A Tale of Two Dosa Joints

Year 2020:

In the quite little town of Hindupura, there were two famous restaurants that were frequented by most of the residents in order to satiate their palate.

The first restaurant, known as ‘Dosa Darshini’, was well known for serving the best masala dosas in the region.

The second restaurant, known as ‘Cafe-de-dosa’, served a few variety of dosas including cheese dosas, paneer dosas and stuffed dosas.

Both the joints had their share of loyal customers and were doing good business. There were rumours that those who went to Cafe-de-dosa used to get addicted to cheese dosas, and were giving up masala dosas, but nothing had been established.

The town of Hindupura, one day, got a new mayor called Raja Mohan, who had come to power promising he will eliminate hunger from the town. As soon as he came to power, he introduced a new, and rather bizarre,  ‘Right To Eat’ policy, which was aimed at ensuring that every resident of the town got an opportunity to eat Dosas in the town’s restaurants.

As soon as the policy was announced, the officials of the food control department got working and visited the two restaurants in town and served them a deadline to implement all the regulations of the policy.

In reaction, both the restaurant owners went to the mayor and explained their difficulties in adhering to the policy. Cafe-de-dosa owners explained that they have been in the food industry since 200 years and have been serving customers in various parts of the country, not just the town, for a long time. They said the main purpose of their business is actually charity. Dosa Darshini owners too tried convincing the mayor that they were honest businessmen who wanted to serve customers with good food and experience.

After lengthy hearings, the mayor agreed only with the submissions of Cafe-de-dosa and exempted them from the policy. In other words, the Right To Eat policy became applicable only for Dosa Darshini.

As per the first rule of the new policy, Dosa Darshini had to compulsorily keep 30% of its tables reserved for the Government. The government made a list of all people in neighborhood of Dosa Darshini who were desirous of eating Dosas and sent them there.

The restaurant had to declare to the local administration, the exact amount of batter prepared every day. Out of this, 30% of the batter had to be kept aside to prepare dosas for the customers sent by the Government. The tables reserved for such customers could not be used to serve any other customers.

After a few days, Dosa Darshini realized that the 30% reserved tables would hardly get filled during the entire day. This was because many reserved customers went to Cafe-de-dosa for having cheese dosas. Further, many customers would be traveling, some others would be sick,  and a few simply did not want to have dosas on a given day. The reasons were many – but the net effect was that the reserved tables would mostly remain unoccupied. At the end of the day, the restaurant invariably ended up disposing off the batter that remained unused.

The mayor had promised, under the policy, that he would pay Rs 2 for every dosa consumed by the reserved customers. The restaurant owners’ plea that the total cost of the dosa came up to Rs 10 went unheard. To complicate the matter further, the mayor hardly ever reimbursed the promised amount.

After a month or two, the food control department officials visited Dosa Darshini and ordered them to comply with another requirement of the policy. Dosa Darshini had 4 waiters to attend to their customers. Each waiter would take care of 4 tables. The new policy mandated that the restaurant needed to have a waiter for every 2 tables.

The restaurant management complied and hired 4 additional waiters. The cost of running the restaurant went up significantly due to this, but they had no options.

In the following month, the mayor announced a new addition to the policy. All cooks working in restaurants had to possess a master’s degree in Culinary Sciences. Again, the officials visited Dosa Darshini and threatened to close it down unless the new requirements were adhered to.

Dosa Darshini had to let go of their 2 cooks and hire 2 new ones, who charged 4 times more than the previous cooks. Meanwhile, the old cooks walked into Cafe-de-dosa and found jobs waiting for them, given their vast experience, and the fact that no masters qualification was required to work there.

The additions to the policy did not end there. In a few weeks, the policy mandated all restaurants to have tables which were at least 6 feet wide and had at least 6 chairs per table. The policy also mandated that the restaurant must be in a premise that is at least 4000 sq.ft in size.

Dosa Darshini was found wanting under both requirements. Their tables were just 5 ft wide and were running out of a building 2500 sq.ft in size. Due to the threat of closure, the owners moved the restaurant to the outskirts of the town where they could afford a bigger sized building. They also invested heavily in purchasing new tables and chairs.

The shift in the premise caused even more problems for the already battered Dosa joint. The customers for whom 30% seats were always kept reserved found the new location very difficult to reach. They simply stopped going there and went to Cafe-de-dosa instead. However, due to the nature of the rule, Dosa Darshini still could not serve other customers out of the reserved tables.

The waiters and cooks found the new location too far, and demanded additional salary and bonus. They threatened to leave and join Cafe-de-dosa otherwise. The management hiked their pays just to ensure they stayed back.

In the face of severe losses due to these policies, Dosa Darshini decided that the only way to survive was to hike the price of their famous masala dosas. They announced a hike of 25% in the prices. This instantly caused resentment amongst even the non-reserved category customers.

Many of them went to the mayor and complained about the increase. Few others stopped visiting the joint and went to Cafe-de-dosa instead.

Elections were approaching and the mayor was very keen on getting re-elected. He announced a second new restaurant food price control policy. Under this new policy, which was again applicable only to Dosa Darshini, no dosa could be priced more than Rs 10.

The management of Dosa Darshini, by this time, were totally reeling under the effects of the older policy. This new policy dealt a death blow to them. They made one final appeal to the mayor to roll-back the price-control policy.

The mayor did not relent.

Dosa Darshini, after running successfully in Hindupura for over 75 years, closed down.

Year 2025:

Cafe-de-dosa had opened 4 more branches in Hindupura and was doing roaring business. Even the children of the owners of Dosa Darshini went to Cafe-de-dosa for their snacks.

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2 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Dosa Joints

  1. A beautiful illustration of the ill effects of the highly sectarian,biased and prejudiced RTE Act. A grim reality ahead. Kudos to this blogger for atleast putting in efforts in highlighting the perils of this flawed communal law while the “nationalist” govt in Delhi is least bothered about it. Not sure if this govt is really NDA-2 or UPA-3 !

    Like

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