A CHALLINGING CLIENT
     Arvind Daya was one of my first clients. He managed the Indian restaurant in town called “Bombay.” It was renowned for its $5.50 all-you-can-eat buffet that combined numerous elements of South Asian cuisine. The dishes were known to be colorful and tasteful, spicy and zesty, textured and piquant, sweet and savory. Sometimes, all of these potentially positive elements resulted in unfortunate results. But I digress.
     Arvind was interested in purchasing a local house. His idea was to put his own restaurant on the ground floor and live upstairs with his family. For that reason, he did not want the other employees at Bombay to overhear our conversations. Thus we held clandestine meetings over the curried lamb that sounded like this, in urgently whispered tones:
     “Meeester Stuart, did you talk to dee lawyer for dee owner?”
     “Yes,” I replied. “They want $250,000.”
     Arvind looked stricken.
     “Offer dem $95,000.”
     I raised my eyebrow. “Did you say ninety-five? Their price is two-hundred-and-fifty. They will be insulted.”
     Arvind looked around to be sure we were still alone. He leaned closer, and whispered: “Okay, offer dem ninety-six.”
     From his tone, I determined that he was serious.
     Arvind had chosen me as his lawyer because I was young and inexpensive. I represented him because, due to the young part of that description, I was, indeed, inexpensive. Plus, I did not have too many other clients. I told him that I would charge only $500 as the fee for the closing.
     My dialogue with the seller’s attorney continued for several months. He sympathized with my plight, and we were eventually able to strike a deal somewhere between our original positions. Arvind was so distraught at the final price that I felt terrible. I knew that I had done as well as possible, but there was scant satisfaction. Negotiating for Arvind was exhausting.
     “Meeester Stuart,” he finally declared. I may have this restaurant, but I will be unable to afford to feed my family. Surely, you will not charge me more than $100.”
     “Arvind,” I said. “Every other lawyer in town would charge thousands of dollars for three months of negotiating. My fee of $500 is a bargain.”
     “Oh,” he clutched his heart like an elderly man. “I will pay you $200.”
     I was so relieved to be near the finish line of this transaction that I might have agreed to $200. Yet, I was determined to maintain some dignity. I declared to Arvind:
     “I’ll make the fee $400, plus lunch every Friday at the restaurant for a year.” 

     I smiled, trying to convey that I was only joking about the lunch, but he was already calculating.
     “Dat would be very expensive. Make it $200 plus one lunch.”
     I gave up. I would not discuss it anymore.
     The day of the closing finally came. Arvind and his shy wife solemnly signed the mound of documents. He trembled visibly when he handed me his check. I showed him my final fee of $350 on the closing statement, naively thinking he might thankfully acknowledge the discount. The seller’s attorney shuddered, slyly showing me the $2,500 bill he was presenting to his client.
     Yet, after the farewells were said, I was happy to be done. Arvind Daya was out of my life, unless I chose to seek indigestion. I considered not cashing the $350 check and framing it instead, a remembrance of this early stage of my career.
     Only thirty minutes after everyone had gone, the phone rang. It was Arvind.
     “Meeester Stuart!”
     “Arvind. What’s wrong?”
     “ Dey took dee furniture!” he shouted.
     I was speechless. Of course they took the furniture. For a moment, I started to doubt myself. But I regrouped and began to explain patiently into the phone that, in America, a house is always sold without the furniture. It is supposed to be empty. I thought I heard sobbing on the other end of the line.
     “Meeester Stuart,” Arvind said. “You know what would help me fix dis most unfortunate situation?”
     “What?” I asked, exasperated.
     “I tink about $350 would do it….”

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