Man’s Scheme Of Things

Here’s another one on ‘Garden’ – four over hundred words.

‘Look at the chinar-lined vistas, blooming flower-beds, shallow terraces, smooth sheets of falling water, and wide canals studded with the stepping stones. Beautiful! Breath-taking! If only man had created this world…’

‘Well, our four-legged friends, also the finned and the winged ones, would be very nervous about it. They would want to be more than ending up as garden curios, gawked at in zoos, farmed for meat, or reared as house-pets, assuming they don’t figure in circuses or in labs anymore.’

‘Animal rights, eh?’

 The stray dog behind them morosely thought, ‘Forget it, he wouldn’t have another man around to share his world and women.

End

The Shalimar Gardens in Srinagar was built by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir for his wife Nur Jahan, in 1619, and later, extended on the order of Emperor Shah Jahan. ‘Shalimar’ meant ‘Abode of Love’ or ‘House of Joy’.

On sighting these Gardens, the Emperor was believed to have recalled Amir Khusrau’s farsi couplet:

‘Gar firdaus bar rue zameen ast / hameen asto, hameen asto, hameen ast’
If ever there is Paradise on Earth / It is here! It is here! It is here!

More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shalimar_Bagh_(Srinagar)

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A ‘Natural’ Art

A hundred and five words on ‘Garden’ in response to Aheila’s challenge at: http://thewriteaholicblog.wordpress.com/.

The Garden is an intricate blend of nature’s bounty and subtle human creation, a celebration of aesthetic expression and appreciation, a forum for seamless dialogue between the creations of man and nature inviting interaction and exploration, an ideal retreat for public leisure and awakening of human sensitivity to the environment.

Touch the rocks, partake the fragrance, feast on the landscaping, hear the rustle of the leaves, the bubbling streams and call of the birds, and savor the fruits right off the trees!

An evocative bouquet that awakens the mind to the beauty of life, to a grateful prayer for the gift of the five senses!

End

Well, I had never looked at a garden before in these terms. Was bowled over by this alluring imagery.

Would the real be a climb-down? Perhaps, not. This is about ‘The Garden of Five Senses’, a project of Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation.

Visit http://www.vigyanprasar.gov.in/5senses/develop71a.htm for the original and more.

Can I just buy some stamps?

Part 3: Good Bye, Humberto…

On our last day in Moyogalpa, we sat patiently in our hotel lobby. We knew that the ferry would blow its horn when it was time to board. We would sit in the shade of the garden-like hotel and then head into the sun and humidity only when the boat was boarding its passengers.
Humberto, who had never even glanced at us in days, now began a conversation.

Humberto: Where are you from?

Me: We are from America.

Humberto: How long are you traveling?

Me: I’m traveling for only a few months, Jeff has half a year.

Humberto: (shrugs) Oh.

He then looked back to his magazine as though we had never talked. I seized the moment; this was my first “conversation” with him and I was quite curious to know a bit about him. I thought of something to say to keep the conversation alive.

Me: How is business?

Humberto: Not good.

Me: (thinking – no kidding), “Why is that?”

Humberto: Him (he motioned with his head towards the Bahiha Restaurant and Hotel).

Me: What do you mean, how does he affect your business?

Humberto: He takes all the customers.

Oh, I see where this is going. I felt like a cat about to snatch a mouse. Jeff sat back with a big grin knowing what was about to transpire.

Me: Why do you think that is? (I tried to hide my sarcasm)

Humberto: Because he cheats.

This comment took me by surprise. “He cheats?” I thought, “What does he mean?”

Me: Humberto, what do you mean he cheats?

Humberto: Look at him, how he is nice to those people, he doesn’t even know them.

Me: What’s wrong with being nice to someone? Especially your customers?

Humberto: Why should you be nice to your customers? So that they will buy from you? This is dishonest. He doesn’t like those people [his customers], he just pretends to like them so that they will buy from him.

Me: I don’t understand. What is wrong with being nice to someone? If you meet someone in the street are you rude to them or are you nice to them?

Humberto: That is different, someone in the street isn’t trying to buy from you. When you are nice to a customer it is like offering them a bribe to buy from you.

Wow, it made absolutely no sense to me. I tried to look at it through the eyes of a man who lived through a…dictatorship regime. I suppose showing any form of “customer service” whether that be a smile, a friendly attitude or just good service was viewed as decadence…this guy actually believes that being courteous to your customers is a form of social bribery…

End

Can I just buy some stamps?

Part 2: I don’t get…

That evening I actually wrote 6 post cards. The next morning, while having breakfast at the Bahiha, I asked for change again. I had my 27 Cordobas ready to buy my 3 extra stamps. After I ate I went over to my hotel and found Humberto behind the counter. I announced that I needed 3 more stamps and watched in near disbelief as he slid down the counter, put on his postmaster hat and then announced as though he hadn’t heard a word I had said.

