I tell the caterer cum chef the number of guests we have invited and dishes we need for an event and wait for his response. He puts his hand in the side pocket of his waistcoat, pulls out a small notebook and a calculator with traces of cooking oil and soot on it.
He does this exercise many times a day, sitting next to cauldrons of burning firewood in his compound. He is so adept that his estimates mostly turn out to be correct. The budget remains within the range he works out.
The guy deftly moves his fingers across the calculator, scribbles something on paper and forwards it to me. I see that he has mentioned quotations depending on the nature of the event and the type of guests invited. This comes as a surprise.
His logic is that if the guests are from within the family there is very little wastage, hence the quotation is the lowest. An event with women guests in majority is also manageable as they waste less food than men. In case the guests are outsiders or first-timers who do not know if there will be second and third servings, the calculations can be all wrong.
The biggest concern that makes you fill your plates to the brim is the fear of having no subsequent servings. The sight of people rushing to the tables like the just-released prisoners of wars (POWs) once the food is served is something we can all relate to.
No doubt this behaviour is reflective of the general lack of civic sense we have in our society. I have been a witness to that on many occasions. People are pushed and a huge stock of food is wasted.
Also read: Inside a shopping mall
On occasions, I myself have done this, filled the plates to capacity and pushed cold drinks and servings of sweet dish under the dining table. I learnt it the hard way when I found children from our family complaining about non-availability of food at a wedding. One of them also received minor burns when someone leapt forward to reach to the paraat (deep steel platter) held above his head by a waiter. My explanation is that I resort to this tactic to avoid such experience. May be others also have a similar story to tell.