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Waitress for a Day

Pooja Bhula, who wished to work at Zanzi Bar at Baga Beach in Goa, does just that…

Yes, I am referring to the oh-so-famous Zanzi Bar Shack at Baga Beach in Goa! I visited this bar for the first time with my college friends in 2007 and it was a lovely experience. I loved the food and the elegant yet over-relaxed, lazy environment. At Zanzi, you can enjoy a drink with music playing in the background, eat heavenly food, stretch out, gaze at the sea and simply lose track of time.

Two years on, in 2009, while my friends planned another trip to Goa, I plotted to work at Zanzi. I would have loved to don the bartender’s hat – though my enthusiasm was 100 percent, my skills were not. On reaching Goa, I spoke to Zanzi’s owner Mark, who enthusiastically agreed to let me work with them. On the last day of my trip I had a few hours to spare, which I chose to spend on the job.

It was a Sunday; a lazier day, even at the shack, and a waiter explained the modus operandi. He introduced me to the 3 chefs, who were in charge of the Chinese, Continental, and juices and milkshakes respectively. As we headed to the kitchen to give the order a table had placed, I realised that the work was not as relaxed and chilled out as the ambiance. When we are at the receiving end, we don’t realise the effort that goes into giving us great service. Whilst taking the order, it is imperative to mention the table number and get it signed by the bartender or the owner before taking it to the kitchen. The chef gets a carbon copy and once the order is ready, the waiter is informed. Memorising orders placed by a table or two is manageable, but the Chef’s Copy comes in handy when orders become long and when you start serving multiple tables.

My first table had an interesting young couple. Both really loved Zanzi and were pretty enthused about my working there. I took an order – Bloody Mary for the belle and a beer for the beau. Very expertly I opened the beer bottle, served it and rushed back to the bar in time to watch the bartender make the delicious mocktail.

Bar history
For all Zanzi fans, I’d like to inform you that it started only 8 years ago. All shacks are government-owned and allotted to vendors via a lottery system. Mutual understanding and ‘Exchange of Greens’ ensures vendors get their usual shack. Most shacks open in winter and shut before the rains. Informative and engrossing as the conversation was, I was there to do a job. So I rushed to serve a new customer – a young guy. He was surprised to see a WAITRESS, one without a uniform. He ordered a strawberry milkshake and a pan cake. It was his first visit to Baga Beach, but he was a regular at Zanzi, as he thought it was classier than the other shacks and good for chilling. This brought a smile to my face. I went to distract the bartender, and told him what our loyal customer had said. He gave me a ‘you-naughty-little-girl’ look and suggested that I join the CID. I pointed out that thanks to my investigative skills, he was getting the pleasure of compliments that customers don’t give the management too often.

Star waitress
I had gone from being an average waitress to a star waitress. Everyone wanted me to serve them – a friend had taken an oath to give me a difficult time about a seafood salad. I answered at least 20 questions regarding the dish starting from the ingredients to the thickness of the sauce, only for her to realise that the dish was too complicated for her. Another bunch of youngsters wanted my opinion on dishes both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Being a pure vegetarian, I had to rely on other waiters. The bunch relished the meal – especially the strawberry lassi.

No, that is not it. I served omelettes and beers to another table, at least 3 cucumber salads to yet another, though I wonder why that customer’s order was restricted to successions of the same salad. I convinced my friends to try the Veg Spring Roll, another customer’s favourite and also Paneer Tikka because it temptingly looked at me when I peeped into the kitchen. The owner tried to act all strict and stern with me, a role he played badly, as a smile always sprung upon his face

Moment to cherish
I claimed an orange hat lying at the bar, got all my customers to sign on it along with their respective table numbers, and turned a friend into a photographer to capture my moments at work. Everyone was nice and one of the customers bought me drink! The owner and the bartender too, autographed my hat and invited me to the closing party (end of May).

I have a hat and tip left by my friends as a memento, not to mention precious memories of the place and the staff, who adamantly called me Pooja Bedi! The owner still thinks that I did a stint because I’d lost a bet with my friends.

Pampering yourself after hard work is like icing on cake. I had earned the right to a good foot massage; therefore I sat on the sea-facing chairs, gazed at the beautiful evening sky and relished a plate of French–fries with salt, pepper and loads of sauce. Mmmmmm…lovely!

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