“Hum log jo service walay log hain woh itnay ziyada traumatise hochukay hain keh hum logon ko feel hotha hai keh no matter how badly a guest treats us you have to serve them”
Asad Monga – Test Kitchen
In this exclusive interview, Test Kitchen By Okra’s Chef, Asad Monga answers the who, what, when, why, where and hows underpinning his encounter with an abundantly angry, alleged human rights activist. Dubbing him an idiot for following Covid SOPs, must we serve her some benefit of doubt? Maybe she believed “badtameezi” was on October 6, 2021’s menu.
Could you describe the incident please?
Umm.. So we usually open the restaurant at around 10am and this lady walked in at around 10:30ish without a mask; I requested her to wear one. She said that khana khatay waqt toh nahi pehnna na? I was like nahi pehnna lekin undar athay waqt toh pehnna hai. That was the first red flag. I was like okay if you want to sit inside and if you want to dine in, then you have to show me your vaccination card to which she said:
“I’m not obligated to show you my vaccination card.” I was like, “to sit inside you have to show it to me. It’s the law, you know, it’s a government SOP, everybody knows about it, this is not new information.”Customer interaction at Test Kitchen
So when i said that, she just went off on a tangent, she took out her phone and started recording me.
Swipe To See What Happened Next!
Do you think this alleged activist violated your privacy when non-consensually filming you?
Of course. This is actually badtameezi! It is a violation of my privacy because she filmed me without consent and only because she was doing so, one of my colleagues started making a video just to document the kind of absurdity that was happening. And it was sad because the restaurant was full – by the way – there were people sitting downstairs, upstairs, the entire crew was there. Yeh bus tamasha kar rahi theen, ek tarhan say.
The fact that she called herself an activist is a parody upon itself. If a person is actually an activist, they – firstly and foremostly – would never blurt it out, they would show it in their actions. Her activism, or her idea of activism, was clearly misplaced and it wasn’t adding up. What she was saying and what she was doing was in dissonance. She was in dissonance!
What was your immediate reaction?
I’ll be very honest. The second it was happening, I was more so in survival mode, because I was completely caught off guard, keh yaar it’s my job to deal with people day in and day out and I’ve had to somehow train myself in a way to deal with rash or rude customers and I’m usually okay with it, somehow, mein taal dayta hoon, I deal with it. But this incident, literally her lehja and her tareekaykar keh, mein samjha yeh mazaak hee kar rahi hain yeh khatoon. Eventually shit started getting serious, I was caught off guard. I put my guard up and I was like, can you just show me your vaccination card if you want to sit inside. That’s it.
What would you say to those justifying the customer’s behavior as constitutionally correct?
If a person chooses not to get vaccinated and not to wear a mask, that’s fine by them. But they should rather just stay at home and not put anybody else at risk.
Just to emphasize on some logos, can you brief us on TK’s constitutionally correct policies?
Since the pandemic began, we’ve been trying our level best to follow whatever SOPs that have been given to us by the Sindh Government. Initially, toh we didn’t even have tables. Then we started tables – and it’s just been 2 weeks since, but everybody who comes to dine in needs to show proof of vaccination. If they don’t have it, it’s pretty simple: we can’t serve you.
Do you feel public response has been favorable?
It has absolutely been in favour – I wouldn’t say TK’s favour on a micro level, but on a macro level, it has been in favour of people who are in service or on the frontline. I do consider those offering hospitality frontline people because they’re dealing with customers day in and day out and are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. So, on a macro level it’s been good for people on the frontline. This gives a message out to other people keh yaar this is not normal. People do act this way and it’s not okay to treat other people like that just because you have a certain set of beliefs. Keep those beliefs but don’t try to push them down somebody else’s throat.
An interesting thing was that some of friends and colleagues in other restaurants around the city and country, they’ve been messaging me and they’ve been telling me acha hoa tum nay video laga di because of this everybody has become hyper aware: before even entering, they’re ready with their vaccination cards, which is how it should have been, you know. We as a public or as a people, you know, want keh kuch thand ho toh jakay kuch ho. You know it’s like they say, damage control management.
Another thing is that I am extremely humbled by the kind of response I’m getting. A lot of people have been saying, we’re so sorry you had to deal with this, this isn’t how it should be. I’m honestly overwhelmed by the good there still is in people. You know, 95% of people are good, they’re generally fine, they have no issues, but the 5% are those who are problematic.
Ideally, how do you expect customers to react when requested vaccine proof?
I have had problems in the past strictly with people not complying to wear a mask and not showing vaccination cards also. Initially, lots of people did this: you know they casually say acha haan dikhathay hain you. Banda meray upar ehsaan kar rahay hain, keh mujhay dikha rahay hain.
It’s almost as if because we were in lockdown or away or apart from each other, people have forgotten how to be people, civilities bilkul khatam ho chuki hain. They’re just lost in their own bubbles, dosray banday ko insaan hee nahi samajh rahay.
What do you think one can do to help people within this industry, in the long run? Are you suggesting a trade union, facebook groups, etc?
I think it should be more in lines with restaurant owners and managers training their staff on the skills necessary to deal with these kind of people because:
dekhain, hum log jo service walay log hain woh itnay ziyada traumatise hochukay hain keh hum logon ko feel hotha hai keh no matter how badly a guest treats us you have to serve them. This is very toxic, so you have to identify the problem first, train people, and tell them it is not okay if you’re treated this way.Asad Monga – Chef at Test Kitchen
Overall, friends and strangers alike continue to esteem Monga and other chefs as “heroes.” One influencer even commented, “chefs are real time heroes, unfortunately they are not appreciated and celebrated the way they should be in Pakistan, definitely he won many hearts today. Huge respect to Asad Monga and his team.” As a corollary, can we claim Monga, our hospitality hero, is enroute to becoming Pakistan’s Ertugrul, for this Pakistani chef – who clearly refuses to name and shame his perpetrator – embodies the Turkish warrior’s mantra: “We do not fight the ignorant, but the ignorance. Not the faulty, but the fault.”