I am shocked.

Mocambo, the legendary Calcutta eatery to which I have never been to, which might even be the single most Instagrammed place in the city, a favorite haunt of people who refer to themselves as “foodies”,  has been accused of not letting a working man, a driver of a car, enter the restaurant as a patron, because the powers-be considered him not appropriate for the establishment, based on his station in life. This has led to the usual social media cycle of outrage, of people downvoting a Facebook page which was not the restaurant’s, and of news media passing statements of  doubtful provenance as ” the official” franchise response, and of shares and comments and Whatsapp messages and other forms of digital mayhem.

As I said before, I am shocked.

Not at the alleged behavior of Mocambo, but by the fact that so many Calcuttans have gotten over feudalism. Based on assertions made in social media spaces, Calcuttans, without fail, sit with their hired help on same couch, eat at same dinner table using same utensils with the maid at the same time, and sleep on same bed with driver, only one of the above which I made up. It seems from the universal outrage, that Mocambo is the only place left in Calcutta when a driver would be denied a place at the table, and that the reason Mocambo did it was because they were behind-the-times, not because they felt their other patrons would be offended.

I am shocked. Because, based on what I see on Facebook and as we know people always say the truth there, Calcutta has definitely evolved from what I knew it to be,  its once deep schisms between bhodrolok and chotolok gone to be replaced by a hunger for Likes and absolute egalitarianism.

Save that one restaurant that serves pepper crab devilled.

I indeed am shocked.



6 thoughts on “Shocked

  1. 🙂 Nicely put.

  2. Basically. Nothing about this is surprising. Not Mocambo’s staff’s handling of the incident. Not the vehement outrage about boycotting the restaurant – as if their homes are a bastion of egalitarianism and these self-righteous boycotters sit and eat with their maid at the same table, at the same time. I’ve been eye-rolling at my FB newsfeed all day.

    Sheesh, more chicken chipolata for me, I guess.

    1. Most Americans don’t have hired help or drivers, but I doubt those who have share meals at the same table or sleep in the same bed. In corporates, CEO’s don’t eat their meals with junior staff unless they are travelling with them.

      Hierarchies exist everywhere in the world, but no where in the world people are driven away from a restaurant because they belong to a lower class.

      1. Yes, you’re right – generally social/class hierarchies exist worldwide but I don’t think there is a direct comparison between India and the U.S. like that. My in-laws in Michigan have a maid, she eats at the same table, sits on the same couch. My maid at my parent’s place back home in Calcutta don’t. They have their own utensils and plates, their separate bathroom, they don’t sit on the bed or the couch. Now, this doesn’t mean that my parents are mean or horrible to our domestic help but I also know that my father would not be served dinner with the plumber eating at the same table, like I did with one of my American college professor’s at his house. Most live-in nannies have their own nice rooms and beds here.

        Part of it is the notion of dignity of labor – that these people are not “lesser” for doing these jobs – that they’re jobs, they don’t determine the worth of a human being. I’m of course, speaking in broad generalities, (and largely from my own experiences) but I can tell you that my dad cried the first day he heard I was working as a dishwasher as a freshman in college in the dining hall – he had a hard time getting used to that fact – and he was much happier when I started working at the library (and to be fair, so was I ’cause the dining hall sucked).

        Now sure, is a bus driver in America likely to marry a upper-class socialite who plays tennis at the country club? Probably not — because the odds of them crossing paths are so low, to begin with. So yes, there are class barriers present – just not the same ones or the more obvious ones (like the ability to speak and write English in India).

    2. I hadn’t heard of this incident, but then again, I am not from Kolkata.

      I don’t believe many people would be comfortable sharing a table with their servants anywhere in the world in their houses or places of work. Imposing such discrimination in these places make sense, as hierarchies in this context exists, and familiarity is often not something than an employer would appreciate. That said, these hierarchies ideally lose their importance in public places or outside of places of employment. One would expect both an employer and employee stand in a queue for public transport, with no special treatment given to the former due to their social standing (unless the employee chooses to be deferential). This is true for public spaces like restaurants as well, unless violating the dress code or something similar, all patrons need to be allowed to dine at a restaurant of their choice. Indeed, the restaurant’s stance actually seems to violate the right to equality. The outrage is not hypocritical, as while one may impose hierarchies at work, they remain just that and are imposed for the smooth functioning of an organisation or household. It loses all relevance outside that sphere.

      I am therefore am amongst the “self righteous” who does not dine with my employees/servants at work but I wouldn’t mind them patronising the same restaurant that I do. I am appalled by Mocambo’s behaviour and would go as far as saying that they deserve to be prosecuted.

  3. Dark sarcasm great bong. What makes bongs “great” after reading this article! Why can’t a driver or maid go to Taj, if they can afford it?! how can a business EVER deny that driver–a paying customer? If you are a business like restaurant, you cannot discriminate. For that you have to open a “club”. Mumbai has many such clubs in which you cannot even get membership even with money. It is the “new” vs “old” riche. The latter snigger at the former, just as british royalty would look down upon wife of the english prince.

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