The staff here are all amazing, just as I expected. All so kind, smiley and each very individual. The best thing is how interested they all are in the wildlife, always curious about the camera traps, “Sir Ji, leopard coming?? Leopard coming?”, always asking if the guests saw the Tiger on a park drive, or running into the Shamiana (main communal area) “Sir Ji, alarm call, alarm call!” to show us the way to some shrieking spotted deer, running for their lives. It is so great they are involved and actually care, conservation has to start in the local community otherwise it is starts doomed.
I have managed to get a bit of popularity with the guys, I think, by trying to make hilarious jokes…. Who needs a mutual language to be hilarious?
Having paid the staff their salaries, which first needed me to go to the nearest town – Mandala - and withdraw over a thousand pounds in 500 rupee notes from the bank, a classic Indian experience; Everyone staring and helping and chatting, not easy to hide as the only white man but out here you are always about a foot taller than everyone else. No hope! (I have learned for next time that this is best to do at the end of the trip into town – saves walking around the market with pockets overflowing with cash. My pockets were in cinders)
After being paid, Choki returns half an hour later with a complaint.
“Sir Ji. This no working.” Choki holds up a one hundred rupee note with a slight rip in it.
I am quite wary of being taken for a ride by the guys as I think they have worked out I am a moustachioed Walter from the Bash Street Kids. A softy.
So I say.
“Are you sure this isn’t from your own money? I am sure I didn’t give any ripped notes out, I’ve just been to the bank”
Choki smiles sweetly, having not understood a word I have said.
“Teak Haing (OK), I’ll get you a new one.”
When I come back from my room and the safe with a replacement note that is completely ripped down the middle and held together by cellotape, I hear Choki cursing the idiot (me) for being so stupid as I sit down at my desk. When he approaches again saying I imagine “how can you be such a moron – this one is worse than the last one!” I give him a normal one straight out my pocket with a big smile, when he realises I played trick on him he thinks it is the funniest thing anyone has ever done. By the time he gets back to the staff quarters I can hear everyone laughing their heads off.
Now, I am not claiming this was a particularly hilarious joke (although, it was pretty good), but it is jokes like these that I learned in Africa and that are so effective when making new friendships without a common language. Another example was the revealing of my moustache – no words, yet apparently hilarious. (Really pissed off about this, I thought that if there was one place that people may like my moustache it would be in a country where every one has one. Nope, “Where beard?”, “before better”, “no problem, no problem, but do this (covers face with hands indicating – grow beard back)” Sure I look like Ned Flanders/Nazi Officer/Colonial Hunter. But still, surely someone has to like it? Unbelievable.) I also showed the guys my Racing the Swift video, which they loved – they thought my booty shaking in the lake particularly amusing.
The problem with the staff is that I really just want to be chilling and joking around in the staff quarters like I would be if I was travelling or one of the gappys, problem is I have to also be their boss… quite tricky for me. I have had to give a couple of telling’s off, which to be honest the guys can really only understand by the tone of my voice…
Ivan in deep gruff angry voice + furrowed eyebrows…: “Babulal, why are you late this morning”
Babulal: “working fields Sir Ji, rice cutting”
Sir Ji: “You should have told me, you stink of booze (mimes drinking). Drinking? Not farming?”
“Last night drinking little” (coy smile on his face) “This morning no!” (affronted look on face).
I start laughing.
Last night I caught Mutsu drinking local ‘wine’ from a coke bottle. All I said was “don’t drink too much, what would Allah say??” Leave it to God to sort out..
But still, how can I tell the boys off for having a drink when we have no guests here when I drink every evening – when the guests are here??