Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hospitality Unlimited/Lankan Diplomacy

Sunday Morning Sermon - Jan 27, 2012

Having waited for almost 6 weeks for KIA to deliver the new glass replacement for my Carnivals rear window, from their spares store in Dubai, I was so fed up that I called them up and told them I cant wait any more. Instead I decided to drive by the  local "Panchikawatte", west of Riyadh, a place called "Umm Al Hammam", and see if one of the auto dudes in there could replace my glass.

The auto garages located in Umm Al Hammam extend over a very large plot of land that borders the Umm Al Hammam cemetery. The place is filled with small and large auto workshop joints that can provide anything you need for your auto from a bolt & nut, to a brake, bonnet, and body. Sections of the place cater to the various different needs of the auto. 

There were about 20 glass repair shops at the far end of the plot, allocated adjacent to the cemetery boundary wall, when I drove past at around 8:00 am just about opening time and only one was open. I  parked outside and a big burly Sudanese guy emerged from the dark inside, which was stacked from floor to ceiling with all types of car glass. I explained my plight and he did a quick review of my rear window, made a quick call on his cell phone, and said he can do it for SR 250 and it will take 1 hour.I said fine, since I had to get it done, sooner or later, even though so much time had already passed after the mishap and the bloody agenst had been keeping me hanging on a string all this while.

He didnt have the particular glass in his shop so he had to order oit from his store  and said it would  take about 20 minutes to arrive. I said, no probz, I will wait.

His young assistant popped up, another Sudanese guy, and they chatted in Arabic, and the young fellow took off. Waiting for the glass to arrive I was chatting up the big guy and we discussed everything from Sudanese politics to how the Muslims came to be in a Buddhist country  like Sri Lanka. After 10 minutes his assistant returned with breakfast from the Yemeni restaurant close by. Steaming hot Yemeni "Fathree" (a kind of poached egg wrapped up in a small rotti meal) and tea. They pulled three dirty white plastic chairs from within the shop, all with some part ripped off but still seatable. A rickety old brown broken plastic chair without its back rest and a hole on the seat served as the table. They sat and invited me to join them. I resisted saying I had already eaten breakfast bit they insisted saying it would be impossible for them to eat while I stood by. So I didnt want to hurt their feelings and joined in and enjoyed the meal and cuppa. This is typical Arab hospitality where food is concerned. No Arab will ever eat or drink anything in ones presence without offering a part of it to the next person. Even a banana will be split in two and shared. This is one trait they gotta be proud of, without any doubt.

It probably stems from the Islamic scripture  and the story of Prophet Abraham and his Jewish wife Sarah and Arab concubine (maid) Hagar. The Book says that Abraham took his concubine Hagar and their son, Ishmael, to Arabia,on the the instructions of the jealous Sarah, and left them in Makkah by the Kaaba and supplicated to God that this land be never devoid of food and hospitality across all of the people that live in it. Believers claim that the request has been fulfilled, since even to my own 3 decades in the sands I am yet to see anyone sleeping hungry here.

Finally, the glass came and the buggers fixed it in 10 minutes. See some pics, that I took on my mobile phone, attached.

After that I drove over to the SL Embassy to get my daughters profession changed. That was a different kettle of fish.

It was about 10 am when I got there and handed over the papers to the consular reception, an old Royalist of new vintage called Dhanushka, who wanted me to wait for 30 minutes for processing. I said OK and sat in the lobby and watched the fun. The janitor, an old Sinhala chap who looked like Adolf Hitler, moustache et all I(like our Bakeys pater) was vacuuming the carpet, something that was so worn out that even a goat would not have wanted to lie on it. The machine was plugged into the wall by its two wires only.There was no plug attached to it, maybe they cannot afford to buy one? There were telephone cables hanging from the wall behind the door. The reception phone rang several times and the "thamby" receptionist answered in all four languages,including Arabic, although the gist if it was simply hilarious.

So Dhanushka now opens his "Flintstones" CR book, enters the description of my service request, with date, time, and other details and stamps my passport with the change of profession stamp on page 5, and puts the passport and all attached documents into the book and lays it beside him. Another female clerk is processing a newborn inclusion request for a Mullah type Lankan who came just before me. She finishes her job too and notes down the same info in the same CR book and puts the docs inside. next, the messenger boy comes along and collects the CR book and takes it upstairs for signature by the authorised officer. We wait in patience.

The phone rings again. The receptionist answers in Tamil. "Sri Lanka Embassy, Yaar pesuringo": (Who is calling), possibly cos the caller also spoke in Tamil. He insisted on knowing the callers name and tried transferring the call to an officer and not finding him in his seat, responded, "Avar setila illai, ara manila call pannungo" (He is not in his seat call after 30 minutes). Another call, this time in Sinhala. "Oyage nama kiyyana?" Some discussion. And he explained some details about the fees for passport renewals etc. An English call follows,possibly by a Non Sri :Lankan. Something about visas for Saudi passport holders. The guy was efficient although his patter, in all 3 languages, was totally ridiculous.

The supervisor, another grumpy lady in her late 40's perhaps dressed  in a hipster Saree with her belly button protruding like a tit above her hips. I was wondering how the Saudi's who come in there must handle that view? I felt nauseated myself. Theres noithing in that belly button to show, not even to a half starved bastard.

11:00 am. No passport yet. I waited patiently. What else can I do? No cuppa tea even from the land of the best tea in the world. Not a smile from any one of the staff. Even the Lankan drivers and maids walking in to get their work done do not show any signs of contentment in their faces. All grumpy and sore looking. So sad to see.

The walls needed painting. It was virtually devoid of any proper design or decor. Looked more like an empty hall. The carpet needs changing. The wiring needs to be properly tidied up. The lobby needs some sprucing up. Perhaps a young lady, dressed in national, serving the best of Ceylon Tea? Some color. See pics attached.

Finally 11:15 and he called out my daughters name and I collected the passport and hooked back to office without even looking back. On checking the stamp I did notice that the name "RIYADH" on the rubber stamp has been mis spelt. More Phew!

What more can I say?

What an awe inspiring Sunday morning. Should I say three Hail Mary's, one big Allahu Akbar, Haroo Haraa, or just a simple and straight forward Saadu Saadu Saadu?

SL Embassy Riyadh Lobby

SL Embassy Riyadh Reception

Vacuum Cleaner wires plugged into the power socket

Telephone cables hanging down the wall

Rubber Stamp with the word Riyadh misspelt

Sudanese guys at work on the glass replacement

The new glass pane in my boot

The new glass pane carton

More new Glass Panes inside the shop

No comments:

Post a Comment