gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

letters from the edge.
1. the way we roll.

the hotel i usually stay in delhi is not exactly five-star, three star or any star at all. there are no stars attached to that place. it has been slipping inexorably into a state of disrepair since the first time i was taken by its old-world charm. now it's just old, and not very charming. what i still like about the hotel, other than its price, is the price. no it's the people. ok, it's the price and the people. the people are warm, welcoming, friendly, and that part reminds me of home.

when i left india the last time, i had to abandon some clothes i'd given to a dobi-walla, a laundry person. they didn't get it back to me in time before my flight. now, believe it or not, it was all waiting for me, a neatly folded pile of my clothes sitting on a shelf at the laundry shop. however, having sat there for the better part of two years, there was an undeniable musty odor clinging to the stuff so i asked them to clean it all again. it will be fascinating to see if it's done when i return to delhi in a month's time.

as i waited to check in for my domestic flight between delhi and chandigarh, a pretty classic indian scene was unfolding nearby. the line-up snaked around a maze of ropes and just to one side was a group of about twenty people who were being told they could not board their flight. i don't know why. i only understood the odd hindi word being bandied about as the discussion became more and more heated. there was a lot of shouting, a lot of arm-waving until eventually the group began hollering in unison something, loosely translated, like: "jet airways is ripping us off hey hey!! jet airways is ripping us off hey hey!!" the mood continued to deteriorate. the group decided to take further action by shutting down the check-in counter. they congregated there and refused to let people go through for any flight.

that unfortunate decision was made as i had just taken my turn at the counter. so, not only was i unable to check in, i found myself smack-dab in the middle of the protest which became rather volatile with the arrival of several policemen. whistles were blown. there was a lot of jostling and shoving and hollering. one policeman grabbed my shirt and told me to back off. i tried to explain that i was just a simple foreign tourist in the wrong place at the wrong time. my hindi being what it is, however, i actually said something more like: "my mother is a happy fellow." the policeman just stared at me for a moment. then he started laughing.

i like to think that announcing my mother's general demeanor actually changed the whole mood of the place. the truth is i have no idea why the group moved away then, why we were all of a sudden allowed to carry on with check-in. they moved off to the side and devolved into a protracted discussion with the police and airline personnel. they were working it out. i moved through to the departures lounge while making a mental note to brush up on my hindi.

the hotel i like to stay in chandigarh is not exactly five-star, three-star or any star at all. there are no stars attached to that place. it's clean enough, but the sheets are thread-bare, the curtains faded long ago, the towels are like sand-paper and the shower is pointed directly at the toilet. more importantly, the shower is pointed directly at the toilet-paper beside the toilet. i remembered that little design flaw only in the midst of a shower this morning, which made the next stage of my ablutions uncomfortable. what i still like about the place, other than its price, is the price. no it's the people. ok, it's the price and the people. they smile warmly, say hello when they see me, not because they're trained to, not because it's part of their job description, but because it's simply the way they roll, and that part reminds me of home. 


  1. Thanks for your daily chuckle and nugget of wisdom. Mary Lou

  2. Next time you go I would like to tag along.