India is many things. A sun baked fragrance shop of fabulous contrasts, vibrant colours and textures; extreme beauty, heart-breaking poverty, wonderful kindness and all the things people write about far better than I can ever hope to achieve. So, bollocks to all that, why set oneself up to fail to a level beyond that I am already succeeding at?
On reaching the top of the drive, our Auto-Rick pulled over at security. To gain entry to the hotel forecourt will cost R400, however, explains the charmingly polite guard, handing the chit in at the ballroom restaurant – a place, incidentally, where it takes three waiters to place a single puri just out of reach on the table – will allow you to reclaim R300 against your meal there. Perfect, my rubber arm is twisted and a swim followed by a spot of lunch is decided upon.
Passing through the fading grandeur of the hotel to the thirsty looking rear lawns one is surprised by a decent looking pool where one is immediately collared by a waiting Functionary (Number Two). A swim, of course, is an additional cost that needs to be paid for at reception. A fact our well-mannered man on the gate (Functionary Number One) neglected to mention, as, subsequently, did reception who pointed us in the direction of the pool.
Ros treks back to pay as I set the scene for a refreshing dip and a dose of relaxation. Two sun loungers, long since parted from their cushions, are dragged into the shade of a palm tree, carefully placed just far enough from the trunk to avoid being bombed by friendly coconuts.
Functionary Number Three appears to stand guard over us, while I note that the beer bottle cap to grass ratio is about 50/50.
Our guard, who other than protecting against the threat of non-authorised foreign bathing, probably did not get out too much. This may sound a little harsh, but the opinion is based upon the main topic of conversation being Prince Philip’s visit twenty years ago. I will avoid being harsh about his maths as I need to check my facts, but, if memory serves, the Queens tour of the subcontinent, accompanied by Prince Philip, was in 1961, near on 55 years ago. Equally, unless of course HRH has swung by Mysore more recently while leaving his wife back at the palace, then the attitude to women is suspect too.
I had the children changed in anticipation by the time Ros returned from reception. I prematurely go to pull on some trunks myself when I am informed that, despite now having paid twice, they need some ID before allowing us to escape the heat of midday with a plunge into cooling water.
My turn to trek back from whence I came, smiling as two squealing splashes behind me indicate Lyulf’s and Peta’s attitude to Indian bureaucracy.
It takes four people, with the imminent arrival of the yet un-born fifth joining us at this rate, to look after me at reception. By, ‘look after’, I mean that they insist that, as the photo of my passport is digital, they must have a digital copy of my ID rather than just note down the number.
Really, that’s all very well, but… The signal is (the blunt) Edge (of data transfer technology) and the charges are prohibitively expensive. Soon the combined costs of coming for a casual few lengths of crawl are going to equate to that of a gym membership. Not a good omen as, along with the majority of the population, a gym membership is paid for but never used.
The first email that eventually crawls from my phone to the interweb, returns somewhat shamefacedly as they (Receptionists One to Four) have given me an incorrect email address.
I try the WiFi. The password doesn’t work. The second set of details I am given mimic the first.
I give up and return to the Edge, and as I stand there contemplating an Indian remake of Faulty Towers – assuming I haven’t been beaten to it, that is. Actually, by the time I am finished here I probably will have been.
The mail appearing in my sent items brings me back to the present and I triumphantly present this to Receptionist Number One. In turn, this is presented to Receptionist Number Two and then given the final approval by Receptionist Number Four. As far as I could observe, I do not think the baby (Receptionist Number Four and a Half) or, for that matter, the neglected Receptionist Number Three were part to this decision.
Clutching Chit 4329 and now proudly eligible to swim, I purposefully stride through the corridors, empty bar the paperwork checking Functionaries.
Back at the pool Functionary Number Beyond Which I Am Able To Count appears with a ledger that has, most likely, been in use since Prince Philip’s visit. I enter my name; residence (for now, The Green Hotel); number of people swimming (I would have thought that this would be obvious, but in case some of us are extremely well camouflaged, or if there is an issue, similar to that of sound engineers, with counting beyond Functionary Number 2.)…
…And, finally, the moment the last 70 minutes has been leading up to – sound alarms, drums and trumpets – I enter 4329 in the all important ‘Chit Number’ column.
Excellent! At last!
Ah, that allows for less than five minutes swimming before lunch. Maybe I should have taken the Gym option after all.
All very India of twenty years ago.
At the risk of sounding controversial, however delightful, quaint, frustrating, different the above may be, it did cross my mind that time may be better spent collecting the beer caps, general litter and applying oneself to an odd coat of paint rather than endless paperwork.