If you haven’t read the post that’s currently trending on #Mocambo, here’s what it’s about in a nutshell.
Girl feels guilty about her driver missing lunch. Decides to treat him to dinner at Mocambo, a pretty famous (but obnoxiously overrated place in Kolkata). Mocambo tells her that it’ll take 15 minutes to seat her. Then says it’ll take 45 minutes. Then finally says that they can seat her, but not her driver. Woman is (rightly) furious, writes this note on facebook shaming Mocambo, and thousands of people who’ve been loyal patrons of the place all collectively decide to boycott it.
Heartwarming story. Only, there’s another side to this.
I started a website called The Vomit a year or so back. The site you’re on now, incidentally. It was a place for well written opinionated content. I was very clear about the tone of voice I wanted for the site, and as far as contributions went, anything that didn’t match up to the tone of voice of Vomit, was ruthlessly rejected.
Even though, they were by themselves, very well written pieces.
Here’s the thing. Vomit was my baby. I decided what went up there, and what didn’t. Gradually, contributions dwindled because (I’m sure) writers felt disheartened when their pieces weren’t published. And they just stopped coming to the site.
Tough luck for me.
Mocambo, like a thousand other restaurants all over the world has a sign on its door that says ‘Rights of admission reserved’. Basically, it means ‘Fuck you, we decide who we choose to serve’.
I went to this girl’s house once. It was like a date kind of thing. She seemed friendly, and our conversations bordered on wit. Green signal. Anyway, so I ring her doorbell, and she opens the door. I walk in, and before I’ve taken three steps inside, she asks me to please remove my shoes at the door and wear slippers.
I detest removing shoes. Mostly because I have ugly feet. And I want to launch into a lengthy debate about why I should keep my shoes in, but I figure it’s her house, her rules. So I remove them. Sit for ten minutes, and leave.
I haven’t set foot (bare or shoe-d) in her house again.
I’m a member at Tollygunge Club in Kolkata. It’s a lovely British club. But here’s the thing – if you want to have a drink at the bar, you have to be in a collared shirt. And it’s not just Tolly. Calcutta Club has the same rule, so does Saturday Club, I think. As does RCGC.
Why do they have this bizarre rule? Does wearing a round neck T shirt make me a ragamuffin? Nope.
It’s about branding. It’s about visual identity. When you walk into a bar at a club, you expect people to look a certain way, talk in a certain hushed way, behave in a certain way. That’s why you’re going there, and not Oly Pub, for example.
Why does one pay a thousand bucks for a meal at Mocambo, when they can get the same kind of grub for a hundred bucks somewhere else?
Because you’re not paying for the food. You’re paying for the experience. You’re paying to be around a certain kind of people, in a similar socio-economic strata as yours. The food is just incidental.
The driver not being allowed inside is fucked up. It’s completely fucked up, and inhuman. But here’s the thing – Mocambo (or any other restaurant) doesn’t revolve its business plan around being human. Salman Khan’s clothing venture does, and even that isn’t human. Mocambo is in hospitality. And their business is being hospitable to a certain kind of clientele.
Okay come on. Raise your hand up. How many of you would be comfortable if say you walked into Indigo, or TGIF, and saw next to your table, a table occupied by four truck drivers? What, when you finished your meal and left the restaurant, would be your impression of the restaurant?
Would the money you just forked out, seem worth it? Or would you feel a little shortchanged? A little let down? Because you expected something a little more ‘premium’ for the money you were charged?
A friend of mine does these art events. At a recent event I was told, they would screen people on Sundays. Why? Because that’s when most people came. And having the riff-raff from Delhi would mean diluting the kind of brand they were.
Yes, it’s inhuman. Yes, it’s unfair.
But we subscribe to it.
Every time we go for lunch with the family, and have the maids who take care of our babies sit outside, we subscribe to it.
Every time we give our drivers a glass of water outside our door, and not inside, we subscribe to it. Every time we have our house help follow behind us at a mall, and not walk with us, we subscribe to it.
So please. I understand you want to share the young woman’s anger. I understand your outrage, and I understand you want to boycott Mocambo for ever and all that.
But please understand we’re all a part of this system of visual identity. Although, congratulations to her for trying to break it.