Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Little Cheating

Ismael is one of those faceless room-boys or bell-boys who throng the place I live at, in their multitudes to the point sometimes you have to shoo them off from your tiny room. He particularly hangs around uselessly, of course he leaves on greasing his palm with small change.

It took me weeks to realize he was talking to me in Hindi. Another Hindi freak in this Tamil land? Yes, his Hindi is totally unintelligible. And his machine gun staccato rapid fire delivery makes it all the more hard to catch. For all I know he may be shooting a hundred Tamil words a minute at me, with a dolefully small dose of Hindi words here and there... usually I get the meaning.

I know the context, and there are very few things I need from his erratic services. So we get along fabulously. I started noticing, lately, he would chop off the bill. Now that's like a lady kicking off her shoe and using her dainty toes, tickling your shin. The possibilities are immense, the implications mind-boggling, provided one follows the clues. It may all end there and then itself. So Ismael giving me hints without using Hindi nor Tamil, led me up the garden path indeed.

One day after a three course meal he produced only one item on the bill, plain salad. I got the hint and paid him a tip that must have been ten times larger. His smile, spanning his dark face from ear to ear, wouldn't go away... actually I was more worried about his not going away, since there were things happening in the evening news on the TV. If he goes away, so does that idiotic smile too, I logically analyzed the situation. So I waved him off and he reluctantly parted from me.

A little cheating goes a long way in establishing a relationship, so said my idol John Steinbeck, writing in his inimitable style, in his memoirs [sort of] " Travels With Charlie" -where there is no human male with such a name accompanying him, but his canine friend. It inspired me to write a collection of short stories that I have called " Travels With Zakir" where the human male companion, my driver Zakir who once drove me over 44,000 KMs in south India, taking minimal breaks, over four whole months... and it's a sort of journal full of every kind of comic to tragic happenings, including car breakdowns in middle of nowhere...some times in jungles with nearest city being a hundred KMs off.

The denouement to L'Affaire Ismael would have been he would have cheated his employers blind, and then expected an unreal, astronomical amount from me, as I could guess. Actually, I timed the whole experience so well, that before such a thing could happen, one day I upped and vanished. I had found accommodation. I moved out suddenly, leaving him high and dry with his dreams of illbegotten riches...
(c) Max Babi april 2006.


At 2:45 AM, Blogger david raphael israel said...

Well, a suitably absurd, albeit abrupt end (it seems) of the hotel escapades (unless more stories are recalled from a further remove of recollection). So this begs the question: where'd you move to? etc.

It seems the lad thought he was being horribly shrewd -- rather as if he had invented such a strategem from whole cloth. But you managed to outsmart him, through the more expert strategem of vanishing.

I now remember your having mentioned this Travels with Zakir (when we were traveling over some long road back in November). And I hope to read or hear more from those olden tales in future. I had not recalled that it was travels in south India; but this suggests those journeys as antedecent to the present migration.


At 9:45 PM, Blogger Max Babi said...

Aha, David-bhai, I did bring an abrupt end to the hotel stories, though have penned several more, flashback is a reliable method to bring them back!
Travels With Zakir could be a new blog elsewhere, who knows, and yes I have my own flat now in a peaceful area...with its own burgeoning stories. You'll all that in due course.
Tks for keeping Track of Max Tracks...

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Ozymandias said...

It is my misfortune that I cannot read your blog everyday. This blog seems to be your anchor to life amidst the craziness of Tamil Nadu. Ismael was perfect, both as a narrative and as a character!


Post a Comment

<< Home