We said bye to our friendly rickshaw driver, and entered the hotel. We had already checked in before we decided to take the rickshaw down to the beach, and at first glance, the hotel seemed spacious and very normal, but what happened over the next twelve house was the furthest away from normal I had ever experience in any hotel anywhere in the world.
We had no other option than to eat in the restaurant that was connected to and was part of, the hotel. So after showering, we were all ready sitting in a clean, small restaurant waiting for some food. We looked at the menu and not for the first time, there was nothing in English and why should there be, but we recognised most of the dishes that were on the menu and so we didn’t think that ordering food would be a big problem, but it proved more difficult than we could have imagined. When the waiter came over, I just had the feeling this was not going to be easy. He did not seem in the least pleased to see us. We were not made to feel welcome and it was obvious this zoo had not seen any white monkeys for a long time.
When it became time for us to order, he just wanted us to eat the complete opposite of what we wanted to order. We wanted some chicken, he replied ‘ok you can have some vegetables’. At first we couldn’t really understand if this was for real. We didn’t know if to get annoyed or find the whole situation funny. In the end, we just asked him to order for us, what he thought we would eat, and that was what happened. We needed to eat and food was food. All the time the waiter was telling us what we should eat, we could feel the eyes of all the other animals staring at us lonely poor white monkeys.
Before our food arrived at our table, a large family entered the restaurant and sat next to us. We tried to communicate and say hello, but we were just greeted with more stares. A further ten minutes passed and just as we anticipated, the family that had just sat next to us got their food first, and then it was our time to do the staring.
A little boy of about five years of age sat next to his mother, while a few older women sat together with two younger teenage daughters, while the men of this large family sat on a completely different table; they were too far away from us to see what they were eating. The mother had ordered some food for the son and this came to the table first, while all the other women ate together. All four of us just could not believe what we were seeing and trying not to stare just became impossible.
The mother was using her hands and fingers only, which is normal for eating in India, but the way the feeding continued was far from normal, and the like of which I had never seen before. The young child had his mouth open all the time, and he was leaning over the table. There was no plate below his mouth and the food was picked up off the mother’s plate, balled up and pushed into the child’s mouth. The poor child was being fed so quickly that he could not chew and swallow the food in his mouth before the mother would return to her nest and fed the poor young bird more rice. The boy’s checks were popping out of his head, and the excess food was dropping from his mouth onto the bare table below. The food that hit the table was then recollected by one of the older sisters and placed back on the mother plate, that was then in turn re-fed to the child. Was this culture that we were witnessing, if so I am not sure I would want to witness it again? We all just could not keep our eyes away from looking over. Really it could only be described as being disgusting. It reminding me of one of those Japanese game shows that hit the TV in the UK in the 1980’s, where a contestant had his hands tied behind his back and with his mouth only had to eat as many noodles as he could in a certain time!
We continued to look on with amazement and when our food that the waiter had decided we should eat turned up, none of us were in the least bit hungry and we tried our best to regain some sort of appetite. Then, after a few mouthful of food that we were not sure what it was, there was a power cut, and the whole restaurant was plunged into complete darkness. It was so dark we could not see the food on our plates, but the good thing was we could no longer see the little bird being fed either. We continued to try to eat in the darkness, then because we had no vision, our sense of hearing improved. We all looked to the heavens as now all could ear was slurping sound coming from the feeding next door.
After thirty minutes or so the power returned and we paid the bill and couldn’t wait to leave the restaurant and return to our rooms. Because there are four of us, the two children and my wife and I always book two rooms when we book into a hotel. We got to the rooms, one of the keys did not provide power, when it was placed in the wall slot. We had no power, no lights etc, but no power meant no AC. So I had to go back down to the reception to report this. After another thirty minute wait, a guy came to the room, and said that the room that we had been given had no power, so we had to change rooms. All the suit cases were moved to the room next door. Great, power, and now we could all sleep. The man left and then we just had to make sure all our things were safely moved to the next room. When transporting all the cases to the new room, the door slammed, and because the key was in the room providing the power, we were locked out of the room with all the suit cases, looking at each other on the corridor. Another trip down to the reception and another thirty minute wait before the new room was unlocked and we could get some sleep.
The nightmare in Fawlty Towers continued and after a well-deserved sleep, it was time to return to the restaurant for breakfast. We had a breakfast voucher that was given to us when we booked the room, which we assumed was a free breakfast, but again it wasn’t as we expected.
Us white monkeys entered the zoo’s restaurant very cautiously, we didn’t want be spotted, we didn’t want to be looked at any more. We just wanted to eat breakfast and get back on the road. Not only did we not want to be spotted, we didn’t want to sit anywhere near the hungry bird and his mother.
The same waiter came to our table and still didn’t manage a smile, and ordered what he thought we should eat. Breakfast was eaten and we produced the voucher, he explain that it only covered juice and coffee and the rest, eggs, toast and cereal all had be paid for.
By this time, we just needed to put this whole hotel down to a bad experience and move on. We paid the extra money and returned to our rooms. Our driver, Prakash was waiting in the carpark and we were ready to move on. We packed our bags, and all I needed to do was return the keys, asthe rooms had already been paid for by credit card. So on our way down, and there was another power cut. Guess where were when this happened? Yes in the lift.
At this point, Michelle could not hold the tears in anymore, the boys were already down with Prakash and were waiting in the car. It was only the 2nd time I had ever been caught in a lift, and the first time was not a good experience. It was jet black, and I had to try to reassure my wife that everything would be OK, but I was not convinced that it was. Then the strangest thing happened, relaxing music starting playing, and followed by the words “don’t panic don’t panic” in English. Nothing further could surprise me of my experience of this Indian Fawlty Towers. When you hear ‘don’t panic’, it some ways makes you panic more. They were obviously used to power cuts and people being trapped in the lift, as the music continued to play, the frustration levels increased.
Finally after a thirty minute wait in the dark lift, the power came back on and the lift found its way to the ground floor. Michelle just stormed out of the hotel and waited in the car, I went over to the reception and in perfect English, she said ‘everything OK with your stay sir?’
I just couldn’t reply. I just asked for the receipt, and she said ‘just one minute sir’.
Then after the minute was up and paper as long as my arm was coming out of a ticky tape machine, I could stay no longer.
‘Your minute is up’ I replied, ‘these white monkeys are escaping.’
‘Sorry sir, what was that?’
I was in the car and we left the zoo behind, never to return again.