Part Seven: Buenos Aires, Argentina
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D-day arrived! It was Saturday, and I was already seriously absorbed
in cooking in the kitchen when Daksa and her wonderful, dedicated
friends arrived at 4.00 am. We had a myriad tasks to perform. Most
of the items on the above menu had to be cooked from scratch, each
item in massive quantities to feed 1000 people. 'Impossible'
was not a word to be uttered today, so we just put our heads down
and did it. But it was not without last-minute tests. Pablo arrived
mid-morning at the kitchen door looking white-faced. I asked how
it was all going. As I stood there stirring a 250 litre pot of Spicy
Tomato Chutney for the Singapore Vegetable Cutlets, Pablo
quietly broke some devastating news.
organisers had flatly refused our pleading for them to reconsider
allowing us the use of the big upstairs facilities for the food.
Talk about the eleventh hour! The concert hall was ready to go for
the music, but we had nowhere to serve the food! No wonder Pablo
looked so downtrodden! We spoke quite intensely for quite some time,
and the conclusion was that he should go to the general manager
of the venue and just firmly demand a spot, somehow or other, somewhere
in the complex. Pablo left for one last try. Meanwhile, we cooked
all day, loaded up a massive furniture removal truck, and drove
to the event at 9.00pm. The eating and music was scheduled to start
at 10.00pm. Argentines like late nights!
Anyway, as you can see from all the photos, somehow it all happened.
Even as we loaded the van, I still didn't have a clear idea where
we were going to unload it! Late evening, Pablo had returned
triumphant to tell us that they had bowed to his demands and had
allowed us to set up in a very public thoroughfare between rooms
adjoining a massive fashion Expo that was being held simultaneoulsy
at the same venue downstairs. By 10.00pm hundreds of people were
streaming in and out of the fashion Expo hall, and we were right
there. Naturally people just saw the food and wanted some. Argentines
are very open, up-front and spontaneous! That's Pablo's parents.
They couldn't stop telling me that this was the best food they had
As you can see from this photo, the people did not line up. They
all just pushed to the counters at the same time, money in hand,
at least a hundred deep! Apparently this is totally in character
for Argentines, and while I stood there astonished at seeing well-dressed
people pushing and shoving, the ladies assigned to serve them didn't
seem at all surprised at the chaos. It was heartwarming to see so
many respectable ladies and gentlemen truly relishing the food,
both young and old standing around eating with gusto. Many seemed
to know me - apparently there had been a lot of press articles -
and I spent a long time chatting with people who had only nice things
to say about the event.
eating, hundreds went upstairs to the massive concert hall to enjoy
the music. The highlight of the night for me was seeing Tarsem
Singh, First Secretary to the Ambassador of India, just appear
out the crowd, take up position behind the Moroccan Tahini-scented
Chickpeas & Garden Vegetable Salad, and stay there for three
hours serving with a smile and politely refusing with a little sideways
wobble of the head (as Indians do) to hand the spoon to anyone else.
Around 1.00 am I returned to the Centro Bhaktivedanta well
and truly 'knackered' as they say on Australia (!) but in total
I slept like a baby and woke to
the reality that my stay in Buenos Aires was over. The devotees
here had been so sweet, obliging, encouraging and kind, I would
certainly miss them. Around 9.00am I emerged into a light rain and
loaded my bags into the car. The devotees appeared from nowhere
and started singing and cheering spontaneously for a rousing farewell,
waving as our car left the curb. I had tears in my eyes for the
rest of the drive. It is a rare thing to find such a group of sincerely
humble and supportive boys and girls. Their friendship meant a lot.
This had been the highlight of my tour so far. Lan Chile flight
440 left for Santiago at 12.55pm.
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