It was one of those usual Friday evenings. We were at a Mughlai restaurant in Dubai, enjoying the last course of our meal. And I chivalrously parted with a decent tip. The waitress requested that I drop my business visiting card for a weekly lucky draw. “You could win a free dinner,” she said.
Anything free is always welcome. I have been chasing luck all my life. My art of filling lucky-draw coupons at malls has given birth to sweet nothings. With sarcasm I would tell my friends, “so who wants to be a millionaire?” But, philosophy helps. Lady luck smiled on Lucky Singh. I had won the voucher for free dinner.
I caressed my opulent belly; it was an absolute free dinner for two. I was on the victory path. It didn’t take me long to plant myself on the chair at the restaurant. With hungry eyes and a pauper-starved belly, I grazed on the menu card. A good measure of the gourmet would follow. My barren luck had eluded me far too long. Today was my day.With a buffet appetite, my tongue sizzled like a sizzler. Soups kept the appetite sweet and sour. Some beginnings do not have an end, so why call them starters? With kababs my splurge was understandable.
With sumptuous curries and a selection of succulent grilled meats, the table was well set. The culinary wizards had let my fingers go riot. It was like never before. The chef said, “You must also try our Shahi tukda,” and the connoisseur couldn’t help, but oblige. I must have licked my fingers down my throat, after all, it was all free. How much I paid the doctor next day is a closely guarded secret.
What followed later in the week was an avalanche of phone calls. I had let the lid off the Pandora’s Box. The free dinner had let the telemarketing services hounding me. My business card had left the shores of lucky draw and had landed in a marketing data bank. I had suddenly grown in stature. The lady on the phone coaxed me to go in for a platinum credit card. It is difficult to say ‘No’ to a lady.The supplementary card for my wife came free. While my wife now beams with confidence, I am slave to this non-degradable plastic. A mere swipe from her card sweeps away my monthly budget. Summer sales will bring in summer surprises, too.
The ladies on the phones had not stopped calling me, only the names had changed. I was beginning to admire my women fan club. She was now talking about, time sharing holidays. She rattled a non-stop five minutes monologue. All I could gather was that we were invited for a holiday presentation at a three star hotel. This was to be followed by a free dinner.
It did not take us long and we were amongst the august gathering of holiday chasers. We trotted the world on my table globe. I am now a proud owner of a holiday club membership. They gifted me Swiss Alps during extreme winter. The bliss of time sharing holidays could leave you numb and cold.
My phone was at it again. My friends are now raving about my corporate dining privilege card. They have reasons to feel so, they eat free. It could be embarrassing to go corporate dining. You are never sure, what is to be paid and what comes free. Your bill will decide if those were happy or sad hours.
I would be labeled gender biased if I did not entertain the well dressed man at my office reception. He had a no-nonsense business outlook. His laptop cardiogram presentation was no less than an intensive care unit (ICU). Like a seasoned doctor, he felt my purse and not my pulse. Those jumping graphs of life line mesmerised me. ‘Life after 55 would need some spare parts,’ he said. My major organs were well covered in the premium package. Death looked good with a neat $150,000 insurance policy. A free leather pouch wrapped it fine.
My phone is ringing again; it is the girl from the bank next door. I am not sure if she is a good neighbour to have. She is offering interest free loans. No salary letter, no guarantor, and free loan processing in 24 hours. Housing loans, car loan, furnishing loan, you name it, she says, “Buy now, pay later. Beat the recession”. This bank has a Chinese neighbour. They offer free Hakka noodles topped with chilly chicken. Love thy neighbour seems to be the spice of life.
The new mantra is, do not drop a visiting card for free. I can smell the garnished cuisine at the restaurant.
Once bitten, twice shy. Nothing is free in this world. ‘All is free’ is nothing short of a myth.
First published in Khaleej Times, Dubai - UAE on June 22, 2010