I was on a customer visit with my manager to Katrakoola. The Government officials of Katrakoola received us at the airport. After a grand reception with garlands and flower bouquets, we were in a long motorcade with two motorbikes and a security car in front, followed by a few cars. It was a dream come true to receive such a reception. The caravan stopped at Hyatt hotel after the forty-minute drive. We were lucky to get beautiful rooms facing mighty Bramhaputra, a moving ocean making roaring sounds. With all the windows closed, the sound of the mighty river was audible. The official representative gave a detailed briefing on the day-wise plan, including visits to a few historical sites and a welcome dinner on the first day. My manager was overwhelmed by the government’s hospitality and the preparation for our stay.
The first day went well with the hosts providing us with details of their short term and long term vision. Towards the end of the day, the ask was for a Resource Centre for Water Technologies as they had plenty of clean water next only to Brazil.
We met the officials in the evening for a welcome dinner at a famous restaurant. My manager liked the specially curated menu by the Chef for us. It was a sit-down in a literal sense on the floor with traditional serving, course after course. The food was fresh and spicy with unique local varieties of bread. An imported Bordeaux Red with black and currant flavour and a classic aroma was on the menu. My manager enjoyed the service. Being a vegetarian, I had to contend with rice, lentils and spicy potato curry.
Following two days went like a breeze. The schedule went like clockwork, and we could accomplish the goals set out for ourselves in the visit. The customer also was delighted with the outcome. During the last meeting of the day, one official sitting next to me lowered his frame and whispered in my ear that it is customary to reciprocate the welcome dinner. I checked the number of persons as we had to take special approvals for hosting a dinner to Government officials from legal counsel sitting in New York. My host confirmed it would be three persons. During the short break, I had a word with my manager about whether he was okay with the proposal. He shot out an email to the legal counsel, and we were lucky to get the approval in about two hours. As we were new to the city, I asked for a recommendation from the customer, who gladly suggested a decent restaurant for the evening.
We arrived at the restaurant at 7 pm, wearing jackets as the weather was cold. My manager had a quick review of the place. Having satisfied with the ambience, we settled at the table reserved for us. Two low rung officials whom we met in the morning came in first. After exchanging pleasantries, they ordered some wine. They told us the Secretary would arrive very soon. After a few minutes, the Secretary entered the restaurant with his wife and brother. Secretary introduced Madam and his brother to us. They ordered a different wine and started the conversation. After another ten minutes, the Chief Secretary and his wife joined the group. The group started swelling, and in about thirty minutes, we were twenty. The guests took care of themselves, ordering the drinks and the starters, which seemed to be a regular affair at the restaurant — Make hay when Sun shines. The restaurant staff seamlessly served the required choice of drinks and food like cogs of a well-oiled machine.
It was evident from the demeanour of my manager that he was not happy with the number of arrivals — way beyond the approved number. I was staring at the official who gave me the number of guests as three, and he returned with a smile on his lips. He was merrily enjoying the drinks talking to his friends in the local language. My manager’s face was becoming red with sweat beads on his face and neck. He was shifting himself in the chair, twiddling his ring on his finger. As per our media training, the golden rule is to smile well when in trouble.
Following the honourable minister, his wife and sister make a grand entrance to add icing to the cake.
My senses were dizzy, and horror was boundless looking at the stream of the guests. I was worried about how the finance team would clear the bill back home.
The procession ended at 8:30 pm.