Happy in Hampi

  Hampi: Photo from a previous trip

Hampi: Photo from a previous trip

“Is it cheaper booking with you?” I asked her. “I have Booking.Com open on my laptop.”

“Of course, sir! On Booking.Com they will show a low price on the top and when you add everything from the bottom it will become much more costly.”

I checked on my screen as she spoke. Indeed she had quoted lower. Both had bundled breakfast and dinner, but her offer was inclusive of tax, and when I totted up everything, Booking.Com were 5% higher.

“Tell me the best you can offer,” I said, “so I can confirm right this evening.”

“Of course, sir,” she said, and to my surprise she improved the price right then, by only a bit, but I liked the attitude. But now my human frailty had stirred: The young lady — she sounded young — had in a few minutes transformed me into a confident negotiator.

“Is this the very best you can do? Can you not make it … ?” I tossed a number.

She paused. “One minute sir,” she said. “Take your time,” I said. Faint sounds came from 180 miles away, of tapping on a keyboard. Imagined, maybe.

“I am sorry sir.” Her voice had switched to another, pleasanter tone. Her delivery was slower, drawn out. The words danced out my phone into my ears: “This is the best what I am offering. I am giving you one-day discount, and breakfast and dinner free. In fact, if you want this booking after the 28th September I won’t be able to offer this price, sir.”

“Of course. You have offered me the low-season tariff. It’s very hot in Hampi these days, right?”

“Yes sir. As you yourself have said, I have offered the lowest low-season price. And I am sorry again sir,” she sang, “but it is not hot in Hampi now. Actually it is quite pleasant.”

It is at daytime 34º in Hampi these days. The place is covered in rocks and boulders. You walk on rock a lot in Hampi.

“Okay,” I said, unable to join in her drift. “Please hold the booking. September 16 to September 21.”

“Of course, sir. You will be very happy here. I will send our email in five minutes. The payment link will be there in it.”

🏨 🏨 🏨

Before the mail came I remembered something and called again. She didn’t pick up, but she called back soon enough.

“Yes sir, Mr. Shashi.”

“Sorry. I wanted to ask you something. Small thing actually. Usually hotels do repair and maintenance work during the low season. I need a quiet place …”

“No sir. No such thing is going on. I will personally make sure you have a quiet stay.”

“No maintenance work is going on?”

“No sir. No maintenance is going on.”

“No repairs are going on?”

“No sir. No maintenance is going on.”

I fought to frame the question afresh. She had aroused a sudden suspicion in me: What could be the difference between repairs and maintenance? By the dictionary? In this lady’s lingo? So much would depend on it for six days, five nights. I visualized repeating her assurance before her, before her manager, before her manager’s manager — paid up and checked in and helpless like hell by then.

“Hello? Mr. Shashi? You will be very happy here, sir. Don’t worry.”


🏨 🏨 🏨

That was last evening. I thought for a time, bringing to mind all the sounds I hate in a hotel. Then I thought some more, about heat and happiness. Just before going to bed, I opened the lady’s email and paid.