Saturday, February 19, 2011

The lady and the hose

This is a story of typical contradiction, of the sort that most people experience whilst here in India. I have written little if anything of the “inner journey” I have been experiencing in the last couple of months, that’s pretty much private, perhaps reserved only for the few closest to me who understand, firstly, what the subtle spiritual journey involves, but also for those who have maybe been to India as well. So often anyone who begins explaining these things immediately come across as completely loopy, or at least very strange. I am surely both of these but I would prefer to leave just a little doubt !
On the one hand I have experienced a peace and a calm to a degree never felt before, on the other hand any little thing that might ordinarily test your patience will intensify immeasurably to the point where you can wonder if you will go mad, or simply kill someone.
The day to day noise, filth, overcrowding and such-like are all a part of the western visitors every day experience, this I have little difficulty living with, for a while at least. You ease into it, you develop a certain acceptance, you may not like it but it’s sort of OK. Amongst all that there are always a few things that tend to really press your proverbial buttons and it’s these things that tend to build up, whilst experiencing this particular peace and calm, therein lies the contradiction. It’s like the battle of good and evil, the higher self and lower self, the light and the shadow sides to ourselves, the true self and the ego personality self. However you like to put it, this is what intensifies and this is what we deal with here.
My thing is noise and knowing that in advance and knowing India as I do, I searched the internet to find the most suitable place to stay. That turned out to be the Sparsa resort, an “eco resort” no less. 5km out of the town and well away from the constant noise of the car, truck and bus horns blaring and the general noise of an Indian town, I had a pretty good feeling that I might get some peace and quiet, they advertise this as being the greatest benefit of staying here. I even checked the Google Maps satellite view of the location and satisfied myself that being way up an old farm road this place would be quiet. It also has a swimming pool, which is a real bonus in these temperatures of 30 plus degrees every day, I therefore booked 37 nights happy in the knowledge that after a hot long day on the hill and walking around I would have a quiet place to return to and a pool to cool off in.
Now here’s the thing that I didn’t count on and this is what gets on my goat.

(A saying I like, it goes….”if something gets on your goat, hide your goat”)

