Shiv Prasad Patil has been driving a taxi for over eight years now and has no complaints about it. Until two months ago, he was managing the Lan Thai, a small restaurant serving authentic Thai cuisine on Brigade road. The tale of how a taxi driver came to manage a restaurant, reported first by lequirk.com, is a story of unlikely friendship and a leap of faith.
It was in the year 2011 when Shiv Prasad was waiting to pick up his son at the Bishop Cottons School when he ran into Paul Pasertjit, a Thai man who was looking for schools for his children. Shiv Prasad had been driving a taxi in the city since 2003 and hence, suggested a few international schools for Paul’s children. He even took the latter to the schools.
When Paul decided on a school, Shiv Prasad helped him find English coaching classes for his children and ferried them to and fro as well. About six months into this routine, Paul, a civil engineer in Thailand, wanted to find a way to kill time in India and that’s when Shiv Prasad suggested that he start a restaurant, and Lan Thai was born in June 2012.
“Neither Paul nor I knew anything about hotels,” says Shiv Prasad. But relying on Shiv Prasad’s knowledge of the city, Paul was able to get kitchen equipment and even his first employees, who were Shiv Prasad’s relatives. The cook was discovered by Paul - Palake, an elderly woman who makes authentic Thai cuisine. And while Paul went back to Thailand, Shiv Prasad continued to manage the Lan Thai.
He would do everything from ferrying the chef and cooks to taking orders and managing the restaurant to making deliveries.
For three out of the four years that Shiv Prasad ran the restaurant, they catered mostly to the Malaysian student population who would often come there craving familiar food. Korean and Thai students along with a few Indians who developed a taste for authentic Thai food also formed a bulk of their customers.
But in the past year, business has almost halved, says Shiv Prasad. “Earlier we used to take up to 200 orders a day. Now it’s about a 100,” he says. The reason? The dwindling number of the South East Asian student population in the area, and perhaps the lack of any Indianised Thai dishes on their menu, he speculates.
About four months ago, Paul sold the restaurant to a woman in Thailand who sent someone to run the restaurant. “I had difficulty managing time, plus I was not able to meet my family’s expenses,” explains Shiv Prasad. Two months later, he went back to driving a taxi.
But there are no hard feelings, and his fondness for Lan Thai hasn’t reduced. “Our Tomyum soup, red curry, Phad Thai and prawns were always the quickest to sell out,” he reminisces.
Shiv Prasad and Paul continue to remain friends and at 45, Shiv Prasad is happier than ever to get back on the streets. “It covers my expenses too,” he says, smiling.