But If You Try Sometimes…You Can

28 Mar

“You need to be at the Lake Palace tomorrow at 1 o’clock for lunch,” Harsh continues.

Cue:  Giggling, screaming, clapping, jumping up and down in our chairs.

“Ok, ok.  Shoosh, shoosh,” Harsh pleads. “We really could have made more of a scene,” Lizzie later admits after he walks away and I wonder if we drew too much attention to ourselves.

He goes over the logistics. We need to bring our passports with us. If anyone asks, we are staying at Shiv Niwas, and we are friends with Baba. “And, just act a little snooty about the whole thing,” Harsh suggests.

The next morning Lizzie and I wake up, already giddy. “We’re going to the Lake Palace today!” I cheer, bouncing up and down in bed after shutting off the alarm. There is no lounging. We have a mission. We will go to the rooftop and have breakfast, something light, just to get our metabolism going but nothing heavy that will spoil lunch.

Lizzie changes her outfit at least three times. I hadn’t planned on going to a five-star hotel when I left Mumbai and packed for this trip, so I am stuck with my denim capris and a silk Indian tunic. I hope that my less-than-five-star outfit won’t keep us from getting in. Lizzie ultimately opts for jean capris as well and a new shirt purchased in Jaipur. Our fears about our outfits will later be put to rest.

We hop in a rickshaw outside our hotel and get to the information desk at the entrance to the City Palace. The same information desk where we caused quite the scene the day before after yelling at the staff for making us purchase two unnecessary entrance tickets. The rickshaw stops. We cannot go any further without tickets. Seriously?  I get out of the rickshaw and tell them we need two tickets since we’re going to the Lake Palace jetty. “Are you going to the management office?”  the attendant, the same one from the previous day, asks as he hands me two tickets stamped with the date. “No, we’re having lunch at the Lake Palace.” He sighs, frustrated. He returns my money. “Give me the tickets. You don’t need them. Just tell the guard you have a reservation.”

We enter the gate and decide to walk the rest of the way to the jetty. It wouldn’t be believable that we’re hoity-toity bitches if we arrive in a rickshaw. Halfway to the jetty, Lizzie stops. “Steph, I don’t have my passport.”
“You’re joking.” I know she isn’t.
“No, I didn’t grab my passport. I don’t have it.”
I look at my watch. 12:15. We have time. We walk back out of the gates, Lizzie continues to apologize, we get in a rickshaw and head back to the hotel. She runs, literally (I know this because she is wearing the loudest pair of heels I’ve ever heard), back to the room.  In less than two minutes, she’s back in the rickshaw and we’re off.

Round 2.

We pass by the information desk; this time we don’t stop. We get to the entrance gate. Again, we get out of the rickshaw and walk the rest of the way.

We arrive at the jetty with our makeup melting off our faces in the 100-degree heat. We are friendly, but a little stuck up. We hope to see the staff member from the day before, just for a haha-in-your-face moment. He is not there. I tell the hostess that we have a 1 p.m. lunch reservation. She asks for my name. She picks up the phone to call the restaurant and confirm the reservation. “You’re staying at Shiv Niwas, yes?”
“Yes.”
“Great, can I make a copy of your passport?”
I hand her my passport. She never asks for Lizzie’s. We go through bag check and the metal detector.

“Have a seat and make yourself comfortable,” she tells us afterward, pointing to two cushioned chairs underneath the ceiling fans. “Would you like some water while you wait? The boat will be here in five minutes.”

When the boat arrives, Lizzie and I get in, along with a guest from the hotel. He is wearing a tattered Hard Rock shirt, cargo shorts, and loafers. I already am less worried about wearing denim capris. I am even less concerned when later, guests walk into the restaurant wearing harem pants and T-shirts. We arrive at the Lake Palace just a couple minutes later.  There seems to be at least one staff member for every guest. We are escorted to the reception desk, where one more time, I am asked to confirm my name. Then, we are led to the restaurant.

At 1 o’clock, prime lunch time, Lizzie and I are the only two people in the restaurant, the restaurant that is booked 7 days a week, 12 months a year. The only two people! A hostess leads us to a table by the window, overlooking the City Palace. She pulls our chairs out for us; she unfolds our napkins and places them on our laps. Within seconds, our waiter appears with water and menus. A few minutes later, a couple arrives and sits at a nearby table. For the next two hours, only two more tables will be occupied for lunch.

We order drinks.  Then naan and French fries. The chef makes barbecue sauce for me upon request (French fries with BBQ sauce is a must). Lizzie and I had heard lunch was served buffet-style (not the case), so we had nibbled at breakfast. By this point, we are ravenous. We each order an entrée. Lizzie goes for pasta; I for a steak, which turns out to be more like roast beef. The food is not particularly spectacular, although the French fries are perfectly crispy. We are full, but there is no way we are skipping dessert. I don’t think Lizzie and I skipped dessert once on the entire trip; we weren’t going to start at the Lake Palace. So, we order two–a walnut brownie sundae and apple crumble a la mode. We eat every morsel. Now, we are stuffed.

We pay the bill. It is probably the most expensive lunch, or meal in general, either Lizzie or I has ever had, but we are not complaining. We are still excited about being there.

“I can’t believe my brother did it.  In the last three years, I’ve only seen two people walk out of here to go to the Lake Palace,” Yash told us before we left the hotel for lunch. We are lucky. After the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, the Lake Palace stopped allowing non-guests into the hotel for lunch and dinner, with the exception, obviously, of select non-guests from five-star hotels and, in our case, friends of Baba.

We leave the restaurant and walk around the hotel. We encounter maybe 5 guests in the 30 minutes we spend wandering. We encounter at least 30 staff members. That’s how it is in India. You rarely get decent service in a basic restaurant, hotel, or shop, but step into a five-star hotel, and you even have someone who escorts you to the bathroom.

We reluctantly walk back through the lobby and outside where the boats dock. Within a couple of minutes, a boat comes to take us back to the jetty. We step off the boat and begin to walk toward the waiting area. “Lizzie, there’s the guy from yesterday.”  The one who told us we couldn’t get a reservation if we weren’t guests at a five-star hotel. “Oh my God, yes! He has to see us!” Lizzie says.

I walk up the steps, slowly, hoping to catch his eye, but he is talking to someone. I turn around to see if Lizzie is still behind me. She also saunters by the podium, purposely trying to catch his attention. He looks up.  “Oh…hello,” Lizzie says in the snootiest way possible. “Hello,” he says.

We are so pleased with ourselves. It was like the scene from Pretty Woman, the one where the decked-out Julia Roberts goes back to the store where the clerks refused to help her when she was dressed like a hooker. “Remember me? I was in here yesterday and you refused to wait on me.” The clerks look confused, then they recognize her. They are embarrassed, and Julia Roberts says, lifting up all the shopping bags from other designer boutiques, “Big mistake.  HUGE!”

Well, in that moment, the Lake Palace staff guy is an embarrassed store clerk and Lizzie and I are Julia Roberts. Just for a moment. Then we walk back to the gate and hail a rickshaw to take us back to our hotel.

Me & Lizzie at the Lake Palace

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2 Responses to “But If You Try Sometimes…You Can”

  1. Mom March 31, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    Love your story and the resulting conclusion. Say what you want, sometimes revenge is sweet!

  2. Anita April 2, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    no kidding, I know Baba’s cousin brother

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