When I was young and stupid my Mother, as many Mothers do, used to wait up for me if I was late coming in from a night out. As quiet as I might try a voice would say ‘every thing alright etc.etc.’ One night this week I had been visiting other lost souls and as it turned into a very sociable gathering it was not until 11’ish (we play hard in Koraput) that I said goodnight and left for my luxury pad, joking as I went that any later and my landlord would send out a search party for me. As I arrived at the many gated and padlocked Fort Knox my mobile went off. Apart from the fact that the ring tone is about bananas (sad I know, but it amuses me) I had stashed it in my shoulder bag so I scrabbled around in the dark trying to locate it before the entire town came out to see what the banana man was selling at such an ungodly hour. I panicked somewhat as I thought it was a call from the UK and it would stop before I could locate the infernal thing. In the meantime the dogs had started up and the odd cow complained at being woken up. ‘Hello’ I informatively answered. In fractured English a strange voice asked ‘are you coming back or staying out tonight’. Ye Gods, Mum is tracking me from the dead. Being a dumbo it took a few seconds for me to realise who it was. By now lights were appearing in various homesteads interested in listening to the banana man. ‘I am at the gate as we speak’ I answered as the twig finally dropped. ‘OK’ was the reply and the phone went dead. The suburbs, not understanding a word of this very lengthy conversation decided it was nothing interesting and that it was only that mad Englishman so went back to bed. Try opening 6, 12 inch and squeaky bolts, and 3 padlocks, in the dark with keys that all look identical even in daylight and see if you can be quiet about it. If you can you are a better man/woman than I Gunga Din. Having negotiated successfully the iron gates I am met at the door by a very friendly Indian along with his wife and small female child who now all want to have a conversation with me. This is 11 at night, I want to go to bed and I have a family who fully intend to tell me their life history provided I tell them mine first. Normally, fine, but I can only understand one percent of their language (on a good day) and there is even less chance of them understanding me. I feign illness, politely say goodnight and I’m in, at last.
The following day I make breakfast. Nothing unusual about that you say. What you, and I, do not know is that that is the last of the gas. I discover this at coffee time or what passes for coffee time. I put the kettle on (it’s a hard life having to make your own coffee but I’m brave) turn the gas on and, see above about dumbos, have difficulty in not being able to light the gas. Another twig drops, and by now I have a fledgling forest growing about me, and realise there is no gas. This is a disaster of the first magnitude. What to do. When our power goes out, as it does at least twice a day every day, I have an emergency plan that swings into operation. If it is daylight, utter a few profanities and wait for it to return. At night I turn the torch on, light the candles, sit back, and feel smug. But no gas is a new challenge. Being bright, I shout to the landlord ‘NO GAS’. Some Indian minutes later he appears and says all is in hand. This is around 11am. At 3:30pm my bell, or rather dong because that is exactly what it sounds like, goes dong. It’s the boy (there is always a boy in these stories) to collect and exchange the cylinder. An hour later he reappears with my coffees essential ingredient, heat in gaseous form. I grovel at his feet, money changes hands, a beatific smile appears on the boys face and I’m in business. The next time you complain about ‘that coffee seems a long time coming’ just remember my story. My coffee took five and half hours to arrive. And you think you have it tough.
Eggs are sold loose here and are placed in a small plastic bag which you then carefully carry hoping that a passing cow, Indian, tuk tuk, motorbike or the odd jeep does not pass so close that you end up carrying cold omelette. Now I have to admit that the only reason I am telling this story is to gloat. A, another sorry volunteer here, has asked twice now for his family to send him some egg boxes to prevent the tragedy outlined above. Being a good family they have positively responded and posted the requisite article. But, they have never arrived. He has been here almost two years. I’ve been here just on a month. On one of my many shopping forays I spotted what looked like plastic egg boxes. Looking closer they are what they appear to be, ‘egg boxes’. I buy one. I go to the egg market and pass the box to the vendor. He accepts it, fills it and then proceeds to tie the popper handles together as he knows that they will pop open at the wrong moment. I pop the box into my back pack at last confident that cold omelette is off the menu, forever. Eat your heart out A, I’ve cracked it, the pun is not intended and I will gloat for at least a couple of minutes and for few rupees I will even tell you where to find them.
And to put the nail in the adventures of this dopey old git for this week I also tracked down nails. For wacking into the wall to hang my mosquito net up. It currently hangs closer to the floor than is probably good for it, or me, and I need to raise the string about 2 feet higher. The previous tenant must have been a bit of a short a**** as I can crash into the nails if I am not careful because they are so low down. One concern, I have to wait for the landlord to go out otherwise I just know he will appear wanting to know what the racket is about and I can hardly tell him I am in the process of demolishing his walls. More of this in a later edition of this enthralling narrative.