It is a convention that a State hosts a banquet whenever a foreign dignitary visits a country. The President of India who was the Chief Guest on the occasion of the 45th year of independence was also the Chief Guest for the banquet hosted by the state of Mauritius. We had been told that the Prime Minister himself was very much involved in the preparations for the State visit. Presumably he was informed about all the dietary requirements of the Chief Guest who is a vegetarian although he comes from Bengal, a fish country. The caterer who was handsomely paid for the catering must have been in the dietary loop.
After all the speech formalities the time came for the main course to be served. As is usual on such occasions there is a high table – not by virtue of its physical height but by the height of the individuals seated there – the guests of that table are served first. The caterer who must have been advised about the diet preference of the President of India miserably failed in its task and, in the process, Mauritius had to hang its 45-year-old head in shame. A moment of pride succumbed to the unprofessionalism of a caterer.
The reason was simply that, instead of being served a top quality preferred main course, it was a main course comprising of lamb that was placed in front of the Mauritius Chief Guest. The lamb – which I am told was far from tender and juicy and could not be eaten by most of the invitees who regretted having chosen the lamb course – certainly looked its darkish part and our Chief Guest who was horrified could have lost all appetite for any food. So was the Prime Minister who did not expect such a blunder on the part of a caterer who ought to have grasped
the signifi cance of the occasion and the absolute necessity of ensuring that everything was according to the wishes of the Chief Guest. Considering all the havoc caused recently in the food industry by the presence of horse meat in what is marketed as beef and the difficulty of distinguishing one from the other without the assistance of DNA testing, one would have expected a caterer to differentiate between a vegetarian meal and a lamb dish.
But that was not the end of the catering blunder. The Chief Guest had made it known that he wanted a dessert known all over the world as “ras mallai”. This delicacy is made from milk curd and all sorts of other goodies which make it a top desirable dessert. The Chief Guest was looking forward to enjoying his ras mallai, especially after the lamb shock. The Prime Minister was taking even more interest that no more mishap should happen to the Chief Guest. Then came dessert time and the Chief Guest was already relishing at the prospect of his ras mallai. But no ras mallai came and, to add insult to injury, the caterer served our Chief Guest pedestrian ice cream.
But India being India, the Chief Guest did not show what was going on inside. Mauritius deserves better.