When Broke Friends Decide to Split the Bill


When Broke Friends Decide to Split the Bill

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Most people think a fine dinner at a restaurant ends with dessert. If only it were so. The truth is much more painful. Especially if it’s the end of the month, or you and your gang are a bunch of college-goers or first-jobbers, which means you’ll are perpetually broke.

It all goes well until the waiter arrives with the hardest dish to swallow – the bill. It’s the worst possible way to conclude a meal, because it’s always the start of an argument.

These arguments always build up in intensity over three stages. For your next reunion with college mates, here’s a handy guide to spotting how these arguments begin, so that you can begin your anger management strategy in advance, and also avoid being the one who ends up paying for everybody.

Stage One: I’m Not Paying for That

Every group has one unlucky individual who has been saddled with the reputation of being “the responsible one”. This is the sucker who gets handed the dreaded black leather folder when it first arrives on the table. Since everyone else is conveniently bad at math, it is now up to the responsible one to rise to the occasion.

He has to corral the disparate members of the group and get them to pay up, according to their personality type. There’s the Shudh Shakahaari Teetotaller, who like the health ministry believes meat makes you unhealthy. The Bhukkad Bewda inhales everything on the table, and then you have the hybrid Shakahaari Bewda who drinks alcohol but thinks eating chicken is a vice. None of these are as annoying as the last type, called Do Dish ki Saazish, aka the one ordered french fries and a salad, but ate from everyone’s plate, but now refuses to pay for anything else. Now, the hapless responsible one is faced with memorising everyone’s orders and finding a logical way to split the bill, or making new friends.

Stage Two: So You Think You Can Maths?

Once the responsible one knows exactly who ordered what, he will spend a few minutes cursing the restaurant for giving the liquor and food bills separately. Repeatedly asking the the question, “Mujhe kitna bharna hai?” at this point will only ensure that you cement your reputation as the annoying one of the group. Also you are at the risk of being asked to shell out the extra sum in case someone (invariably its Do Dish ki Saazish) falls short of cash.

Amid the mind-numbing math, some anti-BJP liberal will refuse to pay GST, making the calculation even more complex. Then someone will suggest using an app to do the math, but by now the responsible one will have run out of patience and vow never to hang out with this bunch again.

Stage Three: Cash or Card?

The Avengers were fighting one another in Captain America: Civil War, but even they’ve got nothing on the infighting among a broke bunch of friends once the waiter asks, “Payment by cash or card?” It’s inevitable that the group will be equally divided into pro-cash and pro-card contingents. Unfortunately for the responsible one, the waiter will choose this moment to break the news that restaurant policy allows them to  pay using only one method. This is when half the people will go, “Bro, account mein utne paise nahin hai,” resulting in the responsible one raising his credit card to pay the full amount while mentally wailing in pain. The group will shamelessly promise to pay him back later, but the only thing the responsible one will be getting is the bill to take home as a souvenir.

Toward the end of Stage Three, one might think that the process of splitting the bill has finally come to an end. But that is not true. There is now another round of hellish calculations to determine the amount everyone has to pay the responsible one.

Until we go from being glorified interns and start drawing an actual salary, it looks like my friends and I are going to remain locked in this struggle. All the advice I can offer is trying not be the one left holding the bill at the end.