Aphelion Issue 230, Volume 22
July 2018
 
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The Real Taste of Darkness

by Nikhil Kshirsagar




Recently, there'd been a furore over the abrupt closure of a tasteless eatery that had opened up on the east side of town. The place, known as the "Dialogue in the Dark" or the "Taste of Darkness", presumably promised its patrons a revealing and apparently life changing experience of what it meant to be blind. (ha!)

The idea was, you'd hand over your phone and other bare necessities before entering the restaurant, and proceed to eat your food in complete darkness. People help you to your seat, serve your food, help you find the washrooms, and make sure you don't stumble and fall and ruin your experience. All the cooking, and eating is done in complete darkness.

After your meal comes the so-called twist - you are told, while heading back to your comfortable bright-lit existence, that the staff, the waiters, the servers, the managers, and even the chefs, are blind. And for a while, so were you. This, they claim, is what made the food taste a certain way. This, they claim, is the "Taste of Darkness".

But I had a better idea for a themed restaurant of this sort. Let me tell you about it?

No first let me tell you about me. I'm a fanatically passionate chef who learnt his craft from food reality shows. No traditional family training for me, my mother and grandmother were both terrible cooks, making terrible food. I hated their traditionally rigid cuisine.

My grandmother in particular, I tell you, she couldn't boil an egg to save her life. The poor old woman had lost her sight around the time I was born, (glaucoma, they said) and this blind non-chef once handed me (on a platter, so to speak) the grain of an interesting idea, when she casually mentioned that losing her eyesight permanently magnified her sense of smell and taste.

Right off, I knew the senses couldn't be fooled, so if you really wanted the sense magnification of taste, for example, you couldn't fool the body by being in a dark room so it would think you're blind and adjust the other senses accordingly. This, to me, was the fatal flaw in the approach taken by the "Taste of Darkness", which by the way, I'm sure led to it's current "closed permanently" situation, at least in the city I live.

Anyway, to cut right to the chase, turn right from the place where the "Taste of Darkness" shut shop, and cross the bridge, and you'll see, with the sign proclaiming me as the proprietor, "The Real taste of Darkness". I'm sure you already know what I mean, right?

The text you're reading now wouldn't help you visualize the logo, so imagine something looking just like "The Taste of Darkness", but with an arrow between the words "The" and "Taste", pointing up, with the word "Real" inserted between the two above them both. Something like that.

Now, the experience at "The Real taste of Darkness" starts off where "The Taste of Darkness" never dared tread. You were never actually blind there, were you. It was all make believe, fake, and this is what killed the experience. It's like one of those virtual roller coasters. So much more fun is to be had on roller coasters that are real, and have really injured people in the past. Yes?

So come prepared to have your taste buds tingled like nothing you ever knew. Know however, that we are purists. There is no menu. The patrons are made to feel welcome, (welcome drink and all that) and then informed that in order for them to fully appreciate the taste of our set menu, we'd first need to surgically remove their eyes. The procedure would be quick, painless, and permanent.

Naturally, most casual restaurant goers balk at the idea, and leave. That is part of the experience. We offer them dessert and a selfie or two with the chef, and then off we pack these desserters with their eyes intact. Taxi back to their house, on the house.

There have been however, notably in the recent past, a few taste freaks who found the idea of eating here intriguing, and did in fact participate in the experience of eating a meal at "The Real taste of Darkness" without hesitation. To them I'd say, sir wasn't that the best dinner you ever ate? Wasn't the appetizer appetizing? Wasn't the sauce perfect? Didn't you feel the quivers in the meat we plated? Wasn't the fruit picked a few minutes before appearing on your plate? On your palate? Wouldn't you gladly trade your eyes again for such a meal?

Trade your eyes again?

Because wait! You don't think we actually blind people forever, do you? What do you think we are? Monsters?

In fact, once the meal is done, we casually inform the patrons that their eyesight will be restored, its a simple reversal, even faster than the removal. "Will there be anything else, sir", we ask, "before we restore your eyesight?".

Most of the time, the diners concluding their meal at "The Real taste of Darkness" have no complaints regarding this revelation! The fare has been relished, the sacrifice willingly made, the dining experience savored, and then surprise! a quick procedure to restore their sight leaves us with no legal obligations to fulfill. (And the first thing for them to eyeball is the bill - we are not meant for those of modest means, believe me)

But I can't help but mention one particular gentleman who visibly enjoyed his meal, but seemed to change his mind once we reinstated his eyeballs and ended up giving us a mere "average" rating in hindsight (so to speak). Strange, no?

It seems he felt we backed out of our mutual agreement when we reversed the procedure and restored his eyesight, apparently causing him to not "commit to the experience completely", as he put it.

Believe it or not, he ended up labeling us as having "sold out", having "succumbed to the moderate morals of the general public", having "lent ourselves to a dreadful hypocrisy" and so on and so forth. The gentleman was a true-blue culinary connoisseur, with a wicked sense of humour!

To him I say, worry not, sir. We take feedback seriously. Customer satisfaction is our number one priority.

We'd like him to give us another opportunity to indulge him, and extend to him an invitation to dine at our new outlet, opening soon, "The Actual taste of Darkness", where we'd raise a toast to him and his like, and where the very menu ensures that the procedure cannot be reversed.



THE END


2018 Nikhil Kshirsagar

Bio: Nikhil Kshirsagar is a software engineer with a major IT firm. While he works mostly at night, he calls it his day job. In his spare time he writes short stories and strums a few chords. He also rapidly tires of writing about himself in the third person.

Blog: Nikhil Kshirsagar

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