Japati – Poppadom Or Just a Bag? – Part 1

imagesGibson Street in Glasgow, where all the good Indian restaurants were located, circa 1977. I had this pale blue suit, very 70’s and a pale blue shirt with some kind of stripped tie to match. I never liked jet black shoes, so my brown Hush Puppies were complimented by a dark brown belt. I looked the part, with my hair combed neatly, my teeth white as could be and my patented classic smile, on full beam, ready to go. It was a Monday evening, summer was here, and so was I. Pacing up and down Gibson St, I was on a mission. My task, should I choose to accept it, was to convert every Indian restaurant in view, and there were about 20 of them, from paper bags to plastic bags for their take away meals, or as we say in Scotland, cerry oot! In Scotland, a cerry oot was a term that applied to either alcohol or food, but was used liberally whether you lived in the good parts of the city or the bad. It was Glesgae slang, or as we would soon learn, part of the Glesgae patter. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, write to me in the comment section provided at the top of each post and I’ll be happy to explain.

It was a nice evening, nice enough for the summers we never really received in Scotland, and my sales radar was on high alert. This would be a momentous evening, although I had no idea, as I stood outside the Shalimar restaurant, how good it was actually going to turn out. I was ready, I hoped they were ready too, and even though I would be an unwelcome and unannounced pain in the arse at first, things would change rapidly, so rapidly in fact, that once I was done, my life was going to change yet again, and this time in a manner that would draft destiny for the next 35 years at least.

Easter break, 1973, and a chance to relax and play with my friends Howard and David. My home in Lonsdale Ave was large in comparison to the homes that some of my friends lived in, however, it was still fairly small and compact, with my bedroom backing onto our living room where the TV was set up, creating endless battles with my parents over volume control after 9 PM, when I was ready for bed and they were just getting started. I was always the early riser in our family, and my mum and dad, late night owls. I was driven to distraction by their inability to watch TV at a normal volume, making many journeys from my bed, to the living room, a distance of about three feet, on many frustrating nights, just to have a conversation that often went like this.

“Can you please turn that down?” as I peeked through the door of the room they sat in.

“OK, go back to bed.”

Ten minutes later, the same exact conversation, and then again, after a further 10 minutes, with tremendous frustration setting in from both sides, the only volume that was being attended to was the volume of the argument about to ensue between both parties. In the end, extreme tiredness set in or from their standpoint a little compassion, and the TV would vanish beneath a torrent of colorful dreams, lending themselves to a decent night’s sleep. This battle was never-ending. Indeed, I remember even when I was 16, or 17, having to go in a physically pick up the remote control,(yes, they’d just been invented) and take it with me so they had to get out of their chairs if they wanted to change anything. This, I knew, they would never do, and so on these nights, the nights I could claim outright victory, I slept like a baby!

I was in my room, as I mentioned, with my Scaleextric car set all laid out, carefully built and running perfectly well. I was in the lead, the lead in this, a 3 car chase, with David catching me up rapidly. It was about 9 AM when the door opened and in walked my father, almost falling over the race track. My room was very small, about 10 ft x 14 ft, so there wasn’t really much space, if you include the bed, and wardrobe too.

“Time to go to work” he announced.

“What?” I said, hardly believing what I was hearing.

“Let’s go, we’ll be late”

“But I’m playing” I protested.

“Not any more” he shouted, as he grabbed my left arm and yanked me up into his face.

Howard and David continued playing, probably embarrassed at what they were witnessing, and as I exited my room, poste haste, they shouted,”Don’t worry, we will put it all away when we are done.” Well that was comforting! I was no sooner protesting my dad’s intrusion, when I was ushered into the front passenger seat of his car, and told to belt up and the shut up.

“What are you doing and why am I going to work?” I asked

“You’re 14, and it’s time to earn some money”

“What am I going to do?”

“You’ll see” came the reply. And I remember this as if it was yesterday, I turned round to him as he was driving down Merrylee Rd, and I uttered these immortal words, “well, you’d better pay me each day or I won’t come with you!” Like I had a choice in the matter!

That day began my formal education, the education I carried with me through thick and thin, though I wouldn’t know it until many years later. My life was now his, not my own, but when it became my own, it was mine to keep and to boast about, something I never realized as a scrawny, obnoxious, 14 year old. His ideals became my ideas. His persistance became my existence, and his perseverance became my gratitude. We never had a ‘love you’ kind of relationship, we still don’t, but we had mutual respect, which is something not many other father/ son’s can boast. We rarely fought about anything, and when we did, he made his point, I made mine and we moved on, without malice and never holding a grudge. To this day, he’s never told me he’s proud of me, (other that one time after I stood up in the Synagogue to sing my Bar-mitzvah piece), and to this day, I have never asked for anything other than the acknowledgment that perhaps, just perhaps, he is often wrong and I am ALWAYS right!

We arrived at his office building on Rutherglen Rd, and my working days began. I worked every holiday and every Saturday for the next 4 years. I am going to go into this in greater depth in a different blog, but for now, that first day, and what happened are very important to this story. I actually enjoyed myself. I was set the task of sweeping all the floors in his warehouse and also making teas for most of his employees. There were about 25 in total. They were all very nice, and understanding and most were helpful and also interested in me, as a person, and not as the boss’s son.

After my initiation into working life, real working life, the Easter break passed and I returned to school. Then summer came, and I began working again. This process was repetitious right through to this very evening, the evening I stood outside the Shalimar restaurant in Gibson St Glasgow. I had accumulated about 2 and a half years of experience, doing various menial tasks inside my fathers company, and also making my mark whilst being thrust, unwillingly, into sales, and all this experience was about to bear fruit as I opened that door and walked into the next part of my incredible life.

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