Encounters with locals – Travels in Assam

I know I like to get off beat, but even so, some states are more ‘developed’ than others. I recently travelled to Assam, an area rich in potential and with myriad discoveries to make, but whether it is the lack of practice, or the fact that as a region it does not see many foreign tourists and therefore a white ‘memsahib’ flummoxes them, I am not sure, but just one day provided me with three amusing scenarios of note.

Scenario 1:

On a hotel inspection I was shown a room, not one I would ever use, the hotel never mind the room but still, I was trying to show willing.
PK: So tell me, what is this again? I asked, meaning, obviously, or so I thought, which category of room it was.
Staff: Looks at me slightly oddly, ‘It’s a bedroom ma’am.”
Well, I’m glad we got that one sorted out!

Scenario 2:

Lunch time at the best hotel in a remote town on a long road between Kaziranga and Dibrugarh.

PK (in Hindi): Tell me, which of your chicken dishes is boneless?
Waiter 1: Boneless ma’am?
PK: Yes, boneless, without bones.
Waiter 1: The chicken curry with brown gravy ma’am.
I couldn’t think of anything which sounded less appetising, but, I know gravy here generally means sauce and so.
PK: Great, I’ll have that then.
Waiter: Yes ma’am.
20 minutes later:
PK: Excuse me but this boneless chicken curry with brown sauce has bones in it.
Waiter 1: Yes Ma’am
PK: But! I……….
Waiter 1: Bones ma’am, yes.
PK: I did ask for a dish that was boneless.
Waiter 2: Boneless ma’am, no problem, we have chicken tikka masala.
Well that sounded so much better already.
PK: Definitely boneless?
Waiter 2: Yes, boneless, just 5 minutes.
PK: No problem.
Chicken arrives:
PK: Thank you, only….. I thought this was going to be chicken tikka masala.
Waiter 1: Yes Ma’am, Chicken Tikka Masala, with brown gravy!
PK: Sigh…….
Sometimes, India will always win.

Scenario 3:
Not so much of a scenario as an anecdote. The town of Shivsagar, on route between Kaziranga and Dibrugarh has more monuments to its name than any other district in the whole of India, or so I have been told. I needed a week to see them all but I only had 3 hours therefore in order to maximise my time, I was offered a guide. I was told in advance that his English was limited but given my earlier success with the chicken, I had every faith in my Hindi!

As it turned out he was a very pleasant chap, delighted to have a foreigner in his charge and his English was far better than expected, with one exception, he pronounced his s’s as sh’s. Sadly he didn’t have the Sean Connery suave to accompany it. Now, the first time he told me the king sat with his ministers to discuss the affairs of state, caught me unawares and it took me a few seconds to decipher what he really meant, I mean it was a different time after all! Unfortunately, for me, it never got any easier, and it got me every time. Thank goodness I was on my own, together with any of my usual partners in crime we would have dissolved into a mass of ridiculously immature, giggling school girl behaviour, but even so, the day wasn’t easy to negotiate.

Guide: Madam, in this temple you will see many people sitting in the entry way, just ignore them.
PK: What!! Oh, I get it, ok.
Guide: Madam, would you like to sit here, I will go to and buy some water? What, is it that obvious? Oh, right, you just want to buy some water.
Guide: This Rani loved her king very much and built these three temples and the lake beyond and she would sit at the lake side and watch the reflection in the moonlight, it was very beautiful.
PK: I bet it was.

Only in India!

PS: A visit to Assam is highly recommended, more about the actual region coming soon.

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