restaurant so that’s where I spend my time.”

Funny how my Dad never seems to do stuff like buying me part, or all, of a restaurant, all things considered.

I made some remark to that effect; we exchanged numbers and set off on our respective ways, not expecting to hear from each other ever again.

He called back the next day.

“Rajjat, would you want to come down to the restaurant some time and have a look around? Make some suggestions, maybe?”

I said I’d like that and went the next day.

It was a pretty affair with good food but a huge location disadvantage. Gaurav was hoping for ideas and suggested I make the trip to the restaurant a regular affair. I told him I’d love to. It would be a huge learning opportunity for me. But, I warned him, I’d like to keep a large chunk of my time free since I was planning to intern at a restaurant or two.

“Which ones?”

I told him.

“Oh, they’re Dolly Aunty’s places.”

Err, who’s Dolly Aunty?

“My partner in this restaurant.”

Hmmm. You wouldn’t consider getting me an appointment, would you?

“Of course.” Beep beep beep beep. “Hullo, Dolly Aunty? Gaurav. I have a friend who’d like to meet you. Tomorrow?” I nod. “Tomorrow sounds great.”

As we drove over the next day Gaurav asked how I was going to put a spin on my internship so that Aunty saw some value in the arrangement for herself. I wasn’t sure.

Dolly Aunty turned out to be a very sweet lady, almost Buddha-esque in her demeanour. When Gaurav suggested that I consult for their restaurant she was all for it. It took her a while, naturally, to digest how I came to give up a plush corporate job to start my own restaurant. It’s a hard life, she cautioned.

And then she quizzed me.

Do you cook?

What cuisine?

How do you make Crème Brule?

It was only when she was satisfied about my intentions that I brought up the main agenda.

Aunty, all things aside, do you think I could intern at your restaurant?

“Which one?”

I named one.

“Why don’t you intern at all of them one-by-one?”

Much gushing.

When do I start?

“Come tomorrow.”

This was turning out better than I hoped for. I went the next day.

There’s three of them: Aunty, Aunty’s husband, Charan and Manav, celebrity chef extraordinaire. It took a while for Aunty to justify my presence there but once I’d made some recommendations for marketing and service I was very welcome. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen – mainly watching but, when the camera crews came along, I cooked up quite a storm.

Work at the restaurants was fun and, as the incremental learning tapered off I decided to move on. Concentrated on my teaching, added some presentations and Q&A to my repertoire and made the most of days off.

All this while the restaurant was at the back of my mind. The fact that I had no one to unload my concerns and worries on worried me more than the worries themselves. I found a lot of solace discussing my concerns with Nikesh, a batch-mate from campus and a friend from Bombay. Nikesh operates his family business in a related field and he is everything I am not – reserved, grounded, pragmatic and sincere. Everything I was looking for a in a partner, basically and we had mutually agreed on the partnership way before either of us spoke about it.

Nikesh has been stellar. He has had me whipped for a long time now, thinking and re-thinking concepts, pricing staff requirements and the like. We drew up a mental business plan. Just in time, too, because the very next week we got called to conduct a workshop on Business Plans at IIT Delhi. I remember that, at the end of a four-hour workshop, Nikesh had spoken for barely 10 minutes. When I apologised for my boorishness he assured me that it had been exactly to his liking. I said it then and I’ll say it now: Dude, you and I are going to get along just fine.

The CAT came and went. While not difficult, the paper was a tad unexpected and therein lies its beauty. My students’ exams go on till mid-January after which the teaching comes to an end. Mostly. Nikesh and I are busy looking at potential locations for our restaurant and we hope to be up and running by May 2008. If my luck holds we shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

What luck, you ask? Well, I consider myself extremely lucky for having run into Gaurav, Dolly Aunty and Nikesh – all chances that were too slim to factor into any plans I may have had when I came back to Delhi. (Confession: I didn’t have any plans at all). I was very lucky to have had a very rewarding stint at Dolly Aunty’s restaurants. I was also lucky to find a very rewarding part-time vocation teaching – something I enjoy more and more as time passes. I have been very lucky to make all sorts of new friends this past year and to have renewed several old acquaintances. And, most of all, I consider myself very lucky for the unflinching support I have received from family, friends and strangers alike.

Well, that’s it for the update. Look forward to fresh posts soon.



1. Intutius - July 5, 2008

Hi…..it was nice. 🙂

2. FiveFeetEight - September 10, 2008

A clueless MBA wandering through this many-hued world trying his best to make some sense of it all.

…I am intrigued….
or..should I say…welcome to the club!

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