Because employees in India get paid next to nothing, a hotel like this tends to have about, oh, a gazillion of them. They are everywhere, untold cleaners, countless gardeners, admin staff and various other uniformed people who I have no idea what sort of work they do. They are everywhere and whenever you have Indian people you have incessant noise, and that’s a fact. They talk loud and talk all the time. From one end of the rather beautiful hotel grounds to the other there are orders being barked around, conversations going on (and on and on and on) requests being passed on, cell phone conversations and I guess general chit-chat, which to me all sounds pretty much the same.
As I have discovered, the single-digit IQ employees are trained to do certain tasks, not at all unlike you might train a monkey (and I say this in the nicest possible bloody way and with no offence to monkeys !) Any little thing that deviates from their plan and their training confuses and causes all sorts of difficulties, but I won’t get any further into that as we I would be here all day.
Whether 5.30am or after midnight, if there is a conversation between three employees to be had outside your window then that’s precisely what happens, loud and long with their harsh voices in fully amplified Tamil. This for the spiritual aspirant from day one becomes a test of patience and tolerance of course but many westerners solve this problem by sleeping with earplugs.
Not only would I refuse to sleep with earplugs in but “seeing as I am paying for the promised quietness at this hotel I will ensure I get it even if it kills me !” Now some guests feel the same way about not having hot water on demand, or towels that look as though they got washed in the dirt or wherever, for me, I will get this quietness I want. I have also discovered that a person with principles is in for a very difficult time here in India and that it damned near did kill me I’m sure.
After a conversation with the general manager early on, who is a very collegial gentleman, I was assured that it was being dealt with and would not be a problem. I should have taken the initial clue that when I first spoke with him he asked me to repeat myself a little louder as he was deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other. After adjusting the hearing aid in his semi-OK ear he appeared to listen intently. The second time was after about two weeks after one of these early morning wake-ups outside my window between the cleaning boys and after I opened the door and greeted them with an international greeting of my own. Watching these young men scatter like cockroaches was one thing but something had to be done. The GM was very upset and determined he would fix the problem once and for all. He called an immediate meeting and set about making a lot of noise of his own. The next day he asked me if things had improved after he had signs put up out the back and had spoken with all the staff. I told him that as it happens that next day was actually worse.
I have come to the conclusion that this will never change, that it’s just not possible, it’s is entirely in their nature, that the fact the staff entrance is right beside the yoga/meditation areas and outside the various accommodation units is not good planning. So now I just bang on the window or yell at them in no uncertain terms, send them scattering cockroach style and this seems to get the desired affect.
Westerners think the Indians are all highly irritating and for some reason they think we are all mad….go figure !
This brings me to the hose lady, the woman who waters the lawns and gardens. There is another thing we westerners tend to struggle with, that is, invasion of private space. You know what I am talking about and in a country like NZ we have plenty of space so we feel this deeply in a place like India where all of a sudden there is little if any private space.
Hose lady has been trained in the art of wasting water by watering the grass and garden around the swimming pool in the middle of the day, which also happens to be the most inconvenient time as this is when many people are lounging by the pool. Let’s not even get into the idea that this “eco resort” has signs up everywhere that mention saving water, I mean, in the rooms they even have signs explaining how much water is used taking a shower, a dripping tap and so forth. They even recommend wetting yourself, turning the shower off, washing down, then turning the shower back on in order to wash off (why on earth they don’t just transport us down to the local tank I don’t know !)  So then they start watering the grass in the hot 30 odd degree sun but this woman has clearly been trained to water every last inch of grass whether there are people there or not, inevitably there are people there. Space invading hose lady sneaks around hosing underneath the sun loungers, careful around bags and shoes and ensuring that wherever possible she is wetting the green bits. A few days of this is not a big deal, most people find it a little amusing, most people also only stay a few days. A couple of weeks requires I politely ask her to come back later, preferably next month, which of course she completely ignores as she not only doesn’t seem to speak a word of English but that is absolutely not within her training.
Instructing the pool guy to tell her to go away works only one day at a time and must be repeated every day, unfortunately pool guy is not always there when needed as he is away having loud conversations elsewhere. Sign language I found works relatively well but then with eyes closed, resting, listening to music I find she has sneaked up behind me and is down on her knees hosing the grass underneath the sun lounger. Space invasion can be felt and does not always just require vision and sound, you can get the feeling that someone is there.
Days turn into weeks and this battle continues until once or twice I had to stand up and sort of shoo her away and keep persisting with that until she didn’t dare come back. Then there was yesterday, it was just one of “those days” where she just went too far, kept coming back and back until she sneaked around behind a tree and was trying to hose underneath my lounger from a distance. That was it, after deciding moments before that today was the day I would overcome my intolerance I let rip at hose lady. I jumped up and screamed at her leaving absolutely no doubt that she was doing it all wrong. People came running from all over thinking that someone was drowning, saw it was me giving it to hose lady, then doing that cockroach thing again. I literally chased her from the swimming pool area and proceeded to instruct pool boy about invasion of private space and not annoying the guests, to which he looked blankly at me as usual clearly thinking “what is it with these westerners ? they are all mad !)
Today hose lady was back watering the grass at the pool again and I am sitting in the air conditioned comfort of my room.
Like the British, soon I too will leave scratching my head wondering what this was all about.

From the photos you can see this is a nice simple Bali-style hotel, nothing flash by western standards, just three star. Looking at the place you sort of expect it to be a nice restful quiet place don't you ?

These are the two covered-but-open meditation/yoga areas, rather nice

Again from a different angle, looks so calm and peaceful doesn't it ?

But then here you can see the staff entrance is right beside these halls and remember, 
there is a gazillion of them !

Poolside, very quiet and relaxing ? No, sorry, just doesn't work that way. And can't you just imagine hose lady fluffing round watering under and around these sun loungers ?

See what I mean ? And you thought I was making up stories !
The pool has not been so busy the last few days as the Westerners are leaving in droves as the weather heats up but usually by this time, 11.00am these sun loungers are all full and she just has to go watering every last possible blade of grass. But you can just see in this photo there is someone on the lounger (I would be screaming at her by now !)