How to tip desi-style – a guide to the “baksheesh”

Pappu Patligali was seated with his friends at at a table in the A.C. section of New Aroma Restaurant located just off of National Highway 6. He was visiting India during semester break and he had a few days to enjoy with friends and family before heading back to the US to finish up his Master’s thesis. Before heading to India, he had packed his suitcase with gift items for friends and family that included cosmetics, watches, and toiletries. He had even picked up a couple of liter-bottles of single-malt for sharing. But even though he packed as much as he could without having to pay for extra baggage, he found that by the fifth day of his stay he always ran out of “itemized” gifts. He had learned the hard way that it was advisable to carry massive family-size bags of Snickers bars and Jolly Ranchers candy for these types of emergencies. Sadly, this time even the hyperglycemia inducers got depleted after a week.

It was then that Pappu decided to take his friends to dinner at New Aroma. He had heard good things about the Mughlai dishes prepared by the restaurant. Another nice thing about the restaurant was that it had two sections, an A.C. for upper-class patrons such as Pappu and his friends, and a dhaba-style section with charpoys for drivers, helpers of drivers, and assistants to driver’s helpers. The same food was served in both sections, but the AC restaurant had steeper prices because it was air-conditioned, it had a menu, waiters served patrons in crisp white shirts, and bottled mineral water was provided (at extra charge of course).

Pappu and his friends received an excellent table, great service, and a delicious meal for dinner. They enjoyed the food thoroughly, and once they were done eating and chatting, Pappu picked up the bill for 720 rupees. He pulled out eight hundred-rupee notes from his wallet, while stuffing a bit of the moist saunf and hard sugar crystals in his mouth.

The tipping point:

David, the waiter brought back the balance of 80 rupees. Pappu thought to himself, “well, this isn’t exactly 15% gratuity, but I’ll leave 80 rupees which should be enough to cover it.”

He was getting up from his chair to leave, when he was stopped by Karthik.

“Dude, what are you doing?” asked Karthik. He was glaring at Pappu.

“I’m leaving a tip,” said Pappu in a matter-of-fact tone while spitting out a twig from the saunf.

“Yes, but why so much? Give the bugger five or ten rupees for his effort” said Karthik while the others around the table nodded.

“Yeah, but I enjoyed the service, I thought I’d give the waiter around 10% for his effort. I mean they can’t get paid an awful, lot can then?”

Everyone at the table started laughing at Pappu’s naive comment. “Dude, this isn’t Amreeka. Leave your 10%, 20%  for when you are back in the States. Here we give loose change unless we are at a Five-star hotel with our girlfriends. Then we pay a good tip to impress the ladies.”

As soon as Karthik got done, Abhi started to explain the desi baksheesh philosophy to Pappu. ” Service-wervice is fine, but what does it matter if you give the guy 80 rupees? You will be back in Amreeka, na? What difference will it make if you don’t come again? When I wanted to get security clearance for my parents’ passports I paid baksheesh to the local intelligence bureau up front. You should always tip in expectation not in appreciation. ”

“Look Pappu, if I want a nice table at a busy fancy, restaurant I slip a few notes when I arrive. Pay them later for efficient service? Yeah, right,” said Kathik as he rolled his eyes.

Chal, Pappu, pick up the change, ” said Somesh. “Beta, Amreekan ban gaya. it looks like you’ve forgotten everything about your own country, yaar.”

More of the Charmed Life of Pappu Patligali here.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban