Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wednesday's children

....are crowding, as discreetly as they can, in the doorway of the Shiva DX Hotel on Arakasham Road.

They're all male ("of course," says a voice in my head) and range from ages 15 to late 40s. But even the older guys "feel" much a bunch of teenagers. The fact that they are skipping either school or work in the middle of the day probably contributes to that.

Normally, the chowkidar (doorman/watchman) would shoo them off. But even he doesn't have the heart to stop their viewing the India vs. Australia cricket match. From where they are standing, they can just see the Shiva DX Hotel's big flat-screen TV, nestled over in the corner of the glassy, glossy marble lobby, near the glass coffee table arrayed with today's newspapers.

I can't pretend to begin to understand cricket (seems to be baseball with more rules - and I don't even understand baseball. Having more rules is somehow considered "better" over here - complicated things are somehow conflated with intelligence). But it has dominated headlines here for the past week or so (that and The Ugly Car, of course).

Something about an Indian player supposedly insulting an Australian, or maybe it was the other way around, or maybe it was both. India was threatening to withdraw from the matches (don't beat me up if this is's just what I can gather from the news which is rendered in code for those who already understand the game. Nothing is explained fresh in such a way that newcomers could learn about it).

Headlines announced that it was "a matter of Indian national honour" so this particular match is fraught with meaning. The doorway guys' faces are dead serious. They stand poised in various tense, macho stances with arms folded.

Even the desk man pretends not to notice the "room boys'" who are not on their "duty" quite as they should be...rather lingering around the flat screen as long as possible.

It's really nice to see this type of intersocial-group solidarity and cooperation. It's just too bad it only seems to emerge in opposition to something "outside."

Waiting game
The immigration office/policeman/whoever the authority figure is assigned to check up on me was meant to come over before 1pm today. At 1.15 there was still no sign. I tried explaining it to my desk guy, who nodded solemnly (I know he speaks very little English). I think I managed to get across that someone very important was going to come asking after me, and to expect a visit from "police," which probably scared the hell out of the guy.

Even at the FRRO, they could NOT explain to me (no matter how I phrased the question) whether I actually had to BE PRESENT at the hotel when the officer came, or whether the officer would just check in with registration to make sure I was signed in there, or whether the man in question was even a police officer, immigration officer or other type figure. The FRRO seemed to be suggesting that I sit in my hotel and not leave at all for "two three days." "Go back to your hotel and wait 2, 3 days" !

"Three days! I will have to leave sometime. What if the officer comes when I am not there?"

"When will you be there?" they asked.

Like it matters!

So I told them, Wednesday before 1pm. I'm sure when the guy finally shows up, it will be MY fault for not psychically knowing to be present when he arrived.

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