CURRY TO GO

There was a bit of a fracas in my local ‘Indian’ restaurant last night.

Shortly after the Pakistani owner had virtually begged me to bring some more curry-fond, British customers to the place, I noticed he was involved in a bit of an altercation near the door. This initially involved a good deal of shouting and then some desultory pushing and shoving. Nothing to get too excited about. But it took on a more serious tone when the owner seized a bamboo pole off the wall and one of his two antagonists responded by first trying and then succeeding in breaking a bottle against the door frame. One of the other two diners in the place then called the police whilst his lady friend took refuge behind my table, obviously impressed by the sang-froid I was displaying in continuing to eat my dinner. Well, I had been obliged to re-order it after they had forgotten to bring it.

The first phalanx of the police duly arrived, pushing their way through a large throng gazing in through the glass door and windows. Even at this early stage, the police well outnumbered the protagonists. By this time – after a brief and deceptive armistice – all the main players were rolling about on the floor, whilst the cause of the dispute – a young Spanish woman – was getting increasingly hysterical about which of her two suitors to support. Nothing if not cosmopolitan, she had apparently offered her favours to a Pakistani, on the one hand, and a Columbian, on the other. A helpful waiter pointed out to me that, wilfully disregarding both racial accuracy and the effect on business, the Columbian had taken to coming round each night and shouting through the door that all Indians were bastards.

More police arrived and the Columbian was manhandled to the ground by three of the local constabulary. But not before he'd pegged the restaurant owner on the nose. At this our Pakistani friend went down as if pole-axed and began to cry about the terrible injury done to him. I can’t speak for the police but I was rather unconvinced by this performance. Meanwhile, his wailing had begun to mingle with shouts from the Columbian, who was interested to know why one of the policemen felt it necessary to keep kneeing him in the head when his hands were tied behind his back.

A third – or possibly fourth - wave of police arrived, followed by an ambulance and two paramedics. By this time the officers not only outnumbered the miscreants and their supporters but also the crowd outside the door. The Columbian was carted off and the Pakistani – now also claiming a leg injury - was attended to by the paramedics and then taken away in the ambulance.

Two – or possibly three – policemen stayed behind to try to get the identity details of the young woman central to our little drama. As they left, the most senior of these commented that she was a little young to be getting mixed up in this sort of thing. I suspect that the sub-text was that she should stick to Spanish men, conceivably himself in particular.

With things now considerably calmer, I was able to attract the attention of the sole remaining [but somewhat distracted] employee and seek the bill. Ten minutes later, I reminded him about it and it duly came, miscalculated in my favour. I paid and left the now-deserted restaurant, marvelling at the fact that this town of only 75,000 people can manage to have a police force that doesn’t miss ten or more of its officers sent to a minor incident. Either they are employed in their dozens or the crime rate is pathetically low here. Possibly – and illogically - both. Either way, I was impressed.

But notwithstanding the excellent value of the free entertainment and the discounted bill, I probably won’t be going back to the restaurant, let alone recommending it to fellow Brits. This is essentially because I was given an opportunity in the middle of the night to review events and to, mentally at least, draft this brief record. Albeit on a staggered basis. Off and on, as it were.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Pontevedra, January 2004

P. S. The restaurant closed a few months later.