Moti’s previous employer, the USAID Director in East Pakistan, had warned me that Moti was, at times, tricky and unreliable. However, he had praised him as being the finest Bearer in Dacca and added that he would reemploy Moti if I should ever fire him. Forewarned is forearmed, I believed, and determined that I would not be taken in by any of Moti’s wiles. I didn’t realize how soon I would be proven wrong.
We had been in East Pakistan about six months before we began planning for the first large formal reception to be held in our home. I had been successful in proposing on two new contracts with EPWAPDA, which would greatly expand my firm’s professional and support staff. One of the firm’s senior Vice Presidents was coming to sign these new agreements which would also be financed through a USAID grant.
The newly opened Intercontinental Hotel was catering the buffet dinner for approximately seventy-five important guests and close friends. In addition to the hotel fare, our cook Gregory and the Bearer, Moti, had been preparing traditional Pakistani and Indian delicacies for several days. Finally all was ready and our Vice President and his wife had arrived and were our house guests – taking over Suzy’s room for their visit.
At three o’clock on the afternoon of this affair, Moti suddenly appeared from the kitchen with a heartbreaking sadness in his face. He seemed not to be able to lift his head or look me in the eyes – tears streamed down his bronzed face as he knelt in front of me and began polishing my already highly polished shoes with a dishtowel.
Get up, Moti,” I demanded. “Tell me what is the matter with you.”
“Ooohhh,” He wailed. “You will never forgive me … you will surely sack me … Allah is displeased with me… Ooohhh.”
“Shut up Moti, before I beat you,” I shouted. I had never had, and never would, hit a servant, but sometimes the threat of being hit worked magic to get through to the underlying problem.
It was at this time that Moti lifted his eyes and looked me in the face as he opened his mouth. The sight was almost comical but the tears pouring down Moti’s cheeks prevented me from laughing. Moti’s three front upper teeth were gone – there was just a huge black void where his sparkling white teeth had been.
“I am so ashamed, Master. I know this is an important affair for you and your company, but I cannot serve your guests tonight. I am too ashamed to be seen by anyone. Perhaps you can ask Mr. Sonntag’s houseboy to help you and madam?”
The vision of Otto’s clumsy houseboy flashed in my mind. He only wore a dirty loungie (wrap around cloth) around his waist and had no knowledge of proper serving. Moti had been supplied with a sparkling white uniform with brass buttons and a wide red sash to wear around his waist. He moved with exquisite grace, as he would skillfully carry his tray of hors d’oeuvres among a milling crowd of clumsy cocktail drinkers. Moti could prepare any kind of mixed drinks for guests, while Otto’s boy had trouble opening a bottle of beer.
My anger quickly returned. “No, Moti, you must serve tonight – with or without teeth. Just keep your mouth closed.” I knew as I said this that it was an impossible request. Moti was always smiling and showing off his fine white teeth. “What has happened to your teeth?” I hadn’t realized before then that he had been wearing dentures.
“I have searched everywhere. Perhaps I lost them when I went to market early this morning with Gregory to buy prawns.”
“Moti, I order you to serve with your mouth shut!”
“Sir, even if you beat me, I could not humiliate myself in front of so many important people … but Sir … there is another solution.” he suggested.
“What is it?” Now I was pleading with Moti to get me out of this predicament, which was entirely of his making.
“I could take a rickshaw and go to my dentist and he could fit me with some new false teeth.” Now his eyes were no longer tearing and there was a hint of a smile coming back into his toothless face.
“How can a dentist make false teeth so quickly?” I asked, hoping that he had an acceptable answer. There was no thought of trickery on my mind only a desperate grasp for a solution.
“They have standard teeth that fit all Bengalis, Sir. But I have no money to buy a new set.”
If should have smelled a rat then for Moti was not a Bengali.
“What will they cost?” Now I was anxious for a quick solution no matter how much it took.
“Sir, for only fifty rupees, I can buy a replacement. Can you give me this sum?”
I was already getting out my wallet and counting the money. It had been mentally prepared for him to have a much higher estimate so fifty rupees seemed like a trifling sum.
must return quickly to assist Gregory and the houseboy,”
I shouted as Moti rode away on a passing rickshaw. He was back surprisingly quick with bright shinning white teeth in his upper gums and a huge wide grin on his face.
. . . .
The reception had been a huge success. We were the first to have used the new hotel’s catering service and the Swiss Food and Beverage manager, who was also a guest, made our party into an advertising showcase. He had also loaned us his bartender at no additional charge. Gregory had prepared curried prawns and baked mangos – all finger food – most people had eaten standing up.
As the guests began departing, the USAID Director, called me aside. “Has Moti pulled his false teeth trick on you, yet?” He asked.
Suddenly the entire scene and Moti’s deception crashed into my consciousness. “Yes, this afternoon.” I stammered.
“Don’t feel badly about it. He has done it to every employer he has ever had. He did it to me, too. He just keeps taking out the same teeth and replacing them. Must have gotten at least fifty rupees from you. I gave him a hundred.”
I wondered if Moti thought I was only worth half of what the Director was making.