Would you like Vatthal with that, sir?

For the tamil challenged, Vatthal means “Fries”.

I had lunch at Saravana Bhavan today. As a Chennaiite, I have long admired their no-nonsense efficiency, quick service and incredibly tasty food. They make no pretences of being an “Ambience” restaurant and the waiters will generally reach your table a few nanoseconds after you sit down and deliver your order before you can even think about small talk. But I detected a small change today. A faint whiff of American style marketing training. It happened thus:

My wife. “Masala dosa”.

Waiter upsells. “Special Masala? Paper Masala?”

My wife reiterates. “Plain Masala”.

No luck there. Plan B. Waiter cross sells. “Any vada? Any khichdi?”

Temptation beckons. “Ok. Khichdi”

Satisfied smile. He makes his next move. Rook to e5. “Any juice?”. Check.

Ah. Once the descent into the canyon has begun, there’s no looking back. “Tomato”.

Bishop to e4. I catch him muttering. “1 large tomato juice”. My spock like ears pick that up and I clarify. “Small tomato juice”.

Now that the pattern has been set, I also end up ordering a Ghee paper roast, Curd vada and carrot juice. We’ve been cross-sold, up-sold, side-sold and front-sold.

Two people. Rs. 166. At Saravana Bhavan. Checkmate.

You evil American marketing demons. Leave my Saravana Bhavan alone.

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