The Hari Putar Dialogues – 50
(BBC News ; London ; 20 March : A diner who ate at an Indian restaurant 13-years-ago and left without paying the bill has sent £60 and a letter of apology to police. The anonymous note said the meal at the Aroma in Mumbles near Swansea had not cost more than £10 but the rest of the money was compensation for the owner. The restaurant was bulldozed a few years ago to make way for apartments. South Wales Police are appealing for whoever ran it at the time to contact them so they can pass on the cash. The letter - along with three £20 notes - was sent to Cockett Police Station.)
Putar: There is a report on the BBC website about a customer at an Indian curry restaurant wanting to pay a bill he had forgotten to pay.
Hari: What’s so special about that Putar?
Putar: The bill is being paid after 13 years!
Hari: 13 years later! Did it take so long for him to remember?
Putar: That’s what the letter says. Let me read it out to you. It’s addressed to the police station for the area. (reads) Dear Officer, I have enclosed a sum of £60, as a way of compensation for not paying for food at a restaurant in 1996. The total sum for the meal and drink was under £10. However I have decided to pay a larger sum, as way of compensation. I actually forgot that I didn't pay the restaurant owner for the meal, drink and waiter service. But now I have remembered I would like to pay the restaurant…
Hari: But why is he sending the money to the police?
Putar: The customer explains in his letter that the problem is that the restaurant has closed down. He writes to the police that it was an Indian restaurant situated on Mumbles Road, opposite Verdi's, next to the old Pilot public house. Please, he writes, could you also give my apologies to the owner?
Hari: This must be the explanation then.
Putar: What explanation?
Hari: It’s not that he remembered to pay the bill after 13 years, but the restaurant has closed down and he has only now thought of a way of finding the owner.
Putar: I don’t agree. We don’t know when the restaurant closed down. If it had closed down soon after that day when our friend ate a free meal, the owner could have been tracked down quite easily.
Hari: That’s true. So what is the explanation?
Putar: Our free meal customer experienced a belated twinge of conscience. This is what the police also think. A spokesman for the force said: "It seems the author has had a pang of conscience and wishes to repay the debt, with inflation."
Hari: Sometimes people want to make amends after many years.
Putar: As the expression goes: ‘better late than never’.
Hari: It may have been the case that our diner deliberately didn’t pay.
Putar: Or maybe he genuinely forgot but decided not to pay thereafter.
Hari: Maybe he was short of cash during those days.
Putar: And he has more money now.
Hari: Basically he was a good guy though.
Putar: Yes, it may have been circumstances.
Hari: Sometimes in our younger days we do things as a lark, and then later on regret our actions.
Putar: What goes around comes around. Perhaps someone didn’t pay our diner his dues, and then he realized that he himself was also guilty of not paying someone.
Hari: Sometimes when you yourself get cheated, you realize how bad it is to cheat someone. Do you think the police will track the owner down?
Putar: They have many other things to do.
Hari: Nabbing terrorists, for instance.
Putar: Even lesser crimes. But they have put up a notice as follows: ‘Anyone who can help police trace the restaurant owner is asked to contact Cockett Police Station on 01792 456999’.
Hari: And since this information is displayed on the BBC website the owner may eventually get tracked down and receive what’s due to him. If the restaurant were still open, this would have created enormous publicity for the restaurant. Restaurants would pay thousands of pounds for such global media coverage.
Putar: But if the restaurant was still open the diner would have just paid the owner and there wouldn’t have been this news story.
Hari: That’s true, of course.
Putar: I hope the diner is not as slow on other accounts.
Hari: What do you mean?
Putar: I mean if he loved a girl and told her thirteen years later, when she was married with three kids!
Hari: Those things also happen.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: If you make a mistake it’s always good to try and rectify it.
Putar: But supposing that’s not possible. For instance in this case the restaurant owner has died.
Hari: Well, I guess you could always give the money to charity.
Putar: Or should you just forget about it? Tell yourself that at least you didn’t kill anyone.
Hari: I don’t know, Putar.