Mukhtar was cleaning the room when I entered it this afternoon.
“Good afternoon, Madam”, he said, with his gentle smile.
I said, “Did you make the swan on my bed the other day?”
He nodded. I repeated the question in Hindi to make sure he had understood it.
“Yes madam”, he said. “We learnt to do it in college.”
I said, “OK. I want to show you something.”
He watched me while I switched on my laptop.
“Did I do something wrong, Madam?”
“No, no. I just want to show you something.”
Yesterday, Dhanno brought Tai in front of her laptop to Skype with me. Dhanno and I have been dinosaurs, preferring to talk over the phone, rather than Skype-ing. No reason at all. But now that we have discovered it, we love it of course. Some times we don’t even talk, just look at each other and laugh.
Tai made me think of Mukhtar. And I thought he would feel pleased when he saw the comments on his swan.
I asked him, “Can you read English?”
He said, “Yes, Madam.”
I scrolled down the comments, and he beamed as he read them.
He said, “Madam, if you go to http://www.towelideas.com, you can see many more things.”
I said, “Mukhtar, it’s not about towel ideas, it’s about you.”
I left him to clean the room and went away for lunch. I came back to an elephant in my room.
I know he will make something different now everyday, thinking that it pleases me.
The room boys here are very young, for most of them it is their first job. The hotel has an ‘institute’ to train hotel staff in Mumbai, and they send their students here to intern for a few months or a year. This means that the hotel can pay them as little as a 1000 rupees for really hard work.
Of course, they are given a place to stay, a room close to the hotel, where they all live together. And food.
Our driver Nagraj said to us a while ago, “The food for the guests is good. The food for the staff is really bad. I try to eat out as much as I can. Or I go home and eat at night, ragi poottu.”
We assured him that the food for the guests was equally bad.
Nagraj lives at home, but the room boys come from far, far away – most of them from Bengal. My first room boy, Akash has gone back home to Dehradun.
“Why did you leave Dehradun and come here?”, I asked. “There are enough hotels there, aren’t there?”
He was reluctant to give me an answer. All he said was, “My brother works here. So I came here to be with him.” But somehow I thought there was more to it than that.
Anyway, I can’t see flowers happening in my room, anytime soon. But this elephant is rather cute.
By the way, my friend Nam who lives on a floor below me, also gets elephants in her room. When she knew I’d got a swan, she moaned, “How come you get a swan? And I get an elephant? Are they trying to tell me something?”
Now she will be reassured that I have had an elephant as well.