An Illicit Meal
Guru once gave a short talk about the necessity of personal honesty – the gist of it was, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesars – be honest!"
Once at a pizza restaurant Subarata and I thought we'd see how seriously our mutual friend Shardul was taking his Master's advice with a humorous scam. Prior to Shardul's arrival I paid the bill surreptitiously before the meal and then we all sat down to enjoy our pizza when it later arrived.
I knew that Shardul had no money on him, so after the meal I casually took out my pre-emptied wallet and said, "Whoops, I've left my money behind – Subarata, you'll have to pay tonight." Subarata faked surprise and said, "I haven't got any money on me either!" So I said, "Sorry Shardul, but you'll have to cover us tonight – I'll fix you up when we get home." Shardul said, "I haven't got a cent!"
We all looked at each other alarmed as the reality hit home! We couldn't pay for our meal! Then I said, glancing furtively from side to side, "Let's just quietly leave one by one and not pay!" Subarata agreed, as per plan, and surprisingly Shardul also agreed, seeming to relish this sudden illicit turn of events.
I casually sauntered out to the car and sat there revving up the engine in the best Hollywood gangster style. Subarata followed shortly afterward, exiting with a studied nonchalance. Then Shardul, by way of arrangement last to leave, came flying at a mad run out of the restaurant door, rolled over the bonnet of the car 'Dukes of Hazard' style, dived into the back seat and shouted, "Go! Go! Go!" So much for a casually innocent exit.
We roared out of the parking lot in a state of high excitement and sped down the road as if we'd just robbed a bank. Subarata and I were in hysterics but Shardul thought we were enjoying the escapade. "Gosh!" he said, "I can't believe we just did that!" Shardul was surprised that we had apparently left 'without paying' and we were surprised that Shardul had offered zero resistance to this idea. Later his suspicions became aroused at our continuing mirth – he 'smelt a rat'. Suddenly he jumped up and said, "I feel bad about this so I’m going to go back and pay," and he marched out the door.
There he concealed himself, while inside we debated whether to recall him or let our prank play itself out to its logical conclusion. Unknown to us he was listening to our conversation behind the door. When we decided to call him back he sprang out of hiding and said, "AHAA!"
What Subarata and I did not know at the time was that when we had left the restaurant to go to the car, Shardul had quickly approached the cashier to clarify what he had suspected – that we had actually paid for the meal. Armed with this 'inside' information, he played it out beautifully. It was a lot of fun and we had a great laugh over a hot cuppa afterwards.