….”Do something, call the reception…” and so the man sat up in bed calmly, like he’s been dealing with hotel rooms catching fire on every trip we’ve been on, and squinted at the heiroglyphs stuck helpfully at the side of the phone to indicate the digits to be dialled to reach the requisite service. Vanity and a fair amount of laziness has stopped him getting himself to the eye doctor for a reading glasses prescription, and true to wifely tradition I chose this moment to remind him of his failings in said department of getting medical check ups done in timely manner, which led to some further back and forth by which time, said smoke had become cough inducing. Ever try opening hotel windows? I tried. And let me inform you, the first thing you need to do when you check into a room should be to check whether you can jump out of the window. Just in case there’s a fire at the door. You know. The window would not open, the spouse could not figure out the reception number, ‘9’ I yelled at him, “dial 9′. He did so, it got connected after many rings, post which he explained at leisure to the person at the other end, that we had a kind of situation in the room, and the bell box was on fire and could they send someone across to look at it. What? What? What? I yelled, you need to tell them we’re choking and dying and they’ll find our oxygen deprived corpses here, and I have a small child who needs me till he graduates. I shook my head, gathered my courage into a ball and rushed to the door, risking life and limb and some smoke inhalation and flung it open. A puzzled looking man was standing outside. “Bell nahin chal rahan hai.” He informed me. I did a little Rumpelstiltskin hopping and screaming fit then and there. “Bell kaise chalega? Bell ka dabba poor jal gaya hai! Fire brigade for bulao.” Looking up though, this looked like the Fire fighters could pass on this, and sleep through the night, and not curse us for disturbing their sleep. The smoke had trailed off and a blackened charred box remained. The man clambered up niftily onto a chair, removed said box, and promised to replace it in the morning. I closed the door and slumped on the bed. “We could have died, you know.” I informed the spouse. He rolled his eyes. The man has no sense of drama. I tell you. But then I have enough for the both of us.
The next morning. Buffet breakfast at the hotel was timed between 7.30 am to 10 am. Try getting a bunch of folks, bathed, dressed and presentable in public before 10am while on holiday. We screeched into the restaurant with five minutes to the gong, and like most buffets at more humble hotels, most of the good stuff was over, we banged the plates with our spoons for the victuals to be replenished, and having had some nourishment, we set out to do the most important thing we had come to do. Shopping. Walking shoes, check. Adequate sunscreen, check. Widebrimmed hat, check. Remove all jewellery and look like a vagrant to deter high pricing, check.
We traipsed out onto the road, a right delegation, the mater in law, the niece and me, and dived into the little shops that dotted the road. The child and spouse had been instructed to watch mindless television until we returned. I had been instructed to procure all the Manchester United branded merchandise I could find in order for the child to stay put. About the shopping expedition, three things. 1) I singlehandedly emptied out most of the shops on the Baga stretch buying clothes I would never wear in Mumbai. Bar maybe a few. 2] The folk selling these clothes were majorly from Karnataka and were most pleased to find the niece was from Hubli and held earnest conversations in Kannada with her. 3] Some stall owners are downright offensive and rude, expecting us to buy without bargaining. What? How can we not bargain? What is the thrill of shopping without a good bargaining fest? Unless we hammer the price down to half how can a skimpy top consisting of two translucent pieces of cloth of no practical use in my daily life, except perhaps as a lamp cover, be a purchase worth the frisson of thrill?
Two insistent phone calls later, we staggered back to the hotel where the child had been mildly ‘bheja frying’ as the colloquial term goes, the spouse about “Wen we’ll go tu the beech?”
Ergo, purchases dumped into the cavernous cupboards, swimsuits, towels, sunscreen and camera packed, hats placed jauntily on heads, we sauntered out to the beach, trudging through soft sinking sand, that I realised, having cleverly decided not to ruin my foot wear by holding said footwear in hand, was already scaldingly hot. We trudged up and down the beach, looking for what seemed like a hospitable shack given that Zanzibar was still under construction and found one, in shades of blues and blacks that had fans whirring overhead, which was incentive enough for us to get in. And so we took ourselves in, chose a comfortable spot, and sat and waited and waited and waited and waited to get waited on….
(To be continued….)