The day I was offered the premises to set up the kitchen, it was a bit off track having visualised the professional kitchen where in you stick to books not to deviate from the norms for the drains, square feet space for every staff lighting, equipment placement, all were over the window!!!! As and when the equipments started arriving and simultaneously the groceries and perishables began to get dropped in!!!! The brigades of Chefs were there to off load the materials.
The chief Coordinator the Reverend Father of St. Bede’s school was giving me the final orders with the respect to timings when he needed the food to be dispensed!!!!I turned around to the chef to be ready for the dough to prepare the parata!! He looked at me with a puzzled note???! When I said again he hurried to a corner and was preparing a dough mixture with a kilogramme of flour… I was losing my cool, I just yelled at him to open the sack of flour to mix the dough with the 100Kgs as we had to prepare the parata for 6000 people... The number he heard he was not sure, again approached me and asked to repeat the quantity, while I repeated it he camaflouged his reaction, smiled at me and walked back. I was tethered between the committee, the organisers, Fathers of the church, as it was a national convention; each state had a representation each with a delegation of around 250 contingents. Then the number of state was 22 and 9 Union territories. I was asked to cater to 6000 people in total.
I was getting too exhausted and commissioning all to the event- Manpower, Materials, it was indeed a herculean task...
I was looking around the make shift kitchen- The primary Class section was given to us to set up the kitchen, The class room was made as store room where we dragged all the furniture to a corner made room to store the commodities, the classroom had just one filament bulb!!! There was no time to complain about facilities...
After off loading the materials it was almost an hour, I turned around to see the status of the dough for parata, it was a bit odd though as the number of staff (40 in numbers who had been specially taken in from Chettinaad) none were in near vicinity!!!! I was bursting with anger as the time was eroding off... Then I saw my nephew Shanmugasundaram hurrying up towards me and very coolly stated that the chef team none of them are there in the premises... I had a wave of chillness running down my spine... Bala and Bhaskar were around and I looked around for Raja!! When I saw Raja I just blasted the situation to him and demanded that all of them be assembled to one point where I could at least brief them of schedule and get the work rolling on!!! For about half an hour... I had no news, by then Singaru who was at Tondiarpet project reported to me, he was already bleached of expression seeing me in 3electrifying mood, he blew the cap off by stating that the team which he had brought in, are not willing to work and they have already left to the railway station – Egmore!!!
Meanwhile, Bharath, another person who had been with me during my toughest days, he was a couple of years senior to me in the college... I was tuting FRENCH language for Bharat,Vanathy, Eswar Reddy, Ravichandran.. And to my credit they did academically pass the paper on their first attempt. (We had a very unique academic system, NON SEMESTER PATTERN WITH 18 subjects each year... It used to be a laborious session while one see’s the examination timetable!!! It would run to pages!)
Then my chef Alphonse walked in, I gathered my steam, asked Raja to settle those chef instantly as it make my pressure on finance more and I turned to my local contacts and friends I was over whelmed to the instant response I got though none had the technical expertise in preparing food but certainly they were physically present!!!
As we were labouring at the kitchen, I heard sudden ruffles outside, the scene was quite frightening, Aravind, son of Dr. R.B. Sriyan, our neighbour at the railway colony was thrilled seeing the crowd and most of them were girls and you can imagine the impulsive reaction for this guy who generally a sober person.. Was trying to half circle the motorbike!!! The floor with sand he missed his balance for his age and height he was overweight just 89 Kgs. The body weight and the bike fell on him he lost balance and he fractured his leg... with swollen knee he was squirming with pain as he was feeling ashamed that he fell in front of the girls. My immediate imagination reached out at Mr.Narayanan Rao his grandfather and his mother; they would certainly crucify me for having put Aravind to this position! I had no strength to take any more beating to my confidence. Bala and Kishor put him an ambulance and took him to the Devaki hospital at Mylapore for treatment and meanwhile the news had reached his house which was at Dr Radhakrishnan Salai... I no time to repent or regret... The food for the 6000 people was more threatening me to get served by 7.00 P.M.
