What am I doing here? I am asking Mr.Office Clerk for a favour. Oh heavens! I stand in front of his desk. Smile. Address him as Sir. Introduce myself (this is important, I generally look enough like a student that everyone gets irritated at the sight and sound of me).
I need so and so sir. My husband so and so sir. I realise it is out of the ordinary sir.
I switch quickly between Hindi & English. You never know. Don't want to irritate him. Anyway I am making a reasonably reasonable request. He is adamant. Insists its impossible, he has to call so many people.
Shall I call them sir.
No that is not required he says. Then 'Eh Raju Phone Lagao' Raju proceeds to lagao the phone. He speaks to someone for like ten minutes in Malayalam. They are discussing a trip. They are talking of Udipi and temples and driving and hotels to eat at and road conditions. I think wistfully of our much-talked-about road trip; now that December is almost upon us, all we can talk about is our road trip. We have never taken one, of course. He has nice pictures underneath the glass on his table. Kurinji Flowers (purple & white). Elephants (Bandipur?) Waterfalls. Some stuff from possible foreign locations. I glance up at him. He really has these Soda Glasses. His eye is all distorted to look at. I wonder about his Visa photo. He is still going on about the trip with his friend. AAh he is finally hanging up. I breathe. Smile again.
Raju is summoned again. Although he insists he is Nitin, he is called Raju. He fetches the keys I wanted. Miraculously this has happened. What was an impossibility fifteen minutes ago, has happened here, now, during a phone call about Udipi. I am a little breathless. Of course, there is more.
Sir this is great, but see, we want this key at 5 pm sir, not now. My husband will be back then. Sir.
oh ho madam, why did you not say so, he says. So much trouble I took to get the keys. I launch into major apology mode, and whatever. He questions my husband's ability to reach at 5 pm. I am tempted to tell him that I have already questioned this one and got a bit of my ear bitten off by said husband. I just laugh a bit, you know, to ease up the tension.
You have been a great help sir. I am sure you can do the same at 5 pm. If he does not show up then we will never, ever, till death do us part, trouble you with this matter again, sir. I give you my solemn word, sir.
Now he is embarrassed. Its no problem Madam he says. Huh? I am wondering what suddenly happened. Anyway I thank him again, using the Sir in Club Sandwich Mode (Sir Thank Sir You Sir types). Scoot. Check on Raju's real name. Bestow smile on Nitin, known erstwhile as Raju. Scoot more.
How do I treat people who come with random requests? Do I judge them based on the hundreds before them that have asked me the same thing? Do I colour my interaction with them with irritations that have nothing to do with them, personally? It seems quite possible. I must check it out next time, examine myself, so to speak. For sure, I ignore emails from people who address me as 'Dear Sir' :-)