Guys! Come on! Let’s go for a team dinner tomorrow.’ Narain Mohan announced as he reached the main office space used by the team he led.

‘Cool. What time should we start?’ asked Karthik Mahesh, the lead QA, in a passive tone.

‘Shouldn’t we decide where to go, first?’ Narain went and stood near Karthik, who sat at the left end.

‘What’s there to decide in it?’ shot back Penny Tarakan, as she looked up from her monitor in the middle of deciding between ocean blue and midnight black for a signup button. ‘Don’t we always go for the Friday Evening Special Buffet at The Melodi?

Narain cleared his throat before speaking. ‘Yup, that has been so for the last few years, but the management has acknowledged the grievances from the employees about the lack of transparency in deciding the venue, and has proposed to leave the decision to you.’

‘Oh cool! But I believe if we are going democratic, maybe we could pick the date ourselves as well.’ Penny suggested before going back to her monitor to decide that sapphire blue was the more suited color for the signup button.

‘I don’t think we should change the date. Team dinners on the last Friday of February are something that we do every year.’ Narain preferred to keep their traditions intact. ‘But please, feel free to suggest your favorites. I am sure Don would have some spots in mind.’

The team looked in the direction of Don Tristan, who was a known foodie in their circles.

Don thought for a moment, fished out his phone from his pocket, and started searching. ‘Aah, this one. I had seen this reel about a new resto-bar – The Wall. It’s by the beach, the vibe seems good and the food is supposed to be lip-smacking good.‘ Don was pumped up by then.

‘Can’t trust the words of these food vloggers! Most of those are paid promos in the name of vlogging.’ Karthik cautioned his junior. ‘Check the comments as well.’

‘Hold on, I am forwarding the reel to our group. Let everyone watch and we can decide.’ Don replied and soon enough, everyone present received a WhatsApp notification in their office group. The one that included the team lead as well.

‘This seems like a decent spot.’ remarked Narain.

‘I like the beachside ambience’ Amisha Sharma, the backend developer expressed her support.

‘And maybe we can have a round of drinks as well. After office hours drinking is common in Japan and Korea.’ The DevOps guy, Richard Daniel, was also on board with the plan.

‘Well, if everyone is okay with this place, let’s check if they take reservations.’ Narain suggested.

‘Umm, guys…Can we look at other options as well?’

Narain looked in the direction of the voice and found a hand raised in the air. The hand belonged to Mohammad Salman, the lone mobile developer of the team.

‘Why, Salman? Did you find any negative reviews about this one?’ Narain enquired.

‘No, it’s not that. This spot seems to be focused on pork dishes. Their most recommended dishes on Swiggy are Pork Ribs and Pork Belly Barbeque. I don’t eat pork as you know, so maybe we could go somewhere else.’

‘Well, do you have any place in mind?’ Richard asked.

‘Umm…what about Big Waves Seafood Restuarant? That one is also on the beach.’

‘No! Not a big fan of seafood.’ Narain vetoed the option.

‘Okay…maybe Majlis Park? I heard there is a Turkish Fest going on there. Perhaps we would get some authentic shawarmas like the ones I used to get in Saudi during my school days

‘Fine by me.’ Narain concurred.

‘But I wanted to try The Wall.’ Don expressed his displeasure.

‘Maybe we could go for a vote?’ Narain suggested. ‘We will go as the majority decides.’

Narain looked around and assumed the collective silence for agreement.

‘All of you who prefer The Wall over Majlis raise your hands.’

Don, Richard, and Amisha raised their hands. Narain, Karthik, Penny, and Salman did not.

‘Four vs Three. A close call, but it has been decided. Majlis it is!’ declared Narain.

‘Majority shouldn’t mean those who voted otherwise should be forced against their wishes…I would prefer a united decision by all employees.’ said Karthik.

‘It’s not like all they serve at The Wall is pork! You can order chicken, fish, or beef as you like.’ Don reasoned with Salman.

‘I am not sure if a restaurant serving pork and alcohol would have any halal meat, Don. I would have to settle with vegetarian options. Why can’t we all go to Majlis and you can check out The Wall later? I am sure Richard would also come with you.’

‘Since we are on this topic, let me say that I don’t eat beef.’ Amisha, who hailed from Rajasthan, had decided to speak for herself. ‘Culturally, it is unacceptable for us. But I go out with you guys because most of you don’t mind. I would prefer going to a dhaba and having chaat for a change.’

‘All I am gonna say is that you guys are missing out on some good stuff in life because of your delusions’ quipped Richard.

‘I respect people’s faiths but I don’t understand why you guys would value their religious sentiments more than my ideological reasons. I am a vegan by choice because I love animals and it hurts me to see them being abused for food. I am trying to make a difference, and yet I am the one who is trolled the most, with the never-ending vegan jokes and memes.’ Penny had started with a statement that ended up as a rant.

‘All we had to do was pick a spot for dinner and look at where we are now! Wasn’t it better when the management decided for us?’ Mohammad Salman reminisced.

‘I think a better approach would be to form a committee that would research and decide on the venues for our future events. That way, people with expertise in the restaurant scene and passion for planning can get things done efficiently’ Karthik suggested.

‘Or maybe…we can plan it so that Don can have his pork ribs, Amisha her chaats, Penny her avocado toast, or whatever fancy vegan dish – everyone can have what they wish to. Richard’s suggestion immediately put him under the spotlight.

‘For the record, I wish to clarify that an ordinary masala dosa is as much a vegan dish as an avocado toast.’ Penny clarified. ‘But more importantly, how do we pull this off?’

‘We could rent out a banquet room in any hotel. Some cafes have designated spaces for small events. Each of us orders the food we like, goes to this space, and enjoys the time together. What do you think?’ Richard looked around and asked no one in particular.

‘Seems like the most inclusive plan till now’, admitted Amisha.

‘Yeah, that should work out well for us.’ Don opined as Salman nodded in agreement.

‘Alright then, that’s settled.’ Narain announced. ‘I entrust Richard and Amisha to find a good space and make the reservation for tomorrow. See you guys later.’

The team felt a collective relief at the conflict resolution, which was followed by a sense of collective disappointment as this meant the break was over and they had to return to their work.