An Auspicious Day

We have all experienced it many times. We are faced with a situation where we want to say NO!, but we are just too polite to do it

At first we can’t see them, but we can certainly hear them. They are incredibly loud and rather full of themselves. They are from New Zealand.  I can tell that not only from their accent but because they are announcing the fact to whoever is listening. Please note this is not going to be a rant about New Zealanders.  I have always found them charming despite their alarming proximity to Australia.  Never before have I met a NZ couple who were loud and obnoxious, but this couple most certainly are. They rattle on interminably and at full volume about themselves and their wonderful travels and how they always stay in the best hotels. We are desperate to avoid them and take a wide detour on the way to breakfast.

There are very few people seated in the dining room but the only tables for two are taken. We sit at one of the many empty tables for six.

We are just relaxing with our first cup of tea when the dining room door is flung open and the New Zealand couple enter, stop, survey the room, look at all the empty tables and then look at us. They walk over and say

“This is our first morning here, how does it work”

I want to say that that seems like a remarkably dumb question for world travelers such as themselves. But being so much nicer than you give me credit for, I simply reply

“You can sit anywhere. There are lots of empty tables so just choose where you would like to sit.”

They don’t move. Their eyes sweep the nearly empty dining room and then come right back to us. My heart sinks. I think I know what is coming. And I am right.

“May we join you” they ask in unison

This is the moment I am talking about. It is a question which invites a truthful answer. But none of us ever gives it. We don’t want them to join us, but we will say “yes, of course” and spend the next hour regretting it. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I will regret it, but I open my mouth to say “yes of course”.

Much to my amazement  I hear myself saying “I am sorry to sound rude, but we would rather eat on our own”

The world stops spinning on its axis. I am horrified. They stand there like fish out of water, their mouths working but no sound comes out. Well that’s an improvement. Gordon, who is looking almost as shocked as they are, takes the opportunity to get as far away from the scene as possible and  makes a run for the buffet. The couple, still gasping for air, finally flounce off, heads held high, esteem held low.

I don’t know whether to cheer or hide. I am amazed at myself, but delighted. It is rather late in life to have finally said what I want and not what I should. It feels good

Gordon returns to the table, still stunned and says in a shocked voice “I can’t believe you said that”. A disapproving phrase that he has used many times over the years

And then he gives me a high five

We are in the Svatma Hotel in Tanjore where we fled after leaving the Mari-not-so-Gold Hotel.

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Now, dear readers, where would you rather wheel your Fabulosity Meter and Louis Vuitton luggage into – the Mari-not-so-gold hotel, or here? SO much more suitable. I immediately feel quite at home.  It is a new luxury hotel in Tanjore and it is causing quite a controversy because it is charging so much more than other hotels in the town. But for westerners it is still reasonable. And after the Mari-not-so-Gold Hotel I will pay anything for a bit of luxury. And besides, the Fabulosity Meter needs an outing.

After my life changing performance at breakfast, we head off with Ragu to look at some temples. I can feel a spiritual awakening coming on.

Our drive takes us along more country roads and farming villages. At one point the road runs along the side of a small river.  I notice a photogenic village on the other side of the river

I ask Ragu to stop. As I stand to take the photo I notice two women waving and beckoning me over

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Dear readers, you all know by now that if it were two men waving and calling me, I would have plunged into the river immediately. However two women don’t have quite the same allure, so I look for an easier way to cross. A small bridge just down the road seems perfect

The first person I see is a truly lovely young woman with a winning smile. It seems to me that she could easily grace the pages of a magazine or star in a TV show. But the birth lottery has her placed in this tiny village miles from anywhere where she happily sits in the middle of the village lane washing a huge pile of pots and pans blissfully unaware of what life might have had to offer…..

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I wonder how one family can use so many pots. It turns out that we have arrived on an auspicious day. India has auspicious days for everything it seems (more on that in a future blog). Today is an auspicious day for cleaning, so one of the communal village stoves and all the pots and pans are being scrubbed. As this is such an unusual occurrence they even decorate the stove to recognize its newly acquired status

dscn3961A charming custom that I might take up at home. But how long, I wonder, do the stove and the pots and pans go between washes? And more importantly where has the water come from that the lovely young lady is using to clean the pots? I look at the river and suspect I know the answer

The village and its inhabitants are enchanting. This is a very different village from the previous one I visited. There everything seemed grey and colorless and although the people were friendly there seemed to be no joy. Here the village is all about color and laughter and friendship. There are 16 houses and over 100 inhabitants. The villagers all rush out to greet us and are incredibly friendly. They all want to have their photograph taken and the competition to have the best photograph is quite intense

dscn3955(Ed: I let this less than flattering photo pass in the interest of journalistic excellence.)

Some happily pose for the camera

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others prefer to strike a pose and attempt to steal the show

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There are however a few holdouts who prefer to go about the daily personal hygiene routine regardless of the camera toting royal visitor.

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But they are all amazingly friendly and full of smiles and laughter

Their houses are tiny but immaculate. They appear more prosperous than the last village, although several of the houses have tarpaulin over the roofs. Some of the houses have cement walls and floors and all seem full of life. One man who has perhaps the smartest house in the village is happy to show it off and stands proudly by his TV and posters of his children as babies

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The government apparently donates three TV’s to each small village, and as this house has electricity it got one of them. But still there is no water and no toilets. It is wise not to venture off into the bushes behind the village

Outside lunch is bubbling on the stove that hasn’t been cleaned and in a pot that waits to be cleaned

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We are invited to join them. It is an incredibly generous offer as we have seen the rice and peppers laid out to dry

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and realized how little food they have. We politely decline.

We have already spent spent two hours with them and  it is time to move on. But I could stay all day. They are a delight.

We would happily invite them to join us at our table anytime.

(Ed: Now boys and girls can you say h-y-p-e-r-b-o-l-e?).

 

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6 Responses to An Auspicious Day

  1. Colette says:

    ah, this is MUCH BETTER 🙂
    congrats, Andrew on your accomplishing one of the benefits of aging, as you say ” to have finally said what I want and not what I should. It feels good”
    it was made a little easier that you would probably never have to see them again, but it is a start
    who would have been worse company at breakfast, this NZ couple or the first class guy in SFO?

  2. Baz says:

    Andrew you ALWAYS say what you want, usually as a thinly concealed barb in the subtext of what you say. However, I think this would have been lost on your New Zealanders so well done you for speaking out.

  3. andrew says:

    Mmmmm! Baz, I just have a sneaking suspicion that might not be a complement

  4. David & Frank says:

    Best of you Blogs to date – love the NZ honesty and I thought I was the only one to be able to say “NO” and you know who raises his eyes in horror at my rudeness but…. The village and villagers sound delightful – we continue avidly to read all you write d&f

  5. Patricia Campbell says:

    My mantra is “never ask a question, if you aren’t prepared for an honest answer”. Good for you Andrew!!! They asked… you answered. I am so glad that you have found a village with smiling people. I still am working on “How’s was your meal”.

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