A Small World
A Five Star hotel. I am in the lobby as PR person of a group promoting Indian dance. Sitting behind marble-topped affluence and I feel a whiff of it by merely breathing in.
I smile – a muscular contraction which reaches the eyes when someone says “hello” – otherwise a smile which freezes above the cheekbone.
A fat American lady wearing graded pearls and many wrinkles says, “you have a beautiful country” and I say, “Yes, but we prefer yours” – she mouths an eloquent “aah” and, with a Yankee shrug, totters away on her age old heels.
A man with a heavy camera and an accent to match, says “Excuse me, can I make photo you in saree”? He clicks and I sit down once again and watch the mini-world go past.
A black couple change dollars at the cashier’s counter opposite. A curly-headed French lady (she said “merci” when I picked up her hanky) sidles up to her man and looks possessive while he settels his bills.
Bang, bang, bang, a five-year-old Texan boy (at least he looked like one in his tuxedo!) runs around the lobby massacring all and sundry with his toy gun.
Old Spanish women, wearing large straw hats, chatter away.
Another old tourist (nationality unknown) asks, “Which way to the rest room please?”
All eyes turn to the tall blonde who nonchalantly walks across the lobby to the swimming pool in her brief bikini.
“How many elephants are there in Elephanta caves and are they wild”? asks a man who looks like he’s from Boston.
“Gut morning, which way to the beer shop?” enquires a German.
A pretty Italian girl wants to know where the “beauty shop” is .
“Who is Sheeba”? asks a fair tourist, “Solomon’s woman”, I say. “No, no, no, your god Sheeba”, I look puzzled – light dawns – “Oh! Shiva”, and I tell her all about the dancing god.
“Pardon me, I wonder if you would be kind enough to direct me to the chemist’s,” says an Englishman, sounding like a passage from The Times.
An Australian lady, turned Buddhist nun, talks of renunciation and I look at the plush luxury around with a detached eye.
A busload of tourists come back from their day’s outing, armed with peacock feathers, snakeskin bags, brass trombones. Rudrakshi beads and saffron robes.
It’s time to go home and I reluctantly lock my desk. It’s a small world and the lobby of a five-star hotel gives you a fair glimpse of it.