Mocambo, a 60-year-old fine dining restaurant in Park Street area of Kolkata, finds itself embroiled in controversy after a Mumbai-based lady named Dilashi Hemnani alleged that the restaurant authority didn’t offer her a seat on September 9 as she was accompanied by her driver who did not meet the restaurant’s standard of a proper customer.
The incident caught the netizens across the country in a frenzy after the woman took the matter to social media. The restaurant is drawing a spate of criticism and abuses for the last four days branding it to an institution of ‘bigotry’, ‘casteism’, and ‘elitism’.
The social media post by Dilashi Hemnani reads:
“Last night being my last day in Kolkata decided to try out this popular restaurant called Mocambo’ at Park Street .I decided to go with my driver – Manish bhaiyya here whose great service and care throughout my stay in Kolkata for a week was excellent.
(Also yesterday afternoon he missed his lunch because I forgot to tell him to go for lunch – uncertain about the time it would take me to finish the meeting – he missed his lunch)
Guilty of my mistake. I decided to go out for dinner with him.
As soon as I reached Mocambo at around 8:40 PM. I asked the staff to give me a table for 2.
Staff : There is a waiting of 15 minutes.
Me : *as excited I was to try out this popular joint *happily agreed.
Staff :* by this time they observed I was with Manish bhaiya * walked up to me and said it will take 45 minutes for the table to get ready .
Me : *little confused by time communicated *earlier …now eagerly asked but you said 15 minutes
Staff : yes the table was going to get empty but they ordered for more food
Me : *peeping through the glass windows *but I can see some empty tables inside .
Staff : they are four seaters.. today is Friday we cannot give that table .
After waiting for 10-15 minutes . When I see people who came after me getting the table .
Me : why are you not giving me the table ?
Staff : Ma’am we can’t give you a table
Me : But why ?
Staff : who are you with
Me : subtly pointing towards Manish bhaiya .
Staff : aahhh….Ma’am he is not properly dressed .
Me : *he was cleanly dressed in a cream trouser and a shirt tucked out .. And floaters *
I asked what is your dress code?
Staff : we don’t have a dress code .
Me : then ??
Staff :No No he is not properly dressed it’s a fine dine restaurant
Me : *agitated by now *what’s wrong with his dressing tell me and is there a written dress code he is not following ?
By this time Manish bhaiya understood parts of the conversation in English and by the daunting looks of the staff – walks up to me and says – ‘Didi hum Nahi Khaenge aap Khana Kha lijiyega na ‘
Me : *hurt with his innocence and inhuman inconsiderate behaviour of the staff at Mocambo*
Me : call your manager give me a valid reason why he cannot come in .
Staff : goes and calls another person
Me : sir why can’t he come in ?
Staff : because he is drunk
Me : *furious and baffled with the audacity of the staff *How do you know he is drunk ?
Staff : because my other colleague told me he is so
Me : on what basis due you make such assumptions . Did he drink in front of you or did you even go near him * they were standing 2-3 meters apart *He is driving me around since 8 o’clock in the morning leave apart being drunk he is not even had food
Staff : but I know he is drunk
Me : prove it then
Me : what’s your name
Staff : I can’t tell you my name
Me : why ?
Staff : No No I can’t it’s just I can’t let you in with him
Me : I don’t want to get into your racist restaurant walks away with Manish bhaiya with deep grief in my heart on how Inhuman and shallow the world has become
Manish bhaiya is one of the finest human beings I have met in a long time he took good care of me and did his duty with all his heart. He is a simple man make 275 Rs a day for 12 hours of driving and sends more than half of the money back home . he has a difficult life Still he laughs a lot shares a lot of stories and is more human and empathetic than any I know .
To Mocambo staff and restaurant at Park Street Kolkata Which doesn’t consider human as human and differentiates, discriminates and stratifies them into classes just because he doesn’t fit into your description of a perfect customer.
(doesn’t own a iPhone maybe doesn’t talk in English ) I’m sorry you don’t deserve a fine human like Manish bhaiya sitting and eating in your racist restaurant.
( Disclaimer : This is entirely based on my personal experience and has no relation with my organisation / profession ).
Restaurant authority speaks
The restaurant manager on Wednesday told ANI that the woman tried to tarnish the reputation of place. They don’t believe in discrimination. “She was a well to do lady of course. When she came, she asked for a table for two. The person who was there said of course we will give you table. We don’t have any discrimination… we allow everybody. After some time, the person who was giving the table asked her…please call your friend and she pointed out to a guy, who was very dirtily dressed…absolutely dirty,” said Malik. He further added, “ We allow each and every person. Many families come with their maids, some come with their drivers. They are all well-dressed. They are sitting inside and having food…we never stop anyone…till today we have not done. She has a wrong conception that she has been insulted and a person has been insulted on humanitarian grounds…that is wrong.”
The Logical Indian Take
The fact that the restaurant’s behaviour has not gone well with the mass harbours that people are seeking equality and is a good sign. Until this particular incident, the luxurious fine dining restaurant had never drawn much flak and has always remained one of the most revered joints for middle-class Bengali lying in the affluent corners of Park Street. Mocambo still remains to be a restaurant that satisfies the ego of the middle-class in Kolkata. All the fancy names on the menu card of the restaurant echoes the idea of a strong brand identity. It is not only about the food that you get there but also the experience attached to it. This is the main identity of the restaurant. Another big name in Kolkata, The Tollygunge Club, also has a decorum of its own. You have to enter the place wearing only collared shirts. You also have probably seen how people are not allowed to enter a nightclub without wearing covered shoes. If you, for a second, think of another big restaurant in another city like Delhi or Bangalore or Mumbai, you will realize how every restaurant practices such unsaid decorum and how everyone of us adhere to it. These rules which we find normal at times are classist at core and discriminates among super rich, rich, middle class and poor at every stage. We discuss religious discrimination, caste discrimination, race discrimination but what we never discuss is the class discrimination, which we practice every day but don’t consciously think about.
It is good to see that people on social media standing compassionately beside the man for whom the lady was denied entry at that restaurant and demanding equality. Voice should be raised over every act of inequality, but before we really take up arms or just be an armchair revolutionary, we have to introspect and ponder on some questions. We have to make sure that we, as part of this 21st century, are at least free from all sort of prejudices. We have to see whether we are following the idea of equality we are demanding from the restaurant in our own lives.
We have to introspect whether we are completely free from the slightest class-biased believes. Are our parents or elderlies from our families, absolutely fine with drivers, domestic helps joining us for dinner in even at our home? Is it okay if they come and sit in the same sofas where we sit? If your answer is no, then remember that you are also adhering to the same belief.
This is just a single incident. Many have showed their indignation in social media just because everyone else is doing but often they actually turn their blind eyes to similar things that happen everyday around us. Since all of us believe in the concept of equality, we must raise our voice the next time we see different elevators for servants and tenants in the same housing societies. Please raise your voice the next time you find someone is scolding his/her child because of playing with the child of a mason, next time please make a person who is your driver or domestic help or the security guard feel special sometime by doing something for him/her.
Joining everybody in social media with some really good demands is a good thing to do. We need to answer ourselves how much the external identities matter to us.