Humberto: How can I help you?

Me: (…OK, I’ll play along) I need three stamps.

Humberto: I’m sorry, it is Sunday, the post office is closed.

Argh!!! Are you kidding me? Why didn’t he just tell me that before he put on his stupid hat? What is wrong with this guy?…

Me: No, seriously, I need 3 stamps. Look, I even have correct change.

Humberto: No, the post office is closed today. You must come back tomorrow.

Me: What’s the point? Just sell me the stamps! I’m your customer!

Humberto: The post office is closed, there is nothing I can do.

Jeff stood nearby laughing and said, “Forget it dude, just buy the stamps tomorrow.”

I agreed and as we walked off I vented to him. It made no sense at all.

(To be contd.)

Can I just buy some stamps?

This piece is a slightly edited version of the original post at: http://scotttraveler.wordpress.com with the author’s kind permission.

Part 1: I get…

This story is about the owner of this hotel and the (unnamed) owner of the hotel I was staying in. When we arrived in Moyogalpa we immediately wanted to stay at the Bahiha (on the right painted in pink in the pix) as the owner was so friendly but he was all booked up…We ended up at another hotel with rooms that were bare but at least the beds were comfortable. There were no mosquito nets to be found and with no screens on the windows we were literally mosquito bait while sleeping. I tried burning a mosquito coil in the room but the next morning we woke up green and probably had toxic poisoning. After that experience, I always travel with a tiny “Defender” mosquito net; it weighs almost nothing and takes up about as much room as two pairs of socks.

Our hotel lobby area was an outside garden with hammocks, a restaurant and some plants. It looked nice enough. When we arrived at the desk to check in a portly man wearing only some boxer shorts, flip-flop sandals and a “wife-beater” t-shirt glanced up at us from his hammock with a look that showed his annoyance that we disturbed his nap. He rolled out of the hammock (with great effort) and yawned as he walked up to us. I noticed that he had a hole in his tank-top t-shirt right next to his belly button. He stuck his finger in the hole and scratched, wiped the crust from his eyes and asked for our passports. He filled out our registration with about as much attention as a dog resting on a porch on a hot day in Alabama. He asked how many days we were staying and after we told him he quoted a price. We paid and then watched as he dragged himself back to his hammock and began to lay down. I asked him (in my broken Spanish) if there was somewhere that I could buy stamps for my postcards. Without looking up as he adjusted the hammock he informed me that this hotel was the post office and he was the post master. He never did look up but instead laid down on the hammock, closed his eyes and went right back to sleep.

Later, I learned that his name was Humberto.

Jeff and I dropped our bags in our room and returned to the Bahiha for lunch and a cold beer. As we walked out of the hotel I was about to ask Humberto if I could buy some stamps but he was snoring away in his hammock so I left him alone.

When we came back to the hotel in the afternoon he was behind the counter tending to some hotel business. I could see that behind the left side of the counter there were some mail slots, a postal scale and a separate cash register. I walked up and asked Humberto if I could buy some stamps. He let out an audible sigh, put away his papers and slid a few feet over to the “post office” side of the counter and then took out his official “postmaster” hat and put it on. And then as though we hadn’t just spoken he said, “How can I help you?”

I thought he was joking but I played along, “I need to buy some stamps please.” He asked me how many stamps I wanted and I said that I needed 3. He said that the cost was 27 Cordobas. I took 3 ten Cordoba notes from my pocket and handed them to him. He punched a button on the “post office” cash register and when the drawer opened he announced that he did not have any change.

Me: Ok, can you give me change from the hotel register?

Humberto: No.

Me: Why not?

Humberto: That is hotel money, this is post office money, they can’t mix.

Me: That doesn’t make sense.

Humberto: That’s the rules.

Me: Ok, forget I’m buying stamps, as a hotel customer, as one of your customers, can I get change?

Humberto: No.

Argh! You have to be kidding me!

I stepped away from the counter and stood there for a minute. I watched as Humberto removed his postmaster cap and returned to his work on the “hotel side” of the counter. I walked back up.

Me: Hola. Can I get some change?

Humberto: No.

Me: Why not?

Humberto: Because you want to buy stamps, the hotel and post office money is separate.

Me: No, I don’t want to buy stamps, I just need change.

Humberto: No, I know you need stamps, I can’t give you change.

…I looked around his hotel lobby and restaurant. Aside from the cat purring on the counter and Humberto’s Mom washing sheets in the back, it was empty. Every guest of Humberto’s was over at the Bahiha having lunch. Hmmm, go figure, the Bahiha owner is friendly and he gets all the business.

I went over to the Bahiha and asked for change to buy stamps, “Sure Amigo, coming right up. Care for a cold beer or some food while you’re here?

Wow, what a difference.

I went back and watched Humberto mystically transform from slovenly hotel proprietor to officious public servant and then he dispensed my 3 stamps.

(To be contd.)