I was just half way through the requirement and the time was 5.00P.M. The reverend Father of the St Bede’s church was approaching me with a tint of concern he was coming towards me!!!
I was busy rolling out the parata from the hot plate!!!! I was in for a different treatment from the Father first and the subsequent has sharpened my logical thinking and situation assessment
The Father quite sternly but with a note of concern enquired, “Sekar how much food have you prepared ?” I said,” Father I have all the rice curry everything ready , all I need is to get these 1500 more parata ready!?” He gazed at the hot plate and quizzically said, in one go you prepare 30 Parata, it takes 10 minutes, now it is 6.00P.M. in another 60 minutes you can do how much more do you think!!!!” I assured father that that not just from here I am organising to get parata from my base kitchen- (I did not have one!) With a defeated look he walked away from me, I again called all my battalion of friends briefed them to amass as much parata from the local restaurants! They were confused but the best part was none had the guts to question me WHY?
To orchestrate a situation that is in crisis, one has to think and should have all hands to act but not to question. I was blessed with such heads around me and ironically considering PICK PACK CATERERS, I was the one who made it and incidentally broke it at the end!
Everyone who had the bike , from Mount Road start to end, Mylapore, Santhome, Adayar, we could gather only 1200 units of parata. I had it ready for service and while the Food Committee organiser came down he was Mr. Narayanamoorthy – Manager of INDIAN BANK, Mylapore Branch, had little soft corner for me seeing the whole episode from one corner, while I mentioned about the shortfall of 20 people food without parata, he looked around and advised his committee members to have the food without the parata, but later at 11.00P.M. I was summoned for an emergency close door meeting with the organisers and the Convention Committee!!! I was not prepared for any such situation
While I entered the hall all I could see was an empty chair in the middle of the room and around 75 people who were all had taken the seat which was placed in a circle. It resembled a sort of the horror movie scene where I was going to be the victim. I did not give up. First I changed the position of my chair by letting it be placed along the circle. The father demanded why I am doing it so. I replied, I need to see ALL. Also whoever has a concern and has summoned this meeting, I need to address them seeing them face to face. There was pin drop silence for a moment. The convention had some issues in offering the event to be hosted at Chennai and also to an Entrepreneur who has no relation to the Religion and the convention. This came to light while one of the volunteer had been probing with my staff and taking data about the company and me where Mr. Xavier was no way related. Also only then I was given a clear picture that the rate that I quoted initially was accepted and Mr. Xavier had already signed the contract portraying himself as Proprietor of PICK PACK CATERERS. I was spell bound inside the room. He had even taken the part payment from the committee!
While Mr Xavier had a second rate revised 10%lesser than my earlier quote had taken and agreed to pay me in 4 instalment 50% on the day starting the service, 25% on the second day 15% on the 4th day and balance 10% on completion . The worst part was Mr. Xavier had taken the 60% payment already from the Organising committee 10 days ahead of the event! The payment to me was to be released but referring the issues he was not willing to pay me and also he did not come to the convention when he came to know about the Committee members probe about the proprietary status of PICK PACK CATERERS. Later he had to present himself, as he entered the place, he squeezed his chest complaining of pain and collapsed on the ground, fortunately he was not hurt, he was taken in an ambulance to the nearest hospital for emergency treatment, but he had shattered all my RESPECT & REGARDS.
The easy solution for me was to raise my hands up, walk out. I was contemplating the consequence, my ethics and logic pushed me to the limit, I encountered those 70 heads of the convention, convinced them that I am capable of successfully completing the catering for the convention. I do not know why did so? I knew that with revised rate that I would just break even!! I would be left with nothing, even to cover my petrol cost, yet my professional ego and confidence in my supporting people (Without Mr. Xavier), my statement being anxiously awaited by those 70 heads at that moment the timing was crucial, I had all- Raja, Muthuganesh, Bala, Baskhar, Zubair all were on the seat edge despite not knowing the actual scene, I had masked my emotions knowing that this project which I had relied to be my saviour is going to be a sucker, came out with deceiving smile, while they all saw my glowing smile all jumped on to the gear to get the service ready for next day breakfast at 6.00A.M. it was 3 A.M.!!!!