It’s funny how all Indian men and woman seem to nod their heads left and right while they speak. It’s a true form of expression whilst they translate their native tongue into English, that enables them to concentrate on such a habit. Well, that’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. In Scotland however, they Indian community don’t seem to carry this trait. They speak clearly and succinctly, in a strong Scottish accent, inherited from years of living in that country. Here in America, the Indian accent is so prevalent, when English in an American tone is uttered, but in Scotland, the Indian immigrants seem to have discarded their broken English dialect in favor of true Glaswegian chatter. I once met a man in Belgium, who we will talk about in the future, and he insisted his English improved ten fold after he met me. Beforehand, he learnt everything from listening to the BBC, but after he and I met, he believed that my English annunciation was absolutely pure and fairly easy to pick up and remember. He described it as guttural, which it very much is. Just like him, hundreds of thousands of immigrants came ashore in Scotland, unable to speak our language at first, and now, most of them sound just like me. “Geez a Brek Jimmy” sounds the same coming from and Indian, Chinese or native Scot. Well, almost the same!
Mr. Amin was expecting me. This particular night, he was dressed in his casual outfit. Open neck M&S shirt, sport jacket and beige pants, or trousers, if you’re reading this in the homeland. He was delighted to see me and as I walked into the Shalimar restaurant at Gibson St, he shook my hand and ushered me to a small round table at the back of the dining area. He was in no rush, so it seemed, to get to business, and he started, by telling me he liked a man who was punctual, which I always was. On the table were some little jars, filled with different sauces and a basket filled with chicken pakora. Pakora, it seemed, was an appetizer of some kind, but I had yet to find that out.
On another note, and side tracking once again. Isn’t it strange in our culture, that when we enter any restaurant they offer something to eat,(an appetizer) before we actually eat? So we eat before we eat and then we eat? Why is it that every restaurant is the same way? Why doesn’t someone serve dessert first? I digress.
Mr. Amin, and I never called him anything other than that, to this day, (his first name eludes me, even though we became good friends), picked up some pakora, dipped it in one of the sauces and ate. I followed suit, but as the sauce exploded on my taste buds, my brain was obliterated into 5 million little pieces and I dove for that glass of water laying on the table before me. I was on fire. My sinuses were in rapid retreat, my mouth felt like I had just eaten a case full of iron nails and my eyes watered like Niagara Falls. He laughed, I didn’t! “That was the mild one” he said, with that huge wide smile and inner belly laughter he was trying hard to hide. The waiters too were killing themselves laughing, and there I sat, like a pawn on a chess board, that sacrificial lamb, placed perfectly, to fulfill all of their entertainment requirements. Mr. Amin moved to the next piece and a new sauce. I didn’t. I said I would like to do nothing more than partake of pakora and these dipping sauces, all of which he said were homemade, but I had my sights on getting an order from him, not an education in Indian cuisine. He placed his hand in the air and snapped his fingers. A waiter came running, as if summoned by His Majesty the King. “Get Alan a Tandoori chicken dish”. And, pooooof! Off that waiter trotted, order in mind, straight into the kitchen, from where he would emerge some moments later, obviously having told the chef of my inabilities to eat pakora, still laughing. Bastard!
“I want to order your plastic bags” said Mr. Amin, “‘but I want a discount on the price” Before I had a chance to open my mouth, he continued. “I know every Indian restaurant owner in Scotland, and quite a few in England too, so if you discount my order, and I will order 10,000 bags, then I can assure you that every other owner I know will order from you and you can charge them full price”
This wasn’t a discussion, I was being told what I had to do. I had no choice, nor did I need one. Mr. Amin rambled on.
“You see Alan, I am the head of the these restaurant owners, and I tell them what to do. They never question me, unlike my stupid son, and they follow, like sheep, when I bark” he paused, ” are you enjoying the food?” By now, my chicken had arrived, in all its sizzling beauty, and I was tucking in, piece by piece, just loving this mouth-watering spicy delight. All the while I was computing in my own head, how much of a discount on the 10,000 plastic bags I could afford to offer. My normal price gave me a profit of 400 pounds, which for me, was a huge amount of money for one single order, and probably the largest order I had ever had, but the enticement of supplying every Indian in Scotland, far outweighed the 400 pound bounty on just one order.
“The food is great. Thank you!” I replied. “I will reduce my price to 56 pounds per 1000 bags, if that’s OK with you, and I will be happy to visit all the other restaurants you can set me up with, and sell to them at full price.” I then asked Mr. Amin, “Will you be wanting anything from my other sales?”
“No” he replied, “just make sure I never pay full price when I re order”
“And how many restaurants will I have to visit?” I enquired.
“None” he said, as he looked at my puzzled expression. “I will do it all for you”
And he did. Mr. Amin, good to his word, not only paid for my dinner that night, he instructed all the restaurants he knew to start buying plastic bags from me. There were dozens of them, ranging from 15 in Gibson St alone, to several in Edinburgh, Stirling and Aberdeen. All of them, without exception, placed their orders with him and then he with me. It was a ‘mafia’ type situation and he was the Godfather. Within months, I was king of all the Indians. You could have called me ‘Mahatma Coat”, the Indian cloakroom attendant, because they all came and they all hung their business on my reputation. ( I know, that was a cheesy joke, but I have to fit them in somewhere, right?”
And so, walking the streets of all the big cities in Scotland, selling bags, became palatable. Everyone began to know me and trust me and I ate free in any Indian restaurant I desired. I was indeed short of a poppadom or two, but I was never short of making money, money which began to flow like the after effects of any good curry should, only there was never any clean up involved other than when Mr. Amin had to ‘threaten’ one of his so-called friends, who was late with payment for bags I had already delivered. Yes, it was back to the schoolyard once again, and the bullies, were, as always, my closest friends.