Getting to where Zanzibar normally is located every single year is pretty simple. Go down Tito’s lane and take a right on the beach. Reach the shack which has the best music and the best crowd and the waiters with the cheeriest smiles and there you are. Of course, it would help if you checked the signboard too. We trekked off through the narrow pathway from the hotel to the beach, having been assured sagely by all we encountered enroute that yes, Tito’s lane was two steps away through the sand as the crab crawled. Ergo, the child, the niece, the spouse and I struck out valiantly along the shoreline looking for the elusive Zanzibar, its beach chairs placed on the sand, with them tables with lit candles up front, and music emanating from within. We trudged. Up and down. Sweat poured unbecomingly down my back and coursed down my face, I was sure the face was striped with sweat tracks. This was not the glamazon look I had in mind when I had slapped on the face paint. We trudged a bit. Looked up and down. Trudged a bit further. No Zanzibar. The husband stood, perplexed, and scratched his head. As he is wont to do when he is perplexed. “Arey bhai,” he hailed a random cap clad person directing operations at a shack underconstruction, “Where is Zanzibar?” Random cap clad person turned around and turned out to be the Hail Fellow Well Met of Zanzibar. Which was being put up. And was just a mass of wooden planks and bamboos. I could have sat in the sand and wept. But no. By Jove. I had two children watching me, and I decried we would find nutrition further down the road and trudged off down the Tito’s lane. Nice live music coming from a Cafe enticed us in. Cape Town Cafe. I will never visit again. Ergo I have made a note of the name.
More foreigners than Indians I noticed when we entered, but it didn’t quite register. The reasons why there were more of the palefaces would be clear to me in a while, right now I needed a table near a fan and a glass of water.
One surly waiter took us in with a scathing sweeping look from head to toe. I squirmed under his gaze. Surely we measured up to their dress code requirements, I thought. When we asked about the empty upper floor, he informed us with a smirk on his face that should have had me leave the cafe then and there, had I any self respect that it was only for a minimum billing of 5 k and above. We were four of us. I assumed the tab would have crossed that on a regular night. But since he was so insistent on blocking the way up, we parked ourselves down on the high chairs, and listened to the live music on, and grumbled about the appalling service given that all the waiters were brown nosing a group of foreign tourists who were clinging onto their single beers and no starters, but since there were not one, not two but three big screens showing a football match, with a rerun on a Man U match on, the brat had positioned himself in prime viewing position and refused to move a muscle to get to another place to get our spirits and victuals. For us above legal age of course, the child was limited to a carbonated beverage ‘allowed’ because we were on holiday, something he took full advantage of, having ordered himself as many said carbonated beverages as the pater ordered beer. Finally, worried sick that he would barf out his dinner, I forbid sternly by means of raising eyebrows, speaking sternly and wagging finger at the pater and terrifying him into daring order another carbonated beverage for the child. Waiters had to be called ten times before they would deign to take our order, they kept hustling us to finish, whether to get the bill. And we were a peaceful group of two well behaved, non inebriated adults and two children. Fed, sated and very miffed with the indifferent and outright rude service, we finished our meal and walked out. Did we tip generously? Har har har, I lived up to the stereotype of the stingy Indian tipper and refused to tip for such shoddy service. God knows, they would be putting out signs disallowing brown skins in next. Seriously though, I was pretty pissed off. Fuming in fact. I was rattling off Shylock’s “If you cut us, do we not bleed….” in my head.
Baga in the night has a different vibe altogether, the stores and stalls were all lit up bright and sparkling, people were bathed and fresh and pretty and handsome and out to enjoy themselves. Shopping was on with the kind of frenzy which could only be compared to a pride of lions feasting on a fresh kill. We, on the other hand, we tired and sleepy, and needed a freshly made bed to crumple into and headed back drowsily to our hotel rooms where we dozed off to the land of nod. The kind of deep dark dreamless sleep that follows complete exhaustion. Tomorrow, we would spend on the beach. And I had packed in my swimsuits, being exceedingly brave and not trying them out to check if the gremlins had been snipping at them too to take out vital inches and leaving them the exact size suitable for a tiny doll. So, to the beach it would be tomorrow. And I mentally packed the bag that would accompany us to the beach. With sunscreen. And camera and hat. And towel. And napkin. And beach toys. And change of clothing for the brat. Can’t help it. When I die, I’ll be probably making a list out for my funeral.
As Lethe overwhelmed me, I began dreaming of being trapped in a burning building with fumes of smoke choking me and making me gasp for breath, I woke up with a start, switched the night lamp on, and sniffed suspiciously. The dream had followed me to the real world. No, this was smoke. Real acrid smoke…I slapped myself metaphorically on the face, a hard one, for not reading the mandatory notice on the back of the hotel room door about what to do in case of a fire and leaped up to read it when I discovered the source of said smoke was the door bell thingie above the door….it was sparking away and burning merrily and thick pall of smoke emanating from it. I am nothing but brave and a quick thinker. K, K, K, I yelled in decibel levels loud enough to rouse corpses from the village church graveyard a kilometer away. The K was unmoved. Perhaps he was in a dream where wifely calls were meant to be ignored. I yelled louder and shook him awake. “The room,” I gasped. “It’s on fire.” He blinked twice and sprang up, alert and awake like the man of action he is. “Wha…where…”
Meanwhile, the smoke was billowing in more furious a manner and the sparking was getting audibly threatening….
(To be continued….)