MAM

Food for thought

By VINAY KANCHAN

Business Lunches - a pleasurable diversion for some, but for those considerably lower in the food chain (no pun intended), an experience equivalent to having Ms Sherawat agree to go out on a date and then limit all physical contact to handshakes.


"Lets break for lunch" announced Vikas, clearly exhausted after having worked continuously for the last five minutes. "We could hop across the street to the new Chinese joint, I‘ve heard that the food there is unbelievable"

Mr Bose (the client) emanated an audio byte that indicated that he was in agreement with Vikas‘s proposal.

"Who else is coming?" he asked perfunctorily.

"You, PP (the creative director), me and Ram."
Those words had a magical effect on Ram Shankar; his heart soared to dizzy heights before realizing in a ‘moment of clarity‘, its importance to the rest of the anatomy and then ‘beating‘ a hasty retreat.


Mr Bose and PP excused themselves out of the room on the pretext of adding water to the earth‘s soil for rainwater harvesting purposes.

Vikas motioned Ram to come closer, clearly in a manner that meant business.

"You have to ensure that everything that we decide on gets taken down at the table. I want you to send him minutes of this meeting as soon as we are back."
"But I thought we were going for lunch?"

"We are. You aren‘t." said Vikas with a chillingly sardonic smile, "There‘s no such thing as a free lunch, especially for account executives, you have to earn your meals by taking down minutes as we eat. I don‘t want any point to be missed."

In the normal course of things, Ram was used to Vikas‘s words being less human than a printed circuit board frozen in an iceberg in Alaska. But this was a matter of food, and food as Ram‘s paunch would readily testify was a different matter altogether.


Rather grumpily he picked up his writing pad and lumbered behind the ‘chosen few‘ to the restaurant across the street.

Vikas, as usual was lord and master of all such situations.
Very quickly it was established that at least 70 % of the people eating there knew him by name (though murmured expletives here would be more accurate), even the waiters seemed to recognize him almost instantly.

"Must be knowing him as the guy who never leaves tips," whispered PP in Ram‘s ears, unable to digest Vikas‘s sudden societal acceptance before any actual food.

Ram mildly nodded his head not wanting to indulge PP‘s Vikas tirade any further.

"Allow me to place the order," announced Vikas with sufficient aplomb.

"Hmm lets see you put your money where your mouth is for once," quipped PP.



Vikas ignored that remark with typical disdain. He paused, gathering breath for the big act to follow. He evaluated his thoughts and for once engaged brain before opening mouth. This action demanded contemplation and wisdom.
"One such and such and two of so and so plus some of this and that and top it all off with a dash of sin for desert."
None of what flowed from Vikas‘s mouth made any sense to Ram, but the ring of it all was remarkable enough to make his stomach start doing summersaults in anticipation.
"And get it all quickly please", ended Vikas


"So, Mr Bose, what are the activities we might get into for the next quarter?"

Mr Bose clearly was a man who was not at ease discussing marketing issues when there was food to be had (and Vikas knew that), he murmured "Can‘t we do this later?"
Vikas saw the saliva dribbling off his jowls and for a moment almost relented, but he was made of sterner stuff.
"No. Our meeting at office was incomplete and both PP and me are traveling from tomorrow, so lets finish what we started out to do."

"What activity?" boomed PP, "All you need is to produce the films I presented last time and put it on the air. Your sales will go through the roof."

"PP, there is more to marketing than producing films" Mr Bose had to make his point.

"Of course there is. It‘s also putting them on air."

For once Vikas found something that PP said to be funny.


"We always keep going on and on without closing these things. And they remain neglected elements on a job status report. I think we have to produce these films and air them, it‘s for the benefit of the brand."

At that moment, some exotic soups arrived at the table. The divine aroma captivated everyone‘s attention so much that conversation stopped for a minute.

As usual Vikas‘s battle trained instincts recovered first, he waived the waiter off and started handing around the bowls. As he was about to give Mr Bose his ‘bowl of life‘, he agonizingly paused. Much like the way the female black widow, after the onerous and boring task of mating is over, and before stinging her hapless husband to death.

"Are you approving the films?" asked Vikas, brandishing the soup bowl like a gun.

"Yes. Yes" Mr. Bose affirmed, as the soup bowl eased into his hands.


Vikas shot a glance at Ram, who was about to have his first delicious sip and motioned that this point had to be recorded.

Ram promptly dropped the spoon for the pen, and with an increasing loathing for Vikas began to minute the meeting.
"For once I think you have done a great job," complimented PP, in between morsels of this and that, "This soup is just awesome when it‘s hot."

Ram silently let loose a few more curses in Vikas‘s direction.
But Vikas was oblivious of the negative feelings drifting in his direction; he was there to have Mr Bose for lunch and he would stop at nothing less.



"What about that study that we were supposed to get into, can we discuss the design of the research and the parameters to be evaluated thereof?" Vikas asked Mr Bose.
PP let out an inward (though audible) groan but returned his gaze to the next delicacy that was delivered on his plate. The food made even spending time with Vikas worthwhile and that was saying a lot for it.

"That‘s way too complicated to discuss over lunch Vikas, let‘s meet later."

"I told you I am traveling."

"Then…?"

Vikas then triumphantly played his trump card.
"Could you do it yourself and then mail it to me?"
At that moment some more of so and so appeared within Mr Bose‘s line of sight and his defenses melted.

"Ok"

Vikas shot another glance at Ram, who was trying to tell the waiter that he had not even started his soup, even as it was cleared off the table with the ruthlessness of an accountant dismissing an expense voucher.
So and so and this and that were looking in Ram‘s direction. But Ram was working his pen on pad overtime.


Mr Bose suddenly felt this was all going one way.

"Can I brief you on a new assignment?"

"Sure Ram is taking down notes."

"First. I need to tell you the product story and then we can all brainstorm next week on positioning concepts, prior to that meeting I want everyone in the agency to be familiar with the ingredients and the processes involved in manufacturing."

PP did not even bother about lifting his eyes from the plate.

"This is about a new itching cream."


As the next half an hour rolled by, Ram took down some of the most complex chemical formulae and molecular structures known to civilized man. When he looked up from his pad the table was clear and Mr Bose and PP were trudging along the road slowly, weighed down by the dash of sin for desert.

Vikas shoved the bill in Ram‘s face.

"Claim it later chief, and I want to see the minutes sent in the next ten minutes. We have nailed him on quite a few issues."

"Can‘t I have lunch?"

"Again? You really overeat chief, explains your paunch. Don‘t be silly we don‘t have the time, lets get back to office."


As Vikas strode out of the restaurant, Ram felt a teacup (Chinese tea in this case) nestle in his hands and a familiar hushed oriental tone whisper some words of sanity in his ears.

"Old Chinese proverb, if you are an account executive, eat a heavy breakfast the day you are going to have a business lunch," Ram briefly looked up to see Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen tea boy) disappear into the mouth of a dragon on the menu card


After stints at Lowe, Mudra and Everest the author is now with Triton as Associate Vice President Brand Services. In addition to that he is also patron saint of Juhu Beach United - a movement that celebrates obesity and the unfit ‘out of breath‘ media professional of today. To join up contact vinaykanchan@hotmail.com


(The views expressed here are those of the author and indiantelevision.com need not necessarily subscribe to the same)

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